Jun 05, 2019

Americans United for Separation of Church and State applauds U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) for introducing the Every Child Deserves a Family (ECDF) Act today, which ensures that taxpayer-funded adoption, foster care and child welfare agencies don’t discriminate against children, families and individuals on the basis of religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status. The companion Senate bill, led by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), is expected to be introduced soon.

Eight states currently allow taxpayer-funded foster care and adoption agencies to use religion to justify discriminating against qualified parents and volunteers – denying children in foster care the loving homes they need and deserve. Earlier this year, the Trump administration explicitly authorized this discrimination for all South Carolina foster care agencies – where AU client Aimee Maddonna was turned away from helping children through Miracle Hill Ministries because she was the “wrong” religion. All eyes are on the White House as it has indicated an intent to extend this policy nationwide in the coming months.

“With the onslaught of religious refusal policies coming out of this administration, it is more important than ever that we enact legislative safeguards. This bill is critical not only because it protects those who are being discriminated against in the name of religious freedom, but because it protects our nation’s most vulnerable children from being denied a home,” said Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United.

“Our client Aimee Maddonna was turned away at the front door of a taxpayer-funded foster care agency in South Carolina for being Catholic – and it was our White House that gave them the license to do so,” Laser continued. “Government-funded religious discrimination has no place in America. Now, we’re counting on Congress to right this wrong and pass the Every Child Deserves a Family Act to protect our children and our nation’s core value of religious freedom for all.”

Nearly a half-million children are in foster care in the U.S. Almost a quarter of these children – more than 123,000 – are currently waiting to be adopted; less than half will find their forever families in the next year.

Americans United joins the more than 500 child welfare, faith, civil rights and LGBTQ organizations that form the Every Child Deserves a Family Campaign, which seeks to end discrimination in foster care, adoption and child welfare, and to promote affirming care for all children in foster care. The ECDF Act also directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide assistance to states, tribes and agencies to improve services to LGBTQ children in foster care.

About Aimee Maddonna:

Aimee Maddonna and her family wanted to mentor foster children through Miracle Hill Ministries, the largest taxpayer-funded foster care provider in South Carolina. But Miracle Hill turned the Maddonnas away solely because the family is Catholic; the agency will only work with evangelical Protestants – not Catholics, Jews or people of any other faith.

Instead of denouncing Miracle Hill’s discrimination, the Trump administration and South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster doubled down and sanctioned government-funded religious discrimination in foster care throughout the state.

On Feb. 15, Americans United filed a federal lawsuit, Maddonna v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to stop the federal government and South Carolina from authorizing and encouraging religious discrimination with taxpayer dollars.

Learn more about Aimee and her lawsuit here.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.