Discrimination in Social Services

Americans United Is Fighting Religious Discrimination In South Carolina, And People Are Taking Notice

  Rob Boston

Last week Americans United filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Aimee Maddonna, a South Carolina woman who was denied the opportunity to volunteer at a taxpayer-funded foster-care agency because she and her family are Catholics.

Word is getting out about this lawsuit, with reactions ranging from shock to anger.

Associated Press reporter Meg Kinnard broke the story Feb. 15 in a piece that went nationwide. Kinnard interviewed Maddonna, who explained that her parents had fostered children and talked about her desire to continue that tradition of service. Maddonna spoke movingly about how painful it was when she was turned away by Miracle Hill Ministries, which says it will place children only with evangelical Protestants. (Miracle Hill sought and received a waiver from the Trump administration allowing it to disregard anti-discrimination policies, and this is what Americans is attacking in court.)

“I wanted to open up my family and my home to kids in need,” Maddonna said. “I have the view that every child has the ability to enrich the lives of adults around them, too.”

The story also quoted AU President and CEO Rachel Laser, who said, “This is a problem that the government has caused. If Miracle Hill were a private entity not accepting state and federal money, then they could decide with their private money whom they served. Aimee isn’t the right kind of Christian, so they don’t serve her.”

In the days that followed, other news outlets and blogs picked up the story, among them The Christian Post, “Friendly Atheist” blog and “Religion Clause,” a blog that’s widely read in the legal community.

One of the more interesting follow-up stories was done by WYFF-TV in Greenville, S.C. Correspondent Carla Field reported that the Catholic Diocese of Charleston issued a statement – wait for it – in support of Miracle Hill. That’s right, church officials have turned their backs on one of their own members and are supporting the agency’s discriminatory policies. (Church officials accept a lot of taxpayer money for their own social service programs and are probably worried about anti-discrimination laws being applied to them.)

At Think Progress, Zack Ford penned a nice piece providing a solid analysis of the lawsuit. Observed Ford, “The suit takes direct aim at the concept of ‘religious freedom’ often used to prop up conservatives’ discrimination against LGBTQ people and other groups. ‘Defendants’ actions are both irrational and illegitimate,’ it explains. ‘The government ostensibly protects religious freedom by expressly authorizing and funding religious discrimination.’”

Wonkette has also weighed in. In a style typical of that site, Robyn Pennacchia’s piece, headlined, “Christian Foster Care Agency Hating On The Catholics, Because It’s The 1950s Apparently,” pulls no punches. (Be warned that some of the language is a little salty.)

This is an important case, and we’re glad it’s getting attention – and there’s a lot more to come because it’s just getting started. To learn more about the lawsuit, please visit this special section of Americans United’s website. Feel free to share the news about this case via social media and other forums. We’d love to have your help in spreading the word!

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