Friday, January 25, 2019

HHS Exempts South Carolina Foster Care From Religious Anti-Discrimination Rule

In a letter (full text) dated Jan. 23, 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services granted the state of South Carolina an exemption so that faith-based foster care placement agencies operating in the state (such as Miracle Hill Ministries) can receive federal funds even though they select foster parents on the basis of religion.  HHS emphasized that the anti-discrimination requirements found in its rules are broader than those in the Foster Care Program statute which only bars discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in selection of adoptive or foster parents. HHS said it had determined that requiring faith-based agencies to comply with the non-discrimination provision would be inconsistent with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. However such agencies would be required to refer them to other agencies that do not use religious criteria, at least so long as such referrals do not violate the agency's religious beliefs. Philadelphia Inquirer reports on the HHS action.