(TheConservativeTimes.org) – A federal court in South Carolina last week dismissed two lawsuits against the state over a policy granting a religious exemption to federally-funded faith-based foster agencies that exclude prospective foster parents who do not meet their religious policies, the Greenville News reported.
In 2018, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster signed an executive order against an Obama-era regulation that bars federally funded organizations from discriminating based on religion.
This regulation applied to South Carolina’s largest provider of foster parents, the faith-based foster service Miracle Hill. Governor McMaster’s executive order requested an exemption on behalf of Miracle Hill, which the Trump administration granted.
The exemption was challenged by several state residents, including a Catholic woman who accused Miracle Hill of discriminating against non-Protestants and a gay couple who claimed Miracle Hill rejected their application over their sexual orientation.
While Miracle Hill was not named in the lawsuit, the intense scrutiny resulted in the organization changing its policy in 2019 to allow for foster parents from other Christian denominations.
In a statement last week, Governor McMaster lauded the court’s decision to dismiss the cases as a victory for religious liberty that will “directly benefit countless children” while “ensuring that faith-based organizations” can’t be forced to “abandon their beliefs” while providing “critical services to our state’s youth.”
South Carolina Republican Rep. Jeff Duncan also applauded the decision, citing the “amazing work” of “faith-based foster services.”
Duncan noted that the US Supreme Court has already affirmed that faith-based providers “cannot be forced to violate their deeply held religious beliefs” and the US District Court has now “reaffirmed that.”
Americans United for Separation of Church and State objected to the District Court’s decision.
In a statement last week, AUSCS President Rachel Laser said the decision is another example of lower courts attempting to navigate “the wreckage left by the US Supreme Court.”
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