Here is yet another example of what the Religious Right insists is “free exercise” of their religious beliefs. Like the Colorado baker who won’t bake cakes for gay weddings, and the faith-based charities that won’t hire LGBTQ or non-Christian job applicants. And then there are all the rest of the religious outfits, including businesses and individuals who claim they are being “oppressed” if they aren’t allowed to discriminate against people they don’t like because of their religious beliefs. Sadly, they get by with it far too often, but here is one case they may not win.
Federal Court Allows S.C. Mother’s Lawsuit To Proceed Against Government-Sponsored Religious Discrimination In Foster Care
Americans United Represents Aimee Maddonna, Catholic Mother Of Three Rejected By Evangelical Christian Foster Care Agency Because Of Her Religion
Today, the U.S. District Court in South Carolina ruled that the lawsuit Aimee Maddonna v. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services can proceed. The case was filed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State on behalf of Aimee Maddonna, a Catholic mother of three from Simpsonville, S.C., who was turned away from helping children in foster care by a taxpayer-funded agency solely because she is Catholic – the “wrong” religion for the evangelical Christian Miracle Hill Ministries.
Instead of denouncing this discriminatory practice, the Trump administration and South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster sanctioned the government-funded religious discrimination. The case was filed against the federal and state governments because it is unconstitutional for government-funded child-placement agencies to discriminate against prospective foster parents based on their religion when those agencies are acting on the government’s behalf; South Carolina and HHS may not provide tax dollars to faith-based child-placement agencies that use discriminatory religious criteria, just as the government cannot discriminate when placing children directly; and HHS did not follow proper procedure when it excused South Carolina and its foster care agencies from following federal anti-discrimination law.
In response to today’s order by U.S. District Judge Timothy M. Cain, Americans United Senior Litigation Counsel Kenneth Upton issued the following statement:
Aimee Maddonna and her family wanted to help some of the nearly 5,000 children in foster care in South Carolina. Due to government-funded religious discrimination, she was denied that opportunity. So she’s helping children who have been denied the chance to find loving homes another way – by challenging these unconstitutional state and federal policies that allow taxpayer-funded foster care agencies who are acting on behalf of the state to reject qualified parents because of their religion. We’re glad the court agreed that Aimee’s case can proceed and we look forward to stopping the government from violating our country’s fundamental promise of religious freedom – that it gives us all the right to believe, or not, as we choose, but it doesn’t give us the right to discriminate.
A question that occurs to me: Because the plaintiff is a Catholic, will she have a better chance of winning than a gay or atheist would? It shouldn’t make any difference. Discrimination is discrimination, but I have a feeling that courts will view this with a little more sympathy for the plaintiff. Just a hunch. What do you think?