Friday, October 9, 2020 : By Nathan Skates
In a win for religious freedom, a New York federal court ruled that New Hope Family Services can continue placing children with adoptive families while its case against New York proceeds.
At a glance:
New York’s Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) reviewed New Hope’s manual and claimed that its policy of placing children only with married, heterosexual couples “violates Title 18 NYCRR § 421.3, and is discriminatory and impermissible.”
OCFS ordered New Hope to revise the policy or “OCFS will be unable to approve continuation of New Hope’s current adoption program and New Hope will be required to submit a close-out plan for the adoption program.”
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is representing New Hope Family Services in court. “The need for adoption services in New York, whether public or private, is huge,” ADF Senior Counsel Roger Brooks said. “New Hope’s faith-guided services do not coerce anyone and do nothing to interfere with other adoption providers who have different beliefs about family and the best interests of children.”
The Christian legal firm produced this video for illustration:
There are currently over 25,000 children in the foster care system in New York, yet the state of New York wants to shut down an adoption agency because it adheres to long-held, traditional religious beliefs. New Hope, which has been placing children in adoptive homes for more than 50 years, has never received a formal complaint regarding its policy and was even previously praised by OCFS.
This continues a nationwide trend of state governments targeting religious organizations for their religious beliefs. But New Hope’s policy does not interfere with anyone else’s beliefs. Same-sex couples or single individuals can go to other adoption agencies to adopt a child, just not from New Hope.
States that attack Christian adoption agencies or other Christian organizations are effectively eliminating religious liberty. Our freedom of religion is not just the freedom to think what we wish. If we cannot also act on those beliefs, we are not free to exercise religion as we see fit. As James Madison said,
“The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man: and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature unalienable. It is unalienable; because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds, cannot follow the dictates of other men: It is unalienable also; because what is here a right towards men, is a duty towards the Creator. It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage, and such only, as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent both in order of time and degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society.”
Our Constitution protects the free exercise of religion and the government is prohibited from making any law that restricts that freedom. In the case of New Hope, the issue is not even a law that is violating religious liberty. It is the government misapplying a law in order to target a religious organization.
The court’s decision to allow New Hope to continue offering adoption services is good for religious liberty and it is good for children who need a home. In a time when our nation is desperate for adoptive families, it is unconscionable that New York would shut down an adoption agency for its beliefs.
As New Hope Family Services Executive Director Kathy Jerman said, “We live in a diverse state, and we need more adoption providers, not fewer. We’re grateful that today’s decision allows us to keep serving children and families, even though our legal fight continues to end the state’s harassment once and for all.”