A Christian children’s home Thursday sued the Biden administration after the Department of Health and Human Services reversed religious-freedom exemptions granted during the Trump administration.
In waivers granted to Texas, South Carolina, and Michigan state governments, as well as to some child welfare agencies in those states, the Trump-era HHS dropped nondiscrimination requirements based on religious objections.
Holston United Methodist Home for Children, located in Greeneville, Tennessee, “operates throughout East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia by caring for abused and neglected children through its residential and foster care services,” a statement from Alliance Defending Freedom, the home’s attorneys stated.
Attorney Matt Bowman, senior counsel at the public interest law firm, said through a spokesman that Holston’s lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, “is the first case we’re aware of brought by a foster care or adoption agency” since the HHS exemption reversal.
“It is vital that Holston Home, as a religious organization, remains free to continue placing at-risk children in loving, Christian families, according to its deeply held beliefs, without fear of government punishment,” Mr. Bowman said in a statement.
He added, “The Supreme Court has recognized the harms to children and society of expelling faith-based agencies from foster care and adoption programs, and now it’s time this administration follows suit by respecting Holston Home’s constitutionally protected religious freedoms and repealing this illegal rule.”
In June, the high court unanimously ruled against the City of Philadelphia, which refused to grant an accommodation to Catholic Social Services over the city’s policy that adoption agencies must certify same-sex couples as foster parents.
The Roman Catholic agency objected on religious grounds, and in his opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts said the city’s refusal “cannot survive strict scrutiny, and violates the First Amendment.”
In operation since 1895, Holston United Methodist Home for Children says it has assisted more than 8,000 children, either by reuniting them with families, placing them for adoption, or aiding their transition to adulthood, the statement indicated.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Holston United Methodist Home for Children.
• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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