Anti-Defamation League seeks denial of governor’s Miracle …

Posted By on October 25, 2018

Republican Gov. Henry McMaster participates in a gubernatorial primary debate at the University of South Carolina Tuesday June 5, 2018 in Columbia,S.C.. (Pool photo by Grace Beahm Alford / Post and Courier)(Photo: Pool photo by Grace Beahm Alford / Post and Courier)

The Anti-Defamation League is asking federal officials to deny Gov. Henry McMaster's request to allow Miracle Hill Ministries and other faith-based organizations to select only Christian foster parents, calling such practice "immoral."

McMaster in March signed an executive order directing the state Department of Social Servicesnot to punish organizations such as Miracle Hill if their actions limiting clientele are due to religious beliefs, and heasked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to grant a waiver along the same lines.

Miracle Hill, which is based in Greenville,does not place foster children withgay couples or non-Christian familiesbecause of the organization's religious views.

"No child should be denied a loving foster or adoptive home simply because a prospective parent is Jewish, another faith, a different race or LGBTQ," Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the ADL, wrote in a letter to federal officials. "Granting the requested waiver is immoral because it would only serve to harm the most vulnerable in our society."

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is a civil rights organization that seeks to fight anti-Semitism and other forms of hate.

More: South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster defends Miracle Hill's Christian requirement

Brian Symmes, a spokesman for McMaster, issued a statement saying the ADL's concerns are "unfounded."

The governor believes the concerns raised in this letter are both unfounded and off-base," Symmes said. "The issue is the constitutionally protected religious beliefs of all South Carolinians, regardless of their faith. The governor would fight just as hard on behalf of Miracle Hill if they were a Jewish organization, a Muslim organizationor an organization of any other faith. We need more organizations engaged in finding foster care home for children, not less."

Greenblatt argued that federal taxpayers should not be asked to pay for discrimination.

"The prospective, publicly-funded discrimination sought by the waiver is not only grossly unfair, but it raises serious legal issues," he wrote. "For example, a child placement agency refusing, based on its religious beliefs, to place a child with an otherwise qualified Jewish, Muslim, African-Americanor Hispanic family could violate 42 U.S.C. 1981 (U.S. code of law providing equal rights)."

Greenblatt also wrote that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not allow discrimination while protecting religious freedoms.

Granting such a waiver request also might violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by improperly advancing or endorsing the religious missions of faith-based foster care agencies, Greenblatt argued.

More: Scrutiny of Miracle Hill's faith-based approach reaches new level

"Our nations religious liberty protections such as RFRA are intended as a shield for exercise of religion, and not a sword to harm or discriminate against others," Greenblatt wrote. "In light of the detrimental impact granting the requested waiver would have on the neediest children and the serious legal issues raised by the waiver request, we urge its rejection in the strongest terms."

McMaster argued last week in a gubernatorial debatethat Miracle Hillshould be allowed to exercise its faith. "They are not hurting anybody," he said.

But Democratic gubernatorial nominee James Smith countered that in addition to protecting religious freedom, the government should also not allow discrimination.

"South Carolina's values don't reflect saying we're going to deny you access to being a foster parent because you're Jewishor because you're Catholic or because you are gay or lesbian," Smithsaid.

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