A lesbian couple in South Carolina who were turned away from a religious foster agency because of their sexuality are suing the state and the US Department of Health.
Eden Rogers and Brandy Welch, who are married, applied to foster children with Miracle Hill Ministries, the state’s largest contracted foster care agency. However, they were turned away for failing to meet the agency’s religious criteria.
After they submitted an online application in April, Miracle Hill replied and said their application had been rejected as they have an “obligation to partner with foster parents who share our beliefs and who are active in a Christian church.”
Furthermore, the rejection email said that the agency “would not be a good fit” to assist them in their quest to become foster parents.
The lesbian couple were disappointed when they were denied the chance to foster children
The couple is represented by Lambda Legal, the ACLU of South Carolina and the South Carolina Equality Coalition. In a press release, they said that the agency excludes prospective foster parents who are not evangelical Protestant Christians or who are in same-sex relationships.
The agency is funded by taxpayer money. Despite this, prospective foster parents must agree with Miracle Hill’s “doctrinal statement,” which says that “God’s design for marriage is the legal joining of one man and one woman in a life-long covenant relationship.”
A lawsuit was filed yesterday (May 30) in the US District Court for South Carolina on behalf of Rogers and Welch.
Welch (40) said that they were disappointed to be turned away by the agency as they are already raising two children in “a loving and stable home.”
“Faith is a part of our family life, so it is hurtful and insulting to us that Miracle Hill’s religious view of what a family must look like deprives foster children of a nurturing, supportive home,” Welch continued.
Lambda Legal said state-funded agencies should not be able to turn people away based on sexual orientation
Rogers said she wanted to foster children in part due to her own experiences growing up.
“After family challenges, I helped raise my siblings,” Rogers said.
“I know firsthand the fear and stress that children feel when they are forced to leave their homes. As a mother and an educator, I want to make sure children in foster care have a safe, supportive, and loving home when they need one.”
Currey Cook, Counsel and Director of Youth in Out-Of-Home Care Project at Lambda Legal, said the US Department of Health and Human Services and the state of South Carolina should not allow foster agencies who receive taxpayer funds to turn people away based on sexual orientation.
“Agencies have no right to exclude families because of their faith or sexual orientation,” he said.
“Think of all the potential loving and stable families excluded and the message that sends to youth in state care.”
Miracle Hill Ministries responded to the lawsuit in a comment and said: “Faith-based foster care agencies are working hard to end the foster care crisis and should be allowed to participate in the child welfare system while maintaining their religious convictions and practices.
“It is in the best interest of South Carolina’s children to allow as many unique foster care agencies as possible to increase the pool of available foster homes.”