Foster Ministry Gets to Keep Protestants-Only Policy—And Federal Funds

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Conservative Christians cheer HHS waiver for South Carolina’s Miracle Hill.

Two years in, the Trump administration has continued to extend protections for conservative Christians to keep their faith in the public square—and in some cases, backed by federal dollars.

The latest example came this week as the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) granted a waiver for faith-based foster care agencies in South Carolina to restrict placements to families that share their beliefs, provided they refer those who do not qualify to other organizations.

The decision came in favor of Miracle Hill Ministries, a Christian organization that recruits 1 in 6 of all foster families in the state but risked losing its license (and more than $500,000 in annual funding) due to its placement policy, which excludes non-Protestants.

HHS opted to waive Obama-era requirements that barred publicly licensed and funded foster programs from discriminating on the basis of religion, instead citing protections for faith-based organizations to participate under principles set forth in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

This move follows a trend under President Donald Trump and under HHS purview in particular to rescind earlier restrictions in favor of policies that defer to religious conscience.

“By granting this waiver, President Trump and [HHS Secretary Alex] Azar have shown the entire world that, as Americans, our fundamental right to practice religion, regardless of our faith, will not be in jeopardy under this administration,” South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said in a statement.

During the first half of his term, Trump repeatedly spoke of religious liberty as a priority, but hadn’t always offered specifics. An executive order on religious liberty issued his first year in office came …

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