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S.C. foster care agency tests public’s will to exclude on the basis of faith

A chapel on the grounds of a Miracle Hill group home for children in Pickens County, S.C. RNS photo by Yonat Shimron

GREENVILLE, S.C. (RNS) — Soon after Sue Barrise moved to South Carolina from New Jersey, she found herself with a new home and the time and energy to foster a child.

On TV and on the radio, she heard ads about a foster care agency named Miracle Hill. The 82-year-old organization popped right up on her screen when she did an internet search for foster care agencies.

That seemed like the natural place to start her inquiry.

But when she called Miracle Hill Ministries to find out more about the application process, she did not get past the first question: What church do you attend?

When she said she attended St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church, the call ended.

“I don’t remember the exact words,” Barrise said. “But it was pretty much, ‘Sorry, we can’t help you.’”

Barrise, a 63-year-old former schoolteacher, later got her foster care license through the state Department of Social Services. In 2016, she fostered a 1-year-old girl for a year.

Sue Barrise fostered a child after she got her foster care license through the South Carolina Department of Social Services. A Catholic, Barrise was rejected by Miracle Hill Ministries. RNS photo by Yonat Shimron

But Miracle Hill’s question about where she worshipped left her puzzled.

“Does it matter which church?” she wondered.

For Miracle Hill, it does. The foster care agency accepts only Protestant, churchgoing people to its federally funded foster care program and requires participants to sign a statement of faith.

“We are an arm of the Protestant church,” Reid Lehman, Miracle Hill’s CEO, told Religion News Service recently. “We exist to be a mission arm of Protestant churches and to proclaim Protestant faith. It’s not a judgment or an exclusion. It’s simply that we’re going to be consistent with that.”

Reid Lehman, Miracle Hill’s CEO. Photo courtesy of Miracle Hill

That exclusion has put Miracle Hill and South Carolina right in the middle of the latest religious freedom skirmish being waged across the country.

While many of the recent battles have tested the reach and teeth of municipal and state anti-discrimination ordinances over cake-bakers, florists and photographers refusing service on religious grounds, the Miracle Hill story has triggered a different question: Can faith-based social service providers who receive federal funds refuse to license people who don’t share their faith?

The Trump administration says yes.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services granted Miracle Hill and other faith-based foster care agencies in South Carolina an exemption to a regulation barring religious discrimination in federally funded foster care programs.

While civil rights organizations and non-Protestant religious groups are gearing up to test the response in the courts, at least one other state hopes to win an exemption similar to the one provided to South Carolina.

Texas adopted a state law that offers child welfare service providers an avenue to refuse service when it conflicts with the provider’s “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sent a letter to HHS asking that it repeal the regulation barring religious discrimination. If the regulation, put in place by President Obama at the end of his second term, is not repealed, Paxton asked HHS to grant Texas an exemption.

Lynn Johnson, assistant secretary for children and families at HHS, says the issue is a matter of religious freedom.

“The government should not be in the business of forcing foster care providers to close their doors because of their faith,” Johnson said in a statement announcing the South Carolina exemption. “Religious freedom is a fundamental human right.”

But in South Carolina, the exemption is already rankling Catholics and Jews who are religious minorities in a state where two-thirds of adults identify as Protestant, according to Pew Research.

The Rev. Dwight Longenecker, pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church in Greenville, said the government exemption is wrong.

“If they’re receiving tax funding for their services then they’re receiving money from me as a Catholic and therefore their services should be open to all,” said Longenecker.

Jews in Greenville are likewise upset.

“If this were reversed and a Jewish organization that took public money said it would not place children in Christian homes, I could hear across America the religious right screaming bloody murder,” said Rabbi Mathew Marko of Greenville’s Congregation Beth Israel.

The exemption is particularly disappointing, they say, because Miracle Hill does great work in the community.

A sprawling ministry that runs homeless shelters, thrift stores, drug-recovery programs and a foster care agency, Miracle Hill is the largest provider of care to the needy in the Upstate, the 10-county westernmost region of South Carolina, along the Interstate 85 corridor.

The ministry employs 352 people and has an annual budget of $17 million. While it takes no government money for its adult programs, four years ago the ministry began taking federal and state dollars for its foster care program.

Last year, it received about $600,000 in public funding.

Miracle Hill now supports 230 licensed couples but the need is far greater. At last count, there were 4,624 children in foster care but only 2,786 licensed foster providers, according to the state Department of Social Services.

South Carolina has 20 child placement agencies. But eight of those agencies are classified as therapeutic, meaning they only serve children with complex needs as a result of physical or emotional trauma. That essentially narrows the options for many foster parents to 12 agencies, including Miracle Hill.

Parents who have fostered children through Miracle Hill praise it for offering outstanding support to foster parents — far better than the state DSS office, burdened by high caseloads and multiple bureaucratic mazes.

Patti Sult, who has welcomed some 20 foster children into her home over the past decade, can attest to that.

At first, she and her husband, Bill, sought out a license through the Department of Social Services. After several frustrating experiences they switched to Miracle Hill and eventually fostered and then adopted a boy and a girl.

“You’re a number. That’s basically all you are,” Sult said, referring to the state provider. “And that’s sad because you need guidance. It’s nothing to wait a week or two to get a reply back from the caseworker.”

In one case, said Sult, she waited six months for a return phone call from the DSS office to ask questions about a foster child the state had dropped off at her home.

The front office of Miracle Hill Ministries in Greenville, S.C. RNS photo by Yonat Shimron

Miracle Hill, by comparison, treats foster parents promptly, politely and professionally, she said. Parents receive regular home visits from caseworkers, a monthly clothing allowance to the ministry’s network of thrift stores and an abundance of donated toys. Miracle Hill caseworkers accompany parents to all court hearings and offer parents support and prayer — not only during the time children were placed in their homes, but also after the children left.

“They knew who I was when I called,” said Sult. “They booked their monthly meetings with us around our schedule. Everyone is just so personable.”

For Miracle Hill, that comes with the territory. It is first and foremost a ministry, not a social service agency, its CEO said.

That distinction also means the parents that Miracle Hill recruits ought to share the ministry’s faith, he said.

“The standard is that if they’re going to have a spiritual influence on our clients, we want to have a common identity with shared common values,” he said.

Civil rights groups say that if Miracle Hill receives goverment funds, it has to abide by federal rules, including nondiscrimination laws. Excluding foster parents on the basis of religion, they argue, is wrong.

“To say a subset of Christians can get a choice of any agency out there and pick the one that best matches their needs, and other families all get a smaller subset, is bad for children because it means some families will not get the appropriate agency and we lose out on families,” said Leslie Cooper, deputy director of the LGBT and HIV project at the American Civil Liberties Union in New York.

Robin Fretwell Wilson. Photo courtesy of University of Illinois

Robin Fretwell Wilson, a lawyer, said there’s a better approach. Wilson, who teaches law at the University of Illinois at Champaign, said the government ought to issue parents a certificate they can take to the foster care agency of their choice.

That way, it’s not the agency that’s rejecting the parents, but the parents who get to choose the agency.

Wilson, who advised Utah lawmakers in drafting a bill that bans discrimination against LGBT people while also protecting religious institutions, disagrees with the way the foster care system is set up.

The state should choose foster parents and then send them out to work with agencies, she said, rather than have agencies pick and choose based on religion or other factors.

“You have families that are told, ‘No. You’re not the right people,’” said Wilson. “We can’t have that. We need the funding to follow the family. That way we respect the family by giving them the certificate and allowing them to spend it where they want and they’re never forced into a place that will say ‘no’ to them.”

For Barrise, the former schoolteacher who fostered a 1-year-old girl for a year, the experience of being rejected by Miracle Hill because of her faith prompted her to start a support ministry for foster parents at her Catholic church, the largest in the Upstate. She is just getting started, but hopes to be of help to other parents as they navigate what she said is an exhausting and frustrating licensing process.

Barrise said she is puzzled by Miracle Hill’s rejection.

“I just don’t understand, you know?” she said. “These kids are all over the place and they’re not going to care what religion you are. They just want a safe place in a loving home and a little more consistency.”

About the author

Yonat Shimron

Yonat Shimron is an RNS National Reporter and Senior Editor.

174 Comments

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  • Placing foster children is a duty of the state which cannot simply be outsourced in such a fashion.

    Its flat out discrimination and an improper use of taxpayer funds. If these religious based private agencies want to discriminate, they do not need government money or support.

  • They are the “poster child” for why religious fanatics should never have anything to do with foster care, social work or even day care. Kids need a safe place, not some emotional landmine field where any misstep could end in emotional or physical abuse as “tough love.”

  • Discrimination on the basis of religious belief…
    either we are going to allow it in our secular society, giving the so-called religious a free pass to harm other people…
    or we are not.

  • ““We exist to be a mission arm of Protestant churches and to proclaim Protestant faith. It’s not a judgment or an exclusion.”

    Of course it is an exclusion. But why tell the truth when an outright lie will do?

    ““The government should not be in the business of forcing foster care providers to close their doors because of their faith,” Johnson said in a statement announcing the South Carolina exemption. “Religious freedom is a fundamental human right.”

    Religious freedom is indeed a fundamental human right. but this isn’t freedom, it’s religious bigotry. But why tell the truth when a lie will do?

  • “Religious freedom is indeed a fundamental human right, but this isn’t freedom, it’s religious bigotry.”

    Yes, your post is an example of religious bigotry.

  • Small but important correction:

    “giving the so-called religious a free pass to harm other people”

    should read:

    “giving those with religious beliefs a free pass to practice those beliefs in public life”.

    Carry on.

    And we know you will.

  • Placing foster children is a duty of the state which is typically outsourced in every state in the Union.

    Those without religious beliefs are free to set up placement services and offer them to the various government entities which contract for them.

    A rather thorough search shows up zero affiliated with atheists, humanists, or agnostics which means a golden opportunity presents itself for you and people who agree with you.

    Trying to hijack the government to beat on people with religious beliefs on your behalf is probably not going to get very far in South Carolina.

  • “’If this were reversed and a Jewish organization that took public money said it would not place children in Christian homes, I could hear across America the religious right screaming bloody murder,’ said Rabbi Mathew Marko of Greenville’s Congregation Beth Israel.” is pure speculation.

    As the regulation stands Rabbi Marko could form a Jewish foster parenting agency and not place in Christian homes. And, as Rabbi Marko is inappropriately screaming bloody murder about Christians, so Christians might scream bloody murder about his Jewish agency.

    No worry, though, since the atheists, agnostics, humanists, and zany proponents of a First Amendment that never existed will be screaming bloody murder about both of them.

    https://www{DOT}offthegridgreenville.com/lifestyle-post/2017/9/27/rabbi-mathew-marko

  • The Supreme Court would disagree with you. Free exercise of religion and all. Federal government may not reject services to an organization just because it is religious.

  • Harm. Seriously. A group that wishes to provide to provide assistance is hardly causing harm if how they provide that assistance is governed by their internal values. I would not expect the NAACP to focus on providing scholarships to white children. I would not expect Women’s Advocacy groups to focus on providing money to young men. Get a grip.

  • Baloney! The only religion you see as worthy of freedom is the religion that accepts everything and stands for nothing. The problem is not with folks having values and positions that lead them to reinforce certain things and exclude others. The problem is the fragile sensitivity of those who can’t tolerate others saying they don’t agree with your values or behavior. Don’t agree with them just ignore them. Don’t want them peeing in your pool, stop peeing in theirs.

  • No. Not even close.

    This is literally establishment of religion. The state is funding the promotion of a singular sectarian belief. A 1st Amendment violation in the plainest sense.

    “Federal government may not reject services to an organization just because it is religious.”

    Of course they can. If their actions are entirely sectarian in purpose, they serve no legitimate government goal.

    Lemon v Kurtzman (403 US 602)
    https://www.usconstitution.net/lemon.html

    1) First, the statute must have a secular legislative purpose;

    2) second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion;

    3) finally, the statute must not foster an excessive government entanglement with religion.

  • They first have to be able to make a distinction between their perceptions and feelings and actual reality, a systematic morality, a philosophical system, or some combination of those three.

  • Harm, they are denying access of people to become foster parents on the basis of religion and they are doing it with government subsidy. The state is funding sectarian discrimination.

    The state has the role of placing foster children. By using agencies which discriminate, they are discriminating themselves.

    “I would not expect the NAACP to focus on providing scholarships to white children. ”

    Are NAACP scholarships government funded or serving a function of the state? No. Garbage analogy.

  • That was nonsense. You are basically saying you want your personal prejudices to be beyond criticism by calling them religious belief. It is a spineless way to approach your personal beliefs.

    But you miss the point wildly in your defense of government subsidized sectarian discrimination. The agency can exercise its “values” all it wants. It just has no business taking up government funding or a government role if they do.

    If one is performing a public service, they have to serve the entire public. They don’t need my money or my official public endorsement.

  • A basic reading of the establishment clause is sorely needed for anyone who is trying to defend this kind of officially sanctioned sectarian discrimination.

  • ” The problem is the fragile sensitivity of those who can’t tolerate others saying they don’t agree with your values or behavior.”
    Your penance for hypocritical projection is to read this sentence 100 times.
    If they want to do this without using taxpayer dollars, I have no issue with it, other than I think it is wrong headed, abusive, and contrary to scripture. If they want tax dollaws for it, then there is a problem.

  • They are causing harm to the thousands of children who don’t have homes. they are causing harm to the people who don’t ascribe to their rather narrow definition of proper faith.

    Quoting a very wise man, “” The problem is the fragile sensitivity of those who can’t tolerate others saying they don’t agree with your values or behavior.”

  • No, people who want to close faith-based agencies want to cause harm to thousands of children who don’t have homes.

    It is their way, or no highway.

  • No, as the article pointed out the Catholic woman went to a different agency.

    You would be sending a Jewish child to an atheist’s home were she or he would be served pork.

    This is the level of insanity the left, atheist, agnostic, zany ideology leads to where political correctness trumps common sense and decency.

  • You basically want to claim that anything you dislike is a “personal prejudice” and not a religious belief.

    That allows you to put your hobnailed jackboots on and use the First Amendment for a floor mat as you leave the pig pen of a bankrupt ideology.

    If the people of these United States choose to allow agencies to act within their religious beliefs, and it passes constitutional muster after challenge, you’ll pay your taxes and they’ll used in any the people choose.

  • If you think there’s a problem your solution is legislation or the courts.

    If it goes against you, your choice is either to suck it up or choose a new country.

  • 1 – The purpose is to place children in foster families.

    2 – Since it does not prohibit completely secular – even atheist – agencies from being foster parent agencies, it is religiously neutral.

    3 – Since the government refuses to tell the agencies what religious beliefs are acceptable and which are not, it avoids entanglement.

    Of course the Lemon Test is not at issue, and in fact is not being followed in every case.

    The relevant authority is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, Pub. L. No. 103-141, 107 Stat. 1488 (November 16, 1993), codified at 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb through 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-4.

    Oh, and you apparently do not know what an establishment of religion is:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_religion

  • Mark, someone told me that RC agencies only adopt to RC. Is that true?
    Also, I still have not found on that site where they exclude anyone. Have you looked?

  • It’s pretty much the Trinity Lutheran Case.

    The SCOTUS, moreover, ignores Lemon more often than not. This SCOTUS is ripe for an overhaul of religious freedom jurisprudence.

  • Since each Catholic agency, Jewish agency, various Protestant agencies are separate rather than centralized the policies vary.

    In general these agencies are set up and funded to serve people of their own faith.

    And, because of that and because they are in those faith communities, it is unlikely that – for just an example – a Jewish child would be placed through Catholic Social Services for placement in a Jewish home.

    Despite the tempest in a teapot in the comments, and the spin in the article, their website does not seem to support the allegation.

    I have noted before that Yonat Shimron appears to do very little actual reporting and no discernible fact checking, so I never take her “news” items as more than opinion pieces without independently verifying the content.

    Several things in this story smell funny, but I have better things to do than go do her job at the moment.

  • Nope. Nice try.

    A playground was considered secular and neutral aid. Intentionally sectarian discrimination in performing a service on behalf of the government is as far from that as possible.

  • Most of their funding is actually corporate. Moreover they are not performing government services.

    Crap analogy remains crap analogy.

  • Scalia’s characterization of the Lemon Test in Lamb’s Chapel v. Ctr. Moriches Union Free Sch. Dist. (91-2024), 508 U.S. 384 (1993) pretty much sums it up:

    “As to the Court’s invocation of the Lemon test: Like some ghoul in a late-night horror movie that repeatedly sits up in its grave and shuffles abroad, after being repeatedly killed and buried, ‘Lemon’ stalks our Establishment Clause jurisprudence once again, frightening the little children and school attorneys of Center Moriches Union Free School District. Its most recent burial, only last Term, was, to be sure, not fully six-feet under: our decision in ‘Lee v. Weisman’, 505 U. S. ——, —— (1992), conspicuously avoided using the supposed ‘test’ but also declined the invitation to repudiate it. Over the years, however, no fewer than five of the currently sitting Justices have, in their own opinions, personally driven pencils through the creature’s heart (the author of today’s opinion repeatedly), and a sixth has joined an opinion doing so. See, e.g.,’ Weisman, supra, at —— (slip op., at 14) (Scalia, J., joined by, inter alios, Thomas, J., dissenting); Allegheny County v. American Civil Liberties Union, Greater Pittsburgh Chapter’, 492 U. S. 573, 655–657 (1989) (Kennedy, J., concurring in judgment in part and dissenting in part); ‘Corporation of Presiding Bishop of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints v. Amos’, 483 U. S. 327, 346–349 (1987) (O’Connor, J., concurring); ‘Wallace v. Jaffree’, 472 U. S. 38, 107–113 (1985) (Rehnquist, J., dissenting); id., at 90–91 (White, J., dissenting); ‘School Dist. of Grand Rapids v. Ball’, 473 U. S. 373, 400 (1985) (White, J., dissenting); ‘Widmar v. Vincent’, 454 U. S. 263, 282 (1981) (White, J., dissenting); ‘New York v. Cathedral Academy’, 434 U. S. 125, 134–135 (1977) (White, J., dissenting); ‘Roemer v. Maryland Bd. of Public Works’, 426 U. S. 736, 768 (1976) (White, J., concurring in judgment); ‘Committee for Public Education & Religious Liberty v. Nyquist’, 413 U. S. 756, 820 (1973) (White, J., dissenting).”

    “The secret of the ‘Lemon’ test’s survival, I think, is that it is so easy to kill. It is there to scare us (and our audience) when we wish it to do so, but we can command it to return to the tomb at will.”

    Spuddie probably cites it because she can actually spell “Lemon”.

  • Foster care placement is a secular and neutral aid as well.

    Just like a Lutheran school doesn’t serve everyone and need not. No reason why they shouldn’t receive state aid in a purpose that aids the state.

    Although two dissenters thought they shouldn’t.

  • Not the way they are doing it. Engaging in specific and obvious sectarian discrimination while acting on behalf of the government.

    B- for effort.

  • I am not the one making a ridiculous reference to a case which has nothing on point to the current situation. That is all you. 🙂

  • LOL. Not even close to a parallel. You are trying to polish a turd of a policy. Straight up sectarian discrimination is not secular, neutral or remotely even morally defensible. It is just plan wrong on all levels.

  • I am sure you were discussing it with the other legal scholars at “Superhero Hype”.

    But seriously folks ….

  • He did NOT say “most of their funding is federal, state and municipal grants.”

    He said they receive them.

  • Nuh-uh is not a rebuttal. Even if you no like.

    Again, the SCOTUS will never mess with it. Count on it.

  • Right wingers would have a cow if christians were discriminated against! This is sick. Blatant violation of the Civil Rights ACt of 1964 and the 1st amendment.

  • Already rebutted your poor reference. There is nothing secular or neutral about obvious sectarian discrimination. It is the very opposite of such things. It is obvious to everyone who isn’t a flat out liar.

    Nothing more is necessary here. Your example is terrible and not particularly intelligent or honestly presented.

  • I believe it was a Catholic Christian declined by a Protestant agency that was featured in the story.

  • You rebutted nothing, as usual. A church school playground is a neutral activity not provided to everyone. Faith-based foster placement is a neutral activity not provided to everyone.

    But don’t take my word for it. Wait and see.

  • “The state should choose foster parents and then send them out to work with agencies, she said, rather than have agencies pick and choose based on religion or other factors.”

    Let’s apply the same rule to teachers and religious schools! Simply rule that no school can refuse a state-certified teacher on religious grounds. Sorry, forcing religious organizations to employ people that don’t meet their religious criteria does serious violence to that “separation of Church and State” that the Left keeps harping on.

    “For Barrise, the former schoolteacher who fostered a 1-year-old girl for a year, the experience of being rejected by Miracle Hill because of her faith prompted her to start a support ministry for foster parents at her Catholic church, the largest in the Upstate. She is just getting started, but hopes to be of help to other parents as they navigate what she said is an exhausting and frustrating licensing process.”

    THAT is the proper response, not call on the government to force employees on religious organizations.

  • Lol. Actually there was no inference the playground was open only to parishioners. Faith based placement is the opposite of a neutral activity. It is faith based and a form of sectarian discrimination.

    Oh well you gave it a try. But it is neither a logical argument nor one routed in representations of basic facts. Veracity impairment is to be expected from an argument by you.

  • Only children enrolled in a private school, in this case a sectarian school, use school facilities, Einstein. This is for reasons of premises liability. Get an education already.

  • Transexuals kill themselves not because people refuse to believe their delusion…… They do so because deep down they realize they will NEVER BE THE SEX THEY WANT TO BE

  • Inevitable. This is what happens when discrimination is legalized. And how nice for Mr. Lehman (whose compensation is three times that of the median income for the area) that taxpayers are made to subsidize it.

    Of course, I’m sure their exclusively Protestant clientele appreciates it too. They are complicit in Miracle Hill’s choices. Their services may be worth it, but I wonder if they ever consider whether such a discriminatory attitude is in keeping with the scriptures they claim to hold so dear.

  • No, it is NOT a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – which deals solely with organizations involved in interstate commerce like hotels, nor the First Amendment – which prohibits the establishment of a religion.

  • Supposedly declined.

    It is not clear to me that what the agency was trying to tell her was that its contacts are all Protestant, who wish to place children with Protestants.

    The situation would be analogous to Jewish individuals wanting to ensure that a Jewish child is not placed in home where pork would be on the menu.

  • Then again you’re not an LGBT/atheist/anti-religionist like some of our commenters.

    The article appears to have some spin in it.

  • Their “clientele” are the children, not the parents, and I haven’t seen any indication that Miracle Hill discriminates in any way on which children it will help.

  • Now you are engaging in supposition and trying to stretch facts to fill in a point which clearly is not supported. Typical dishonest Shawnie.

    Straight up sectarian discrimination here is an obvious and illegal misuse of government resources. The State harms its own interests in endorsing such actions.

  • No, the children are in the CPS system through the state. The clients are people looking to be foster parents.

  • Next up, the LGQTOVIEVAW group complaining that an actual female is in the role. Oh BTY, unless you are taking hormones and/or had the surgery you aren’t transgender.. Just cross dressing

  • No, the children are in the system because of their circumstances and the operation of the law.

    They are the clients, not the foster parents, and certainly not you and a bunch of screaming anti-religious Luddites.

  • Where I come from, children do not arrange their own care. If Miracle Hill discriminates against parents on the basis of their religion – which it does – then it in turn discriminates against children raised in non-Protestant homes. There really is no way to spin this that makes Miracle Hill look like the good guy.

  • Both Catholics and Protestants are Christian. This is not about faith. They practice the same faith: Christianity. Makes me wonder also about the lgbtq issues around faith. I know a lot of lgbtq couples who attend mainline Christian churches regularly. What is to keep them from arguing that since they are practicing and committed Christians, the discrimination isn’t about faith at all, but about bigotry? I mean, it’s clear that it’s about bigotry, but why couldn’t that point be argued in court?

  • When a mother takes a child to see a doctor, is the mother the patient, or the child? Compared to this situation, the government is the mother, the child is the patient, and the foster parent is the doctor. Miracle Hill is the clinic that employs the doctor, and sets the standards that it wants to see in the doctors it employs.

  • No, that would be you, trying to bolster your argument by assuming that private schools typically let others come on their premises and use their privately-insured facilities and equipment. Didn’t you learn anything making coffee for insurance crooks?

    We certainly know you haven’t learned anything about wasting company time. 😀

  • Once again Mark/Bob defends religious discrimination at public expense. Why is he so opposed to religious liberty and our constitutional heritage of church-state separation.

  • The 1971 Lemon ruling was 8 to 1 in favor of church state separation. Scalia was an outlier who despised the heritage of Jefferson and Madison. (Incidentally, I was one of the many people involved in setting up the Lemon case.)

  • It was a church playground. The stretch for federal funding was that it was secular and neutral in purpose. Exclusionary and sectarian are quite the opposite of such things.

    There is nothing remotely plausibly acceptable under the law for allowing government funding of sectarian discrimination when acting as a proxy for the state.

    This is not adoption, which can be done privately. The certification of foster parents is ultimately the exclusive duty of the state.

    This agency is working on behalf of the state in that function. Which means the state is endorsing sectarian discrimination here.

    There is no religious freedom argument here. This is unambiguous entanglement of Church and state. Establishment of Protestant faith as an official one of SC for these purposes.

    Flat out illegal.

  • Blatant violation of the establishment clause. This “church” should not be allowed to discriminate based on religion.

  • Dashed that off too quick. However, your analogy isn’t apt. Foster parents are not doctors, and competency, skill, and experience aren’t the standards at issue. Otherwise capable foster parents are turned away, and children are denied opportunities to join loving families, on the basis of prospective foster parents’ religion.

    Simply put, MH puts religious affiliation ahead of finding families for the children in their charge.

  • Equivocating on the word “discrimination” doesn’t help, Mark. We’re not talking about having excellent taste or judgment. But, I’m sure you already knew that.

  • Have you seen any reports saying that Miracle Hill has had to turn away children because they don’t have enough foster parents? Or that adults were unable to become foster parents because MH turned them away?

  • In fact it is not equivocating.

    It is pointing out that not only is discrimination in a wide variety of contexts a good thing, it is a necessary thing.

    In order to make the case the article hints at, and you expressed, three things need to be accomplished.

    – define with some legal precision “religious discrimination”;

    – explain why the defined “religious discrimination” is undesirable;

    – explain why the defined “religious discrimination” is contrary to law.

    Instead folks are jumping into this with unstated and often clearly erroneous preconceptions, rendering the discussion simply a matter of taste.

  • Well, the article presents some data, starting with the representative example, Mrs. Barrise, who was turned away because she’s Catholic.

    In addition, according to the article:

    “Miracle Hill now supports 230 licensed couples but the need is far greater. At last count, there were 4,624 children in foster care but only 2,786 licensed foster providers, according to the state Department of Social Services.

    Religious affiliation is not a good metric by which to measure suitability, and still paints MH as a discriminatory organization receiving federal money.

  • As Sotomayor pointed out in her Trinity Lutheran dissent:

    “The Church seeks state funds to improve the Learning Center’s facilities, which, by the Church’s own avowed description, are used to assist the spiritual growth of the children of its members and to spread the Church’s faith to the children of nonmembers. The Church’s playground surface—like a Sunday School room’s wall or the sanctuary pews—are integrated with and integral to its religious mission. The conclusion that the funding the Church seeks would impermissibly advance religion is inescapable…. The Church has a religious mission, one that it pursues through the Learning Center. The playground surface cannot be confined to secular use any more than lumber used to frame the Church’s walls, glass stained and used to form its windows, or nails used to build its altar.”

    And yet only RBG joined with her.

    Improving a playground is as “secular” a purpose as placing children into foster homes. That they are both done in accordance with the principles and missions of the faith-based organizations that perform them does not take away from those organizations’ eligibility for public funds in the eyes of this SCOTUS. You’re welcome to disagree with them, of course, but like I said, the SCOTUS will NOT mess with this.

  • Yes, Mrs. Barrise was turned away by MH, and then got her license from the state Department of Social Services. So she was NOT prevented from becoming a foster mother. Truth is, I tend to agree with you about using religious affiliation when accepting foster parents, but I’m JCLDS (Mormon) so my foundational theology is different than MH’s. Where I disagree with you is whether I have the right to override MH’s right to exercise their religion when that exercise doesn’t seriously inconvenience anyone else.

  • So that makes your citation even worse. If a seemingly neutral and secular looking playground was bad in her eyes, flat out open and obvious sectarian discrimination is far beyond beyond the pale and much less of an issue.

    Certifying parents based on the faith of the applicants is as sectarian as one gets. There is nothing secular or religiously neutral about the act You’re entire argument rests on ignoring what is being done, pretending thatrephrasing it changes underlying facts and flat out ridiculously cheap denial. Typical.

    Thanks, you’re done. You really have nothing honest or rational to say here. I know your response is just going to be repeating the same flat out lies about basic definitions and acts done.

  • So Mark/Bob accuses the 8 justices and the large group of Christians, Jews and others of being “half-baked ideololgues”? That sounds like serious paranoia.

  • According to the EEOC: “Religious discrimination involves treating a person unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs.” There are number of ways this can be expressed, including hiring, firing, compensation, accommodation, etc., few of which are applicable.

    But I haven’t argued once that it’s illegal.

    MH happens to fall under a Sec. 702 exemption contained in Title VII, so what they’re doing is technically legal. However, they are in a seemingly grey area. According to the American Bar Assoc:

    “Title VII religious-corporation exemption does not apply to positions funded substantially by government funds (Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971)), but there is little precedent precisely defining the meaning of “religious corporation” under section 702.”

    This means, of course, it’s a lack of clarity that allows MH (and other ‘religious corporations’) to continue discriminating – legally – while receiving gov’t funds. It would seem to hinge on the amount of gov’t funding that winds up with foster families. But in any case, the exemption they fall under is not uncontroversial, and although I doubt the law will be clarified in a way I agree with in my lifetime, I can always hope.

    As for why it’s undesirable, that shouldn’t require an explanation, but arbitrary distinctions are no way to treat your fellow man. And yes, it is arbitrary in this case, because it has nothing whatsoever to do with whether a foster parent is a good foster parent or not. It only matters that they agree with the same dogma as MH. But let me ask you: Do you desire that believers of all faiths (and none) be allowed under the law to refuse service to others? If so, why?

  • As someone who finds anti-Catholicism, anti-semitism, and in fact anti-any religionism offensive, I don’t find Edd Doerr amusing.

  • You may want to take a few moments and recount the Supreme Court vote.

    I understand at 88 dementia could be a problem, but surely you can still count.

  • The EEOC deals solely with employment discrimination. This is NOT an employment situation and the EEOC is not relevant.

    You need to find a relevant source.

    There is no lack of clarity.

    Familiarize yourself with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, codified at 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb through 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-4 (also known as RFRA), is a 1993 United States federal law that “ensures that interests in religious freedom are protected.”

    The statement “As for why it’s undesirable, that shouldn’t require an explanation …” makes it clear that you’re discussing a matter of taste or preference.

    The issue is NOT whether a foster parent is a good foster parent or not.

    The criterion specified in the statutes in each jurisdiction define what a good foster parent is or is not.

    In this case the agency in question is a Protestant one placing children with foster parents in that setting. It has no contact with Jewish, Catholic, Buddhist, or other religions’ churches, temples, or synagogues, nor does it serve any of those communities.

    What it does do is place children in environments which are consistent with both its served population and the children’s backgrounds.

    As you apparently envision it, taking a child being raised in an Orthodox Jewish environment and placing that child with pig farmers whose daily diet consists of bacon in the morning and ham at night would NOT be religious discrimination.

    That flight from sanity and common sense seems to underlie many of the comments being made.

    I desire that the law be followed.

  • “If a seemingly neutral and secular looking playground was bad in her eyes, flat out open and obvious sectarian discrimination is far beyond beyond the pale and much less of an issue.”

    LOL! You still don’t get the significance of the Trinity case, which turned early 20th-century establishment jurisprudence on its head and made strict church-state separation a kind of religious discrimination. There is nothing in the present instance that could not also be said about the Trinity Lutheran playground. The playground was part of their expressly stated mission to further the spiritual growth of their children and to win more children to their faith (gasp!). Government funds not only aid them in that mission but free up more of their funds for other more overtly religious activities. They made no denial of, or apology for, any of this.

    In exactly the same manner, the organization in question here performs a facially secular purpose in a manner that furthers their own spiritual mission. You are fooling yourself if you think this SCOTUS is ever going to order a faith-based organization to abandon their religious principles in order to perform a secular function that they happen to collect some public funding for. You lost any chance of that kind of outcome with the accession of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh to the Court — the latter effectively put there by Kennedy himself who, although not unwilling to do a little personal Constitution-editing in order to help out people he felt sorry for, nevertheless never met a First Amendment claim he didn’t like.

    Again, don’t take my word for it. Wait and see.

  • No it did not. The Establishment Clause still exists and still requires a showing of secular and religiously neutral actions. This is more obviously a violation of it than Trinity was.

    You have a much higher opinion of your BS’ing skills than reality permits here. You are not making an intelligent argument. Just a contorted wildly obviously dishonest one.

  • Over many years I have participated in Catholic services, served as a cantor at a Jewish congregation, spoken at Sunday services at Protestant, Unitarian and other churches well over a hundred times in 27 states, and served for 30 years on the board of a religious coalition. So I find Mark/Bob’s comments offensive

  • I have no expectation of any of this sounding intelligent to you. It is of course ordinary laypeople’s natural response to say, oh well it’s just a playground, no big deal (less than one in five Americans can name more than one 1st Amendment right, after all). The underlying principles and their possible extrapolations do not even enter their awareness.

  • “It is of course ordinary laypeople’s natural response to say”

    The response of a Trump University School of Law graduate for sure. 🙂

  • Which never existed, so that was rather silly even for a joke.

    You could use lessons in effective wise-cracking as well as in vocabulary and reading comprehension.

  • Calm yourself, Mark. As I said – multiple times – what MH is doing is legal. You’re arguing legalities with the wrong person. I’m not a lawyer and I don’t care to be. I am, however, trained in EEO and know that contractors (as foster parents are sometimes considered to be; I don’t know if they are in SC) are frequently considered employees for the purposes of Title VII compliance. But let’s set that red herring aside at last, shall we?

    To me, the central issue in fostering children should always be their well-being, not the type of religious indoctrination they’ll get. Hence my priorities are happily different from those at MH.

    And yes, it is a matter of preference. MH stated as much, and I have not said otherwise. MH discriminates against prospective foster families on the basis of their religious preference. That’s not even a question here. They openly say so. Additionally, Greenville, SC is only 65% Protestant, so unless MH has walls to keep their non-Protestant neighbors from sullying their purity, they almost certainly have had contact with prospective foster parents of other faiths. This article highlights one of them.

    Indeed, it is the fact that they choose to serve only one segment of the population, excluding 35% of their neighbors, for religious reasons that I find this objectionable. No, I don’t think any child should be placed in an incompatible home. But, based on their discriminatory policy, I do think MH would happily place an orphan having an Orthodox Jewish background in a Protestant home, thereby helping to ensure he/she is properly indoctrinated into that faith, pork eating included.

  • I’m glad we agree regarding religious affiliation and foster parents. My argument is not about forcing MH to facilitate adoptions under the law. What they’re doing is legal. Unfortunately, the law is in their favor, but more unfortunate is that they choose to do it in the first place. This has been my position from the start.

  • “To me, the central issue in fostering children should always be their well-being, not the type of religious indoctrination they’ll get.”

    The implies that religion does not contribute to children’s well-being.

    Au contraire.

    “Hence my priorities are happily different from those at MH.”

    It is not clear what the priorities are at MH.

    As I noted to another poster

    https://disqus.com/home/discussion/religionnews/sc_foster_care_agency_tests_publics_will_to_exclude_on_the_basis_of_faith/#comment-4315154695

    serving those in your own community is not only no problem, it is to be expected.

    That explains “MH discriminates against prospective foster families on the basis of their religious preference.”, which should be rephrased “MH serves its Protestant community.”

    The article, btw, spins one of them. The woman in question had no problem finding an agency to work with.

    So, now that we’re clear you may not know much about the law, but do know what you like and don’t like, we can move on without further ado about “discrimination”.

  • Certainly if one is a JCLDS, Catholic, or Jewish one tends to be more circumspect about alleging religious bigotry when people exercise their constitutional right to practice their religion in the public square.

  • Well of course they discriminate.

    For example, they won’t knowingly place a child with someone known to be a bad foster parent.

  • Of course not. But she does exemplify the typical leftist 1st Amendment ideology — whose day on the SCOTUS has come and gone.

  • She also exemplifies the “I don’t much much about law, but I know what I like.” school of jurisprudence.

  • My mistake. Let me amend: “It’s clear that it’s about bigotry except to those who use the Bible as a weapon, reading it as an excuse to hide all sorts of toxic theology from insisting that God wants women to be silent in the church to defending slavery. Everyone else sees it for the bigotry that it is.”

  • Well, that’s two mistakes.

    The agency in question is not using the Bible as a weapon, nor is it hiding any form of toxic theology. Its ministries and beliefs are there in the open and available for inspection.

    https://miraclehill.org/

    The bigotry involved is in your statements, taken separately and together.

    The reason why they function the way they do has to do with their community:

    https://disqus.com/home/discussion/religionnews/sc_foster_care_agency_tests_publics_will_to_exclude_on_the_basis_of_faith/#comment-4315154695

    They would be completely ineffective, for example, in trying to place an Orthodox Jewish child since they have zero contacts in the Orthodox Jewish community.

    It is, btw, completely legal:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_Freedom_Restoration_Act

  • Totally missed (or ignored) the point of my initial comment. Not surprised, nor interested in having a discussion with the bigots anymore. Talk to those who listen to your bs. I’m not one of them. Goodbye.

  • Actually I went back and read your original comment and responded to both.

    I’m in the same boat as you – I am growing weary of bigots, religious or like yourself irreligious.

  • That implies that religion does not contribute to children’s well-being.

    No, it implies religious affiliation should not be the deciding factor in placing children in loving homes. For MH, it is the primary concern, over and above a foster parents’ actual capabilities.

    It is not clear what the priorities are at MH.

    The priority I’m referring to is to find parents who match the agency’s belief system. Again, this appears to be their first concern.

    “MH serves its Protestant community.”

    …to the exclusion of those dirty non-Protestants. A bit hyperbolic, but you can paint this kind of thing any way you want and it still is ugly. By the logic you use here, white business owners in Birmingham, AL some 60+ years ago who refused to serve or segregated their black customers from white were “serving the white community,” not discriminating against anyone.

    It doesn’t matter if there’s an alternative. Just as having a ‘colored only’ water fountain there for black folks to use didn’t make it any less discriminatory and harmful. That too was legal.

  • What happens to the children that come through Miracle Hill? Are they forced to convert to Protestantism? Do they forbid the Jewish children, Catholic children, etc. from practicing their faith? Do they punish them for not converting? Do the foster parents forcibly convert them? Are they allowed to beat a child who refuses to give up their religion and convert to Protestantism? And we haven’t even talked about the children who are of no religion – I can’t imagine how mistreated they probably are.

  • “No, it implies religious affiliation should take a backseat to choosing a loving, healthy home.”

    Which implies that religion is unimportant to a loving healthy home.

    I think we’ve identified where the bigotry lies, and it’s not with MH.

  • Yes, I read an essay some time back about why it is that leftists are so flippant about others’ religious freedom and free exercise. Supposedly it is because they think of religion as something like a hobby and not as an integral part of someone’s life.

    Very much akin to bigotry. Many of the comments here certainly tend to support such a conclusion.

  • It is not “akin” to bigotry, it IS bigotry.

    The underlying assumption is that mankind is evolving into New Man, a being who makes his own morals, his own reality, and his own world.

    As he does that, he sheds religion, which as fire kept the beasts away for the Neanderthals, explains the mysteries away for Existing Man.

    That always eventually runs into things like the Soviet Union, North Korea, and the Third Reich which – for those who aren’t ideologues to an idea whose time will never come – demonstrates that the myth is New Man.

  • Yes, it is those that exercise a right themselves that are more likely to support others in exercising that right—otherwise known as enlightened self-interest.

  • Barrise said “I just don’t understand, you know”? I understand. It’s simply the phony myth of god and the scam of religion doing the only thing it’s ever done and the only thing it’s good for which is causing divisiveness, hatred and conflict, based on ancient mythology, ignorant, primitive superstition and silly supernatural nonsense, not on anything that’s real. Humanity would be better off if religion were abolished.

  • I smell a little “whataboutism.” 😆

    Tell you what — you open an atheist foster care placement service, and if you turn me down I’ll go to Miracle Hill instead of suing you. Deal?

  • Bottom line=Religion, all of it, that’s the problem and no one should be obligated to legitimize it in any way. It’s the birthplace of hate, the mask that hate hides behind and it’s all based on imaginary BS and is not relevant to our world of reality and thinking, rational, reasoning, logical “MATURE” adults.

  • I smell more hypocrisy myself. You want whataboutis, you should speak with your buddy bob/Robert/David/Jose/mark/draco/Utah.

  • So what? If you say fairy tales are an integral part of your life, how do you expect people to view it?

  • Being religious does not automatically make one a good foster parent. Quite the opposite. They pretend there is an imaginary man in the sky and spread that lie, so what else will they pretend and lie about?

  • Why not? Because of more crazy shyt caused by kooky religious beliefs? Religion, all of it, that’s the problem.

  • No accommodations or exemptions should EVER be made for crazy, hateful, religious BS. And it’s all just that. Every bit of it.

  • Then why the insistence on christian privilege, supremacy, dominionism, nationalism etc. to the exclusion of and discrimination to others?

  • It’s not religious liberty. It’s religious privilege, the claim that it allows discrimination and it’s against the law. Our SECULAR constitution and laws are supreme. Anything from religion doesn’t amount to burnt mule shyt.

  • Children and parents are both clients. What’s wrong with being anti-religious? What is the myth of god and the scam of religion based on but supremacy above all others and things?

  • Looking through all your responses, you might want to take a second look at the 1st Amendment. But don’t bother responding once you do, because you’re being blocked for bigotry.

  • “The law”. Like the same “law” that unconstitutionally made our motto “in god we trust”, using the gov.’t to “Make an establishment of religion”?

  • Proud to be a bigot against the hateful ideology of religion. I’ve read your comments and you need to understand that religious beliefs don’t matter at all, as they are based on pretend and make-believe, are secondary to our “SECULAR LAWS AND CONSTITUTION” and don’t amount to burnt mule shyt except maybe in your fairy tale fantasies. The first amendment doesn’t give your religion a blank check. You have freedom of speech too, but try yelling fire in a crowded theater. You problem is not being denied religious liberty, it’s that you are addicted to religious privilege.

  • Well of course hypocrisy is ALWAYS being pointed out right about the time someone whines whataboutism. Sorry you didn’t seem to catch the sarcasm.

    But you at least gave me a line for my sockpuppet the next time I hear the whine. Don’t worry — I’ll credit you properly.

    You didn’t tell me if we have a deal or not.

  • Hate is hate viewed through any prism. Religion hates everything ……………….except religion, now don’t it?

  • Trying to project holy hypocrite judgmentalism onto the socially enlightened (liberals) never quite works for the simple reason that you can never get past your own rote stereotypes of other people to have any sort of reasonable perspective. You make being obtuse about liberals into an art form.

  • And therein you fail to appreciate that “foster care” is about the current urgent needs of children for physical and emotional stability in their lives. They are not one more set of pawns in your social “holy wars.”

  • No, it “don’t” — not “now,” not ever A “hateful” (to you) ideology is an ideology for which you’re full of hate. If you’re blind to the “prisms” that YOU’RE looking through, there’s not much anyone else can do for you. Reality will ultimately have to intervene to correct your ignorant presumptions — an experience that’s usually embarrassing, at best.

  • In that case I see a golden opportunity for you guys to step up to the plate and create new avenues to fill the need. After all, that’s what Christianity did two millenia ago when unwanted children were simply thrown to the wild animals; don’t you think it’s time atheists contribute something besides whining and lawsuits?

  • Nope. Foster care needs to be regulated by state licensed social workers who will put the immediate needs of the affected children ahead of the politics of religion. Emotionally abused and/or abandoned children need a lot of love and healing; they don’t need to become the pawns of religious fanatics.

  • ROFL! On the contrary, pointing out liberal hypocrisy works just fine, except for the actual butts of the joke who can’t see how they look because they lack self-awareness — which is part of the comedy of it, actually.

  • Start up a placement service, staffed by state licensed atheist social workers who will get kids into all the atheist etc. homes that they supposedly need so much. I’m sure you can even get some public funding to supplement your work.

    Think of the children! 😝

  • Nope. You have that backwards. The state should not give license to religious fanatics to use foster kids as pawns in their bid for theocracy. Putting the kids’ needs first would preclude letting religious fanatics be foster parents.

  • Since you have just espoused the same position that you were previously complaining about, why exactly are you here?

  • “Whataboutis” refers to:

    – Context, putting the topic being discussed into its proper framework. Of course if you’re ranting about abuse in a denomination you really hate, having it pointed out that abuse elsewhere is magnitudes more common blunts your rants.

    – Pointing out the speck in the other commenter’s eye while avoiding the plank in your own.

    Along with the Hitler rule, there should be a Whataboutism rule.

  • Really?

    So how many times in 2018 did a Christian compel you to go to his or her church, or adopt his or her creed?

  • Religion is the birthplace of hate and the mask that hate, hypocrisy, pretenders and liars hides behind.

  • If these people are so “charitable”, why isn’t this “ministry” staffed by volunteers? Why does money have to be involved?

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