South Carolina Enacts Child Welfare License to Discriminate Law

July 9, 2018 — For Immediate Release

NEW YORK — On Friday, July 6, 2018, South Carolina became the ninth state to allow taxpayer-funded child placing agencies to turn away prospective foster and adoptive families who do not meet an agency’s religious litmus test. Since mid-May, Oklahoma, Kansas, and South Carolina have joined the ranks of Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas and Virginia in allowing taxpayer-funded agencies to substitute their leaders’ religious beliefs for the accepted child welfare standard that placement decisions be driven by what is in a child’s best interest. Alabama, the only other state with a license to discriminate law, limits its law to agencies that do not receive government funding. These harmful laws allow foster care agencies to turn away otherwise qualified LGBTQ individuals, people of different faiths, or unmarried individuals to the detriment of the estimated 440,000 children in foster care – 118,000 of whom are awaiting adoption.

What sets South Carolina apart from the other states is how the state set its discriminatory policy. Unlike the other states with laws specifically addressing the issue in a substantive law, the South Carolina legislature ducked the legislative process for enacting such laws and snuck the discriminatory provision into the state’s 500+ page 2018-2019 appropriations bill, H. 4950,  without any debate or consideration of the impact such discrimination could have on the state’s child welfare system. Despite almost 100 faith organizations and South Carolina faith leaders denouncing the measure and asking Governor McMaster to exercise his power to line item veto the discriminatory provision, the governor refused to do so.

“Turning away qualified foster and adoptive parents limits the pool of available homes for youth in care, making it harder to find forever homes for the over 4,000 children currently in the South Carolina foster care system,” said The Reverend Stan J. Sloan, CEO of Family Equality Council, “By hiding this provision in an appropriations bill, lawmakers effectively avoided public debate about a measure that would break the most important rule in child welfare: that the needs of children come first.”

“South Carolina’s discriminatory law is the perfect example of how the First Amendment is being misused to benefit a particular, extreme version of Christianity to the detriment of South Carolina’s most vulnerable children,” said Denise Brogan-Kator, chief policy officer of Family Equality Council. “Religious freedom is a core American value, and it is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. But freedom of religion does not give people the right to impose their beliefs on others, or to deny loving homes to vulnerable children in foster care, simply because prospective parents don’t share an agency’s religious beliefs.”

About Family Equality Council

Family Equality Council advances legal and lived equality for LGBTQ families, and for those who wish to form them, through building community, changing hearts and minds, and driving policy change. Family Equality Council believes every LGBTQ person should have the right and opportunity to form and sustain a loving family, regardless of who they are or where they live. Learn more at familyequality.org.

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