A federal Court of Appeals issued a decision that allows a faith-based adoption agency to sue officials in New York state who are seeking to force the charity to place children with unmarried and same-sex couples instead of referring them to other providers.
The appeals court reversed a district court’s dismissal of New Hope’s lawsuit against New York officials seeking to shut down the provider simply for its religious beliefs about marriage.
Since 1965, New Hope Family Services has placed children in homes with a married mother and father. As a Christian non-profit that receives no public funding, New Hope does not place children for adoption with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples. Instead, they refer them to one of the other approximately 130 adoption providers in New York—the vast majority of which will place children with any individual who qualifies.
Last year, the Court of Appeals temporarily halted state officials from interrupting current adoption placements or mandating the closure of New Hope’s adoption program until the court had a chance to consider whether to reverse the federal district court’s decision. The case now goes back to district court.
In the fall of 2018, the New York Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) wrote a favorable review of New Hope in a letter that stated the organization “had a number of strengths in providing adoption services.” But then the agency issued an ultimatum to New Hope that it must violate its religious beliefs or close its adoption services for its policy prioritizing the placement of children it serves in homes with a married mother and father.
New Hope filed a complaint against OCFS in federal district court in December 2018, and the court dismissed the case in May 2019.
In its decision in favor of New Hope, the Court of Appeals stated: “It is plainly a serious step to order an authorized adoption agency such as New Hope—operating without complaint for 50 years, taking no government funding, successfully placing approximately 1,000 children, and with adoptions pending or being supervised—to close all its adoption operations.”
The appeals court also wrote that, moving forward, the district court must “take into account the best interests of the many children awaiting adoption in a State where they number far more than the persons willing to adopt them.”
Currently, there are more than 25,000 children in the foster care system in New York alone.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “This is a great decision in favor of religious freedom and protecting the well-being of precious children. New Hope Family Services has faithfully placed children in loving homes with a married mother and father for more than 50 years. Faith-based adoption organizations should not have to choose between their deeply-held religious beliefs and their mission to help children and families.”