A U.S. federal judge delivered a major victory to a faith-based adoption agency last week by permanently blocking the state of New York from closing the provider due to its Christian beliefs.
At issue was New Hope Family Services, a Christian-based adoption and foster care agency that operates from a biblical framework and only places children in the homes of families with a married mother and father.
The agency's future was threatened when the New York Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) told New Hope it must place children in same-sex homes in order to comply with state law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. If New Hope failed to do so, OCFS threatened, it would "be required to submit a close-out plan for the adoption program."
New Hope then sued, alleging the state violated its First Amendment rights.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Mae D'Agostino issued a permanent injunction prohibiting the state from closing New Hope or from forcing it to place children in same-sex homes or the homes of cohabitating couples.
"New Hope has succeeded on the merits of its First Amendment claim against OCFS," the judge wrote. "... [T]he loss of First Amendment freedoms, even for minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury. … [T]he balance of the hardships is in New Hope's favor; it faces harm to its rights under the First Amendment and is subject to closure if the Court does not issue a permanent injunction."
When unmarried or same-sex applicants apply to New Hope, D'Agostino said, the agency informs them "that it cannot provide them with adoption services because of its religious beliefs" and offers to "provide those applicants with referrals to other agencies."
Alliance Defending Freedom represented New Hope.
"The court's decision is great news for children waiting to be adopted and for the parents partnering with New Hope Family Services to provide loving, stable homes," said ADF senior counsel Roger Brooks. "New Hope is a private religious ministry that doesn't take a dime from the government. Shutting down an adoption provider for its religious beliefs – needlessly and unconstitutionally reducing the number of agencies willing to help – benefits no one – certainly not children. New Hope's faith-guided services don't coerce anyone and do nothing to interfere with other adoption providers who have different beliefs about family and the best interests of children."
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.