WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) and more than 90 other senators and representatives in writing to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, condemning HHS’s recent reversal of protections for faith-based adoption and foster care agencies.
On November 18, HHS announced it was rescinding waivers previously issued to faith-based adoption and foster care agencies in South Carolina, Michigan and Texas that allowed them to qualify for HHS grants while operating in accordance with their deeply-held religious beliefs.
HHS also announced it was moving to strip the Office for Civil Rights of its authority to enforce the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act and the religion clauses of the First Amendment.
“The freedom to work with faith-based agencies is vital to many foster families. Many studies have shown that faith is often a key motivator in a family’s decision to foster children. Families recruited through church or religious organizations on average foster more than two and a half years longer than other foster parents,” the lawmakers wrote.
“We find it disturbing that one day before it released its 2021 [Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System] report, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)—with your express approval—announced the rescission of waivers that were previously granted to faith-based adoption and foster care agencies in Michigan, Texas, and South Carolina. As you know, rescinding the waivers puts providers in these states in the untenable position of choosing between serving children under the Title IV-E foster care program or operating in accordance with the tenets of their faith—the same faith that drives them to serve children in the first place. HHS should be welcoming child welfare providers, not excluding them. Children are too important to be pawns in political games,” continued the lawmakers.
“Despite being in the middle of a pandemic, your focus on reversing structural and individual religious freedom protections—protections which have worked well—demonstrate that you are placing ideology over the interests of the law, children, and faith-based partners who only want to continue serving their communities in peace. It is our hope that you will promptly correct these unprecedented actions and abide by your promises made to Congress,” concluded the lawmakers.
The letter is available here.