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Supreme Court of the United States

New Hope Family Services Back in Court as New York Continues to Attack Religious Organizations

By Maureen Collins posted on:
October 22, 2021

New Hope Family Services was already forced into court once.

The faith-based adoption provider and pregnancy center is an “arm-around-the-shoulder” ministry that walks with adoptive families and birth parents to place children in loving homes. And it has a successful track record of placing over 1,000 children with families.

But in 2018, the New York Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) threatened New Hope, telling it to either change one of its faith-based policies or close its doors. New Hope was forced to challenge this action in court.

Now, almost three years later, another New York state agency is coming after New Hope Family Services based on the very same religious beliefs that courts have already held are protected.

Read more about this new case below.

Who: New Hope Family Services

New Hope Family Services has served women, children, and families as an adoption provider since 1965 and as a pregnancy center since 1986. New Hope places children with loving families and provides pregnancy services, medical referrals, and counseling to anyone in need.

New Hope was founded by a Christian minister, and its Christian beliefs are central to everything it does. This includes placing children with a loving mother and father bound together in marriage.

And New Hope is willing to refer other couples who are legally eligible to adopt under New York law to one of the many other adoption services who arrange such adoptions. There are approximately 130 adoption providers in New York—the vast majority of which will place children with any individual who qualifies.

In the Fall of 2018, the New York Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) recognized this in a review, writing in a letter that New Hope “has a number of strengths in providing adoption services within the community.”

But then, just days after OCFS gave New Hope a positive review, the agency changed course, calling its policy of only placing children with married mothers and fathers “discriminatory and impermissible.”

It then issued an ultimatum to New Hope to violate its beliefs or submit a close out plan for its adoption services.

New Hope challenged this clearly unconstitutional action in court. And in November 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued an emergency order so that New Hope could keep its doors open while its appeal was being considered.

And a federal district court later ruled to protect New Hope’s religious freedom, writing that the state cannot force faith-based adoption providers to choose between contradicting their religious convictions and closing their doors.

What: New Hope Family Services v. James

One would think that New Hope’s legal battle would have ended when the Second Circuit and Federal District Courts issued rulings in favor of its religious beliefs. But New York State refuses to respect or even tolerate sincere faith beliefs and has launched a new attack against New Hope.

In August 2021, New Hope Family services received a vague, one-line email asking about its adoption program. New Hope responded with basic information about their process—including explaining its policy, as a Christian organization, of placing infants with “families built around a married husband and wife.”

The very next business day, the sender of the email filed a lengthy complaint with the New York Division of Human Rights, claiming that New Hope was discriminating against same-sex couples. Of course, that claim isn’t true . New Hope Family Services, because of their Christian beliefs, will to refer same-sex and unmarried heterosexual couples to one of the other adoption providers in the state.

And yet the New York Division of Human Rights has launched an investigation of New Hope under a law that can impose fines of up to $100,000–fines that would bankrupt New Hope and end its 60 year service to abandoned children..

This is just another example of a bad-faith attempt to target religious organizations because of their beliefs. And it came just months after the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously protected the rights of adoption provider Catholic Social Services in their Fulton v. City of Philadelphia decision. So, with the help of Alliance Defending Freedom, New Hope is once again challenging the State of New York in court.

When: September 2021—Present

After the initial complaint was made on August 19, the New York Division of Human Rights sent New Hope Family Services a letter demanding a response.

This is clearly an overstep, targeting New Hope because of its religious beliefs about marriage. So on September 17, 2021, New Hope filed a lawsuit against the Division of Human Rights.

Where: Syracuse, New York

New Hope Family Services has been in Syracuse, New York, since its founding in 1965.

Why: To keep faith-based adoption providers open for children in need

Faith-based adoption providers are a vital part of a communities’ foster care system. With over 400,000 children waiting to be adopted nation-wide , you would think that state and local governments would work with as many providers as possible.

But in the past several years, a disturbing trend has emerged. Some local governments are cutting ties with faith-based adoption providers because of their religious beliefs about placing children with married mothers and fathers.

In some cases, like New Hope Family Services, some governments are even threatening these providers, forcing them to choose between their religious beliefs about marriage or keeping their doors open to continue serving children in need.

In June of 2021, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Catholic Social Services’ right to operate according to their beliefs after the City of Philadelphia cut ties with the provider because of its policy of placing children with a married mother and father.

In the end, this is about children. The more adoption providers, the more chances a child has to finding a loving family. This is playing politics with the lives of children to advance a radical LGBTQ agenda.

 

The Bottom Line:

Faith-based adoption providers have a First Amendment right to operate according to their religious beliefs about marriage.


Maureen Collins

Maureen Collins

Digital Cultivation Manager

Maureen Collins serves as the Digital Cultivation Manager at Alliance Defending Freedom.


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