ALBANY, N.Y. – A faith-based adoption provider will likely appeal a federal court’s decision Thursday to dismiss the nonprofit’s lawsuit against New York officials who targeted the agency for its religious beliefs and are seeking to shut it down on that basis. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing New Hope Family Services asked the court to stop the state of New York from interrupting current adoption placements or mandating the phase-out of its adoption program. The court declined and instead dismissed the case.
The New York State Office of Children and Family Services singled out the religious nonprofit for its policy prioritizing the placement of children it serves in homes with a married mother and father. The court’s decision means the state could order the close-out at any time, which is why ADF attorneys are urgently analyzing an appeal.
“Every child deserves a permanent home with loving parents,” said ADF Legal Counsel Jeana Hallock. “Protecting this religious nonprofit does nothing to interfere with other adoption providers. Banishing New Hope as a faith-based adoption provider, however, means fewer kids will find permanent homes, fewer adoptive parents will ever welcome their new child, and fewer birth parents will enjoy the exceptional support that New Hope has offered for decades. In short, everyone loses if the government forces New Hope to shut down. We are considering an appeal of the court’s decision because there’s so much at stake.”
New Hope operates as a pregnancy resource center, temporary-foster-placement agency, and adoption agency. The nonprofit accepts no government funding and, besides the fees paid by adoptive parents, funds its ministry through support from churches, individual donors, and private grants. According to the lawsuit, New Hope Family Services v. Poole, OCFS sent New Hope a letter following a site visit and praised the nonprofit for “a number of strengths in providing adoption services within the community. One of which is the strong emphasis on assisting the birth parents in making an informed decision for their newborn, providing them time to make the decision, along with a supportive and detailed adoptive family selection process.”
OCFS changed course later when it reviewed New Hope’s policy and procedures manual and singled out the nonprofit’s policy regarding child placements. OCFS described the policy as “discriminatory and impermissible” despite the fact that it respectfully refers couples to other providers and has faced no formal complaints from prospective parents due to the policy. OCFS provided an ultimatum that New Hope revise its policy or submit a close-out plan for its adoption program.
“There’s no reason for the state to single out and exclude those whose faith teaches them that the best home for a child includes a married father and mother,” said ADF Senior Counsel Roger Brooks, who argued before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York on behalf of New Hope Family Services on Feb. 19. “We will look at an appeal of the court’s decision so that New Hope can keep serving children and families. Children in Syracuse, throughout New York, and across the country will suffer if this kind of discrimination and hostility toward faith-based adoption providers becomes the status quo.”
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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