A Syracuse, N.Y., a non-profit adoption agency overcame a years-long legal threat from the state to shut its doors over its religious convictions concerning marriage, but the state continues to target the adoption provider through a different state agency.
New Hope Family Services follows the Christian belief that the best environment for children is a home with a married mother and father, in keeping with God’s plan for sexuality. The agency has been placing children with adoptive families for over 60 years.
Over the years, New Hope has placed children in over 1000 adoptive homes, including infants with disabilities or other hard to place factors. The non-profit pregnancy help organization also offers temporary foster placement, pregnancy care, a mobile ultrasound unit, and post-abortion counseling.
On the rare occasion when New Hope has received adoption inquiries from same-sex couples, they simply declined to be involved, as this would directly conflict with the organization’s mission. Meanwhile, dozens of other adoption agencies in New York state are available to place children with same-sex couples.
Despite the fact that same-sex couples have the ability to adopt elsewhere, New Hope was singled out by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) with a legal attempt to close the agency down beginning in 2020.
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New Hope prevailed finally in September with a federal district court issuing an order permanently preventing the state of New York from shuttering the faith-based adoption agency, according to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), attorneys from which represented the agency.
“We are overjoyed that we can continue to serve and care for children in New York,” Executive Director Kathy Jerman told Pregnancy Help News. “Christian adoption providers who help children find loving homes with married moms and dads should be protected, not shut down for their faith. Though inquiries from same sex couples seeking adoption are infrequent, the couples are always met with love and compassion about our policy and offered referrals to other agencies.”
Ironically, (OCFS) had praised the strengths of New Hope in 2018. But then, just a few months later, OCFS announced it deemed New Hope’s policy of child placement with a married mom and dad, “discriminatory and impermissible.”
The case, New Hope Family Services v. Poole, sought to shut down the adoption agency entirely, although New Hope accepts no government funding whatsoever. The Christian ministry operates through support from churches, individual donors, and private grants, as well as fees paid by adoptive parents.
“The state’s attempt to shutter New Hope did nothing other than violate core rights protected by the First Amendment—the freedom to speak what you believe and the freedom to practice the teachings of your faith,” said Roger Brooks, senior counsel for ADF.
On September 7, 2022, U.S. District Court Judge Mae A. D’Agostino in Albany, New York, wrote in her decision in the New Hope v. Poole case that New Hope succeeded on the merits of its First Amendment claim against the state. This ruling permanently prevents the state of New York from shutting down a faith-based adoption provider targeted for its religious beliefs.
However, while awaiting the decision in that case, another New York State agency, the Division of Human Rights, claimed that New Hope was in violation of a law prohibiting anyone based on sexual orientation at places of “public accommodation.”
ADF attorneys filed a second lawsuit on behalf of New Hope in federal district court, New Hope Family Services v. James, after the second New York state office threatened to investigate and reprimand the adoption provider for the same beliefs and policy.
ADF Senior Counsel Mark Lippelmann criticized the second attack from another New York state agency, stating, “you can’t punch us now using a different hand. The point of the decision in the initial case was that the state shouldn’t be punching us at all.”
Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court had a similar case recently involving an adoption agency, Fulton v. Philadelphia, and found that public accommodation laws include restaurants, stadiums, and hotels, but not adoption agencies.
There are limitations on who can adopt and New Hope, like other adoption agencies, performs extensive investigation, including background checks, home studies, and more before placing a child.
Jerman spoke in a statement from ADF applauding the victory in the first case, saying every child deserves a home with a “loving mother and father who are committed to each other.”
“New Hope is a ‘arm-around-the-shoulder’ ministry that walks with adoptive families and birth parents alike to place children with adoptive families,” Jerman said.
“It’s regrettable that New York ever threatened to shut down our adoption services, through which we have placed more than 1,000 children with adoptive families since we began as an adoption agency in 1965,” she said. “We live in a diverse state, and we need more adoption providers, not fewer. We’re grateful that the court’s decision allows us to keep serving children and families.”
Brooks said that closing an adoption provider over its religious beliefs “needlessly and unconstitutionally” cuts the number of agencies and benefits no one — certainly not children.
“The state’s attempt to shutter New Hope did nothing other than violate core rights protected by the First Amendment—the freedom to speak what you believe and the freedom to practice the teachings of your faith,” Brooks said.
A decision in the James case isn’t expected until spring 2023.
LifeNews Note: Patty Knap is a certified pregnancy counselor, faith formation teacher, ABA therapist for autism, and freelance writer from Long Island. This originally appeared at Pregnancy Help News.