Brandy, Eden, Jenny, and Olivia

Rogers v. Health and Human Services

Location: South Carolina
Status: Closed
Last Update: November 1, 2023

What's at Stake

Eden Rogers and Brandy Welch were turned away by a government-funded foster care agency for failing to meet the agency’s religious criteria which exclude prospective foster parents who are not evangelical Protestant Christian or who are same-sex couples of any faith.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and South Carolina fund Miracle Hill, South Carolina’s largest state-contracted foster care agency, with taxpayer money to perform child welfare services for children. In order to foster through Miracle Hill an applicant must agree with Miracle Hill’s “doctrinal statement,” including “that God’s design for marriage is the legal joining of one man and one woman in a life-long covenant relationship” – a requirement that excludes same-sex couples of any faith. HHS and South Carolina have sanctioned and facilitated the use of these religious criteria in the public child welfare system.

Eden and Brandy’s application to serve as foster parents was denied by Miracle Hill Ministries after South Carolina requested and HHS granted a waiver of federal nondiscrimination rules for federally funded agencies. In so doing, HHS and the State authorized and enabled taxpayer-funded foster care agencies to use religious criteria to exclude families based on their faith and sexual orientation.

Lambda Legal and the ACLU filed the lawsuit on May 30, 2019 in U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina on behalf of Eden and Brandy. The lawsuit claims that HHS, the HHS Administration for Children and Families, certain HHS officials, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, and the Director of the South Carolina Department of Social Services are violating the Establishment and Equal Protection Clauses of the U.S Constitution by authorizing and enabling the use of religious criteria by Miracle Hill to screen out would-be foster families because of their faith or sexual orientation.

Update: The district court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment on September 29, 2023. This case is now concluded.

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