The Pen

Married Lesbian Couple Sue Over Religious Exemption Granted to SC Miracle Hill Ministries

Eden Rogers and Brandy Welch talk about their decision to sue HHS and South Carolina for discriminating against same-sex foster parents.

President Donald Trump’s administration, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and the state Department of Social Services face a federal lawsuit filed by a married lesbian couple over the religious exemption granted to Miracle Hill Ministries that allows the organization to exclude prospective foster parents who aren’t evangelical Protestant Christians or don’t meet the organization’s religious policies, including same-sex couples.

Eden Rogers, 33, and Brandy Welch, 40, a Greenville couple who have been married for three years and have two daughters, ages 7 and 10, said their application to foster through Miracle Hill in Greenville was rejected based on their religion and their sexual orientation. They are members of Greenville Unitarian Universalist Church.

“We work hard to raise our own two girls in a loving and stable home,” Welch said in a prepared statement. “Faith is a part of our family life, so it is hurtful and insulting to us that Miracle Hill’s religious view of what a family must look like deprives foster children of a nurturing, supportive home.”

Miracle Hill received about $600,000 last fiscal year from the state Department of Social Services to assist in paying care coordinators after the state agency asked the religious nonprofit organization to expand its foster-care program to recruit more foster parents, said Sandy Furnell, Miracle Hill spokeswoman.

In January, South Carolina was granted a religious exemption by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to continue its faith-based foster care program. The organization’s policy came under scrutiny soon after President Obama implemented a new regulation for recipients of federal funding before he left office that no longer allowed discrimination based on religion.

McMaster had requested an exemption on Miracle Hill’s behalf in March 2018.

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[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Nathaniel Cary and originally published at the Greenville News. Title changed by P&P.]