Biden administration rolls back Trump-era waivers to anti-discrimination protections

The Biden administration is overturning Trump-era rules that allowed federally-funded child welfare agencies to bypass non-discrimination rules if they conflicted with providers’ religious beliefs.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said Thursday it was rolling back exemptions granted to three states that allowed faith-based foster care groups that had contracted with state agencies to refuse grants. gay and non-Christian couples while receiving federal money. .

At the time, Trump administration officials said they were protecting religious freedom by granting blanket waivers to non-discrimination protections in South Carolina, Texas and Michigan – some of which even didn’t. not requested such a waiver. The Trump administration argued that these protections violate the Restoration of Religious Freedom Act (RFRA).

Civil rights activists argued that the waivers opened the door to federally funded discrimination against potential parents, including single parents, LGBT people or same-sex couples, parents who may have had already divorced, interfaith couples or people of another religion.

In South Carolina, the state foster care program has contracted with Miracle Hill Ministries, South Carolina’s largest state-funded foster care agency. According to civil rights groups, to foster through Miracle Hill, a family must agree with Miracle Hill’s “doctrinal statement”, including “God’s purpose for marriage is the legal union of a man and a woman in a lifelong covenant relationship. . “

In rescinding the waivers, the HHS said it was “restoring the proper application of the RFRA”, ensuring that religious freedom is protected without using it as a shield for general discrimination.

Today, the HHS reaffirms its important commitment to core American values: The HHS will not tolerate the widespread use of religious exemptions against any person or blank checks to allow discrimination against anyone, especially LGBTQ + people in taxpayer-funded programs, ”the agency said. in a report.

“The waivers are inconsistent with the ministry’s critical goal of combating discrimination based on religion, sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The HHS is also reversing a Trump-era policy that centralized authority within the HHS Civil Rights Office for decisions about granting waivers on the basis of the RFRA.

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