FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 23, 2019
Reform Jewish Movement Condemns Decision to Allow Discrimination in Foster Care System
WASHINGTON – In response to a decision by the Department of Health and Human Services to grant a waiver allowing South Carolina child welfare agencies to discriminate against prospective foster parents based on their religion, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and the wider Reform Movement institutions:
“We condemn the Department of Health and Human Services’ decision to allow federally-funded child welfare organizations to discriminate against foster parents based on their religion. This waiver harms religious minority foster parents and will deny thousands of foster youth the opportunity to find loving families. Religion has no impact on a person’s ability to love and care for a child. Rather than imposing nonsensical and hurtful restrictions on prospective parents, the government should encourage more people to open their hearts and homes to children in need. The government must also refrain from using taxpayer money to discriminate against anyone, including religious minorities.
“South Carolina’s waiver request came in part because Miracle Hill Ministries, a Protestant foster care agency, denied a Jewish woman the opportunity to serve as a foster mentor despite her successful foster record in another state. As Jews, we know too well that state-backed religious discrimination quickly becomes a stain on the nation. Let us not limit opportunities for vulnerable youth to find safe and supportive homes. We strongly oppose the Department’s decision to grant this religious exemption to South Carolina.”
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis. Visit www.rac.org for more.
Edit: An earlier version of this release indicated that the HHS waiver would permit federally-funded child welfare organizations in South Carolina to discriminate against foster parents based on sexual orientation. The waiver only permits discrimination against foster parents based on religion. We regret the error.