A religious adoption provider that has operated since 1965 and placed more than 1,000 children with families is being told by the New York state government to either changes its operating procedures – and go against its faith – or shut down.
Founded by local Christian ministers, New Hope Family Services (NHFS) opened its doors 53 years ago, serving the women, children, and families of Syracuse, NY. In 1986, the organization opened a pregnancy center for women in need, providing pregnancy tests, referrals, and counseling.
As a religious organization, NHFS believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and will only place children in homes with a married mother and father. Same-sex couples who seek NHFS’s services, however, are referred to other adoption providers. NHFS says it has clearly articulated its religious beliefs and has had no formal complaints lodged against it.
That all changed in October 2018, when the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) sent NHFS a letter claiming its traditional marriage policy was “discriminatory and impermissible.” The letter told NHFS that if it did not “revise the present policy” and continued with business as it had done for decades, or failed “to bring the policy into compliance with the regulation,” then “OCFS will be unable to approve continuation of [New Hope’s] current adoption program and [New Hope] will be required to submit a close-out plan for the adoption program.”
OCFS said the current adoption policy – based on its religious beliefs on traditional marriage – violated Title 18 NYCRR § 421.3 of New York law, which states that authorized agencies that provide adoption services shall:
prohibit discrimination and harassment against applicants for adoption services on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, religion, or disability, and, shall take reasonable steps to prevent such discrimination or harassment by staff and volunteers, promptly investigate incidents of discrimination and harassment, and take reasonable and appropriate corrective or disciplinary action when such incidents occur.
Even though NHFS refers same-sex couples to other adoption agencies, New York believes they are breaking the law. The Christian Broadcasting Network reported that the New York legislature “allowed unmarried and same-sex partners to adopt beginning in 2010, it does not mandate that agencies place their children with non-traditional parents.” Title 18 was first proposed in 2013.
As a result of the threat from the state government, NHFS says it “has been unable to accept new birthparent and adoptive-parent clients and has had to tell its current clients about the risk that it may be unable to serve them through the completion of their adoptions.” The organization, with the help of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), asked a federal court last Thursday to stop the state from targeting them.
“Adoption providers exist to help children, not to affirm the desires of adults,” ADF Senior Counsel Erik Stanley, director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries, said in a press release. “There’s no reason for the state to single out and punish those who hold the belief that the best home for a child includes a father and a mother. Children in Syracuse, throughout the state, and across country will suffer if this hostility toward faith-based adoption providers becomes the status quo.”
ADF notes that this is the first case of its kind – where an adoption center is standing up for its religious beliefs against the government. New York has about 130 adoption centers throughout the state, most of which do place children with same-sex couples.
In August, Catholic Charities of Buffalo decided to end its adoption and foster care programs rather than comply with New York law requiring them to place children with same-sex families, which violated their religious beliefs.
“We’re a Catholic organization, so we have to practice what we do consistent with the teaching of the church,” Dennis C. Walczyk, the chief executive officer of Catholic Charities, told The Buffalo News at the time.
OCFS did not respond to a Daily Wire inquiry prior to press time.