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New York: 'Change your beliefs or stop serving children'

ADF challenges state agency’s ultimatum against Christian adoption provider

Friday, Dec 7, 2018
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys asked a federal court Thursday to stop Albany officials from targeting a faith-based adoption provider because of its religious beliefs. New Hope Family Services faces the interruption of adoption placements and the immediate phase-out of its adoption program if the religious nonprofit doesn’t immediately change its policy prioritizing the placement of the children it serves in homes with a married mother and father.

“Every child deserves a forever home with loving parents,” said ADF Legal Counsel Jeana Hallock. “For over 50 years, New Hope has served New York by offering a comprehensive, ‘arm-around-the-shoulder’ ministry and walking with adoptive couples and birth parents to place children with adoptive families. Protecting these nonprofits does nothing to interfere with other adoption providers who hold different convictions. But eliminating New Hope as a faith-based adoption provider means fewer kids find a forever home, fewer adoptive parents will ever welcome their new child, and fewer birth parents enjoy the exceptional support that New Hope has offered for decades. In short, everyone loses if the government forces New Hope to shut down.”

Since its founding as a religious non-profit ministry in 1965, New Hope Family Services has placed more than 1,000 children into loving adoptive homes throughout the state of New York. New Hope’s mission is “to be Christ’s hands extended to offer hope and help to people with pregnancy, parenting, adoption or post-abortion needs in the Syracuse area and throughout the State of New York.” Because of that mission, New Hope operates as a pregnancy resource center, temporary-foster-placement agency, and adoption agency. New Hope has never accepted state funding and, besides the fees paid by adoptive parents, funds its ministry through support from churches, individual donors, and private grants.

According to the complaint, the New York State Office of Children and Family Services sent New Hope a letter in October following a site visit the state agency made to the nonprofit. The OCFS letter praised New Hope’s program for “a number of strengths in providing adoption services within the community. One of which is the strong emphasis on assisting the birth parents in making an informed decision for their newborn, providing them time to make the decision, along with a supportive and detailed adoptive family selection process.”

However, OCFS changed course later in the month when it reviewed New Hope’s policy and procedures manual and singled out the nonprofit’s policy regarding child placements. OCFS described the policy as “discriminatory and impermissible” despite the fact that New Hope clearly articulates its beliefs to clients and has faced no formal complaints from prospective parents due to the policy. OCFS provided an ultimatum that New Hope revise its policy or submit a close-out plan for its adoption program.

“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. “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.”

The lawsuit, New Hope Family Services v. Poole, asks the court to protect New Hope from being singled out, punished, or disfavored because of its religious beliefs—beliefs that motivate its care for orphans, women facing unplanned pregnancies, and married couples struggling with infertility.

Robert Genant, one of more than 3,200 attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as local counsel for New Hope Family Services in the case, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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