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Second victory for Christian adoption agency: New York ends targeted harassment

ADF attorneys represent New Hope Family Services in favorable settlement against state officials

Thursday, May 18, 2023

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Faith-based adoption provider New Hope Family Services secured a second victory against New York state officials, after securing a favorable settlement and a payment of $250,000 for attorneys’ fees in a related lawsuit settled last month. In settlement of the second lawsuit—which challenged an attempt by a different New York state agency to punish New Hope for adhering to its religious convictions—New York officials agreed to pay an additional $25,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs, and broadly confirmed New Hope’s right to continue its critical work of placing infants in permanent homes without government harassment.

On behalf of the Syracuse-based adoption agency, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed New Hope Family Services v. James in September 2021 after the New York Division of Human Rights threatened to investigate and penalize the Christian nonprofit because it places infants with couples consisting of a mother and father committed to each other in marriage.

“The state of New York was so determined to silence or destroy New Hope Family Services that it violated New Hope’s First Amendment rights and launched a barrage of unlawful and discriminatory attacks against the organization,” said ADF Senior Counsel Roger Brooks. “Thankfully, that harassment has come to an end. The government can’t force a faith-based nonprofit to choose between violating its religious beliefs or losing its ability to serve adoptive parents and children. This is a victory for children waiting to be adopted, prospective parents partnering with New Hope who want to provide loving and stable homes, and the entire Syracuse community.”

The state agency served threatening information demands on New Hope even though, in a separate lawsuit between New Hope and another New York state agency, two federal courts found that the state likely violated New Hope’s First Amendment rights by attempting to force it to place children in a manner inconsistent with its religious beliefs. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court held in another case that the city of Philadelphia violated the First Amendment rights of a faith-based foster-care agency by invoking non-discrimination laws to force the organization to operate in violation of its religious beliefs.

Last month, ADF attorneys secured a favorable settlement for New Hope in its other lawsuit against New York state officials. In New Hope Family Services v. Poole, state officials agreed to pay $250,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs and ensure that New York’s Office of Children and Family Services would no longer target New Hope for its religious policies.

“Every child deserves a home with a loving mother and father who are committed to each other,” said New Hope Family Services Executive Director Kathy Jerman. “New Hope walks with adoptive families and birth parents alike to place children with adoptive families. It’s regrettable that New York ever threatened to shut down our adoption services, through which we have placed more than 1,000 children with adoptive families since we began in 1965. We live in a diverse state, and we need more adoption providers, not fewer. We’re grateful this case has reached a favorable end that allows us to keep serving children and families.”

New Hope devotes its efforts exclusively to placing infants and very young children for adoption. It has an extraordinary record of being willing to place—and successfully finding adoptive parents willing to accept—children who are categorized as “hard to place” due to disability, medical condition, race, or other factors. In recent decades, the vast majority of infants placed by New Hope have fallen into one or more “hard to place” categories, yet New Hope has never failed to find a permanent adoptive home for any child entrusted to its care—even infants with severe medical conditions.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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