The power to license an activity is a government’s doorway to coercing actions that can violate the licensee’s religious beliefs. Without the required license, you can’t engage in the licensed activity. It’s that simple. When the government requires that you compromise your religious beliefs in order to get that license and conduct business, you are put in an untenable position.
A Syracuse, NY adoption agency called New Hope Family Services has been operating for over 50 years. It is supported by private donations; it does not receive any government funding. It also operates pregnancy care centers that assist women with unplanned pregnancies in considering options other than abortion.
Because it operates according to biblical principles, New Hope will not place children with unmarried couples or same-sex couples, but will refer them to other agencies that are willing to work with them.
New York State has more than 130 licensed adoption providers, the vast majority of which are willing to work with same-sex couples. But the state’s Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) is not willing to let New Hope operate according to its deeply held beliefs concerning marriage and children, and has issued an ultimatum that New Hope either place children with unmarried or same-sex couples or lose its license.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) recently filed suit against the state agency on behalf of New Hope. The complaint alleges that government coercion initiated by OCFS violates New Hope’s rights of freedom of religion, speech, expressive association (i.e., the right to work or “associate” with like-minded people), equal protection, and imposes an “unconstitutional condition” on the right to operate their ministry, namely forcing New Hope to give up their First Amendment rights in order to keep its license.
Erik Stanley is ADF’s Senior Counsel: “Adoption providers exist to help children, not to affirm the desires of adults,” he states in an ADF 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 the country will suffer if this hostility toward faith-based adoption providers becomes the status quo.”
The national dispute over the nature of marriage has, since 2006, resulted in faith-based adoption agencies closing in Boston, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Illinois, Philadelphia and Buffalo due to government coercion similar to what New Hope is experiencing. (Litigation is ongoing in the Philadelphia case). In each locale, numerous non-religious agencies exist to serve the needs of same-sex couples. In each case, however, that isn’t good enough for government officials who view same-sex marriage as a priority over religious freedom.
Shutting down faith-based agencies only results in fewer adoptions, not more, and is destructive to the goal of matching needy children with forever families. Why would any government, therefore, willingly attempt to shut down agencies that refuse to be coerced to compromise the very beliefs that drive their mission to help children and families?
Please pray for New Hope’s success in convincing the courts of the illegality of New York’s actions, and for other faith-based adoption agencies around the country facing similar types of government hostility.