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Christian Adoption Agency’s Legal Suit Lives to Fight Another Day

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A Christian adoption agency’s legal fight with New York state over its policy toward unmarried and same-sex couples will continue under a federal appeals court ruling Tuesday.

New Hope Family Services in Syracuse professes that because of religious beliefs, it cannot recommend adoptions by same-sex or unmarried couples. The service sued the state Office of Children and Family Services after it was told it must change its “discriminatory” policy or shut down, according to court papers.

The U.S. District Court in Albany dismissed New Hope’s lawsuit in May 2019, saying New York officials weren’t infringing on the agency’s religious freedom. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled Tuesday that the lower court’s dismissal was premature and may have been “informed by hostility toward certain religious beliefs.” They sent the case back down to the trial court for further proceedings.

“It is plainly a serious step to order an authorized adoption agency such as New Hope—operating without complaint for 50 years, taking no government funding, successfully placing approximately 1,000 children, and with adoptions pending or being supervised—to close all its adoption operations,” read the court’s opinion. It added that the district court must “take into account the best interests of the many children awaiting adoption in a State where they number far more than the persons willing to adopt them. Additionally, government officials are not being neutral when they single out religious organizations for hostile treatment based on their beliefs about marriage.”

In a statement, Alliance Defending Freedom, who represents New Hope, said in the past OCFS has “praised” New Hope for its quality of services, but later targeted it for the adoption agency’s stance on placing children in a home with a married mother and father.

“Every child deserves a permanent home with loving parents,” said ADF’s John Bursch. “As the 2nd Circuit rightly noted, ‘The need for adoption services in New York, whether public or private, is undeniably great.’ New Hope’s faith-based services do nothing to interfere with other adoption providers, but banishing it means fewer kids will find permanent homes, fewer adoptive parents will ever welcome their new child, and fewer birth parents will enjoy the exceptional support that New Hope has offered for decades.”

ADF called the appeals decision a “resounding victory.”

New Hope facilitates adoptions, foster placements, and also serves as a pregnancy resource center. Churches, individual donors, and private grants fund the ministry, on top of fees paid by adoptive parents.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Christina Darnell

Christina Darnell is a freelance writer who has contributed to WORLD, The Charlotte Observer, and other publications.