MADDONNA V. HHS, U.S. DISTRICT CT. S.C. AUGUST 10, 20
The state funded adoption center, Miracle Hill, refused Aimee Maddonna as a volunteer or foster parent because she was Catholic and they only served Protestants who agreed with their statement of faith. After the challenge, they dropped the formal ban against Catholics but applicants still had to agree with their statement of faith that was printed on their website. Maddonna said she could not as it conflicted with her beliefs. Miracle Hill had gotten an exemption from state and federal law in order to discriminate.
Maddonna filed on an establishment clause violation of the first amendment and discrimination against the equal protection clauses of the fifth and 14th amendments. Also she alleged that the behavior violates APA as arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion.
Miracle Hill is not part of the suit but the plaintiff asked that the government either provide the services in a religiously non-discriminatory way or stop the funding. The court held that since the governments (state and federal) authorized Miracle Hill to discriminate, the government remained liable for it.
The court ruled that she had set forth a violation of the Establishment Clause under Lemon, both the second and fourth prongs (favoring one religion and excessive entanglement). The court rejected the government’s argument that they were just accommodating the beliefs of the organization. The court said that accommodations means the organization can do their own business as they like, but when they do the government’s business (foster care/adoption) it must be under government rules. Government responsibilities cannot be delegated to a religion to do as they like.
Unfortunately the court also said they would review it under rational relation not strict scrutiny because it gave preference to all religions; therefore, they only need rational relation to pass the equal protection test – but what about those who have no religion? They remain discriminated against under any structure! But the court dismissed that claim because all religions were benefited equally. But of course some religions cannot afford to set up their own foster care/adoption agencies. And it leaves out the non-religious completely. Further, religion is a fundamental right not a statutory one.
Under the ruling, the claims for the establishment violations and violation of the APA will go forward. Depending on the outcome, the ruling on the equal protection violation can be appealed.