The Department of Health and Human Services has granted South Carolina a religious liberty waiver aimed at protecting the ability of faith-based foster care and adoption providers to serve the state's children.
The move was announced Wednesday by HHS's Administration for Children and Families.
"We have approved South Carolina's request to protect religious freedom and preserve high-quality foster care placement options for children," said Lynn Johnson, assistant secretary for ACF.
"This decision preserves all of the foster care agencies currently available for children in South Carolina by ensuring faith-based organizations can continue to serve this vulnerable population," she explained. "It protects minors who are in need of as many options as possible for being placed in loving foster families."
The waiver grants the state's faith-based foster care and adoption providers, such as Miracle Hill Ministries, the right to continue to select foster parents who align with their religious beliefs.
"Faith-based organizations that provide foster care services not only perform a great service for their communities, they are exercising a legally protected right to practice their faith through good works," Johnson said.
Miracle Hill's policy violates a regulation implemented during the final days of the Obama administration banning discrimination on the basis of religion or sexual orientation by groups receiving HHS funds. But the Trump administration suggests the policy amounts to a slap in the face religious liberty guaranteed by the US Constitution.
"The government should not be in the business of forcing foster care providers to close their doors because of their faith. Religious freedom is a fundamental human right," Johnson concluded.
While many hail Wednesday's announcement as a win for faith-based groups, some, like Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore, spoke out about the foster kids at the heart of the debate.
"Culture wars shouldn't stand in the way of those seeking to care for children in need. That's why I'm pleased to see Governor (Henry) McMaster advocating for agencies like Miracle Hill and also for HHS protecting the rights of those who are dedicated to caring for the most vulnerable," he said in a statement.