US court: ‘Christian adoption agency cannot be forced to violate its religious beliefs’

A Christian adoption agency cannot be shut down for its policy of only placing children with a married mother and father, a US federal court has ruled.

In 2018, New Hope Family Services launched legal action after the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) threatened to close its adoption programme if it refused to place children with cohabitees or same-sex couples.

After almost four years of legal wrangling, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York has now ruled that the OCFS is permanently prevented from using state law to “compel” New Hope Family Services to violate its religious beliefs by changing its policy.

Free speech

Operating since 1965, New Hope’s policy if contacted by unmarried or same-sex couples is to state that it cannot place children with them because of its religious beliefs, and offers to refer them to other agencies.

Judge Mae A. D’Agostino ruled that by permanently protecting the agency from “harm” to its right to freedom of speech, it also serves the “public interest”.

Roger Brooks, Senior Counsel for religious liberty group Alliance Defending Freedom, which brought the case, said: “The state’s attempt to shutter New Hope did nothing other than violate core rights protected by the First Amendment—the freedom to speak what you believe and the freedom to practice the teachings of your faith.”

He stated: “Government officials have no business forcing faith-based providers to choose between speaking messages about marriage that contradict their religious convictions and closing their doors.”


In England, the Court of Appeal confirmed last year that an evangelical foster agency can work exclusively with evangelical carers, but backed Ofsted’s attempt to impose its own definition of what it means to be ‘evangelical’.

Cornerstone Adoption and Fostering, England’s only evangelical Christian fostering agency, is being supported by The Christian Institute and is now seeking to appeal to the UK Supreme Court.

In 2019, Ofsted demanded that the agency abandon its religious ethos. The regulator accused Cornerstone of unlawful discrimination for only recruiting evangelical Christian carers and requiring carers to abide by its code of conduct on living consistently with the charity’s Christian beliefs about marriage between a man and a woman.

Also see:

Oz Christian couple challenge fostering ban over biblical views

US Govt offers support for faith-based adoption

Judge dismisses concerns over ‘gender manipulating’ foster parents