Trump reverses Obama-era policy against faith-based adoption agencies

Rolling back a last-minute regulation put in place under former President Obama, the President Trump administration is being praised by Christian conservatives for defending religious freedom with a newly proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that would allow faith-based foster care and adoption services to receive federal funding even if they turn away couples because of their religious beliefs.

The new rule, proposed Thursday, reverses regulations under the Obama administration that required religious organizations to get a waiver in order to apply for an HHS grant, unless they include sexual orientation as a protected trait under anti-discrimination protections.

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The move angered LGBTQ activists and progressives, who argue it will decrease the number of available homes — something that actually happened as local government and states enacted the Obama-era rule largely targeting Roman Catholic and evangelical Protestant organizations, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In an op-ed for WSJ Monday, Russell Moore said the Trump administration "took a major step toward addressing the problem" of religious organizations that hold a biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman being punished in "proxy culture wars" that don't focus on the "welfare of children."

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Moore points to the city of Philadelphia barring Catholic Social Services from placing children in homes in March 2018 because of the Catholic Church's teaching on marriage, and Michigan's Attorney General Dana Nessel citing the rule when attempting to cancel a state-approved foster care and adoption services contract with St. Vincent Catholic Charities.

"Charities shouldn't have to choose between their religious views and beliefs, in putting that before helping the needy," Stephanie Hamill, Daily Caller video columnist, told Shannon Bream on "Fox News @ Night."

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said the "need for this action is unfortunately evident as various state and local governments have trampled upon religious freedom protections and the First Amendment, forcing the shutdown of faith-based adoption providers that decline to leave their faith at the door."

The Catholic Association told Fox News the rollback helps "free" religious organizations to help "needy kids" without having to violate their belief that children do best in a home with a married mom and dad.

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"Agencies that find loving foster and adoptive homes shouldn’t be subject to ideological shakedowns by the government,” said Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, a legal adviser for The Catholic Association Foundation.

Left-wing activists, however, argue the administration's plan will reduce the number of qualified parents who want to adopt or foster a child.

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"You really need to be the needs of needy in front of religious beliefs when it comes to these issues," Cathy Areu, Catalina Magazine founder, a Catholic herself, told Bream.

"Religious liberty is not a license to discriminate," the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in a tweet. "The needs of children in our foster care system must come first."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.