Author:Hayes, Liz

Catholic Aimee Maddonna Wants To Help Children in Foster Care In South Carolina. Why Are State Officials And President Trump Determined To Stop Her?

Aimee Maddonna grew up in a home that welcomed and cared for children from the foster-care system. Now an adult and raising three kids of her own, Maddonna wanted to continue the family tradition of helping children in need.

A resident of Simpsonville, S.C., Maddonna was familiar with the prominent advertising for Miracle Hill Ministries--a taxpayer-funded social-service provider and the largest foster-care agency operating in South Carolina. She learned Miracle Hill has a program that would allow her family to volunteer with children in the agency's care. Because her own children have special needs, she wanted the whole family to have an opportunity to volunteer to make sure they all were ready to take the next step of fostering.

Miracle Hill indicated the Maddonnas were a good fit, and they were finishing up the application process when the agency requested the name of the Maddonnas' church. Aimee Maddonna responded: Our Lady of the Rosary, a Catholic parish in nearby Greenville.

Abruptly, the Maddonnas were told they weren't such a good fit after all because they aren't the right kind of Christians--Miracle Hill rejected the family explicitly because they are Catholic. The agency says it will work with evangelical Protestants only not Catholics, Jews or people with any other religious or nonreligious beliefs.

"I've never considered myself a religious minority until that moment," Maddonna told the Associated Press in an exclusive interview published on Feb. 15--the same day Americans United filed a federal lawsuit on her behalf. "I had to tell my kids that, because we're Catholic, we can't take these kids out for ice cream and cheer them on at their games. I was devastated."

Maddonna v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was filed to stop the federal government and South Carolina from authorizing and encouraging religious discrimination with taxpayer dollars. Also named in the suit are HHS Secretary Alex Azar, the federal Administration for Children and Families, ACF Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Steven Wagner, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and South Carolina Department of Social Services Director Joan B. Meacham.

Miracle Hill receives funding from the state and federal governments--according to published reports, the agency received $600,000 in taxpayer money last year. As a publicly funded government contractor, Miracle Hill must comply with state and federal anti-discrimination laws. But rather than denouncing and stopping Miracle Hill's discriminatory policies, the administrations of President Donald Trump and McMaster doubled down and sanctioned the government-funded religious discrimination.

The South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) was aware of Miracle Hill's policies by spring 2017...

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