FIRST ON FOX – A group of Republican attorneys general are pushing the Biden administration to back down on a new rule they say will effectively exclude Christian families from fostering kids and jeopardize the foster care system nationwide.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, along with 18 of his GOP colleagues, sent a letter Monday to the Department of Health and Human Services alerting them that a new proposed rule that alters requirements for foster care families violates the Constitution and discriminates against people who practice the Christian faith.
In addition to discriminating against religion, the attorneys general argue that the proposed rule “will harm children by limiting the number of available foster homes, harm families by risking kinship placements, and harm states by increasing costs and decreasing care options.”
“These injuries will be suffered while HHS fails to solve a problem that the proposed rule does not even prove exists in foster care,” the AGs write.
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The rule, Safe and Appropriate Foster Care Placement Requirements, would mandate that foster parents and families utilize a foster child’s “identified pronouns, chosen name, and allow the child to dress in an age-appropriate manner that the child believes reflects their self-identified gender identity and expression.”
According to the letter, the rule “seeks to accomplish indirectly what the Supreme Court found unconstitutional just two years ago: remove faith-based providers from the foster care system if they will not conform their religious beliefs on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
The Supreme Court in 2021, in a case called Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, ruled that Philadelphia’s refusal to contract with a Catholic social services group unless it agreed to certify same-sex couples as foster parents violated the First Amendment.
The letter notes that HHS anticipates that the number of children in the foster care system would increase to roughly 416,500 by 2027. As of 2022, there were reportedly 391,000 children in foster care.
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The attorneys general argue that “caring for children in need is a duty of the Christian faith,” and moreover, that the foster care system would be crippled without Christian families opening their home to foster care kids.
“The foster care system depends on individuals and organizations of faith,” the letter argues.
For example, the AGs cite that in Arkansas, one faith-based group was credited with recruiting almost half of the foster homes in the state, and in New Mexico, every private placement agency is Christian.
According to a 2002 study cited in the letter, foster parents who are recruited through a church or other religious organization foster children for 2.6 years longer than the average foster parent. And practicing Christians are three times more likely to seriously consider fostering than the general population, according to a study by the Barna Group.
“States need faith-based organizations in their foster care system. The proposed rule will drive individuals and organizations of faith away, which will increase the strain on the system by reducing the number of available foster homes,’ the attorneys general wrote.
“The federal government should be searching for ways to increase the number of foster homes, not decrease them,” they said.
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Attorney General Marshall accused President Biden of “harass[ing]” his state of Alabama.
“Joe Biden continues to harass our State and others like it by implicitly threatening to withhold federal funding for children in need if we do not conform to his ideology, but our values are not for sale,” Marshall told Fox News Digital in a statement.
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“Since the first century, Christians across the globe have answered the call to provide a home and a family to children who had neither. Alabama boasts a particularly strong faith-based foster care and adoption community, and I will fight this Administration for them every step of the way,” he added.
HHS did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request by time of publication.