Liberal New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been under fire for months for his attacks on New York churches.
But another one of his radical laws was recently struck down by a U.S. District Court.
And this ruling is a big victory for freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and an important Christian organization.
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District has stopped New York’s Office of Children and Family Services from shutting down a Catholic adoption agency.
Cuomo’s administration went after New Hope Family Services because the non-profit, faith-based adoption agency prioritizes placing children in homes with the Biblical family unit – a mother and father.
Last year, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary injunction prohibiting the state from halting adoption placements and closing New Hope’s operation until the court could consider whether to reverse the federal court’s decision.
And the latest ruling upheld that judgement.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents New Hope Family Services, says the ruling is a victory for churches and faith-based organizations that refuse to compromise their religious beliefs.
“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,” said Roger Brooks, senior counsel for ADF.
Brooks said New York has a “huge” need for adoption services, and that New Hope’s program does not coerce anyone to support their beliefs nor interferes with other adoption providers with different views.
“Today’s ruling signals that the state’s attempt to shutter New Hope violated 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 said.
Brooks said New Hope can continue placing children with loving, stable families while it challenges “the state’s unconstitutional policy.”
“Every child deserves a home with a loving mother and father who are committed to each other,” New Hope Family Services executive director Kathy Jerman said.
“We are an ‘arm-around-the-shoulder’ ministry that walks with adoptive families and birth parents alike to place children with adoptive families.”
Jerman said New Hope has placed more than 1,000 children with adoptive families since the agency was founded in 1965. It also provides temporary foster care and pregnancy resources.
The nonprofit organization accepts no government funding and operates on fees paid by adoptive families as well as support from churches, individual donors, and private grants.
“We live in a diverse state, and we need more adoption providers, not fewer,” Jerman said.
“We’re grateful that [this] decision allows us to keep serving children and families, even though our legal fight continues to end the state’s harassment once and for all.”
According to LifeNews.com, New Hope has been praised in the past for its services, but New York’s OCFS changed course last year and singled out the agency’s policy on child placement, calling it “discriminatory and impermissible.”
Though New Hope routinely refers couples to other providers and has received no formal complaints from prospective parents, the OCFS ordered it to revise its marriage policy or close its adoption program.
The court rejected that ultimatum.
“It is plainly a serious step to order an authorized adoption agency such as New Hope—operating without complaint for 50 years, taking no government funding, successfully placing approximately 1,000 children, and with adoptions pending or being supervised—to close all its adoption operations,” the 2nd Circuit wrote.
The court argued that it must consider “the best interests of the many children awaiting adoption in a State where they number far more than the persons willing to adopt them.”
The ruling was not the first loss this year for Cuomo in his battle to shut down churches. Cuomo has repeatedly used New York’s COVID-19 restrictions, some of the strictest in the country, to force churches to halt operations and cancel worship services.
In June, a federal judge ruled that Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had “exceeded” their executive powers in limiting worship services but publicly condoned and supported mass protests.
U.S. District Judge Gary L. Sharpe issued a preliminary injunction against the state and rebuked Cuomo and de Blasio for threatening churches and showing “flagrant disregard” for their own social distancing rules while sending a clear message that “mass protests are deserving of preferential treatment.”
Now Cuomo is facing yet another lawsuit from the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn for attempting to shutdown churches again under new, revised coronavirus rules.
The two latest issues has led Kathryn Jean Lopez, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, to wonder if Cuomo’s attack on churches and adoption agencies like New Hope “is more about ideology and even bigotry.”