A federal court has stopped Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration from shutting down a Catholic adoption agency that wants to stand up for its Christian beliefs.

New Hope Family Services, a faith-based adoption provider, has been waging a long battle against the Cuomo administration because New York officials are seeking to shut down the provider simply for its religious beliefs about marriage.

The New York State Office of Children and Family Services singled out the religious nonprofit for its policy prioritizing the placement of children it serves in homes with a married mother and father.

In November, at the request of Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing New Hope, the 2nd Circuit temporarily halted state officials from interrupting current adoption placements or mandating the closure of New Hope’s adoption program until the court had a chance to consider whether to reverse the federal district court’s decision. The case now goes back to district court for further proceedings.

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Today, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York’s ruled that the state of New York may not revoke a faith-based adoption provider’s authorization to place children for adoption while the adoption provider’s lawsuit against the state proceeds.

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Roger Brooks told LifeNews he is delighted by the decision.

“Today’s decision is great news for children waiting to be adopted and for the parents partnering with our client, New Hope Family Services, to provide loving, stable homes. 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. The need for adoption services in New York, whether public or private, is huge, and New Hope’s faith-guided services do not coerce anyone and do nothing to interfere with other adoption providers who have different beliefs about family and the best interests of children. 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. Thankfully, this ruling means that New Hope can continue offering the exceptional support it has provided for decades while its lawsuit challenging the state’s unconstitutional policy continues.”

New Hope Family Services Executive Director Kathy Jerman added:

“Every child deserves a home with a loving mother and father who are committed to each other. Here at New Hope Family Services, we are an ‘arm-around-the-shoulder’ ministry that walks with adoptive families and birth parents alike to place children with adoptive families. New York is threatening to shut down New Hope’s adoption services, which has placed over 1,000 children with adoptive families since we began as an adoption agency in 1965. We live in a diverse state, and we need more adoption providers, not fewer. We’re grateful that today’s 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.”

New Hope operates as an adoption agency, temporary-foster-placement agency, and pregnancy resource center. The nonprofit accepts no government funding and, besides the fees paid by adoptive parents, funds its ministry through support from churches, individual donors, and private grants.

In the past, OCFS has praised New Hope for the quality of its services, but the state agency later changed course and singled out the nonprofit’s policy regarding child placements. OCFS described the policy as “discriminatory and impermissible” despite the fact that New Hope respectfully refers couples to other providers and has faced no formal complaints from prospective parents due to the policy. OCFS provided an ultimatum that New Hope revise its policy or submit a close-out plan for its adoption program.

“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, adding that, moving forward, the district court must “take into account the best interests of the many children awaiting adoption in a State where they number far more than the persons willing to adopt them.”

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