South Carolina has been ostracized before for its stand on issues. The long story around official display of the Confederate flag is no secret. But you may not have read about the most recent example of the state being blacklisted.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced that, effective April 15, his state will prohibit state-funded and state-sponsored travel to South Carolina as a result of a provision in South Carolina’s budget for 2018-19. It enables private, faith-based child-placing agencies “to discriminate against those who do not conform to their religious beliefs or moral convictions, including members of the LGBTQ community. Although H-4950 does not mention sexual orientation explicitly, it is written broadly enough to authorize such discrimination, subjecting it to the provisions of California's Assembly Bill 1887,” Becerra states.
"The State of South Carolina recently enacted a measure that sanctions discrimination against families in the placement of children in need of homes. The State of California stands strongly against any form of discrimination. AB 1887 authorizes my office to make that promise real," Becerra said. "Pursuant to AB 1887, California will now bar state-funded or sponsored travel to South Carolina."
AB 1887, which took effect in 2017, prohibits state-funded and state-sponsored travel to states with laws that authorize or require discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. AB 1887's restriction on using state funds for travel applies to California state agencies, departments, boards, authorities, and commissions, including an agency, department, board, authority, or commission of the University of California, the Board of Regents of the University of California, and the California State University.
There are many miles between the Palmetto State and California in more ways than being situated on opposite coasts, and South Carolinians won’t particularly care whether California bans its officials from traveling here. But the ban will not sit well here in that California is passing official judgment on S.C. laws.
And while California takes a stand against discrimination, it does not appear to have any worry about religious discrimination.
The attorney general cites Miracle Hill, a faith-based foster care agency in South Carolina that has received a federal waiver to take religious beliefs into account in determining the eligibility of those applying to be foster parents.
“Miracle Hill is able to collect information on the faith of those applying to be foster parents and use it to reject families who want to provide foster care solely on the basis of those beliefs. In one instance, these policies led to the exclusion of a Jewish woman who simply sought to mentor foster youth. This is particularly egregious in light of the fact that Miracle Hill accounted for 15% of all South Carolina foster placements and is reportedly the largest provider of foster families for children who do not have significant special needs in the state,” according to the California attorney general.
Miracle Hill has also come under fire for denying same-sex couples the opportunity to be foster parents.
On an online form used to request more information about the foster care program, Miracle Hill describes itself as "a non-denominational, Christian organization based upon a protestant statement of faith." An informational sheet provided to The Associated Press in February describes a viable foster parent as "a born-again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ as expressed by a personal testimony and Christian conduct," going on to note further that the applicant must be an active participant of a protestant congregation.
An online frequently-asked-questions section notes that, while Jews or Catholics "wouldn't be a good fit for Christian leadership roles at Miracle Hill, such as in our foster-care and mentoring programs," the organization can help connect them with other groups where they can serve.
Whether Miracle Hill is doing the discriminating or exercising its faith-based rights in performing a public service is a matter in dispute. The agency faces a federal lawsuit challenging the federal waiver and alleging it unconstitutionally discriminates against non-Protestants.
The outcome stands to impact how much of a role religious beliefs can play in policies of people and organizations doing business with government. While the case is being litigated, California has made its decision that South Carolina is sanctioning discrimination. In the Palmetto State, we’ll reserve judgment.