Don’t even think about the plight of gay couples.

Steven Wagner, HHS
Steven Wagner is a senior
official at HHS | Photo: HHS

HHS has waived nondiscrimination requirements allowing a “Christian” adoption and foster agency to restrict parents to practicing Christians who are heterosexual and cisgender. Beth Lesser and her husband have been foster parents in Florida for more than a decade. Then they moved to South Carolina.

After completing training and background checks, Miracle Hill ministries in Greenville, SC turned Lesser away. They did so because Ms. Lester is Jewish. Adoption and foster care agencies do the work of the state. They are paid for doing so with taxpayer funds. The state, in turn, is partially reimbursed by Health and Human Services providing that the agency conforms to nondiscrimination requirements.

For the year ended June 30, 2018, Miracle Hill Ministries had income of $27 million. It claims to be responsible for more than 15% of the state’s placements.

Enter Steven Wagner, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at HHS. Wagner’s “qualifications” consist of having done public opinion polling for an organization headed by Joseph A. Califano Jr. a former secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under Jimmy Carter. Trump era qualifications seem to be “I slept at a Holiday Inn last night.”

But there is more. Steven Wagner, a swamp denizen, is also a professional Christian:

Wagner was the Founder and President of Solidarity with the Persecuted Church, the 501(c)(3) organization which supports Christians in places of persecution, such as Iraq, Syria and Nigeria.

Wagner is still listed as the contact for Solidarity with the Persecuted Church. As of December 10, it has not bothered to file a 2017 tax return, form 990 (the final extension ended November 15). For 2016 it reported revenues of $311,363.

The bio is ambiguous. It would appear that Wagner was transferred to HHS from HUD:

Wagner was the Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives at the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, where he realized the reform of HUD regulations necessary for the full and non-discriminatory participation of faith-based and community organizations.

In other words, a public relations guy has had two sensitive senior-level positions for which he is grossly unqualified.

Steven Wagner issued a waiver letter to South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster allowing the agency to discriminate without endangering reimbursements from HHS to South Carolina.

ADL is not pleased:

“It is shocking that the federal government is openly sanctioning discrimination against Jews, LGBTQ and others. Allowing a taxpayer funded agency to discriminate against Jews and other minorities is outrageous and sets a dangerous precedent for our nation. This is clearly unlawful and will not hold up in court,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL CEO and National Director. “No child should be denied a loving foster or adoptive home simply because a prospective parent is Jewish or Muslim, gay or lesbian. We have been fighting this prospective exemption for many months and will forcefully oppose today’s decision by HHS.”

Sanctioning is a strange word. It can mean both approval and disapproval. In this case it is the former. I recall writing something about adoption agencies discriminating against gay couples. I probably posed the rhetorical question: “Suppose they would not place kids with Jews?” I probably followed that with something to the effect that we would never tolerate such behavior.

Stupid me. I should have realized that this arrogant conduct was inevitable.

Related content:

By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.