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Charity for Trafficked Teens Sues CA After State Refuses License Because of its Abortion and Gender Beliefs

California licensing officials told a San Diego Catholic charity they must abandon their religious beliefs on abortion, sexual behavior, and transgenderism before they can open a home for trafficked teens. After four years of waiting and spending over $600,000 dollars getting the six-bed home (called the Refuge) ready, the Children of the Immaculate Heart (CIH) decided last month to sue. 

Specifically at issues is the state’s requirement that the charity promotes LGBTQ events, drives residents to get abortions, and injects children with transgender hormone medications. CIH does not object to a child’s access to such programs, activities, or actions, but it objects to cooperating in them.

“Right now, a desperately needed rescue home for sex-trafficked girls sits empty because the government refuses to license a care provider with Catholic beliefs,” said one of the charity’s attorneys Paul Jonna, Senior Counsel with the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund. “Every child who is at risk of sex trafficking deserves a safe place with loving caretakers. Charitable agencies that help rescue children from sex trafficking should be protected, not excluded for their faith.”

Paul Jonna, Senior Counsel for the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, explains how California is illegally discriminating against a charity for its religious beliefs.

According to the lawsuit, the State’s Department of Social Services, which regulates California’s foster care system, must answer for its ongoing refusal to issue CIH a license to open the Refuge. Licensing officials have made it clear that they find CIH’s Catholic identity “offensive” and that they disagree with the charity’s religious beliefs about sexual orientation and reproduction.

As an example, the lawsuit details how California Social Services official Stacie Kinney questioned why “Christ” was mentioned in CIH’s mission statement and asked if Refuge staff “would hand out condoms and drive girls to Planned Parenthood to obtain abortions.”

San Diego County licensing official Carol Anderson emailed the CIH President Grace Williams a list of “deficiencies” in their licensing application. The list included the need to describe the “procedure for dispensing transition-related medications for transgender youth,” and “how the program will ensure transportation services will be provided to outside activities to include LGBTQ programs and activities.” 

Williams affirmed that the Refuge’s programs and activities would be “open to all residents and that a resident may attend extracurricular activities,” but the Refuge would “neither formally nor materially cooperate in any program or activity that conflicts with CIH’s sincere religious beliefs.” 

Williams was eventually told the organization’s Catholic beliefs were going to be an issue.

“You’re just going to have a problem with that religious thing,” Anderson told her, according to the lawsuit

The Refuge is ready to receive teen trafficking victims, but the State’s Department of Social Services refuses to approve the facility’s license.

“The government’s religiously discriminatory stonewalling is irreparably harming CIH’s religious freedom, liberty of speech, and equal protection rights under the California Constitution. But more importantly, the government is hurting those abused and unloved girls in desperate need of a refuge,” the lawsuit states.

“Children of the Immaculate Heart has never been accused of discrimination, and for good reason—it does not and would not. The Refuge’s caretakers would love and nurture every foster girl regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or reproductive choices. But the government ignores all that, because it has adjudged that CIH’s Catholic identity and Christ-centered mission are ‘offensive’ and thus anathema to its political orthodoxy.”

Read more about the case here.


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