Adoption agency won’t help Tennessee couple because they’re Jewish
A Knoxville couple are suing the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, claiming a state-sponsored Christian adoption agency refused to help them because they are Jewish.
This is the first lawsuit filed by the state to challenge a new law that allows religious adoption agencies to deny services to families whose religious or moral beliefs are out of sync with those of the provider, the provider said Wednesday. the family attorney at Knox News.
The adoption agency, the Holston United Methodist Home for Children based in Greeneville, Tennessee, denied Elizabeth and Gabriel Rutan-Ram access to Tennessee-mandated adoptive parent training and home study certification while that they were trying to adopt a child from Florida last year. , say the Rutan-Rams.
The organization was formerly but is no longer a branch of the Holston Conference of The United Methodist Church. A conference spokesperson asked questions at the house.
In December, Greenville-based Holston sued the Biden administration over regulations prohibiting discrimination in programs funded by U.S. health and human services grants “on the basis of religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and same-sex marriage status,” claiming it violates her First Amendment rights.
In that lawsuit, the organization said it received state funds to provide foster care and training, among other services, to the state Department of Children’s Services.
Home for Children president and CEO Bradley Williams could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. Instead, a Home for Children receptionist told Knox News to email the organization’s law firm, Alliance Defending Freedom, which bills itself as “the world’s largest legal organization committed in the protection of religious freedom, freedom of speech, marriage and family, parental rights and the sanctity of life.” Company representatives did not respond to a request for comments sent by e-mail.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday by Americans United for Separation of Church and State on behalf of the Rutan-Rams in Davidson County Chancery Court. A DCS spokesperson declined to comment on ongoing litigation, as did a spokesperson for the state attorney general’s office.
The lawsuit comes nearly two years after Governor Bill Lee signed into law a measure that allows religious adoption agencies to deny services to same-sex couples. The law allows adoption agencies to refuse to participate in a child’s placement if doing so “would violate the agency’s written religious or moral beliefs or policies.”
“The Tennessee Constitution, like the American Constitution, promises religious freedom and equality for all. Tennessee is reneging on that promise by allowing a taxpayer-funded agency to discriminate against Liz and Gabe Rutan-Ram because they are Jewish,” said Alex J. Luchenitser, associate vice president and associate chief legal officer at Americans United, in A press release.
“Public funds should never be used for religious discrimination,” Luchenitser told Knox News. “The law should never create barriers that prevent loving parents from caring for children in need of a home. This should certainly never happen because of religious discrimination.
The couple are joined by six others in the lawsuit against the state. They are:
- Reverend Jeannie Alexander, an interfaith pastor from Davidson County
- Reverend Elaine Blanchard, Shelby County Disciples of Christ Minister
- Reverend Alaina Cobb, a Christian minister from Davidson County
- Reverend Denise Gyauch, Davidson County Unitarian Universalist Minister
- Dr. Larry Blanz of Davidson County, a retired psychologist with over 40 years of experience that includes working with adoptive parents and children
- Mirabelle Stoedter, a Davidson County resident who serves as treasurer of the Tennessee chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
try to adopt
After realizing they couldn’t have biological children, in early 2021 the Rutan-Rams located a child in Florida whom they were excited to adopt. They say they were first told by Holston that the organization would help them with their out-of-state placement.
However, on the day they were to begin their training, the organization told them it only served families who shared their Christian belief system, the lawsuit says. The couple were unable to complete the process to become foster parents for the child.
“I felt like I had been punched in the stomach,” Elizabeth Rutan-Ram said in a press release. “It was the first time that I felt discriminated against because I am Jewish. It was very shocking. And it was very hurtful that the agency seemed to think a child would be better off in state care than in a loving family like ours.
The Rutan-Rams are currently fostering and hoping to adopt a teenage girl through a separate agency, Luchenitser told Knox News, and they would also like to adopt another child in the future.