Christian-based adoption agency refuses to assist family because they are Jewish: report
A couple in Knoxville, Tenn., is filing a lawsuit against the state's Department of Children’s Services alleging that a Christian-based, state-backed adoption agency refused to assist them because they are Jewish.
According to Knox News, the Holston United Methodist Home for Children, of Greeneville, Tenn., refused to allow Elizabeth and Gabriel Rutan-Ram to acquire state-mandated training required for potential foster parents and home-study certification when they attempted to move forward with adopting a child located in Florida.
Speaking to Knox News on Wednesday, January 19, the family's attorney noted that this lawsuit is the first of its kind as it aims to challenge a new law "that allows religious adoption agencies to deny service to families whose religious or moral beliefs aren't in sync with the provider's."
During a recent news interview, the couple also shared their reaction to being discriminated against.
"I felt like I’d been punched in the gut,” Elizabeth Rutan-Ram said in a news release. “It was the first time I felt discriminated against because I am Jewish. It was very shocking. And it was very hurtful that the agency seemed to think that a child would be better off in state custody than with a loving family like us.”
Six others have also joined the Tennessee couple's lawsuit. They are identified as:
- The Rev Jeannie Alexander, an interfaith pastor from Davidson County
- The Rev. Elaine Blanchard, a Disciples of Christ minister from Shelby County
- The Rev. Alaina Cobb, a Christian minister from Davidson County
- The Rev. Denise Gyauch, a Unitarian Universalist minister from Davidson County
- Dr. Larry Blanz of Davidson County, a retired psychologist with more than 40 years of experience that includes working with foster 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.
In a recent press release, Alex J. Luchenitser, associate vice president and associate legal director at Americans United, condemned the use of public funding for organizations that discriminate against public factions.
"The Tennessee Constitution, like the U.S. Constitution, promises religious freedom and equality for everyone. Tennessee is reneging on that promise by allowing a taxpayer-funded agency to discriminate against Liz and Gabe Rutan-Ram because they are Jews,” Luchenitser, said in a news release.
"Public funds should never be used for religious discrimination,” Luchenitser told Knox News. “The law should never create obstacles that keep loving parents from taking care of children who need a home. That should certainly never occur because of religious discrimination.”
The couple's lawsuit comes one month after Holston filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration for regulations that prohibit the type of discriminatory practices specifically "in programs funded by U.S. Health and Human Services grants 'on the basis of religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and same-sex marriage status,' saying it violates its First Amendment rights."
In the lawsuit, the agency also confirmed that it receives public funding to provide adoption services, child placement and training for potential parents.