Elizabeth and Gabriel Rutan-Ram were excited about the prospect of starting a family by fostering and adopting a child. But as they prepared to attend their first day of foster-parent training at Holston United Methodist Home for Children in northeastern Tennessee last January, they received an email from the agency telling them not to come.
The group was refusing to help the couple because they are Jewish.
“As a Christian organization, our executive team made the decision several years ago to only provide adoption services to prospective adoptive families that share our belief system in order to avoid conflicts or delays with future service delivery,” the email said, according to court documents.
Although it is a religious organization, Holston receives taxpayer funding and, on behalf of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, assists families with foster-care placement, training and other related services.
On Wednesday, the Rutan-Rams, along with six others, sued the Department of Children’s Services and its commissioner, Jennifer Nichols, claiming it violated the couple’s rights to religious freedom and equal protection in the Tennessee Constitution by using state funds to support agencies that discriminate based on religious beliefs.
“It’s infuriating to learn our tax dollars are funding discrimination against us,” Gabriel Rutan-Ram said in a news release from the Tennessee chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “If an agency is getting tax money to provide a service, then everyone should be served — it shouldn’t matter whether you’re Jewish, Catholic or an atheist. We’re all citizens of Tennessee, regardless of our religion.”
Son, this isn’t America. It’s Tennessee. Oh wait….those now are American values according to the Republican courts.
Brad Williams, the president and chief executive of Holston, said in a statement to NBC News that his agency wants to make sure that “vulnerable children” do not “lose access to Christian families.”
“Holston Home places children with families that agree with our statement of faith, and forcing Holston Home to violate our beliefs and place children in homes that do not share our faith is wrong and contrary to a free society,” Williams added.
Stephen Miller laughs.