State Watch

Tennessee couple sues adoption agency that allegedly refused to help because they are Jewish

A Tennessee couple is suing the state’s Department of Children’s Services, alleging that the state-sponsored Christian-based adoption agency refused to help them due to their Jewish beliefs, Knox News reported

Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed the lawsuit on behalf of Elizabeth and Gabriel Rutan-Rams in Davidson County Chancery Court on Wednesday.

The Greenville-based Holston United Methodist Home for Children allegedly denied the Rutan-Rams from acquiring state-mandated foster parent training and a home-study certification as the couple attempted to adopt a child from Florida last year, according to the lawsuit. 

The Rutan-Rams reached out to the agency about adopting a child after learning they could not have biological children of their own, according to Knox News.

The couple said the agency initially told them that it would help them with their out-of-state placement, but later told them it can only serve Christian-belief families, the lawsuit alleges.

“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.” 

The agency said in the lawsuit it has received public funding to provide foster care placement and training, among other services, for the state Department of Children’s Services.

The Holston United Methodist Home for Children was previously a part of the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church, the newspaper reported. 

This comes as six others join the Rutan-Rams in their suit against the state. 

Holston recently filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration last month for regulations that prohibit discrimination in programs funded by the U.S. Health and Human Services grants, adding that it violates First Amendment rights.

In a statement, Americans United for Separation of Church and State’s associate vice president and associate legal director, Alex J. Luchenitser, said Tennessee is going back on a promise by allowing the taxpayer-funded agencies to discriminate against the Rutan-Rams because they are Jewish. 

“Public funds should never be used for religious discrimination,” Luchenitser said. “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.”

Tags Adoption adoption agency Greenville Religious discrimination Tenneesee

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