Challenging a new Tennessee law allowing faith-based adoption agencies to refuse families on the basis of religious or moral beliefs, a Jewish couple has filed a suit against a Christian adoption agency for barring them from their services.
According to a local news report earlier this week, the Jewish couple Elizabeth and Gabriel Rutan-Rams wanted to foster and adopt a child that they had located in Florida. The couple then appealed to the Holston United Methodist Home for Children, which receives funds from the US government, in order to obtain training services, and despite initially agreeing to help, Holston later reversed its decision, stating that it only provides service to families that share its belief system, according to a lawsuit filed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AUSCS) on behalf of the Rutan-Rams.
“I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. It was the first time I felt discriminated against because I am Jewish,” Elizabeth Rutan-Ram said in a press statement. “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 joined the lawsuit, including several Christian clerics. The case challenges a law signed two years ago by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee that allows religious adoption agencies to deny services when doing so would “violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies.”
In reaction to the incident, Alex J. Luchenitser, AUSCS associate vice president and associate legal director, argued that the “Tennessee Constitution, like the US 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. Public funds should never be used for religious discrimination. 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.”