·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Lawsuits & Litigation

Adoption Agency Hit with Religious Discrimination Lawsuit

— January 26, 2022

The Holston United Methodist Home for Children in Tennessee was recently hit with a lawsuit alleging it discriminated against a Jewish couple.

The Tennessee Department of Children Services was recently hit with a lawsuit filed by a couple alleging a “state-sponsored Christian-based adoption agency refused to help them because they are Jewish.” The suit is the first of its kind since the state adopted 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,” according to the couple’s attorney.

image of a legal gavel and books
Legal gavel and books; image courtesy of
succo via Pixabay,

The couple is Elizabeth and Gabriel Rutan-Ram and the adoption agency in question is the Holston United Methodist Home for Children in Greeneville, Tennessee. According to the suit, the agency denied the couple “state-mandated foster-parent training and a home-study certification as they attempted to adopt a child from Florida last year.”

When commenting on the matter, Elizabeth Rutan-Ram said:

“I felt like I’d been punched in the gut…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.”

Currently, the family is fostering and would like to one day “adopt a teenage girl through a separate agency.” After that, they have aspirations of adopting more children later down the road.

It’s important to note, however, that the Holston United Methodist Home for Children is not affiliated with the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church.

For some background on the matter, it’s worth noting that, in December, the Holston United Methodist Home for Children “Holston sued the Biden administration for regulations that prohibit discrimination 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,” alleging it trampled First Amendment rights.

As part of the suit, the agency said it “receives public money to provide foster care placement and training, among other services, for the state Department of Children’s Services.”

The Rutan-Ram’s suit was filed earlier this week in Davidson County Chancery Court by the nonprofit, Americans United for Separation of Church and State. About two years have passed since Gov. Bill Lee signed a law allowing “religious adoption agencies to deny service to same-sex couples.” Additionally, the law allows adoption agencies and organizations to “refuse to participate in a child placement if doing so would violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies.”

When asked about the issue, Alex J. Luchenitser, associate vice president and associate legal director at Americans United, said:

“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.”


Tennessee adoption agency refused to help couple because they’re Jewish, lawsuit claims

Couple claim they were turned down by adoption agency because they are Jewish

Join the conversation!