According to the Rutan-Rams, Holston United Methodist Home for Children refused to help the couple go through some of the foster family training required by Tennessee for prospective adoptive parents. Their lawsuit was filed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and according to Knox News, the Alliance Defending Freedom (an organization exactly as loathsome as the name implies) will be defending Holston United Methodist Home for Children.
According to the couple, they decided to adopt in early 2021 and located a prospective foster child in Florida they hoped would become part of their family. They contacted the agency, which initially said they could help the couple with the process of an out-of-state placement for the fostering of the child. It was a huge disappointment for Elizabeth and Gabriel when, on the day they were to begin their training, the “organization told them it only serves families who share their Christian belief system.”
“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.”
Frequently adoption agencies and agencies that find surrogates for prospective families will show some of their true colors: theocratic corruption. They want “religious liberty” because it is a good way to discriminate against people who hold different beliefs, and also because it adds a layer of institutional protection from federal oversight.
In December, the Holston Methodist Home for Children filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration, and specifically the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regulation that “prohibits discrimination.” In their filing, Holston Methodist Home for Children said their rights were being violated, not those of the people whose rights they’re violating. The suit claims, in part:
“The rule exceeds HHS’s statutory jurisdiction, authority, and limitations, is not in accordance with law, is arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion, is contrary to constitutional right, and violated Holston Home’s right to free exercise of religion under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and freedom of speech and association under the First Amendment.”
A reminder that the “rule” Holston considers “arbitrary” and “capricious,” by their own definition, literally says it “prohibits discrimination in programs funded by HHS grants, and by recipients and sub-recipients of those funds, on the basis of religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and same-sex marriage status.”
The mission to protect children and find children loving homes is a righteous one, and it dovetails nicely with the mythology that women should be forced to give birth irrespective of any context.* This is the sort of magical puritan thinking that zealots like Supreme Court Justice Amy Comey Barrett cling to in order to justify taking away women’s rights.
Elizabeth Rutan-Ram and her husband Gabriel have been able to successfully foster a teenager through another, less shitty agency. In Jun. 2021, Rutan-Ram wrote on her Facebook page:
“I wanted to give everyone a quick update! Gabe Rutan-Ram and I’ve been approved to be foster parents after months of classes and waiting! There’s no way for us to know when it will happen, but hopefully within the next month or two. To respect the privacy of our foster child and their family, we will not make any posts about our placement. Just know that we’re thrilled to start the next chapter of our lives and so grateful for all the support we’ve gotten.”
It sounds like they were very good candidates! Unless, of course, you are a bigoted organization that likes to haul out the same tired excuse antisemites give for a first-century Jewish theologian being executed by a prefect of the Roman state.
*Sort of like taking the Bible literally and without any sense of historic context.