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Following their rejection from a Christian foster home, a Jewish couple’s discrimination complaint was dismissed

After rejection by a Christian foster home, a Jewish couple’s discrimination complaint was dismissed.

Tennessee’s highest court has thrown out a lawsuit brought by a Jewish couple who were denied access to foster parent training through a publicly-funded Christian charity because of their religion.

Elizabeth and Gabriel Rutan-Ram sued the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services and DCS Commissioner Jenifer Nichols in Davidson County Chancery Court on June 27, and a three-judge panel found 2-1 to allow their petition to dismiss the action.

Claims of racial discrimination were rejected by the court.

Elizabeth Rutan-Ram and Gabriel
By 2022, Elizabeth and Gabriel Rutan-Ram were suing the Tennessee Department of Children’s Assistance because they claimed that the state-supported Holston United Methodist Home for Children had denied them services because of their Jewish religion. | Courtesy Gabriel and Elizabeth Rutan-Ram
After being denied entrance to Holston United Methodist Home for Children foster training programs, the Rutan-Rams filed a lawsuit in January, claiming that their lack of Christian faith was to blame. There are no foster training programs available to non-Christian couples.

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As they were able to complete their programs and obtain certification through DCS months after being rejected by Holston, most people determined that their legal claims were irrelevant.

“The Panel Majority adopts the Defendants’ reasoning and decides that any issue relating to denial of services is not capable of the prospective relief the Plaintiffs seek and is now moot,” said the panel majority ruling.

Despite the couple’s initial plan to foster a child in Florida, the majority found that their complaint regarding the Holston Home for Children was not appropriate since Holston only conducts in-state arrangements.

“Holston has agreed to give cash to the Department of Human Services exclusively for the benefit of children residing in Tennessee foster care. There is no evidence to support the theory that Holston’s services provided to Couple were related to the alleged injury because they were not paid by Department “Continued by a large majority.

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“The Plaintiffs have not proved that the Defendants would not contract with a Jewish agency similarly positioned to Holston; consequently, the Act does not single out members of the Jewish faith as a disfavored, intrinsically inferior group,” the panel majority held.

According to the panel’s ruling the couple did not have “constitutional standing.” However, Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle gave a partial dissension to this allegation.

Dissension reads as follows: “The foregoing law shows that the Amended Complaint’s allegations, such as the barriers that the Couple currently face as foster parents and continue to face in obtaining the efficiency and other advantages of working with private agencies, are sufficient to establish standing.”

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The American United for Separation of Church and State legal group wants to appeal the panel’s verdict.

Health and Human Services’ Title IV-E provides compensation to Holston, which was established in 1895 and is credited for helping over 8,000 children.

“The caregivers we partner with [are] extensions of our ministry team serving children,” Holston CEO Bradley Williams said in a statement to the Christian Post in January.

It’s important to choose an agency that’s a good fit “from the very beginning,” he explained.

“You won’t have a hard time locating other services. For every one faith-based provider in Tennessee, there are six other agencies.”

“Forcing Holston Home to violate our convictions and place children in homes that do not share our faith” is “wrong and opposed to a free society,” according to Williams, who told CP.

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