adoption agency sign
A panel in Tennessee ruled that government-funded adoption agencies can legally discriminate based on religious belief.

A three-judge panel in Tennessee just ruled that a Christian adoption agency that receives government funding can legally deny services to Jewish couples in a ruling many are calling tantamount to “separate but equal” laws of the past.

The couple at the center of the controversy, Elizabeth and Gabriel Rutan-Ram, filed a lawsuit earlier this year alleging that they were denied access to foster training at Holston United Methodist Home for Children, a local adoption agency that receives state funding. 

The Rutan-Rams say they were discriminated against because they are Jewish. The adoption agency didn’t deny this claim; its publicly-stated mission is to place children with Christian families.

The couple argued in court that the agency shouldn't be allowed to discriminate against them on the basis of religion because it receives taxpayer money. 

Now, a panel of judges has squashed the case, arguing it is meritless and cannot go forward. 

Legalized Discrimination

The panel's decision stems from a bill that provides faith-based adoption agencies legal protection to be selective about where they place children.

The bill allows faith-based adoption agencies to exclude same-sex (or, apparently, non-Christian) applicants while still collecting federal funds.

Signed into law in 2020, the bill was initially controversial due to fears it would be used to discriminate against LGBTQ couples. LGBTQ rights advocates were outraged at the time, arguing that it would simply keep more kids out of loving homes and stuck in the foster care system.

Foster Care: God’s Will?

When they began the adoption process, the Rutan-Rams turned to the only agency in their area to assist them in adopting an out-of-state child: Holston United Methodist Home for Children.

The day they were to begin their state-mandated adoption training, however, Holston contacted them to alert them that they only assist Christian families with adoption. 

The couple says they were shocked, considering the fact that the agency is funded by the government.

“If an agency is getting tax money to provide a service, then everyone should be served,” argued Gabriel Rutan-Ram. “It shouldn’t matter whether you’re Jewish, Catholic or an atheist. We’re all citizens of Tennessee, re­gard­less of our religion.”

The court disagreed, reasoning that because the couple eventually got assistance in completing the training elsewhere, their claims lacked legal standing. 

Legalized Discrimination

The CEO of Holston said that the agency's motivations shouldn't surprise anyone – it is a Christian organization wanting to place kids with Christian families, after all.

He argued that “forcing Holston Home to violate our beliefs and place children in homes that do not share our faith is wrong and contrary to a free society."

But critics of the decision say that this whole thing has a ‘separate but equal’ vibe to it. At issue is that the adoption agency receives federal funds to operate. In essence, the state of Tennessee is saying faith-based discrimination is A-OK on their watch, so long as equal facilities are available to other faiths. 

Many couldn’t help but notice historic parallels:

What do you think? Should a faith-based adoption agency that receives funding from the government be able to discriminate against parents of other religions?


  1. Susan Colmenares's Avatar Susan Colmenares

    First of all, I would remind those Christians that Jesus was a Jew. Secondly, I don’t want my tax money going to fund faith based organizations in any way, shape, or form. That is not consistent with separation of church and state.

    1. Dr. Zerpersande's Avatar Dr. Zerpersande

      Yeah, but the SCOTUS has sent a clear message that they don’t care about the separation of church and State. Maybe they will even roll back civil rights to ‘separate but equal’? They could never do that with religious vs non-religious. There’s no way to separate out the religious and maintain anything close to equal on the basis of ‘intelligence’.

    2. Michael Barton's Avatar Michael Barton

      That's not a good example, since Jesus left the old religion. As long as the law applies to all religions, it's not unconstitutional.

      1. Scott Bedenbaugh's Avatar Scott Bedenbaugh

        Jesus was still a Jew the day he died. He also never abandoned Judaism.

        1. Rev. B's Avatar Rev. B

          There was no christianity until after he died. So I am not sure what your point is..

  1. Chris's Avatar Chris

    It's sad so many "Christians" are happier with children in foster care than going to loving homes just because the potential families are not following a specific religion. And they wonder why so many people are turning away rom their hate and bigotry.

    1. James C Riggle's Avatar James C Riggle

      It's a good thing they fought so hard to make sure EVERY unwanted child be born. They can be put up for adoption but only if the parents are Christian. Wow!

  1. Minister Carlos Ricardo Walls's Avatar Minister Carlos Ricardo Walls

    It appears as a society we're going backwards.

    1. Patricia Newman's Avatar Patricia Newman

      100% AGREE!!!!

  1. CB Cuff's Avatar CB Cuff

    I worked in child welfare for 35 years and there was no evidence that christian foster homes were more 'caring'. In fact most of my investigations about the quality of care was in so called 'christian' homes. Most outstanding was inappropriate methods of addressing what many call bad behaviour. Emotional abuse is difficult to define sometimes when the ill informed choose punishment over discipline.

  1. Catherine Christina Deslippe's Avatar Catherine Christina Deslippe

    As we all know Jesus was a Jew. In the words of the Holy Bible we are all created equally and we should love they neighbour as theyself. With that being said, loving a child, caring for a child and giving a child a home to live in and grow is so more important than that of judging faith.

    1. JaZe's Avatar JaZe

      in which religion should the child be brought up, then?

      christian/jewish/muslin/buddhist/none at all?

      learning about other religions is important instead of being forcefed a particular one,
      as adults we can decide for ourselves

  1. Canadian Yankee's Avatar Canadian Yankee

    Our country is looking more and more like 1930's Germany. If you are not scared by decisions like this one then you are part of the problem.

  1. Susan Colmenares's Avatar Susan Colmenares

    First of all, I would remind those Christians that Jesus was a Jew. Secondly, I don’t want my tax money going to fund faith based organizations in any way, shape, or form. That is not consistent with separation of church and state.

    1. Rev. MichaelRS's Avatar Rev. MichaelRS

      And wouldn't that be ironic for a Christian adoption agency to forced to give a child over to a household, no matter the faith, that rejects the Divinity of Jesus.

      Or even the opposite where a Jewish agency would be forced to give a child over to a Christian household.

      That happened a lot during and shortly after the second World War where Jewish orphans were adopted and raised as "good Christians", only to find out later they were actually Jewish. That's caused quite the kerfuffle.

      But I do agree that such agencies should not have take taxpayer money so they are not forcing these type of situations.

      1. Donald B. Schultze's Avatar Donald B. Schultze

        In NJ, in 1967 there were three adoption agencies that I was aware of. Catholic Charities, Jewish Philanthropies, and The Good Will Mission, which was identified with Protestant Christians. You selected the agency that was closest to your spiritual position. I am unaware that any of them received taxpayer funding. I personally would be against that. Churches, Synagogues, and other prolife organizations should consider supporting the agencies of their choice. If government funding is adjudicated then it should be done so equally to each organization allowing them to adopt out children to people of the faith they adhere too. As the father of an adopted daughter 54 years ago (and of a different ethnicity), I firmly believe in adoption over abortion!

  1. Joe Stutler's Avatar Joe Stutler

    Yeah, this should be overturned on appeal, but with the current SCOTUS being predominantly christofascists I don see it happening until the Court is restored.

  1. Aqilah Jackson's Avatar Aqilah Jackson


    1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher


  1. Kymberley Updyke-Baran's Avatar Kymberley Updyke-Baran

    I Thank the Powers that be that I do Not identify as a "Christian." The majority of "christians" I know profess it but certainly don't live as Christ did. As a matter of fact "Christians" offend me.

  1. Robert James Ruhnke's Avatar Robert James Ruhnke

    Not surprised. This type garbage has been chomping at the bit to get going. People forget that fundie fascists never went anywhere.

  1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

    Look, it's just jews, asians, gays, lbq+, and liberals, it's not like they're real humans with souls or anything, so who cares?

  1. Thomas Payette's Avatar Thomas Payette

    It's ironic that an organization that claims to be a Christian organization, and claims to be attempting to help children is discriminating against other human creations of God, and continuing to perpetuate the hurt and desolate minds of children. Jesus so loved the children it has been said. Discrimination is unhealthy and an act of selfishness and hate. Not love and kindness. Faith is a personal matter between an individual human creation of God and God. I cannot judge, hate, or condemn another human creation of God. Judgment is mine sayeth the Lord God. I would not wish to presume God would look upon me kindly if I take upon myself that which God has clearly clearly claimed as God's sole authority and power. If others choose to engage in these acts. That to is between them and God. However much I much I would choose a different path and wish to express it with condemnation.

    1. Kymberley Updyke-Baran's Avatar Kymberley Updyke-Baran

      Well stated!

  1. James C Riggle's Avatar James C Riggle

    It's not like we didn't know this was coming. I wonder how long before non-Christians are required to register.

  1. Rev. Dr. James Jacob Showers Jr's Avatar Rev. Dr. James Jacob Showers Jr

    When I see things like this, it reminds me of Greensboro, North Carolina. The young men who sat down at the lunch counter. One of our Dear Ministers and my dear Honorable Friend Rev. Dr. Robert Louis Haynes, was the Museum Director at the African American Museum there in Greensboro.Or Rosa Parks, or any of the other counteless persons who died in Germany, with the concentration camps.'The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak'. Does this article come from a white supremecist urban terrorist sleeper cell? there in the south. Tennessee if I recall correctly. Seed of the confederacy-Jefferson Davis. I may be very unintelligent so please enlighten me. You sick ********

  1. Stewart's Avatar Stewart

    Its simple if you want to pick an choose based on beliefs or color an any other discriminatory means DO NOT TAKE TAX MONEY .

    Self fund with donations from like minded idiots then you can say this we shall not do that we shall because do not like them as long as you follow all the law not just that you like.

  1. Robert Gagnon's Avatar Robert Gagnon

    Are there not enough Methodists to adopt their overstock of orphans? Do Catholics count as Christians or is being raised by Irish or Italians disgust these good people? Where does the screening process stop? You want to be that way, give up the government money. Problem solved.

  1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

    Jesus said, "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." — John 13:34-35

    The Christians in Tennessee aren't following the teaching of Jesus, they sure don't love one another. They seem to be more about spite and hatred and seeing children suffer.

    1. Patricia Newman's Avatar Patricia Newman

      Hold on. I live in TN, attend a Christian church, but I believe in the absolute separation of church and state, my church is VERY open and welcoming, is seeks to have more diversity. In fact, we are a United Methodist Church. When we learned of the action taken by Holston Home, we IMMEDIATELY stopped our monetary support. The Gov. in TN is, in fact, not the sharpest tool in the shed. I am a previous CPS investigator and know the plight of children in foster care, especially teenagers who are left aging out with no readiness to face a screwed-up world. We should be VERY grateful for ANY foster family to take these teenagers and love them like their own.

  1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

    Well at least they're not infidels and idolaters like muslims, buddhists, yoga people, meditators, Chinese, etc.

    At least now we have an idea why in the last few years the United Methodist nationwide (in the US that is) have been cut in half and don't know what to do about the bleeding. My wife's family has seven, count em, seven, Methodist ministers in it, all in the upper midwest, and they have been worrying about this "Exodus" of people from their church, for a dozen years with no success, more and more leave United Methodist in the US, and national conventions for 10 years.

    As for it being in tennessee, well, what did you expect?

  1. Rev. Dr. James Jacob Showers Jr's Avatar Rev. Dr. James Jacob Showers Jr

    How can anyone interrupt this organization as anything but wrong. I thought the Boss, said, 'Love your neighbors, as you would yourself'. This story As I was just writing it, reminds me of the Four youths that sat down at the woolworths lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. One of our Ministers and my dear Honorable Friend Rev. Dr. Robert Louis Haynes, was the Museum Director of that fine establishment, and I was always amazed at the just pure nastiness of bigots, and racists, having had the great opportunity to view the message of those young people after several years of history, archaeology and forensics. If you put the entire picture together-we as white folks, have done some pretty aweful things to our brothers and sisters. Is this a White Supremecist Organization, masked in the Christian Doxology. They are just wrong!!

  1. Alexander Arends's Avatar Alexander Arends

    Somebody has to be the devil's advocate so it may as well be me. Some well intended Christians decide to open up an adoption agency with the intent to place children in Christian homes. There are other agencies that don't discriminate, so why should these well intended (but maybe misguided) people not want to place children in Christian families? Nobody said the Jewish couple would make bad parents, they just did not meet the criteria for which this agency was created. Quit bashing well intended Christians. You are doing exactly what you are accusing others of, and demanding that people must set the same standards for themselves that you have. And why should this agency not receive federal funding for their efforts. I am sure there are Jewish adoption agencies that are there to serve Jewish communities, or Roman Catholic agencies whose purpose is to place people in Catholic homes. Should only secular organizations receive government funding? Shouldn't you consider that to be discriminatory? God bless all adoption agencies regardless of their religious or non-religious affiliation. They all serve the same purpose, placing children in a good home in which they feel comfortable.

    1. Campuscoll's Avatar Campuscoll

      Alexander, the reason for the discrimination in people's minds is that one is not supposed to discriminate based on religious beliefs. A business, according to federal law, cannot use religious beliefs when considering a sale or service. If you were denied kosher meat in a delicatessen because you were a Christian, would that be legal? No, and you would probably miss out on a delicious sandwich. Americans should be outraged at this. But then, red states think they can get away with murder, or any other heinous crime, because of the current political climate based on "If you don't believe the same as me, then you need to be deemed irrelevent." (or Trumped)

      Another reason for the rancor, government monies are not supposed to be used for any religion based business. Churches do not receive government monies. This adoption agency is highly suspect anyway because of the discrimination but one has to remember, this is Tennessee, the heart of the redneck Christian.

  1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

    this will be overturned if they decide to move it up in the food chain, and this bill should never have passed in its current form

  1. Reverend Marika's Avatar Reverend Marika

    In the end, all this legal nonsense that allows Christian organizations of all types to discriminate and bend rules in their favor will ultimately be the demise of Christianity in America. GOOD!

  1. Reverend Marika's Avatar Reverend Marika

    Comment removed by user.

  1. Rev Ned's Avatar Rev Ned

    Let’s sing the hymn. 🎼 Jesus loves me, but He can’t stand you.

  1. Rev. MichaelRS's Avatar Rev. MichaelRS

    A lot of ridiculous EXTREAM hysterical opinions being put forth here.

    First off, stop pointing out that Jesus was a Jew, unless you want to follow that up with the Jews rejected the Divinity of Jesus and were instrumental in having him crucified. Which according to Christian doctrine was God's plan, but they didn't know that.

    Secondly, please stop using they totally exhausting (and exhausted) Nazifascist comparison. It does such a disservice to the people that were victims of REAL Nazis, as opposed describing people who simply do not have a liberal worldview.

    And speaking of Jesus as a Jew (and a very pious one he was) and Nazis... the adoption agency is not wanting to place children with Jewish households NOT because they think Jews are money grubbing, hooked nosed, filthy sub-humans, like the real Nazis did and as the many statements above imply.

    They are not doing so out of a sincere religious belief and fear for the child's Immortal soul. Period.

    It doesn't matter if YOU believe like that or not, it's what they believe and ascribing any other motivation to it, without a shred of evidence, is ridiculous.

    As far as judging others go... many of the comments here show a severe lack of understanding of Matthew Chapter 7 or any other place in the New Testament where the subject comes up.

    Usually that is a line that is used by wrongdoing people to avoid being called on their wrong doingness, which some might call sin.

    I'm not going to go into it all but I suggest you take some time and simply search the meaning of Matthew chapter 7 and what the New Testament says about judging others in general. Use several different sources/commentaries as a cross reference to arrive at the correct answer.

    It's a complicated issue, but it doesn't remove from Christian's the ability to have discernment over what is "sin". Because if one can't figure out (judge) what that is, how can one strive to avoid it?

    But basically it boils down to approaching the matter of judgment with circumspection and first looking at your own life. But it in no way means that you have to be first perfect in order to exercise certain discernment.

  1. Ivan Thomson's Avatar Ivan Thomson

    You have to be careful with such things. Sure one could argue this is discrimination against a particular group (Jews in this case). However, would people want to open the Pandora's box that this presents? Would many be happy with Satanists adopting Christian kids? I am fine with a faith, such as Christians, placing their kids within their faith.

  1. Wilberta M. Berry's Avatar Wilberta M. Berry

    Jesus accepted everyone who accepted him. It's just that simple. Not to forget Jesus was from the tribe of Judea.

  1. Colleen McAllister's Avatar Colleen McAllister

    I worked for a foster-adoption agency for over 10 years. We based our cote principles on Judeo-Christian beliefs. We also received State funding. We were not allowed to discriminate for any reason. That agency and the Court are wrong.

  1. Rev. Jack Harte, DD, MscD's Avatar Rev. Jack Harte, DD, MscD

    A Christian agency should be allowed to operate as a Christian agency, just as a Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Zoroastrian, Wiccan, or any other religious-based agency should be able to operate within the parameters of that religion. Kinda-sorta makes sense.

  1. Danny C. Anderson's Avatar Danny C. Anderson

    Jesus spoke about this in Matthew 22:21 when he said, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's,” thus making a clear delineation between the “things that are Caesar’s” (the government’s) and the “things that are God’s.”

  1. James Hage's Avatar James Hage

    They seem to have missed the message Jesus was teaching,(by the way he was Jewish) When he spoke of the good Samaritan who went out of his way to help someone who was left helpless by his own people. We have so many children that need good foster parents or maybe even adoptive parents. To deny them this in the name of Christianity seem Christian to some, but it is NOT of Christ.

  1. Ken Schabelski's Avatar Ken Schabelski

    It is truly a shame that the Christian organization that denied a loving Jewish home to children fail to see the hypocrisy in their hearts...

  1. Ken Schabelski's Avatar Ken Schabelski

    Truly a shame that a Christian organization does not see the hypocrisy in their banning a Jewish family from adopting a this the 21st century we have learned so little.

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