A Tennessee Christian children’s home filed a federal lawsuit Dec. 2 against the Biden administration, challenging its rule requiring the agency to place children in the homes of unmarried, cohabitating couples, same-sex couples and non-Christian couples.
The Greenville-based Holston United Methodist Home for Children operates throughout eastern Tennessee and southwest Virginia. Since its start in 1895, Holston Home has helped more than 8,000 children reunite with family, find a new family through adoption or transition into adulthood—all with the core mission of facilitating relationships so children can be “raised by healthier families that prepare them to live the fulfilling adult lives that God intended for them.”
In the suit, religious liberty law firm Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) argued that by forcing Holston Home to place children with couples that do not share in its Christian statement of faith, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is violating the right to free exercise of religion under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
“Holston Home is a force for good, living out the words of Christ to care for children and ‘the least of these,'” said ADF Senior Counsel Matt Bowman. “It is vital that Holston Home, as a religious organization, remains free to continue placing at-risk children in loving, Christian families, according to its deeply held beliefs, without fear of government punishment.”
The HHS rule in question prohibits discrimination on the basis of “non-merit factors such as age, disability, sex, race, color, national origin, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation” and was first put into place in 2016 by the Obama administration. The Trump administration issued religious exemptions to the rule so faith-based agencies could operate according to their religious beliefs, but the Biden administration recently rescinded those exemptions.
“The Biden administration is wrong to remove religious exemptions to its unlawful grants rule,” Bowman said. “This leaves Holston Home and other faith-based nonprofits with an untenable choice to violate their religious beliefs or lose critical grants necessary to their operations, which benefit everyone, including the government.”
In a similar case this past June, the Supreme Court ruled against the city of Philadelphia, stating that the city’s refusal to contract with Catholic Social Services because of its unwillingness to violate its religious beliefs and place foster children with same-same couples was unconstitutional.
“The Supreme Court has recognized the harms to children and society of expelling faith-based agencies from foster care and adoption programs, and now it’s time this administration follows suit by respecting Holston Home’s constitutionally protected religious freedoms and repealing this illegal rule,” Bowman asserted.
No matter the outcome, Holston Home President Bradley Williams said the children’s home remains committed to its “long-held Biblical convictions” and its “calling to care for the most vulnerable young people in Jesus’ name.”
Above: Holston United Methodist Home for Children in Greenville, Tennessee.
Photo: Courtesy of Alliance Defending Freedom