GREENEVILLE, Tenn. – A Tennessee Christian children’s home filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against the Biden administration to challenge its rule that requires the agency to violate its religious beliefs or lose needed funding. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represent Holston United Methodist Home for Children in Greeneville, a nationally accredited Christian nonprofit that operates throughout East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia by caring for abused and neglected children through its residential and foster care services.
Holston United Methodist Home for Children receives some of its reimbursement for services through Title IV-E, administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to help sustain its child-placement activities. A 2016 HHS rule issued at the end of the Obama administration required the faith-based agency to violate its religious beliefs by placing children in homes that do not align with their faith, such as non-Christian families; same-sex couples; or unmarried, cohabitating couples. During the Trump administration, HHS issued religious exemptions to this rule so faith-based agencies could operate according to their religious beliefs, but HHS recently rescinded all of those religious exemptions.
“Holston Home is a force for good, living out the words of Christ to care for children and ‘the least of these.’ 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,” said ADF Senior Counsel Matt Bowman. “The Biden administration is wrong to remove religious exemptions to its unlawful grants rule. 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. 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.”
“In the late 1800s, a widow of very modest means named Elizabeth Wiley answered the call of the Lord to start an orphanage to care for hurting children,” explained Holston Home President Bradley Williams. “That kind of inspirational and courageous faith for a woman in that era is such a testimony of God’s faithfulness and our rich heritage of traditional Wesleyan values. Today, we remain committed to these long-held biblical convictions and our calling to care for the most vulnerable young people in Jesus’ name.”
The U.S. Supreme Court recently held that the city of Philadelphia violated the First Amendment rights of a faith-based foster-care agency by invoking non-discrimination laws to force the organization to operate in violation of its religious beliefs.
Holston United Methodist Home for Children has been in operation since 1895 and has helped more than 8,000 children by reuniting them with their families, placing them for adoption, or helping them transition to adulthood.
ADF attorneys filed Holston United Methodist Home for Children v. Becerra in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Tennessee at Greeneville.
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.
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