The Unjust Treatment of a Jewish Couple Seeking to Adopt a Baby Is No Reason to Overturn Core Protections of Religious Freedom

March 1 2022

Constitutional protections both prohibit the government from discriminating against individuals on the basis of their religion, and from interfering in their religious practices. In a recent case, these two prohibitions conflict, as Jonathan Tobin explains:

When Elizabeth and Gabriel Rutan-Ram attempted to adopt a child, they ran into an unexpected roadblock. The boy they wished to bring into their family was in Florida. That meant the couple, who are Jewish and live in Knoxville, Tennessee, had to first take a state-approved family training course. As the Washington Post reported, according to a lawsuit they filed in court [in January], it meant they had to come into contact with the Holston United Methodist Home for Children because it was the only available agency certified by the state that could give them the training required by law. But after initially thinking that the home would work with them, they were told that the Methodist group’s core religious principles forbid them from placing children in non-Christian homes.

It’s easy to sympathize with their plight, and the case cries out for a solution that would have enabled them to adopt without having to have had this experience. But if they win their case, it won’t be a triumph for the rights of American Jews. On the contrary, it would be a blow to the entire idea of religious freedom that is the foundation for Jewish rights in this country.

The goal of the lawsuit is to overturn state legislation signed into law in January 2020 that explicitly permits religious adoption agencies to decline to be involved in cases that “would violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies.

The state should have provided other options for compliance with adoption rules other than those that require working with a religious agency only helping individuals who practice its particular faith. A reasonable solution to this family’s problem would be for Tennessee to provide such an option, whether ecumenical or secular in nature, that would allow them to legally adopt a child from out of state. Yet it is quite another thing to claim—as the couple’s lawsuit does—that Tennessee has a positive obligation to force a religious agency to discard its beliefs or that a law that seeks to protect the right of that agency to religious freedom is unconstitutional because people of another faith wish to avail themselves of its services.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at JNS

More about: Adoption, American Jewry, American law, Discrimination, Freedom of Religion

 

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism