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TN Children's Charity Sues Biden Admin for Trying to Force Them to Violate Their Christian Beliefs

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

A Tennessee Christian children's charity has filed a federal lawsuit against the Biden administration after it took steps to force non-profits to violate their religious beliefs or lose needed funding.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys are representing the Holston United Methodist Home for Children located in Greeneville, TN.  They filed the lawsuit Thursday, arguing that the U.S. Health and Human Services Department (HHS) is violating the First Amendment rights of the charity which doesn't place children in homes that aren't established on biblical standards.

The Holston Home is a nationally accredited Christian nonprofit that operates throughout East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. It has been in operation since 1895 and has helped more than 8,000 abused and neglected children by reuniting them with their families, placing them for adoption, or helping them transition to adulthood.

The home receives some of its reimbursement for services through Title IV-E, administered by the HHS, 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, the HHS issued religious exemptions to this rule, but recently HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra has revoked all of the exemptions.

The Holston Home's lawsuit argues that revocation is unconstitutional and if it were to enforce the Obama-era rule, it would be exceeding its statutory authority, according to Fox News

"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," Bowman continued. "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."

Holston Home allocated $10,608,190 to "direct ministry for children," according to the charity's 2020-21 annual report

ADF attorneys filed Holston United Methodist Home for Children v. Becerra in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Tennessee at Greeneville.

As CBN News reported in late November, a leaked HHS memo revealed plans by the Biden administration to make changes to Americans' First Amendment rights and other religious liberty protections.

The internal memo describes plans to "sign delegation of authority on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and religion clause of the First Amendment" to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). 

The memo recommended HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra sign the action as soon a possible. 

Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the city of Philadelphia was wrong to reject Catholic Social Services because the group said it wouldn't violate its religious beliefs about sexuality.

The city had slashed ties with the Catholic agency after it had declined to place children with same-sex couples.

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