Americans United for Separation of Church and State will run two powerful, full-page color ads condemning taxpayer-funded religious discrimination on Sunday, Aug. 14. The “Taxpayer-funded Antisemitism” ad in the Los Angeles Times features Liz and Gabe Rutan-Ram, the couple who were denied services by a state-funded foster care agency because they are Jewish. The “Taxpayer-funded Anti-Catholic Bigotry” ad in the Boston Globe showcases Aimee Maddonna, who was denied services by an agency that receives state and federal funds because she was the “wrong” kind of Christian–because she is Catholic.
“We should never allow taxpayer-funded agencies to discriminate against prospective foster parents and mentors because they don’t live according to one narrow set of conservative religious beliefs. Our laws cannot allow anyone to use their religious beliefs to harm others, and especially not vulnerable children and admirable people like Aimee, Gabe and Liz, who want to help those children. Nor should taxpayers be forced to fund such discrimination,” said AU President and CEO Rachel Laser. “AU is fighting multiple cases to ensure that the good and qualified people who want to help children in need of loving homes are never turned away because they fail to pass a taxpayer-funded agency’s religion test. We are fighting a well-funded crusade seeking to redefine religious freedom as a sword, not the shield it is meant to be.”
AU consulted with our allies, including the Anti-Defamation League and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, among others, before running these ads. The discrimination that the ads shine a light on was universally condemned.
AU’s Catholic and Jewish allies lauded the ads and lawsuits. Simone Campbell SSS, former leader of Nuns on the Bus, said “The facts of the Maddonna case are shocking. How can children who need foster placement be denied a good home because the federally funded agency doing the placement does not like the ‘brand’ of Christianity of the proposed foster parent? The Constitution makes it clear that our tax dollars are not to support such religious discrimination.”
“Allowing a taxpayer-funded child placement agency to discriminate is outrageous,” said Allison Padilla-Goodman, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League’s Southern Division, at the time the suit was filed. “No child should be denied a loving foster or adoptive home simply because of a prospective parent’s religion.”
“Just like racists who falsely cried ‘religious discrimination’ when they were denied taxpayer support for segregated private schools, these bigoted agencies are playing the victim,” said Todd Stiefel, whose foundation supported this campaign. “Jews, Catholics, and other Americans have a right to equal treatment and should not suffer discrimination at the hands of their government, including any organization providing government services.”
Learn more about Liz and Gabe Rutan-Ram’s case, which AU appealed in the Tennessee Court of Appeals last month.
Learn more about Aimee Maddonna’s case, which is pending in federal court in South Carolina.
AU thanks Todd Stiefel and the Stiefel Freethought Foundation for the generous donation that made these ads possible.
Americans United is a religious freedom advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, AU educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.
Associate Vice President of Communications