FFRF terminates Tenn. department’s religious promotion

1Tn.StateDepChildServices

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has persuaded a Tennessee state department to end its promotion of belief in a god.

FFRF wrote to the state’s Department of Children’s Services (DCS) warning it against endorsing religion to those wishing to become foster parents. A concerned Tennessee resident who had gone through such training reported to FFRF that the department required aspiring foster parents to watch a video called “Characteristics of Resource Parents” that included a segment called “Spirituality.” The segment opened by explaining that “a belief in something greater than you that you can go to for peace and comfort” is necessary to face “the challenges of adding additional children to your family.” The introduction was followed by clips of foster parents discussing the importance of religion and reliance on God in foster care.

“By requiring potential foster parents to watch a video advocating for religious belief, the Department of Children’s Services is impermissibly endorsing religion and violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment,” wrote FFRF Legal Fellow Christopher Line.

Line noted that time and again the Supreme Court has ruled that government agencies are prohibited from endorsing religion over nonreligion, as well as Christianity over all other faiths.

The required video conveyed a discriminatory preference by Department of Children’s Services for foster parents to have religious beliefs by implying that a belief in a higher power is required to be a foster parent. This misguided assertion is alienating to the nearly one-quarter of Americans who are not religious.

FFRF requested that the Department of Children’s Services discontinue using the portion of its training video that endorses religion. The department responded on July 23 informing FFRF that it had removed the video segment on “spirituality” from its foster parent training. FFRF is applauding the decision.

“A reliance on God is certainly not a prerequisite to good parenting,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services has done the right thing by tossing the video segment from its training.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with 32,000 members and several chapters across the country, including members in Tennessee and a local chapter, FFRF East Tennessee. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

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