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Tennessee court rules couple has the right to sue foster care agency that denied them services because they are Jewish

(JTA) — A Jewish couple has grounds to sue a state-funded foster care and adoption agency that denied them services because they are Jewish, a Tennessee appeals court ruled Thursday.

The decision is the latest development in a long-running battle that began in 2021, when Elizabeth and Gabriel Rutan-Ram turned to the Holston United Methodist Home for Children in Greenville, Tennessee for foster parent training. The couple hoped to foster, and later adopt, a child.

According to a lawsuit the couple filed last year, the agency declined to work with them because they were Jewish. A Tennessee state law passed in 2020 allows adoption agencies not to place children in homes that violate the agencies’ “religious or moral convictions or policies.”

The couple was open about being Jewish, with Gabriel Rutan-Ram telling the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last year that “They would have seen the mezuzah on the door” as well as a painting of the Western Wall in the house.

The lawsuit, which the Rutan-Rams filed with the support of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, takes aim at the law, which was principally intended to exempt agencies from working with same-sex couples. But later last year, a three-judge panel dismissed their claims on technical grounds, as the Rutan-Rams have received state support in fostering a teenage girl, whom they are introducing to Jewish life.

Thursday’s ruling reverses that decision, with another three-judge panel ruling that the couple has the right to sue as prospective foster parents and as taxpayers, lacking access to the same services available to Christians. Joining the Rutan-Rams in their lawsuit were six other Tennessee taxpayers, four of them faith leaders, who objected to their tax dollars being used to fund religious discrimination in foster care.

The lawsuit itself will now be considered by a trial court in the state.

“Liz and Gabe Rutan-Ram suffered outrageous discrimination because they are Jewish,” Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United said in a statement. “This loving couple wanted to help a child in need, only to be told that they couldn’t get services from a taxpayer-funded agency because they’re the wrong religion.”

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Explosion from Hezbollah Drone Leaves Man Seriously Injured in Northern Israel

A suspected Hezbollah drone launched from Lebanon into Israeli territory on July 18, 2022. Photo: IDF

i24 NewsA resident of northern Israel sustained serious injuries on Saturday after an explosive-laden drone, believed to be dispatched by Hezbollah from Lebanon, detonated in a kibbutz located in the Galilee region, according to the Israeli military.

The victim, identified as a member of the Hanita local security team who also served as an IDF reservist, was rushed to a hospital for treatment following the incident.

The Israeli army confirmed that his family has been notified of the situation.

Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militant group based in Lebanon, had previously claimed responsibility for targeting a building utilized by Israeli forces in the border community.

According to Hezbollah’s statement, the group launched suicide drones and rockets from Lebanon towards the northern Israeli community on Saturday afternoon. Sirens alerting residents of incoming drones were sounded in multiple towns near the northern border on two separate occasions.

The attacks by Hezbollah come amidst heightened tensions in the region, with the group reportedly carrying out daily rocket, missile, and drone assaults on northern Israel, particularly amid the conflict in Gaza.

Just a day prior, on Friday night, Hezbollah unleashed a significant barrage of rockets and explosives-laden drones at northern Israel. The onslaught occurred as the country braced for potential retaliatory strikes by Iran or its proxies in response to an alleged Israeli attack in Syria.

The Syrian strike purportedly resulted in the deaths of several members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

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Israel Calls Off School Trips, Puts Forces on Full Alert Amid Iran Threat

An Israeli F-35 aircraft is seen on a runway during ‘Blue Flag,’ an aerial exercise hosted by Israel with the participation of foreign air force crews, at the Ovda military air base, southern Israel, Nov. 11, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Amir Cohen / File.

Israel called off on Saturday school trips and other youth activities planned for the coming days, the beginning of the Passover festival, and placed the armed forces on full alert due to a possible attack by Iran.

Announcing the measures in a televised briefing, chief military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said dozens of combat planes were airborne as part of the state of readiness.

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Russian Forces Seize Village in Donetsk

Ukrainian soldiers stand in front of a building with a Ukrainian flag on it, during an operation that claims to liberate the first village amid a counter-offensive, in a location given as Blahodatne, Donetsk Region, Ukraine, in this screengrab taken from a handout video released on June 11, 2023. Photo: 68th Separate Hunting Brigade ‘Oleksy Dovbusha’/Handout via REUTERS

i24 NewsThe Russian Defense Ministry announced on Saturday that its forces had successfully seized control of the village of Pervomaiske in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, marking a significant tactical advancement on the front line in the ongoing conflict.

While Russia has claimed it has fully taken village, it has not been confirmed yet.

Simultaneously, a Russia-installed official in Ukraine’s southern Zaporizhzhia region reported that shelling by Ukraine’s military had resulted in the deaths of 10 people, including three children, in the town of Tokmak.

Yevgeny Balitsky, the top Moscow-installed official in the Zaporizhzhia region, revealed that 18 individuals had sustained injuries during the shelling on Friday night.

During the day, Russian troops shelled 8 settlements, striking more than 400 times in Zaporizhzhia Region, destroying residential buildings and infrastructure. There was no information on casualties, the Regional State Administration reports.

Zaporizhzhia RSA

— T4P (@t4p_ua) April 13, 2024

Furthermore, Balitsky noted the significant destruction in the town, stating, “Two people are reported missing. Debris removal and search continues,” through the Telegram messaging app.

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