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Bates v. Pakseresht

Description:  Oregon Department of Human Services denied single mother Jessica Bates’ application to adopt siblings from foster care because of her religious beliefs.


Monday, Jul 8, 2024

WHO:  Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys

WHAT:  Available for media interviews following oral arguments in Bates v. Pakseresht

WHEN:  Immediately following oral arguments, which begin at 9 a.m. PDT, Tuesday, July 9

WHERE:  U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, 7th floor, Courtroom 2, 1010 Fifth Ave., Seattle; or view the livestream. To schedule an interview, contact ADF Media Relations Specialist Hattie Troutman at (771) 200-7630.

SEATTLE – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing an Oregon mother of five who wishes to adopt siblings from foster care will be available for media interviews following oral arguments Tuesday at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in Bates v. Pakseresht.

Jessica Bates is challenging an Oregon Department of Human Services rule that categorically excludes her from adopting any child—no matter their age or beliefs—because she would not violate her religious beliefs to promote Oregon’s radical gender ideology. Bates is asking the 9th Circuit to allow her to obtain her certification, free of discrimination, while her lawsuit continues so that she can eventually provide a loving home to children in need.

“Jessica is a loving mother who wants to open her home to children in need right now, but Oregon officials are excluding her and countless other families because of their religious beliefs about sexual ethics and the human body,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs, who will be arguing before the court on behalf of Bates. “Because these caregivers cannot promote Oregon’s dangerous gender ideology to young kids, the state considers them to be unfit parents. That’s false and harmful, needlessly depriving these kids of opportunities to find a loving home. We are urging the 9th Circuit to remind Oregon that the foster and adoption system is supposed to serve the best interests of children, not the state’s ideological crusade.”

Bates applied to become certified to adopt children from foster care two years ago. Oregon’s DHS, the agency responsible for overseeing the state’s child welfare programs, denied her application because she would not agree to say and do things that conflict with her faith, like lying to children and telling them that girls can be boys and vice versa.

Although Bates told ODHS officials that she would happily love and accept any child placed with her, officials rejected her application, making her ineligible to adopt any child—even infants or children who share her religious beliefs.

In January, a broad coalition of foster and adoptive parents, religious liberty groups, free speech and family advocates, 20 states, and detransitioners filed friend-of-the-court briefs with the 9th Circuit in support of Bates. The briefs join ADF in arguing that ODHS’s policy needlessly penalizes Bates and many other people of faith for their religious views, compels parents to speak words that violate their conscience, and deprives children in need of the opportunity to find loving homes.

Rebekah Schultheiss, one of more than 4,500 attorneys in the ADF Attorney Network, is serving as local counsel on behalf of Bates.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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ABOUT Jonathan Scruggs

Jonathan Scruggs serves as senior counsel and vice president of litigation strategy and the Center for Conscience Initiatives with Alliance Defending Freedom. In this role, he identifies new litigation opportunities and develops new strategies for protecting free speech and religious liberty in collaboration with the chief legal counsel and litigation team directors. As the leader for the Center for Conscience Initiatives, Scruggs oversees the litigation team defending the rights of professionals and business owners to live out their faith as well as the litigation efforts to protect equal opportunities for women in athletics. Since joining ADF in 2006, Scruggs has worked on and prevailed in a variety of cases that protect the right of people to freely express their faith in their business, at school, and in the public square. He earned his J.D. at Harvard Law School and is admitted to practice in the states of Arizona and Tennessee. Scruggs is also admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court and multiple federal district and appellate courts.

ABOUT Johannes Widmalm-Delphonse

Johannes Widmalm-Delphonse serves as legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where he is a member of the Center for Conscience Initiatives. Just prior to joining ADF, Widmalm-Delphonse clerked for the Honorable Sara Ellis of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Before that, Widmalm-Delphonse served as staff attorney with the Hennepin County Public Defender’s Office in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he represented clients charged with serious felonies. Widmalm-Delphonse earned his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2014. He obtained his B.A., with distinction, in political science, from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Widmalm-Delphonse is a member of state bars of Minnesota, Illinois, and Virginia.