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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.

Jessica Bates with two of her children at their home in Malheur County, Oregon.
Tuesday, Aug 15, 2023

WHO:  Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys

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

WHEN:  Immediately following hearing, which begins at 2 p.m. PDT, Wednesday, Aug. 16

WHERE:  U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, Mark O. Hatfield U. S. Courthouse, Courtroom 14A, 1000 S.W. Third Ave., Portland. To schedule an interview, contact ADF Media Relations Specialist Hattie Troutman at (771) 200-7630.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys will be available for media interviews following oral arguments Wednesday in Bates v. Pakseresht. In the case, ADF attorneys represent a single mother of five who wishes to adopt siblings from foster care, but Oregon state officials are categorically excluding her because of her religious beliefs. ADF attorneys are asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon to allow Jessica Bates to provide a loving home to children in need while her lawsuit continues.

Bates began the process of applying to become certified to adopt a child from foster care last year. The Oregon Department of Human Services, the agency responsible for the delivery and administration of the state’s child welfare programs, denied her application because individuals seeking to adopt must agree to “respect, accept, and support...the sexual orientation, gender identity, [and] gender expression” of any child the department could place in an applicant’s home, and this required Bates to agree to say and do things that went against her faith.

“Oregon is abandoning children in favor of a political agenda,” said ADF Legal Counsel Johannes Widmalm-Delphonse, who will argue before the court on behalf of Bates. “America’s foster and adoption care system is in critical need of loving homes, and states should be doing everything they can to bring in more families willing to take in children, not fewer. Instead, Oregon imposes an ideological litmus test that brings Jessica to an impossible choice of renouncing her religious beliefs or abandoning her hope of caring for vulnerable kids. We are asking the court to put a stop to this unlawful discrimination, because the state shouldn’t put politics over children in need.”

During her application process, Bates informed ODHS that she will happily love and accept any child, but she cannot say or do something that goes against her Christian faith. ODHS’s policy, however, excludes her and others who hold traditional religious beliefs about human nature and sexuality by requiring parents to agree to use a child’s preferred pronouns, take a child to affirming events like Pride parades, or facilitate a child’s access to dangerous pharmaceutical interventions like puberty blockers and hormone shots. As such, ODHS’s policy penalizes Bates for her religious views, compels her to speak words that violate her beliefs, and deprives her of equal protection of the law because of her faith.

Bates, who lost her husband in a car collision six years ago, is a mother of five children, ages 10 to 17. Inspired by the story of a man who adopted a child from foster care, Bates felt a calling to follow the biblical teaching to care for orphans. She seeks to adopt a sibling pair, who are generally harder to place. State officials, however, rejected her application for failing to “meet the adoption home standards” and excluded her from accessing any child welfare service because she refused to abandon her religious beliefs.

  • Pronunciation guide: Widmalm-Delphonse (VEED'-malm Del-FONS')

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.