Monday, April 26, 2010

Pork or Parents?

Should serving pork be a requirement for good foster parenting? As outrageous as this question sounds, apparently a private company called Contemporary Family Services (CFS), which is authorized by the state of Maryland to place foster children, believes serving pork is such a requirement. This question came to light when Ms. Tashima Crudup, a Muslim woman who was once part of the foster care system herself, was denied the opportunity to become a foster parent. CFS denied Ms. Crudup’s application after a home interview during which Ms. Crudup explained that she would not allow pork products in her home. CFS claims that this is the sole reason that Ms. Crudup’s application was denied stating “there could potentially be a discrepancy between her expectations and the needs and personal views of a child.” However, Crudup had assured the CFS representative that she would honor the religious beliefs of any child in her care. She told the representative that she would take the child to services of his or her choice and the child was free to consume pork products in establishments outside the home.

On April 14th Ms. Crudup, with the help of the ACLU of Maryland, filed a complaint with the Baltimore City Community Relations Commission on grounds of illegal religious discrimination. Ajmel Quereshi, attorney with the ACLU maintained, “The law is clear that you cannot deny people the opportunity to care for foster children based solely on their religion, particularly when they have emphasized that they would help children in their care to follow their own religious beliefs.”

I agree with the religious discrimination claim made by Ms. Crudup and the ACLU in this case. I believe that CFS discriminated on religious grounds in denying Ms. Crudup’s application because such a dietary standard would lead to denial of applications by Orthodox Jews who also abstain from consuming pork, Catholics who do not eat meat on Friday, and even vegetarians, but it has not yet been shown that any of these groups are not fit to be foster parents because of their dietary restrictions. Therefore, it seems clear that Ms. Crudup has been singled out due to anti-Muslim prejudice by CFS.

If Contemporary Family Services has illegally discriminated against Ms. Crudup on a religious basis, one must wonder for how long the company has discriminated against Muslims and to whom else has this happened. There are thousands of kids across the United States that are in need of a family to care for them and I highly doubt that they are concerned whether pork is allowed on their dinner table or not.
Furthermore, although dietary restrictions as the basis for foster parent approval may appear secular on the surface, this rule clearly has not been secular in practice. If CFS had denied other parents such as Jews, Catholics, vegetarians, and vegans based on their dietary requirements, then I think this rule would be constitutional (although in my opinion unreasonable). However, by singling Ms. Crudup as a Muslim out from the other individuals with dietary restrictions, I think there is certainly a basis for an illegal religious discrimination claim and CFS should be held responsible.

Despite Contemporary Family Services’ opinion, given the option between pork products and foster parents, I would choose the latter. Wouldn’t you?

7 comments:

Abby P said...

This article was incredibly eye-opening. I definitely agree with Lauren in that this seemingly secular guideline requiring pork consumption is just a guise to subvert anti-Muslim sentiment. This seems to be an outlandish example of discrimination on the basis of one's religion. As has been discussed in class throughout the semester, discrimination on the basis of religion does occur in the United States, despite the guarantee of free exercise in the Constitution. Also in the United States religious discrimination often happens in a more covert manner. Seemingly neutral laws have the ability of harming minority religions. In this case a seemingly neutral requirement has been utilized to target those subscribing to the Islamic faith. It would seem that this requirement was simply put in place due to the current fear and paranoia of terrorism. I am glad that the ACLU has taken on this case; because Muslims are certainly just as capable of being foster parents as those who subscribe to a more mainstream and less controversial religious creed.

Claire said...

I agree that the CFS discriminated against Ms. Crudup based on her religious beliefs and that Ms. Crudup should be allowed to be a foster parent despite the fact that she does not allow pork in her house. I think that this case is especially upsetting because Ms. Crudup was once a part of the foster care system. She seems to understand that being a foster parent means that you must be open to other backgrounds, traditions and religions. I think that the ACLU will be able to make a very compelling case for Ms. Crudup.

Justin M said...

I agree that this is undoubtedly a case of religious discrimination. A restriction against allowing an individual who doesn’t consume pork in her household is entirely arbitrary. As the author points out, if this was truly a concern of the CFS then it would be mandated across the board, regardless of religious affiliation. However it does beg the question, what would the CFS have done if Ms. Crudup did allow her child to consume pork at home? Would the CFS have come up with a similar arbitrary rule concerning another dietary tendency? It is undoubtedly important for all organizations placing children into foster care to take the utmost care in determining who qualifies as a suitable parent. However, predetermining this assessment based on a religious bias against Muslims is not the way to go about it. The ACLU should be able to get a favorable decision for Ms. Crudup.

Alicia_W said...

I agree with all the comments about how this is an obvious case of discrimination. Lauren makes a very valid argument when she discusses how other religions have certain dietary requirements and that the chances of those people being discriminated against is minimal. I am surprised that the CFS denied Ms. Crudup the chance to be a foster parent because there is no present threat of giving her a foster child, especially since she made it quite clear that she would accommodate the child's religious preference. The CFS is not acting in the best interest of the child and it makes me wonder about what really goes on in the foster program.

Shannon H. said...

What concerns me the most in this case is the sheer number of Contemporary Family Services employees who acted in such a callous and biased way towards Ms. Crudup. I read an article about this last week, but I assumed that it was mainly the work of one misguided or even outright bigoted individual employee. The article makes it clear that this anti-Muslim bias came from several CFS employees, and was implicitly condoned by the director when he denied her appeal without giving what I would call a reasonable explanation. I agree with the previous commenters that this is clearly against Baltimore City policy and I would hope that the Community Relations Commission makes a swift and unequivocal ruling denouncing the CFS and its inappropriate rejection of Ms. Crudup as a foster parent.

David I said...

Like all of the above commentators, I also agree that Contemporary Family Services has religiously discriminated against Ms. Crudup in this case. Like Lauren said, there had been no refusal of foster parents who practice Judaism, Christianity, or even vegetarians in the past. This law seems to directly affect Muslims, putting a burden on their religious practices, and forcing them to choose between their religion and something that is socially responsible. It is hard to imagine that anyone would, or should be turned away from being a foster parent, especially since their are so many children in America who need loving homes. Would not serving pork in her home really make Ms. Crudup a poor choice for a foster parent? I do not think so, and thus Ms. Crudups' religious ideals are those that are being attacked in this policy.

JoeyM said...

all the comments that have m=been made hold good points. I think that this is a good example, probably one of the best examples, of what we have been discussing all semester. The CFS should not have discriminated against Ms. Crudup based on her religious views. she is being held back in society because of the things she believes. I feel that she attempted to make a good compromise when she told the interviewer that she would allow any child to practice their religion and to take them to the proper establishment. If she was a Christian woman and for some reason didn't want the children eating pork I do not think this would have been an issue. Lets say that she was a messianic Jew. Her views on pork would be the same but the response of the interviewer would not