ACLU: Foster mother rejected for not serving pork

Complaint filed with city agency over incident, officials say

April 14, 2010|By Brent Jones, The Baltimore Sun

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland has filed a complaint with a city agency on behalf of a Muslim woman whose application to be a foster mother was denied, in part, because she does not allow pork in her home.

Tashima Crudup, 26, said she contacted Contemporary Family Services in July and went through 50 hours worth of training classes to become a foster parent. The organization is a private company authorized by the state to place foster children with families.

The complaint alleges that Crudup's application was denied after it was discovered during the interview process that she prohibits pork products in her Middle River home. In a letter dated Oct. 12 from Contemporary Family Services, the company tells Crudup that the application is being denied out of "concerns raised by statements made during the home study interview, specifically your explicit request to prohibit pork products within your home environment. Although we respect your personal/religious views and practices, this agency must above all ensure that the religious, cultural and personal rights of each foster child placed in our care are upheld."

Crudup earlier this year reached out to the ACLU, who filed a complaint with the Baltimore City Community Relations Commission over the incident Wednesday.

The commission will hold a probable cause hearing in the coming weeks and attempt to mediate a resolution.

Ajmel Quereshi, an attorney with the ACLU, said he believes Crudup was denied because of her religion.

"I have a hard time believing CFS denies every vegetarian, Orthodox Jewish person a foster care license," Quereshi said. "But I do believe Mrs. Crudup was picked out here … and it has led us to believe an anti-Muslim bias is playing a role in the decision."

Crudup said she spent seven years in foster care as a child and was shocked over the decision. She said although she wouldn't allow pork in her house, she would have no problem with children in her care eating the meat at other venues, including school outings or restaurants.

"I always wanted to be a foster parent," Crudup said. "I had some experience [in the system]."

Calls to Contemporary Family Services have not yet been returned.

Crudup said her application was twice denied during an internal appeals process; the most recent rejection letter arrived last week. She may also appeal to the state's Office of Administrative Hearings, where a judge could rule that Crudup's rights were violated.

Officials from the state Department of Human Resources, which oversees the foster care system and hired Contemporary Family Services as a provider to do licensing on its behalf, said a letter will be sent to the company explaining the law.

"And the law does not permit the agency to make a determination solely on the type of food served in a home," said Nancy Lineman, a spokeswoman for DHR. "If this was us, we would not disqualify someone from being a foster parent based on these circumstances."

Lineman said DHR is unsure whether it will sanction the company.

Crudup is the mother of five children and lives in a five-bedroom, four-bathroom home in Middle River. She said she is in a non-traditional marriage to Andre Moore, a truck driver who lives with Crudup and the children. Although they are not married according to the state, Crudup said their religion recognizes the couple as married.

The state recognizes the couple as co-habitating individuals, and Crudup was asked about the relationship during the interview process and whether she would object if Moore legally married another woman.

ACLU lawyers objected to the questioning.

"I said my husband wouldn't want a second wife," Crudup

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