Crudup Letter (Baltimore City Complaint) by cln12100



                                                                                      April 7, 2010

                         Alvin Gillard
                         Baltimore City Community Relations Commission
                         10 N. Calvert Street
                         Suite 915
                         Baltimore, MD 21202

                         Re: Contemporary Family Service’s Denial of a Foster Care License to Tashima
LIBERTIES UNION OF       Crudup on the Basis of her Religious Beliefs
T/410-889-8555           Dear Mr. Gillard:
                                 We write on behalf of Tashima Crudup to express concern regarding the denial of
                         a foster care license to her by Contemporary Family Services, Inc (CFS) – a private
PRESIDENT                company authorized by the state of Maryland to place foster children. According to
                         CFS’s written denial, dated October 12, 2009, the sole ground for the denial was Ms.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR       Crudup’s “explicit request to prohibit pork products within [her] home environment …
                         indicat[ing] that there could potentially be a discrepancy between [her] expectations and
GENERAL COUNSEL          the needs and personal views of a child.” See App. at 1. The oddity of this conclusion –
                         combined with the lack of evidentiary support for it in the report and the nature of some
                         of the questions Ms. Crudup was asked during her home interview – indicate that anti-
                         Muslim bias played a role in CFS’ decision to deny her application in explicit violation of
                         the Baltimore City Code.

                                 Art. 4, § 3-5 Baltimore City Code prohibits any “health or welfare agency” from
                         “discriminat[ing] against any person by refusing, denying, or withholding from him (or
                         her) any of the services, programs, benefits, facilities, or privileges” provided by the
                         agency. As provided in § 1-1(f), “discrimination” means “any difference in the treatment
                         of an individual or person because of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex,
                         marital status, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or
                         expression.” Health or welfare agency is defined broadly as “any public, voluntary, or
                         private health or welfare organization which receives public funds,” including, but not
                         limited to, any “clinic, … rehabilitation center, social work, agency, … counseling and
                         guidance service agency, sheltered or protective workshop, social agency, … or
                         protective service organization or facility.” § 1-1(m). Contemporary Family Services, a
                         social work agency providing services to foster children in Baltimore City, clearly falls
                         within the scope of the statute.

                                Code of Maryland Regulations § provides that a licensing agency
                         may consider, among other things, the “impact of [an] applicant’s religion or life
                         philosophy on the care of [his/her] children.” As discussed in CFS’s “Initial Home
                     Study,” Ms. Crudup emphasized the extent to which she would take care to ensure that
                     her religious beliefs would not interfere with the religious beliefs or lifestyle choices of a
                     child placed in her home. In fact, as noted in the “Religion” section of the study:

                            Although Ms. Crudup and Mr. Moore express their devout beliefs to their
                            faith, they say they would be accepting of having a foster child placed in
                            their home of a different religion. They report an understanding that there
                            are many religions and report that they are accepting of religious practices
                            other than their own and would not impose their religion on any child
                            placed in their home. Additionally they express a willingness to make
                            arrangements to have a child attend the church of his or her own choice if
AMERICAN CIVIL              so requested.
                     See App. at 9 (emphasis added).

                             Despite Ms. Crudup’s assurances, Tanesha R. Mayo, Home Study Consultant, and
                     Michelle A. Dillard, Home Study Supervisor, concluded that “this agency believes that
                     this placement could potentially infringe on the religious, cultural, and personal rights of
                     any child placed in the home.” See App. at 12. The sole stated basis for their conclusion
                     was “Ms. Crudup’s and Mr. Moore’s request that pork products [be] prohibited in their
                     home.” Id.

                              As noted above, we question the legitimacy of the conclusion that Ms. Crudup’s
                     and Mr. Moore’s decision to not allow pork into their home makes them incompatible
                     parents for any foster child. Specifically, we question whether CFS draws the same
                     conclusions regarding the fitness of non-Muslim parents who may have similar dietary
                     restrictions in their homes (i.e., Catholic parents who prohibit meat on Friday during
                     Lent, Jewish parents who keep Kosher and thus, also, prohibit pork; or vegetarian or
                     vegan parents). In fact, Ms. Mayo’s and Ms. Dillard’s unsubstantiated conclusion that
                     Ms. Crudup and Mr. Moore would be unable to “work with teenage girls [because of]
                     challenges with regard to self-expression and independence,” despite their explicit
                     assurances to their contrary, implies that the denial was based in part upon underlying
                     assumptions regarding the tolerance of devout Muslims. Id.

                             These concerns are enhanced by the nature of some of the questions Ms. Mayo
                     asked Ms. Crudup during her home interview. Ms. Crudup reports that Ms. Mayo asked
                     her about the potential that her husband may marry a second wife and the impact that this
                     might have on her family. There is no evidence in the study that would lead one to
                     believe that Mr. Moore might take a second wife. Unless such questioning is a routine
                     part of every home interview, we see no legitimate, non-discriminatory reason to have
                     raised this issue with Ms. Crudup.

                              Subsequent correspondence between Contemporary Family Services and Ms.
                     Crudup confirmed that Ms. Crudup’s religion constituted the basis for her application’s
                     denial. On October 30, 2009, Ms. Crudup received CFS’ formal written denial. On
                     November 2, Ms. Crudup emailed Mr. Monroe questioning the basis of the denial. Mr.
                     Monroe, in an e-mail response sent later that day, confirmed that they “could not approve
                     [her] request to be a foster parent with [CFS] for the reasons [it] gave … in [the] denial
                     letter as well as … the home study.” See App. 13. He additionally attached a copy of
                     Code of Maryland Regulations §, specifically highlighting the provision
                     which allows a placement agency to consider the impact of an applicant’s religious

AMERICAN CIVIL               Finally, it should be noted that Ms. Crudup’s attempts to gain clarification
LIBERTIES UNION OF   regarding her denial have been hampered by CFS’ repeated failure to respond to her, our
                     or the Maryland Office of Licensing and Management’s inquiries. On approximately
                     November 23, 2009, Ms. Crudup mailed a letter, via certified mail, to Contemporary
                     Family Services notifying the organization of her decision to appeal the agency’s
                     decision. On November 30, the ACLU also mailed a letter of complaint raising concern
                     regarding the basis of the denial. Having received no response to either her letter or the
                     ACLU’s, on January 8, 2010, Ms. Crudup emailed John Monroe, CEO of Contemporary
                     Family Services, to ascertain the status of her appeal. Mr. Monroe responded, shortly
                     thereafter, indicating that the organization had initiated a 90-day review of her
                     application and would issue a decision at the conclusion of the period. At the conclusion
                     of 90 days, CFS failed to issue a response.

                             On Match 2, 2010, Ms. Crudup contacted the Maryland State Office of Licensing
                     and Management regarding her application’s denial. Lisa Beeman, a licensing
                     coordinator at OLM, contacted Mr. Monroe as to whether a final decision had been
                     reached regarding Ms. Crudup’s appeal. Mr. Monroe did not respond to Ms. Beeman’s
                     email. On March 17, the ACLU contacted Contemporary Family Services to determine
                     whether a final resolution had been reached regarding Ms. Crudup’s appeal. As Mr.
                     Monroe was not available, a message was left on his voicemail. A subsequent message
                     was left on his voicemail on March 19, 2010. Neither call was returned. On March 22,
                     the ACLU called and was able to get into contact with Mr. Monroe who informed us that
                     Contemporary Family Services had completed its review of Ms. Crudup’s appeal and had
                     upheld the denial on the grounds that it had made no error. Mr. Monroe indicated that a
                     written denial would be mailed shortly thereafter to Ms. Crudup. On April 6, Ms. Crudup
                     received CFS’ written denial of her appeal.

                             Given CFS’ final denial to Ms. Crudup in reliance on the original discriminatory
                     basis, we ask that the Baltimore City Community Relations Commission initiate an
                     investigation of the agency’s denial of Ms. Crudup’s application for a foster care license.
                     Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your response.


AMERICAN CIVIL                                                            Ajmel Quereshi
LIBERTIES UNION OF                                                        Skadden Fellowship Attorney



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