State law says that a program that is an adjunct missionary is exempt from board licensing requirements, ranch attorney J. Tiffin Hall wrote in a legal filing.
The judge in the case has not yet made any rulings.
The dispute between the ranch, state regulators and the Russians is happening as a bilateral adoption agreement between the U.S. and Russia is going through the ratification process. Negotiations for the deal began in 2010 in response to Russian outrage after American Torry Hansen sent her then 7-year-old adopted son, Artyom Saveliev, back to Russia with a letter saying he was violent and disturbed and she didn't want to be his mother anymore.
Yevgeny Uspensky, an official with the Russian consulate in Seattle, said Tuesday that his government has requested assistance from Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer in arranging a visit to the ranch. Uspesnky said the government considers the children Russian citizens, even though they have been adopted by U.S. parents and have American citizenship, and they have the right to check on their situation.
"I believe they have nothing to conceal. We wanted to meet the kids, just talk. I was not able to understand why access was denied," Uspensky said.
Sterkel and parents with children at the ranch question the Russians' motives, calling it a political stunt timed with the ratification of the adoption agreement, and the parents say the attention could have the effect of damaging the reputation of a program that is necessary for children who are having troubles adapting to everyday life.
Sharon Houlihan, whose 10-year-old son Shawn is a student at the ranch, said she takes offense at the Russians' implications that these children are being cast off by parents who don't love them. Nothing could be further from the truth, Houlihan said.
"I am offended that the Russians who couldn't take care of my children and had them in orphanage would think now that they have the right to come in here and look at what I'm doing and determine whether it's appropriate or not," she said. "These kids come with a lot of things wrong. As a parent you accept the commitment and you do whatever you need to do."