August 28, 2009

Can atheists be parents? ...can they? No, I'm asking

Before you ask, check the sidebar. See that A? Yeah.

Edit: I went back & looked at the article's date it's over 30 years old. Well! That might account for some stuff but damn if it doesn't still seem fresh eh? Let's not act like states still don't TRY to discriminate based on...shit, what IS the ideal family anyway? When some states *coughTNcoughFL* are still trying to keep single parents and/or unmarried couples from adopting I don't even KNOW anymore what they're trying to do anymore. See bottom edit.

Oh good deity of choice WHY?

So I'm on ONTD_P and I hit this Time article about an atheist man and a pantheist woman attempting to adopt children. It winds up with a happy ending but you just know what they had to go through to get to this point:

After six years of childless marriage, John and Cynthia Burke of Newark decided to adopt a baby boy through a state agency. Since the Burkes were young, scandal-free and solvent, they had no trouble with the New Jersey Bureau of Children's Services—until investigators came to the line on the application that asked for the couple's religious affiliation.

John Burke, an atheist, and his wife, a pantheist, had left the line blank. As a result, the bureau denied the Burkes' application. After the couple began court action, however, the bureau changed its regulations, and the couple was able to adopt a baby boy from the Children's Aid and Adoption Society in East Orange.

Last year the Burkes presented their adopted son, David, now 3 1/2, with a baby sister, Eleanor Katherine, now 17 months, whom they acquired from the same East Orange agency. Since the agency endorsed the adoption, the required final approval by a judge was expected to be pro forma. Instead, Superior Court Judge William Camarata raised the religious issue.

First off, I have to admit some of the language in this article is freaky. "Acquiring" children just sounds like they're accessories.

In any case, it's great that they were finally able to adopt children. Except...

Inestimable Privilege. In an extraordinary decision, Judge Camarata denied the Burkes' right to the child because of their lack of belief in a Supreme Being. Despite the Burkes' "high moral and ethical standards," he said, the New Jersey state constitution declares that "no person shall be deprived of the inestimable privilege of worshiping Almighty God in a manner agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience." Despite Eleanor Katherine's tender years, he continued, "the child should have the freedom to worship as she sees fit, and not be influenced by prospective parents who do not believe in a Supreme Being."


I'm going to always hate this. How dare you block a family from adopting a child because they don't believe in a deity (or in his wife's case, not the Christian deity) and deny this child a home! That's ludicrous. I guess if she ends up with a super conservative fundie family that would be alright then? Sigh.

You know what, this is silly and baldly discriminatory (and hateful, don't forget that). When gay & lesbian couples can't adopt there's a myriad of reasons that basically come down to "um, you're gay & we don't want that". I have to admit I've not often heard of, well, let's say freethinker parents not being able to adopt but I'm not surprised it happens in this Great Christian Nation (I'm not even going to bother to break down the wrongs of that statement).

Oh, did I mention this had a happy ending? I lied!

The Burkes are now living in Carterville, Ill., near Southern Illinois University, where John Burke has worked for the past year as a speech pathologist. Nevertheless, Judge Camarata ordered the parents to send David's sister back to the New Jersey adoption agency. Two weeks ago, aided by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Burkes appealed directly to the New Jersey Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case. If they fail in their appeal, Eleanor Katherine may have to leave the only family she has ever known and await adoption by another couple whose religious convictions satisfy the State of New Jersey.

Riiight. You keep it classy New Jersey.

More edyt: Okay so we don't have to be that mad at New Jersey today. Look here.

I blame myself for not checking the date, I forget Time is putting their archives online now too. I think I was so ready to believe it (and thus fly into rage) is because this kind of shit still happens thirty years on.

Oh well, old case or not I still find it interesting even if my commentary looks awkward now. It is weird now that I think of it since like I said earlier I haven't heard lately of any adoptions blocked by one or both parents being non religious (should listen to myself next time) but shit, at the same time part of me wouldn't even be surprised.

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