John & Cynthia Burke, married for 6 years, decided to adopt a baby boy through a New Jersey state adoption agency. Adopting a baby is never easy, there are a dizzying array of hoops to leap through including personal evaluation forms you have to fill out, references provided, past history checked into, etc... Basically, the feds go over your life with a fine toothed comb looking for lice.
Their "processing" went along just fine until the investigator got to the "religious affiliation" line on the forms. It was blank. *GASP!!!* Blank? The horror! What kind of person would leave the religious affiliation line blank? Everyone has a religious affiliation. Do they? John is an atheist and Cynthia is a pantheist. The investigator promptly got out the big stamp he kept in his bottom drawer for just such occasions and the red ink pad, his favorite, and firmly pounded **REJECTED** across their adoption application.
Not being the type to submit quietly and meekly, the Burke's immediately began court proceedings to appeal the decision. Fortunately for the happy couple, the bureau reversed their decision and changed their policy, allowing the happy couple to adopt a bouncing baby boy- David.
Thirty-one years later, John and Cynthia decided to adopt again.
Now my immediate reaction is of course, "Are you barking mad? You are in your 50s at least, what the heck are you thinking of wanting to raise another child?" I certainly would not want to start over being a parent in my 50s. But that is just me. I would never tell them that they couldn't adopt a child now. So, if they want to adopt a child, give it a loving home, raise the child as their own, love and care for it.... well go for it! The world needs people like the Burke's!
Last year the Burkes presented their adopted son, David, now 31, with a baby sister, Eleanor Katherine, now 17 months, whom they acquired from the same East Orange agency. I'm including this quote from the article so you get a sense of how long baby Eleanor has actually been with this family: long enough to learn to talk a bit, walk a bit, and form strong parental attachments. This baby just opened her own christmas presents!!!
Now, knowing what you know of today's society, guess which of the two issues has become a bone of contention in her adoption: age or atheism.
*DING! DA-DING DING DIIIIING!* Move to the head of the class! That's right, the religious affiliation line has come to the fore again.
Superior Court Judge William Camarata in an effort to be named the biggest prick on the planet has denied the Burke's petition to adopt Eleanor Katherine because John and Cynthia do not believe in a Supreme Being. He quotes the New Jersey State Constitution, "no person shall be deprived of the inestimable privilege of worshiping Almighty God in a manner agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience."
Even though the person in question is only 17 months old, Judge Camarata believes, "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."
What I find truly horrifying about this is first of all, a state constitution that commands respect for a person's right to believe without categorically stating that the practice of that belief cannot infringe on another's life, liberty, or property. All it has to do is be agreeable to the dictates of the believer's conscience. How about the religious nutballs who walk around with "God Hates Faggots!" signs or "Kill the Queers!" posters? Is that their "inestimable privilege"???
The second aspect that bothers me is that a Superior Court Judge has now implemented a defacto religious test for all parents wishing to adopt a baby in New Jersey.
Question 13. Do you believe in the Almighty God?
___ YES- See question 14
___ No- See question 666
Question 666. Are you sure you don't believe in God?
___ YES- Please return the form and exit the building as rapidly as possible.
___ No- Seek religious counseling and return with the sponsorship of a pastor, priest, or rabbi from the list provided below.
The judge has ordered that baby Eleanor be removed from the only home she has ever know, never again to see her Mother, Father, or older brother and returned to the New Jersey adoption agency.
The Burke's, with the help of the ACLU are appealing the decision to the New Jersey Supreme Court, which has agreed to hear their case.
Should the Burke's fail, the agency will place Eleanor with a family that meets the religious qualifications that will have been established by court ruling for all adoptive parents in the State of New Jersey.
What a horrifying precedent!
Fortunately, their appeal, granted 1 July 1971, was successful.
The judgment of the trial court is reversed. Since the sole ground for denying the adoption was the Burkes' beliefs regarding religion and it is clear from the record that they are otherwise fit, we grant the adoption in the exercise of our original jurisdiction. See R. 2:10-5; In re Adoption by B, supra, 63 N.J. Super. at 104.
Judgment is entered in accordance with this opinion.
Reason prevailed. This time.