Pharyngula

John and Cynthia Burke have adopted two children. By all accounts so far, they were a decent couple of an appropriate age and financially able to take care of the kids. The first was from the Children’s Aid and Adoption Society in East Orange, New Jersey. They recently adopted a second child from the same agency — strangely, the article says their first son is now 31, which would put them in their mid-50s at the earliest, and I might see some grounds for objecting to the adoption on the basis of age…but no, a judge has ruled that they may not adopt on the basis of a rather interesting legal requirement.

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.”

Wow.

This is so revealing. I’ve mentioned that religious indoctrination is a kind of child abuse, as has Richard Dawkins even more notably, yet when you press us we are both are at a loss to what we can do about it; parents have rights, and this is a situation where there there are all kinds of conflicting interests. Neither of us have advocated taking children from parents, or punishing people for mentioning god to kids, or any other penalties, not even mild ones — all we’ve ever said is that this is a real problem, one with no clear solutions, but we shouldn’t hide away from it.

Of course, the typical reaction from Christians and creationists and wingnuts has been pure hysteria — the atheists want to snatch your children away if you take them to Sunday school! Now we can understand it all as a perfect example of projection: if you don’t take your children to Sunday school, the Christians will try to take your children away.

I hope all those good theists who rebuked Dawkins and other atheists for a false perception that they were out to dismantle their families or deny them the privilege of instructing their children in their religion are howling about this attack on the family right now. Perhaps some of them, especially the New Jersey residents, are writing their representatives right now and demanding that this intrusion on the rights of parents be removed from the New Jersey constitution immediately…and perhaps they should be suggesting that Judga Camarata’s high-handed personal bigotry warrants official censure.

And hey, all you conservatives out there, with all your lip service to “family” — what are you doing about this? James Dobson and Tony Perkins must be furious. I’ll be looking forward to their denunciations, and their cooperation with the ACLU to correct this injustice.


Yeesh — now I discover this is old news, from 1970. Why did so many people suddenly send this in to me, anyway?

Anyway, it’s still relevant — I hadn’t known that theists had in the past tried to remove children from atheists. No wonder some freaked out at Dawkins’ description of religious indoctrination as child abuse…again, it’s projection.

Comments

  1. #1 JoshH
    January 2, 2008

    I’m at a loss for words over this, honestly.

  2. #2 j
    January 2, 2008

    When conservatives talk about “family,” they mean a very specific kind of family. Specifically, not brown, not gay, and not godless.

  3. #3 JoshH
    January 2, 2008

    I mean, how loud are the constant cries of “persecution” from the Religious Right? Seeing this makes me want to scream in their faces: “Shut the fuck up!”

  4. #4 Moses
    January 2, 2008

    Four will get you twenty that part of the NJ Constitution is struck down in Federal Court. Atheism, while clearly identified as “not a religion” by the Courts (though the occasional drive-by troll will make that argument) gets the same protection as religion.

    Kind of like the Freedom of Speech also protects the Freedom to Keep Your Mouth Shut.

  5. #5 Kieran
    January 2, 2008

    PZ, this article is from 1970.

  6. #6 D
    January 2, 2008

    Not knowing anything about the judge in question, I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt here. I know that sometimes the only way to get a stupid law changed is for a judged to quite explicitly use it for a stupid ruling. The second part of the quote however removes nearly any entertainment about that being the case. Instead it once again seems that the mere existence of atheists is enough to topple all religion and disprove all religious belief.

    If only.

  7. #7 dogheaven
    January 2, 2008

    I would be interested to know if this judge had any law as precendent to make this ruling. Is there criteria in the foster care or adoption agency that requires a stated faith in a supreme being? If the family goes back and says that they are Buhdist (sp) or Scientologist, would that qualify? This is one more article that keeps me checking in here. Spooky and terribly sad. I hope that it does not stand.

  8. #8 Sigmund
    January 2, 2008

    I presume the next stage is ‘freeing’ the non-adopted children of atheist parents so that their right to worship ‘Almighty God’ is preserved.
    Better hide those big red ‘A’ marks.

  9. #9 Steve
    January 2, 2008

    Damn you Fark for your promiscuous greenlights!

  10. #10 Gobear
    January 2, 2008

    Check the date of the article to the right of the title–Monday, Dec. 07, 1970.

    I agree that right-winger are bigoted jackasses, but in this case it’s a little silly to get upset at a 38-year-old ruling. Unlike the good folks at Fark (where I suspect you found this), I Googled the case, and found that the judge’s ruling was reversed by the New Jersey Supreme Court in 1971.

    If this had happened in 2008, I’d be concerned, but from 1971? Meh.

  11. #11 Norman Doering
    January 2, 2008

    PZ, this article is from 1970.

    Yea, but it’s still a doozy.

    I’m going to re-write this post just to include that tid-bit:
    http://normdoering.blogspot.com/2007/12/claiming-moral-high-ground.html

  12. #12 PirateHooker
    January 2, 2008

    This blows away all the previous telling evidence of religious filth in the legal system. He outta sue in a court higher up. And publicity would be a charm. Thanks for pointing this one out PZ.

  13. #13 SteveM
    January 2, 2008

    There’s nothing wrong with the NJ Constitution. It is the dimwit judge that is the problem. The NJC is, like the USC 1st amendment, preventing the state from making laws restricting religion. This is not meant to apply to the citizens themselves forcing them to exercise some form of religion. It is such a simple concept, I am shocked and appalled that a judge could not understand this or that he could willfully distort it in this way.

    The judge also seems to be deliberately overlooking the clause immediately following the one quoted, “…nor under any pretense whatever be compelled to attend any place of worship contrary to his faith and judgment;” This would seem to me to be explicitely protecting the right to be an atheist.

  14. #14 Ric
    January 2, 2008

    “PZ, this article is from 1970.”

    Hehe, whoops. I think he may have missed that. PZ, you may want to note this fact in your original post.

  15. #15 Gobear
    January 2, 2008

    This blows away all the previous telling evidence of religious filth in the legal system. He outta sue in a court higher up. And publicity would be a charm.

    Again, this article is from 1970 and Judge Cammarata’s stupid decision was reversed by the NJ Supreme Court. This story is no more; it has ceased to be. Bereft of life, it rests in peace. It has kicked the bucket, rung down the curtain, and joined the bleedin’ Choir Invisible. In short, this is an ex-story!

  16. #16 Chuck
    January 2, 2008

    Moses @ 4:

    Federal courts wouldn’t (and in the intervening 37 years haven’t) struck down that part of the NJ Constitution. The full provision is little more than a summary of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom:

    No person shall be deprived of the inestimable privilege of worshipping Almighty God in a manner agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience; nor under any pretense whatever be compelled to attend any place of worship contrary to his faith and judgment; nor shall any person be obliged to pay tithes, taxes, or other rates for building or repairing any church or churches, place or places of worship, or for the maintenance of any minister or ministry, contrary to what he believes to be right or has deliberately and voluntarily engaged to perform.

    As for the currentness of the article, well, I suppose it might be bad form to post something that old. But it’s not like they aren’t still doing it now. Remember that Indiana judge who prevented two divorced Wiccan parents from raising their son in a “non-mainstream” religion? (Fortunately, the Indiana Court of Appeals struck that part of the divorce decree.) Might not be too much news about keeping kids away from atheism these days, but it’s not like the Christianists aren’t sticking their noses in other families’ business.

  17. #17 Kieran
    January 2, 2008

    Helloooo. As pointed out in #5 and #10, this article is from 1970. Bear in mind your commitment to empirical evidence :)

  18. #18 Ric
    January 2, 2008

    True, Chuck, but I think this post seems to suggest that this is a current event, and I suspect PZ didn’t notice the date. We don’t want to be like the creationists and defend our mistakes to the death, do we?

  19. #19 daedalus2u
    January 2, 2008

    Wow. If this ruling stands, then they could break up families where the parents were atheists because by being atheists the parents are depriving their child of the freedom to worship.

    Actually, it would be their duty to break up such families. If a stranger was being denied the oportunity to worship by someone, that would call for intervention of law enforcement.

    I wouldn’t travel to NJ with Skatje until this is resolved, they might try to “rescue” her.

  20. #20 CanadianChick
    January 2, 2008

    I was about to raise quite a ruckus about this at another forum I visit, when I thought I should look at the date…1970.

    Now I know why I should always read the comments first. Good thing I did that before screaming bloody murder at the other board…*lol*

  21. #21 Eamon Knight
    January 2, 2008

    Ignoring for a moment the fact that this case is now a long-deceased equine, ISTM that logic could equally be used to block adoption by Christian parents. What if “the dictates of [the child's] own conscience” tell him/her to be Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist?

  22. #22 Dan
    January 2, 2008

    Yes… I got nailed by this Fark greenlight too. The thing is, even though the article is from 1970, I think it is still relevant to today’s discussion. I mean, if you don’t think there are whole heaps of Christians out there today willing to deny the rights of those who don’t share their mythology, you’d be making a huge mistake.

    So, I think reviving this case provides a great example of the hazards America faces should we hand this nation over to those in pursuit of an oppressive theocracy.

    Of course, I’m curious how this Conservative Supreme Court would rule on this case today. Would they be willing to go so far as to deny basic rights based on whether or not someone believes in a floating sky-zombie?

    I do wonder.

  23. #23 Gobear
    January 2, 2008

    Ignoring for a moment the fact that this case is now a long-deceased equine>? That invalidates the remainder of the post. Yes, it’s poor logic, and there’s no doubt that there are some Christards (thank you Penn Jillette!) who would love to steal the children of atheists.

    However, in every instance in which a familyt court judge has made a similar ruling, it has been rweverswed by a higher court.

    In the US (so far), we have no reason to fear widespread reenactments of the kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara.

  24. #24 garth
    January 2, 2008

    i was about -3 when this happened, depending on when “life starts”.

    i still like the old-time language used to get the separation stuff into the constitutions…we were in real and palpable danger of becoming an official religious state many times in US history, as opposed to just a de facto one.

  25. #25 Monado
    January 2, 2008

    When my son told me at age 10 that he was going to be a pagan, I thought back to a sermon in our church praising a 10-year-old boy in South America for choosing to be a Christian, and I said, “Fine.” One standard fits all.

  26. #26 PZ Myers
    January 2, 2008

    Yes, I missed that — so why have a dozen people decided to email it to me today?

  27. #27 dogheaven
    January 2, 2008

    Wow. I responded as if this was current and went to the ACLU site to get more info. Why PZ did you post this?

  28. #28 Hank Fox
    January 2, 2008

    It just came up on Digg or Fark, PZ. I’m not one of the ones who sent it to you, but I’m sure we all noticed it today for the first time. It was an easy mistake to make.

  29. #29 Dave
    January 2, 2008

    As mentioned elsewhere this is 37 years old, in the end, the NJ Sup Ct allowed the adoption: http://www.americanadoptions.com/adoption/article_view?article_id=2435&state=NJ&court_case=1

  30. #30 Gobear
    January 2, 2008

    Yes, I missed that — so why have a dozen people decided to email it to me today?
    Because people are fallible, and even people who ought to know better will sometimes react emotionally instead of being logical. We’re not Vulcans; we’re human.

    It’s just a good reminder to all of us to be more skeptical. I’d like to think that in that regard, atheists still tend to be smarter than Christards.

  31. #31 Ichthyic
    January 2, 2008

    Yes, I missed that — so why have a dozen people decided to email it to me today?

    meh, just rewrite it to review the history of the decision instead.

    was there any fallout from the original decision?

    how many other states have similar laws still on the books?

    etc.

  32. #32 mrG
    January 2, 2008

    1970???

    Fer chrissakes, you do need to scrape the bottom of the barrel for some net sympathy, don’t you. One case and even at that it is nearly 40 years old and even THEN it was reversed only the year following. Hey, I know, let’s talk about persecution and CROMWELL why don’t we? Irish ‘blacks’ indeed …

    c’mon man, get a skin, even a thin one will do; its posts like this that give atheists their bad name. A forty year old ruling has you up in arms shouting ‘unfair, unfair’ — Jeez, get a life. Even an evolved one will do ;)

  33. #33 Ichthyic
    January 2, 2008

    rigghhhttt, so ignore the mea culpa and every other post on the thread to try and make an idiotic and irrelevant point.

    let’s see…

    is MrG a creationist?

    http://blog.teledyn.com/node/2544

    Y’know, folks called me ‘arrogant’ just ’cause I insisted on being called Ras-G, and for my just assuming the Universe had been created for my soul personal amusement. Now, as it turns out, nothing of the sort, I was simply ecologically ahead of the Darwinian Adaptation Curve for niche-living in a Material World:

    nawwwww.

    good job representin’ there, idiot.

  34. #34 Unorganized
    January 2, 2008

    Don’t worry, PZ. Matt fell for it @ RantsNRaves, too. You’re in good company.

  35. #35 Sigmund
    January 2, 2008

    Its the number two most emailed story currently on the Time website.
    I guess this is why its getting sent to PZ.

  36. #36 marijane
    January 2, 2008

    I am fairly certain that time.com did not have the date attached to this article earlier in the day; I didn’t see one when I came across it on another forum I frequent.

  37. #37 SteveC
    January 2, 2008

    Why have a dozen people emailed you?

    Probably because this story was on the front page of reddit.com today.

    http://reddit.com/info/64dhp/comments/
    As one wag put it, “this is not news, this is olds.”

    I think I also saw it on digg.com today too.

  38. #38 Ric
    January 2, 2008

    I have to jump in on this one: mrG, you’re an idiotic ass.

  39. #39 Hank Fox
    January 2, 2008

    Years back, when I was in high school, one of the best bits I ever read in science class was an article called “Interesting Failures.” About experiments that didn’t pan out.

    The core idea the article meant to get across was that failure, mistakes, were VALUABLE. It’s one of the real engines of science.

    It’s interesting comparing this site to so many others I’ve seen, especially religious ones, that when someone makes a mistake or suffers an oversight, people point it out and the person who made the mistake ADMITS it. And goes on from there.

    When mistakes are made, reasonable people correct them. We wipe the egg off our faces, if necessary, and we keep moving forward.

    Faced with the same situation, unreasonable people deny, obfuscate, shift blame, lie, change the subject, hide, or become angry. And forward motion stalls. (Think ID idiots.)

    This is all my way of saying those of us who were fooled by this — including you, PZ — shouldn’t beat themselves up too much. The tiny date on that Time Magazine page and the recent appearance on Digg or Fark (or whatever) led to a totally forgivable minor blooper.

  40. #40 RickD
    January 2, 2008

    From the link provided above:

    JUDGES:
    For reversal — Chief Justice Weintraub and Justices Jacobs, Francis, Proctor, Hall, Schettino and Mountain. For affirmance — None.

    Reassuring to know.

  41. #41 Hediwg
    January 2, 2008

    This was posted to Fark.com, which is probably why it’s all over the web today.

  42. #42 Gene Goldring
    January 2, 2008

    I had the page open and it did indeed read Jan 02, 2008.
    after a refresh of the page it went to Monday, Dec. 07, 1970.

  43. #43 Russell
    January 2, 2008

    The ruling is from 1970, and reversed on appeal. Whoever posted it to Fark is getting a kick at the furor stirred up.

  44. #44 Susan
    January 2, 2008

    They recently adopted a second child from the same agency — strangely, the article says their first son is now 31, which would put them in their mid-50s at the earliest, and I might see some grounds for objecting to the adoption on the basis of age…

    They could have adopted an older child, which would make the age difference not as extreme, although I have no idea if that is the case.

  45. #45 Jorg
    January 2, 2008

    What utter bullshit!

    “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 guess that being “influenced” by fundie twits is acceptable.

  46. #46 Sigmund
    January 2, 2008

    Just read the list on the Time website
    http://www.time.com/time/most_popular

  47. #47 Susan
    January 2, 2008

    “In July of 1967, after the regulations had been amended, the Society placed a baby boy (David) with the Burkes. With the recommendation of the Society, the county court granted final adoption on September 28, 1968. David has been living with the Burkes ever since and there is no dispute that he has been well cared for. “

    This is from the court documents, so the Time article had a misprint (as to the age of the son.)

  48. #49 Alex
    January 2, 2008

    Then again, the Google cache of the article also says, “Wednesday, January 02, 2008″ at the top-right, so I guess it’s possible that Time changed it.

  49. #50 jeh
    January 2, 2008

    So it’s a story from 1970, it still appears to be valid. Evangelists and politicians are fond of telling and re-telling supposedley “true” stores even decades are they have been repudiated.

    And it couldn’t possibly occur today, now could it? In 2008, you would have to be both atheist *and* gay to be denied the opportunity to adopt children.

  50. #51 possummomma
    January 2, 2008

    It doesn’t have to be a recent article for atheists to discuss the ramifications of the judges words or the possibility that it set precedent for events that might happen today. Obviously, there’s little we can thirty years later, but that doesn’t mean we should abandon a discussion.

  51. #52 wildlifer
    January 2, 2008
  52. #53 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    January 2, 2008

    Don’t feel bad. Some freepers got taken by it, too. There are some typical freeper comments on there (IOW stupid ass.)

    To: Dawnsblood

    Better atheists than muslims. At least with atheists there is hope: someone gets sick, someone sees the light, etc.

    With muslims the child’s chances are limited.

    I think you and I are on the same page: any woman giving her baby up for adoption would want parents who believe in (some kind of ) God.

    Not idiotic at all except to atheists that hate to be challenged and not face their decisions. If there is nothing else, they we are just worm food and they made the decision to make more worm food.

  53. #54 raindogzilla
    January 2, 2008

    They got me too. The story is #2 most popular at the Time/CNN site- I suppose that’s all of us going to check…I’d still like to smack the corpse of Judge Whatshisface.

  54. #55 Venotar
    January 2, 2008

    I’ve been doing a little looking at why this old article just cropped up out of no where, and I have a theory.

    I couldn’t find a reference to it on digg or fark, but I ran across a lot of recent references to it in google – none of them are more than about 8 hours old. On a whim, I checked out stumbleupon, though and found that a user going by the name m0gej rated the site around 8am CST this morning.

    Within about 3 hours, additional ratings began to trickle in from users who “stumbled” across it based on her rating, with the number of ratings per hour increasing in what appears to be a sort of feedback loop – up to a couple hundred people have rated the page on stumbleupon at this point. My theory is many of the “stumblers” forwarded it along to their blogs of choice without looking closely at the date and managed to spontaneously resurrected the article.

    Interesting the affects these new ways of using a web browser have on our perception.

  55. #56 Time Travel
    January 3, 2008

    Don’t feel bad about being angry over an article that’s 38 years old.

    I’m still pissed a few that are almost 2000 years old.

  56. #57 Dan
    January 3, 2008

    Don’t feel bad. Some freepers got taken by it, too. There are some typical freeper comments on there (IOW stupid ass.)

    To: Dawnsblood

    Better atheists than muslims. At least with atheists there is hope: someone gets sick, someone sees the light, etc.

    With muslims the child’s chances are limited.

    I think you and I are on the same page: any woman giving her baby up for adoption would want parents who believe in (some kind of ) God.

    Not idiotic at all except to atheists that hate to be challenged and not face their decisions. If there is nothing else, they we are just worm food and they made the decision to make more worm food.

    Posted by: Mike Haubrich, FCD |

    Man… Those Freepers never disappoint. It must be a truly magical world, full of ponies and donuts, for them.

  57. #58 Sigmund
    January 3, 2008

    38 years?
    Its still about ten years more modern than the sort of articles creationists use to knock radioisotopic dating.

  58. #59 mikmik
    January 3, 2008

    Overturned in four seconds flat. The judge is a miscreant and has a twisted interpretation of the law, at best. The fact that the adoptive parents have “high moral and ethical standards,” in his own opinion, are more than enough grounds for an overturning.
    There is no provision in the act that insists a couple must be Christian.
    Doesn’t matter what the f*** is called child abuse, this is not legal.

    I was always told to choose, myself, and by 8 yrs, I knew bullshit when I saw it, but it was always my choice. I went to sunday school. So, do these freaks insist upon the choices I had, or only the one choice – christianity.

  59. #60 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    January 3, 2008

    Thanks, Wildfire for posting the link to the NJ Sup Ct’s reversal of the case. I found this great little paragraph in the decision:

    On the other hand, we do not believe that any reasonable man no matter how devout in his own beliefs, would contend that morality lies in the exclusive province of one or of all religions or of religiosity in general. The present case is proof of this point. No one, including the trial judge, has ever questioned the moral character of the Burkes. Indeed, the Society found as fact that they were “people of high moral and ethical standards.” At the hearing the trial judge himself recognized that morality was not necessarily equatable with religion, and that persons who profess adherence to an established religion may not be “as good” as the Burkes. Indeed, in staying his judgment pending appeal the trial judge noted that the children (David and “E”) are in good hands.

    The original judge was reading too much of the constitution into his decision and came up with a bad decision. The relevant clause was poorly worded and was probably written without close enough examination. Judge Camarata wasn’t commenting on the moral character of the Burkes. He was concerned that he be in compliance with the State Constitution, and screwed the pooch in the way he interpreted it. The trial transcript excerpt has been trimmed but I didn’t see where the Burkes had said they would forbid Baby E from getting any religion. The Supreme Court made a statement that would today make a fundie shudder. “Damned liberal activist judges legislating from the bench.”

  60. #61 mikmik
    January 3, 2008

    PZ, this article is from 1970.

    Posted by: Kieran
    Hah! There are some real doozies from 1870, PZ.

  61. #62 Billy
    January 3, 2008

    To this aging English major who occasionally can’t see the error in an IDist’s argument until it’s patiently pointed out to me with small words, here is the real difference between the good guys and the bad guys:

    PZ learns he has misjudged an infuriating story:
    “Huh. You’re right. I’d missed that. I wonder why so many people emailed it to me. What do you think?”

    Bill Dembski learns he has misjudged an infuriating story:
    “Doesn’t matter. We all know the principle is true, that’s why so many people emailed it to me. Comments are closed.”

    (I’m specifically remembering a post at UD about the ACLU’s — need I say mythical? — objection to soldiers praying in public.)

    For the creationists: this makes PZ one of my good guys. YMMV.

  62. #63 Gene Goldring
    January 3, 2008

    Alex
    No I’m not lying. I was on another site that linked to the same article. I still had the article open in another I.E. window. I do this on purpose because quite often articles dealing with religious vs. atheist are being posted here at scienceblogs.

    Reading comment #5 stating the article was from 1970 I toggled to the article I had open and it indeed did read Jan 02, 2008. Checking the address of PZ’s link (without opening his link) and the address of the article I had already opened, I confirmed they were one in the same. I thought it was a little strange so out of curiosity I refreshed the page. The page date changed from being (from what I remember) on the top left of the article to the top right being changed to Monday, Dec. 07, 1970.

    I figure Jan 02, 2008 reflected a posting date from a daily template used by the Times. Somebody goofed up at the Times.

    Looking at another article in the Times I noticed this.
    Correction Appended: January 2, 2008
    http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1694804,00.html

    They’re having some problems with their dating templates.

  63. #64 cureholder
    January 3, 2008

    The worst part of this whole debacle is that, when not knowing this story was from 1971, many of us (myself included) were completely accepting that somewhere there could be a judge this willfully stupid or willfully violative of his oath of office. Something like this easily COULD happen here in 2008 (although we would hope that it would be overturned on appeal). Funny how little difference the intervening 37 years have made in the ability of people of breathtaking ignorance to ascend to positions of power.

    I would love to think that, in 2045, if PZ Jr. were to post this story, all the readers (including cureholder Jr.) would immediately say, “No way—when was that, 2008?”

    Hope springs eternal.

  64. #65 Sam Iam
    January 3, 2008

    Indeed, this article is from 1970. It appears that the Supreme Court of New Jersey has reversed the decision you are referring to.

    Good thing too. It seems to me that the reasoning given by the lower court would make all adoption illegal in New Jersey, because the conflict mentioned in the lower court’s decision can potentially exist in families of all religions. What if a child adopted into a Christian family decided to change her religion to Buddhism or Islam. The parents would most likely object, thereby trying to prevent the kid from worshiping God “ in a manner agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience.” So, even though the same issues exist in any family, Judge Camarata explicitly discriminated against Atheists.

    Here is a quote from the decision of the Higher Court: “Opportunity for religious or spiritual and ethical development of the child should receive full consideration in the selection of adoptive homes. Lack of religious affiliation or of a religious faith, however, should not be a bar to consideration of any applicants for adoption.”

  65. #66 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    January 3, 2008

    One final point and I am going to put this one to bed. The constitution is only specific to males and the judge fucked up because Elizabeth is a female. In New Jersey, girls don’t have the same right to be brought up in a religious family that boys do.

    The Supreme Court seems to have missed this little tidbit in overturning the decision.

  66. #67 Ichthyic
    January 3, 2008

    38 years?
    Its still about ten years more modern than the sort of articles creationists use to knock radioisotopic dating.

    and quite a bit fresher still than the oft repeated mantra of Haeckel’s embryology drawings.

  67. #68 ndt
    January 3, 2008

    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.

    Thing is, that section of the constitution should in no way keep atheist parents from adopting.

  68. #69 jpf
    January 3, 2008

    I think the reason it is easy to believe that this case could have happened today is that there have been recent cases that aren’t that much different.

    In 2006 a Christian judge awarded custody of a child to an ex-boyfriend because the judge became personally upset that the mother was a member of the SubGenius parody religion. Eventually custody was returned, but only after the judge took a year making an ass out of himself.

    Ed Brayton posted yesterday about two cases, one where a mother lost custody because she didn’t take the kid to church like the (drunk, abusive) father would have.

    Also, here’s a post by Andrew Sullivan talking about a law article by Eugene Volokh on recent discrimination against atheists in child custody cases.

    While the case PZ posted is 38 years old and was resolved sanely, the attitude expressed by the judge is still current among a certain segment of the religious, as seen by those quotes from Free Republic above.

  69. #70 jpf
    January 3, 2008

    I think the reason it is easy to believe that this case could have happened today is that there have been recent cases that aren’t that much different.

    In 2006 a Christian judge awarded custody of a child to an ex-boyfriend because the judge became personally upset that the mother was a member of the SubGenius parody religion. Eventually custody was returned, but only after the judge took a year making an ass out of himself.

    Ed Brayton posted yesterday about two cases, one where a mother lost custody because she didn’t take the kid to church like the (drunk, abusive) father would have.

    Also, here’s a post by Andrew Sullivan talking about a law article by Eugene Volokh on recent discrimination against atheists in child custody cases.

    While the case PZ posted is 38 years old and was resolved sanely, the attitude expressed by the judge is still current among a certain segment of the religious, as seen by those quotes from Free Republic above.

  70. #71 Moses
    January 3, 2008

    Moses @ 4:

    Federal courts wouldn’t (and in the intervening 37 years haven’t) struck down that part of the NJ Constitution

    That’s because there was more to that Article of the NJ Constitution than was quoted. The Article itself IS balanced. It was the Judge who was not balanced.

    Frankly, when I saw the judge’s use of the NJ Constitution, I assumed he was actually using the whole damn thing. I honestly didn’t think a judge would quote-mine his own Constitution to make a ludicrous decision that clearly couldn’t stand up to a legal challenge.

    But then, my experience tends to be with Federal Judges who are, well until many unqualified Bush cronies/right-wing nutjobs started getting appointed, very solid guys. Now… Meh. Some of the shit that comes out of the courts just boggles my mind.

    You look at Scalia. A strict Constructionalist, unless the interests of the Wealthy, Conservatives or Corporations are in jeopardy, then he’s not. Same with Roberts. Some rather amazing and torturous logic to engage in social engineering, avoid starre decisis, and advance their personal political ideologies.

    Anyway, need to stop here. I feel a rant coming on and I’ve got work to do today. Need to stay focused.

  71. #72 Sastra, OM
    January 3, 2008

    Ok, the case was bogus. I also suspect that very few of even the hardline religionists would want to ensure that atheists cannot adopt, or would want to take their children away. But there’s still an interesting question.

    Dawkins and PZ have called indoctrinating children into religion “a kind of child abuse.” No, it’s not just as bad as serious physical or sexual abuse, but it’s not the right thing to do — and gets worse the more intolerant and hell-fire soaked the religion is.

    Would religious people say that, for their part, they believe that NOT bringing a child up with a belief in God — or bringing them up explicitly as atheists — is also “a kind of child abuse?” It’s harmful to the development of the child, as a full and healthy individual?

    If so, then I don’t understand the paroxysms of rage and incomprehension which greet Dawkins’ claim that religious indoctrination = child abuse. Perhaps he’s using a heavily loaded term here (and one I avoid because of that), but it’s really just the flip side of the other view, I’d think. And few religious people flip out when someone says that atheists damage their children when they don’t bring them up “knowing God” — even when they’re more moderate and disagree.

  72. #73 spyderkl
    January 3, 2008

    Thanks so very much for writing about this, PZ. It’s interesting to me (to put it politely) on many, many levels.

    We are a, um, godless family. We’re also adoptive parents – a domestic, open adoption. We hear it wasn’t a big deal to our child’s birthfamily, but apparently it was a big, BIG deal to our agency. The worst part was that nobody actually came right out and told us. It was hinted at, but not said directly.

    I suspect that the reason it took us two years on the waiting list was because we wrote “none” in the religion portion of our adoption questionnaire. I also suspect that it was the reason that our child’s birthfamily was given three times the number of choices when asked to pick an adoptive family. Fortunately, they chose us every time. And this was supposedly the most progressive agency in town, one that routinely places children with same-sex families, one parent families, older children, etc.

    I could go on and on about this, but I’ll stop now.

  73. #74 Becca
    January 3, 2008

    We’re also an adoptive family in an open adoption. When my son was adopted (as an infant), the adoption decree handed down by the judge required that we attend church regularly… and they did check up on us. He didn’t specify that it be a Christian church, but we were told that Unitarian church wouldn’t be acceptable. (David’s birth mother is pagan, so this wasn’t her stipulation)

  74. #75 Will Von Wizzlepig
    January 3, 2008

    a 37-year old article is now occupying all kinds of processor time for the left. regardless of its gravity, it is a waste of time.

    this can only have been a plant by the right. a troll. someone who knows how to make people waste their time. certain information is infectious- you can’t help but get mad about it even when it’s 37 years old.

    they need to waste as much of our time as possible in order to ensure their dream of the fourth reich is achieved.

    we, on the other hand, are neither uniting to defeat them nor appearing that we might ever do so. yay.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.