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.”
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.