In most secular countries, child adoptions are extremely complicated affairs: Because of the legal and ethical issues that are entangled with child adoptions, it is understandable that potential parents tend to be thorough in their decision making before deciding to adopt children as their own.
As a rule of law (and a necessary one), any potential parents or adopters who wish to adopt children from childcare agencies have to be be extensively screened: Past histories, the state of financial stability and other details of potential parents are sieved and analyzed, so as to ensure a conducive, safe environment for the lucky child who has been put up and accepted for adoption, as well as to sieve out potential adopters who may have questionable inclinations (serial pedophiles, for example, are barred from all adoption agencies because of their nefarious activities).
Because older children have distinctly lesser chances of being adopted (sounds a tad cruel, but older kids look a tad less "cute" and appealing to perspective parents), it is often an arduous task for agencies to tread a fine line between looking for the right homes for kids and finding suitable families within the shortest time frame. There is also the emotional trauma to be considered: For every child that is returned back to an agency after being adopted by foster parents, one can only imagine the hurt and anguish of a child who has been rejected by a family, either through incompatibility or worst, abuse.
And the situation is sometimes worsened when the courts do intervene on a wholly religious basis: In a remarkable show of stupid, religious piety and Stone Age thinking, a US judge had turned down an adoption scheme because the parents weren't stupid enough to worship a Supreme Deity (I wonder if the Cosmic Mc Muffin counts?)
Can Atheists Be Parents?
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 31, 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.
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."The Right To Be Stupid?
Whenever I read stories of such break-taking inanity, I am prone to uttering 4-letter expletives in the direction of the offending religion: How, in the demented brain of Judge Camarata, is the child's inherent right to worship imaginary deities being impeded by the introduction of adoptive, non-religious parents?
Proverbial straw men arguments aside, one must wonder why only a religious couple is morally fit and adept for adoption in the first place: Will a Muslim couple, hell-bent on sending future Jihadists into paradise, be considered suitable candidates, even if their ultimate mission is to train adopted children into dastardly, murderous suicide bombers in the name of Allah?
Denying John Burkes the right to adopt based on nothing else but his lack of faith is simply an affront to human integrity and the Separation of Church and State, and yet another reason to denounce religious hegemony on what is primarily a secular affair.
- "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
US Constitution, First Amendment