State Bars Couple from Foster Care over Biblical Worldview
The state of Massachusetts is barring a Christian couple from fostering children due to their biblical beliefs on sexuality and gender. Catholics Mike and Kitty Burke filed a lawsuit last week in federal court against state officials after they were denied the right to serve as foster parents. During the foster parents screening process, the couple were interrogated regarding their Catholic faith and the Catholic Church’s teachings on homosexuality and transgenderism, with officials declaring Mike and Kitty “would not be affirming to a child who identified as LGBTQIA.”
The lawsuit, filed by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, explains, “After experiencing the heartbreak of infertility, Mike and Kitty decided to become foster parents, with the hope of caring for and eventually adopting children in need of a stable, loving home,” but the state Department of Children and Families (DCF) “denied the Burkes a foster care license, and, as such, their last opportunity to become parents.” The lawsuit further notes that although DCF policy officially “prohibits religious discrimination against potential foster parents,” the state’s rejection of the Burkes effectively puts in place “an absolute bar for Catholics who agree with the Church’s teaching on sex, marriage, and gender.”
Arielle Del Turco, director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council, told The Washington Stand, “It’s disheartening that the state of Massachusetts chose to deny this couple the ability to foster children because the state disapproved of a particular teaching of their Catholic faith. We might expect this type of thing to happen in China — it should not be happening in a free country.”
The lawsuit further argues that “DCF’s religious discrimination means that any Massachusetts family with similar religious beliefs on human sexuality will be banned from ever fostering or adopting children through Massachusetts’s child welfare system. The rule would extend to many Muslims, Jews, Protestant Christians, and other groups who have similar religious teachings.” Del Turco agreed:
“If left unchecked, the state’s discrimination against the Burkes will pave the way for further restrictions against people of faith over their sincerely-held beliefs. It is a coercive use of state power to deny state services to individuals over certain religious beliefs — it implicitly marginalizes religious individuals, and maybe that’s the intent.”
The lawsuit also makes clear that the Burkes not only successfully completed foster care training but were consistently praised by DCF officials. One interviewer said the couple “really seems to understand adoption/foster care.” During the interview on sexuality and gender, Mike and Kitty affirmed they would “love [a child identifying as LGBT] the same” and would not reject or refuse to care for any foster child but insisted any child they cared for “would need to live a chaste life.” The DCF official conducting the interview issued the Burkes an “approval with conditions, specifically around religion and LGBTQIA++ related issues,” but the DCF ultimately rejected the couple’s application.
In an interview, Kitty herself said, “We believe the reason we were rejected is because we were very vocal in the fact that we are practicing Catholics, very traditional Catholics, and we stand firm in the church’s beliefs on traditional marriage and sexuality. And that was pretty clear in their reasoning.” Del Turco commented, “Essentially, the state of Massachusetts denied Mike and Kitty Burke a foster care license not because they were unfit for the job, but because state bureaucrats disagreed with their religiously-informed beliefs about human sexuality.”
The lawsuit also highlights Massachusetts’s “need for more foster homes,” noting that the DCF “has a years-long shortage of foster families, leaving some children to be kept in DCF offices or even housed in hospitals while they wait for a caring home.” In a statement, the Burkes said, “We were absolutely devastated to learn that Massachusetts would rather children sleep in the hallways of hospitals than let us welcome children in need into our home.”
The Burkes’ lawyer, Lori Windham of the Becket Fund, pointed to a prior U.S. Supreme Court ruling as evidence that the Massachusetts DCF is acting unconstitutionally. In 2021, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Philadelphia could not cancel a contract with Catholic Social Services due to the foster and adoption agency’s refusal to place children with same-sex couples.
The Burkes’ lawsuit names as defendants the secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services, Kate Walsh, DCF commissioner Linda Spears, and 10 other DCF officials.
S.A. McCarthy serves as a news writer at The Washington Stand.