On Tuesday, a Catholic couple filed a lawsuit against the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) after they were denied approval as foster parents due to their faith and their beliefs about sexuality.
Mike and Kitty Burke seemed like the perfect foster parents. Mike, an Iraq war veteran who overcame PTSD, and Kitty, a former paraprofessional for special needs children, were unable to have their own biological children and decided to adopt. Though approved by a private adoption agency, the high costs involved was too much for the couple. After being told by friends who foster through DCF that they would be perfect candidates for foster care, the couple began researching studiously about foster care.
The couple was so thorough and committed to the process that DCF praised them. After one training that the Burkes participated in 2022, an instructor wrote that the couple “seem to have a solid understanding of how trauma can affect people, as Mike spoke openly about his PTSD as a Veteran. Both were active participants throughout MAPP and their comments often helped to enrich the training. It is anticipated that they will work cooperatively with DCF throughout their adoption journey.”
Additionally, the Burkes were open to caring for children from any ethnic or cultural background, sibling groups, and children with disabilities. These are all priorities for DCF as many foster parents cannot care for more than one child or for children with disabilities. It seemed like a match made in heaven for DCF, as Massachusetts is experiencing a crushing shortage of foster families.
However when a screener conducted an interview with Mike and Kitty, who had spent several months going through the licensing process, a problem arose: their religion.
The Burkes claim that approximately one-third of the questions they were asked in interviews pertained to their views on the sexual orientation or gender identity of a child placed in their home. The interviewer asked them, how they would feel “if their child identified as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer, or any other sexuality.” Mike and Kitty both answered that it would not change how they treated the child. Mike even said if the child grew up and married a person of the same sex, he would likely attend the wedding. He “shared that Catholics do not hate lesbians or gay people, it is the act that they have an issue with because they look at marriage as between a woman and a man and that sex is an act of marriage.”
The Burkes also said that they believe biological sex is immutable and would not assist in medically transitioning a transgender child, though they would love the child regardless of his or her actions. The interviewer “directly asked Kitty if she would throw a child out of the home or send a child to conversion therapy.” Kitty responded that she would never throw a child out and would not put a child through the interviewer’s definition of conversion therapy.
The interviewer wrote that “[t]he couple does have a lot of strengths . . . and really seems to understand adoption/foster care” and “that they would be able to truly connect and support a child in a meaningful way. They are aware of how to care for themselves and can envision themselves using their own self care to help a child placed in their home. They have also spent significant time researching the unique challenges faced by children in foster care and children who have experienced adoption. They have clearly put a great deal of thought into their plan to adopt through the Department of Children and Families.”
Despite these positive traits, the interviewer expressed, “apprehension about recommending [the Burkes] as a resource family due to the couple’s views related to people who identify as LGBTQIA++. . . . They are heavily involved in their Catholic Church and cite their religious views as their primary reason for seeing LGBTQIA++ individuals in this way.”
The interviewer wrote that “their faith is not supportive and neither are they.”
The interviewer approved them with conditions; however, when the Licensing Review Team assessed their file, they denied the Burkes due to “the couple’s statements/responses regarding placement of children who identified LGBTQIA.”
The couple’s suit argues that the decision violates the Massachusetts Foster Parent Bill of Rights, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion. They also argue that the decision violates court precedents, such as the Supreme Court’s 2021 ruling in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, which found that the city’s decision to ban Catholic foster care agencies based on their religious beliefs violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.
Nonetheless, some state agencies are ignoring that ruling. For example, like Massachusetts, Oregon rejected a highly qualified foster care applicant due to her Christian faith. And in a similar 2020 case in Washington State, a federal district court ruled that agency regulations were unconstitutional, writing, “[i]f the only factor weighing against an otherwise qualified applicant has to do with their sincerely held religious beliefs, the Department must not discriminate against a foster care applicant based on their creed.”
The only reason DCF did not approve Mike and Kitty Burke was because of their Christian faith, which among other things, informs them that they should not assist in medically and surgically harming children.
This is not only an egregious instance of religious discrimination, it’s a clear example that Massachusetts social services is driven more by a radical sexual and gender ideology than by any actual love or concern for children.
As noted above, DCF does not have enough foster parents. According to its most recent report there are 7,810 foster children in DCF system; nearly 20 percent or 1,521, are not placed with families. The problem is so critical that over 200 children are being housed in “Non-referral Location[s],” such as hospitals and government buildings. One report says that children housed in hospitals are required to stay in their rooms unless going to use the restroom or shower. Several times DCF has had to house children in its offices, which are not equipped for overnight stays.
DCF would rather let already traumatized children live confined in a hospital room or office building than live with a family that doesn’t share its unwavering commitment to LGBT ideology and its unquestioning child sex-change policies. Most children are not LGBT nor do they want so-called “gender affirming” care. What they want and need is a safe, stable home and loving parents. Would it not be wise to place one of those children with the Burkes? DCF claims to recruit diverse parents due to the diverse needs of children in foster care, even recruiting through religious organizations. What it really means is that it recruits people who belong to certain groups so long as they don’t hold any differing convictions.
This suit is cut and dry and the state’s actions should be ruled unconstitutional. When the left claims to care about the welfare of children, remember that it purposefully lets children suffer and languish rather than place them with caring religious parents who don’t adhere to leftist, state-sanctioned beliefs.
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.