Quite a furor has been caused on a number of blogs and lists today (Pharyngula, for example) about a New Jersey judge’s decision not to approve the adoption of a child by godless parents because “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.”
When all the excitement began, it was assumed/believed that this decision was handed down today. Then it was discovered that the ruling (and Time.com story covering it) was actually from 1970 and that the decision was overturned a year later (apparently, Time may have erred in posting the date or others may simply have missed the teensy date as listed).
This information entered our Atheist family in a way I assume is quite similar to the revelation experienced by many others. Via IM:
[13:36] DM: A judge in New Jersey just blocked an adoption because the parents were godless: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/01/there_is_no_such_thing_as_a_go.php
[13:36] SM: WTF!!!
[13:36] SM: ?
[13:37] DM: wait wait wait!
So, fine. The decision was from 1970. So, fine. Some bloggers and countless numbers of thinkless-forward emailers (you know the type — they send you every single email rumor out there without ever checking anything for accuracy and you send them the link on Snopes where it shows they are an idiot) went a little bonkers at the absurdity of the decision (or, in the case of many others, singing the praises of this wonderful judge who clearly has his head screwed on far more straight than any of those liberal activist judges out there).
If only that meant the problem were resolved. But would anyone have been concerned if it weren’t possible that this had actually happened right now? I doubt it. The sad “truth” (we’ll get into my postmodern notions of truth some other time) is that it could very well happen right here, right now. It happens on smaller levels every day when participants in the adoption process, whether agencies or social workers or birth parents, decide that someone is or is not worthy to adopt a child purely on the basis of what they believe.
When DM and I were beginning the process to adopt Pkin, I spent the better part of a week calling perusing adoption agency websites, emailing and calling the offices, chatting with current clients and families who were formed through the assistance of the agency. More times than I can count (in fact, all times but two) we were told the agency could not help us as soon as they learned we were Atheists. This was true whether it was the first thing out of my mouth or the last thing (even after several days of friendly and helpful conversations).
In the end, we used the one adoption agency that said OK and the one social work agency that said OK. We had no choices because we needed both to complete our process. So we went with the places that deemed us acceptable parents despite our godless “flaw.” How nice would it have been to be able to work with an agency that actually supported our decision or didn’t give a hoot one way or the other? I’m thinking a full-service agency for Atheists and other believers in the non (note: not nonbelievers because we most certainly believe something!) with cheesy slogans like “Compassionate, Skeptical Care!” (as opposed to something like BCS‘s “Compassionate, Christian Care,” which seems to indicate that “compassionate” and “Christian” do not usually go together so they had to list them both…)
Could you imagine a Christian family having to search far and wide to find someone to work with them or having to, essentially, apologize to adoption agencies for believing in a god in order to be able to adopt a child? I didn’t think so — which points, all the more, to why this 37-year old decision is actually still quite current. The more things change, the more they stay the same.