State told to defend its discrimination

State told to defend its discrimination

State told to defend its discrimination

A legal protector of the free exercise of all faiths says a recent Supreme Court ruling in Philadelphia could affect a couple's case in Massachusetts.

In Sharonell Fulton, et al. v. City of Philadelphia, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously agreed that it was wrong to kick foster parents and a religious foster agency out of the system in Philadelphia.

Attorney Lori Windham of Becket says it is just as wrong for Massachusetts to exclude a qualified couple like Mike and Kitty Burke (pictured above).

Windham, Lori (Becket) Windham

"Mike and Kitty are a loving couple in Massachusetts," she begins. "Mike's an Iraq war veteran. Kitty formerly worked with special needs kids. When they couldn't have children of their own, they decided to open their home to a foster and someday adoptive child from Massachusetts' child welfare system."

After months of interviews and training, the Burkes had reached the end of the process and were on the verge of finally becoming parents when they found out that they were denied.

"They could not welcome any child into their home through that system because of their religious beliefs on issues like marriage and sex and gender," Windham reports.

So this week, Becket filed a lawsuit in federal court in Massachusetts. The state has several weeks to respond, and Windham is very interested to see how they will defend their discriminatory actions.

"It is important for people to understand that this doesn't stop with Mike and Kitty," the attorney adds. "Their beliefs are common in mainstream religious beliefs for Catholics and Protestants and Orthodox Jews and Muslims and people of other faiths."

In short, Windham says if the Burkes can be excluded, then so can other religious families.

"Massachusetts has a foster care crisis," she adds. "There are hundreds of children who are waiting for families now. There were even children who were left in hospitals when they were well because Massachusetts had no place to put them. They need to be putting them with families like the Burkes."

Sharonell Fulton, et al. v City of Philadelphia was also a Becket case.