[Time Mag LINK: Can Atheists Be Parents?]
Cliff's Notes version:
A married couple file to adopt a baby in New Jersey. They are young, solvent, without scandal, and have high moral and ethical standards. One of them is an atheist and the other is a pantheist, so they left the religious affiliation box blank. Their application was denied over the religion issue. After they took the agency to court, the rules were changed and they adopted the boy. 3 and a half years later, they adopted a baby girl through the same agency, but afterwards they were blocked by a Superior Court Judge for religious reasons, and will have to return the baby girl (that they have had for a year) to the agency if they lose their case in the state Supreme Court where they have appealed.
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."
This issue is so loaded. How many children really have the freedom to worship as they see fit? Were you allowed to go to any church you wanted, or to choose not going when you were a child? Hell no. A minor child, physically, and most likely mentally as well, follows their parents' religious instructions.
A person does not have freedom of religion until they reach a certain level of maturity and their parents reach a certain level of tolerance for differences, or until the kid moves out of the house. By that time the religion of their upbringing is so deeply ingrained that it is very difficult (nearly impossible) for the person to think clearly about their own beliefs, what they really are, and the reasons that they have those beliefs. I know. I have been through the process.
The rest of this question concerns which religions would be deemed proper for adoptive parents? One parent had no gods, and the other was a believer with an alternate concept of God. So if both parents were pantheists, would they be deemed as fit or unfit by the court to adopt children? Pantheism is a concept which finds God in nature, the Universe and in all things. It's a religious view which includes God, and its concepts can be incorporated into many other religions of the world, including Christianity.
The ACLU is providing legal support in this particular case.