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Parents, you have been warned

Indiana takes a child from parents due to their Christian convictions—and courts allow it


The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. Associated Press/Photo by Patrick Semansky

Parents, you have been warned
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The Christian parents of a child in Indiana recently asked the United States Supreme Court to review the removal of the child from their home due to their beliefs about sex and gender.

You may recall reading about the case in WORLD Opinions. The parents are devout Christians, and here is a video of them explaining their beliefs and the removal of their child from their home in June of 2021. The Indiana Department of Child Services investigated their home because the parents would not refer to their child (a biological male) using a cross-gender name and pronouns and would not generally affirm their child’s self-identification as a girl. DCS made the following argument for removal from their home at the initial hearing:

“We just feel that at this point in time this child needs to be in a home that’s not going to … tell her how she should think and how she should feel. However, she should be in a home where she is excepted [sic] for who she is.”

The trial court then removed the child from the parents’ home—and never returned the child to their custody—even after DCS voluntarily dismissed all allegations of neglect and abuse against them (including false allegations that they were using vulgar language and not treating an eating disorder). The trial court also barred the parents from speaking to their own child about the entire topic of sex and gender while placing the child in a home with a specific qualification: that the home must verbally affirm the child’s self-identification as a girl contrary to the parents’ religious beliefs and best judgment. The parents were also limited to a few hours of visitation with their child one day a week. The trial court never returned the child to their home, and he aged out of the foster care system while out of their custody.

The parents are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene on behalf of the bedrock constitutional principles of parental rights, free speech, and the free exercise of religion. 

Despite acknowledging that the parents did not abuse or neglect their child in any way, the Indiana Court of Appeals astonishingly 1) upheld the removal of the child from the parents’ home and 2) determined that the trial court’s orders barring the parents’ religious instruction to their own child in their own home was permissible because their speech was undeserving of heightened protection under the Indiana and federal constitutions. The Indiana Supreme Court declined to review the case, so the parents are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene on behalf of the bedrock constitutional principles of parental rights, free speech, and the free exercise of religion.

Though this case developed in (of all places) Indiana, parents across the country should take notice. Other states are formalizing the legal standards at issue in this case. California law now allows a state juvenile court to take temporary custody of a child without a finding of parental neglect or abuse if the child has been unable to obtain “gender-affirming mental health care.” The state of Washington also recently passed a law that allows the state to legally hide runaway children from their parents if the parents do not consent to their child receiving “gender-affirming treatment.” These are chilling developments that directly contradict Supreme Court precedent that guards the “sanctity of the family” as an institution deeply rooted in this nation’s history and tradition through which parents “pass down many of our most cherished values, moral and cultural.”

As these parents conclude in their petition, “No other fit parent should lose custody of their child or face a government muzzle on their deeply held religious beliefs and best judgment. M.C. and J.C. have exhausted every other remedy and are gravely concerned that the state of Indiana will come for their other children. This Court’s intervention is needed.”

The right and responsibility of parents—not the state—to raise their children according to their beliefs is a Biblical, pre-political principle that must be protected in state and federal law. This case—and others like it—demand our attention and action.


Josh Hershberger

Josh Hershberger is an attorney, minister and speaker. He serves as the general counsel of Indiana Family Institute and leads The Good Citizen Project, a national ministry that equips Christians to engage in public life. He is the author of several books, including the The Good Citizen: a 4-Step Guide to Gospel-Centered Citizenship, and he hosts The Good Citizen Podcast.


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