A Massachusetts couple suing the state’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) say they were “shocked” when they were first informed of the reason their foster application was denied.
Mike and Catherine “Kitty” Burke, both devout Catholics, filed a federal lawsuit this week with the help of religious liberty group Becket Law, claiming that the state restricted them from fostering children due to their adherence to Catholic teachings on gender, sexuality and marriage. The couple said the state listed only one reason for denying their foster application, which was that they “would not be affirming to a child who identified as LGBTQIA.”
Discussing their lawsuit on “The Story” Wednesday, the Burkes said they are taking the issue to court because it represents a larger problem surrounding the state’s allowance to decline to issue foster licenses to religious applicants.
“We believe the reason we were rejected is because we were very vocal in the fact that we are practicing Catholics, very traditional Catholics, and we stand firm in the church’s beliefs on traditional marriage and sexuality. And that was pretty clear in their reasoning,” Kitty told Martha MacCallum.
“We were absolutely shocked when we got the decision,” she added. “The real issue at stake here is whether or not religious families should be allowed to foster and adopt here in the state of Massachusetts… Massachusetts’ own law says all people of faith are allowed to participate in society.”
Kitty’s husband Mike said he was told that they would not be permitted to foster a child because they “didn’t follow the ‘LGBTQ+ policies of the state.’”
“If you look into it further, you can see they match it up with our Catholic faith,” he said.
Mike said he informed the department that if he had a child who wanted to identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, he would “love that child no matter [what]” regardless of his religious beliefs.
“One of the things of our Catholic faith is we love one another as God has loved us. I love every person, do I agree with it? No. It’s [a matter of] hate the sin not the sinner. I would love that child no matter [what]. Just like my mother loved me whenever I did something wrong,” he said.
In a statement released earlier this week, the couple described their experience with the lengthy and arduous foster process, which involved “months of interviews and training.” They were finally “on the verge of finally becoming parents” and welcoming a child into their home following years of “heartbreak” with infetility struggles when they were informed their application had been denied.
“We were absolutely devastated to learn that Massachusetts would rather children sleep in the hallways of hospitals than let us welcome children in need into our home,” they said.
The lawsuit states that as faithful Catholics, “the Burkes believe that all children should be loved and supported, and they would never reject a child placed in their home. They also believe that children should not undergo procedures that attempt to change their God-given sex, and they uphold Catholic beliefs about marriage and sexuality.”
Fox News reached out to the Massachusets Health and Human Services and Massachusetts Department of Children & Families for comment, but neither immediately responded.
The couple’s attorney Lori Windham, who joined them in the Fox News interview, said the state can’t afford to exclude religious families from the foster system when they are already grappling with a serious shortage of available foster homes as a result of the pandemic.
“Massachusetts has a shortage of loving homes to welcome, foster and adopted children,” Windham said. “They have hundreds of children who are waiting for homes today. What’s so disturbing about this is they [if] are excluding faithful Catholics like Mike and Kitty. They would also be by the same standard excluding people from other faiths who have beliefs about marriage and sexuality and gender. They can’t afford to do that when they have so many children who are in need of homes right now. What they have said to Mike and Kitty is we won’t allow any child to be placed in your home.”
The lawsuit includes a copy of the letter the Burkes received notifying them that their application had been denied. The letter states that in order to be licensed as a foster or adoptive parent, the applicant must “promote the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of a child placed in his or her care, including supporting and respecting a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The lawsuit seeks to prohibit Massachusetts from using LGBTQ accommodations to decline to issue foster licenses to religious applicants. It further seeks that the Burkes’ application be granted and that they receive “nominal and compensatory damages” from the defendants.
The suit names Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary Kate Walsh, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Children & Families Linda Spears, and others as defendants.
Fox News’ Anders Hagstrom contributed to this report.
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