Removing trans-identified child from Catholic parents' home sets 'dangerous precedent': attorney

Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

An Indiana Catholic couple whose child was removed from their home following disagreements over their son expressing a desire to identify as the opposite sex are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case. 

Parents Mary and Jeremy Cox follow the Bible’s teachings on human sexuality, ascribing to the belief that God designs humans as male and female. Because of their religious beliefs and adherence to biological reality, they could not abide using feminine pronouns to identify their son, who demanded to be called by a female name after he told his parents in 2019 that he identified as a girl. 

In 2021, the Indiana Department of Child Services initiated an investigation into the parents following a report that they weren’t affirming their son’s chosen identity as a girl. The boy was eventually removed from his parents’ care and placed in a home that affirmed his self-declared gender identity. 

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According to the law firm Becket, the parents have filed a petition with the Supreme Court asking the justices to hear the case, stating that “this Court should grant this petition and affirm its precedents on the right of fit parents to custody of their children.”

In the petition, the attorneys argue that if the Supreme Court does not intervene, other states might use a statute similar to Indiana’s to justify removing a child from the home if their parents adhere to biological reality and refuse to affirm their child’s self-declared gender identity.

The attorneys highlighted that the state “found the parents fit but still removed the child over an ideological dispute: a disagreement over gender identity.” The parents also agreed that their son, identified in the petition as A.C., needed mental health treatment for various health concerns, including an eating disorder. 

According to the petition, A.C.’s eating disorder worsened while in state custody, and his parents believe they are better able to care for him and ensure he receives proper medical treatment.

“This is what every parent is afraid of. We love our son and wanted to care for him, but the state of Indiana robbed us of that opportunity by taking him from our home and banning us from speaking to him about gender,” the parents said in a statement. “We are hopeful that the justices will take our case and protect other parents from having to endure the nightmare we did.”

In an interview with The Christian Post, Laura Slavis, an attorney representing the parents, said the law firm hopes the Supreme Court will vacate the lower court rulings in the parents’ case. 

“And that way the precedent would no longer exist, the cases would no longer exist,” Slavis told CP. “And the parents would no longer have any legal consequences flowing from this custody proceeding that happened against them.”

After Child Services received reports in May 2021 that A.C.’s parents were verbally and emotionally abusing the child for identifying as a member of the opposite sex, the agency subsequently filed a Child In Need of Services petition. The agency argued that A.C.’s physical and mental condition was “seriously impaired” due to his parents’ alleged neglect, and his physical and mental health were also in danger. 

A trial court determined in June 2021 that the boy should be removed from his parents’ custody due to the parents’ “inability, refusal or neglect to provide shelter, care, and/or supervision at the present time.” 

Later in the case, during a hearing on Nov. 15, 2021, the agency agreed to dismiss several allegations. However, the court still ruled that the boy remaining in the parents’ care would be “contrary” to his welfare. At a dispositional hearing in December, the court left in place a previous order prohibiting the parents from discussing their child’s gender identity during visitations with their son.

An Indiana Appeals Court later upheld that the restriction on the parents’ religious instruction was permissible under state and federal constitutions. After the Indiana state Supreme Court declined to take the case, the Coxes sought help from the highest court in the nation. 

According to Slavis, if the Supreme Court doesn’t take the case, it will set a “dangerous precedent” that any state could use to remove a child from the home based on the parents’ religious beliefs. 

“It also raises serious concerns about speech,” the attorney said about the case. “Speech between a parent and their child in the home, about the parents’ religious beliefs.

"There are two major issues in this case: One is about the fact that the child is taken away just because of the parents’ religious beliefs on human sexuality. And the other is what a parent can speak to their child about in the confines of their own home,” she continued.

“And so, we think that it’s important that this case be addressed and a very clear message be sent that this is unconstitutional so that other states can’t rely on the precedent.”

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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