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In the Matter of the Adoption of “E”

279 A.2d 785 (1971)

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In the Matter of the Adoption of “E”

New Jersey Supreme Court

279 A.2d 785 (1971)

Facts

In 1965, the New Jersey Bureau of Children’s Services (bureau) denied the adoption application filed by John and Cynthia Burke (plaintiffs) because the Burkes had no religious affiliation. The Burkes initiated a lawsuit and sought for the court to declare that a religious affiliation should not be required for adopting a child. Shortly after the Burkes initiated the lawsuit, the bureau revised its regulation to provide that prospective adoptive parents may not be denied the opportunity to apply for adoption solely because of their lack of religious affiliation. However, the regulation provided that, in considering the fitness of the adoptive home, the child’s opportunity for religious, spiritual, and ethical development may be considered. Following the revised regulation, the Burkes’ lawsuit was dismissed, and the Children’s Aid and Adoption Society of New Jersey (society) placed a baby boy with the Burkes. The Burkes formally adopted the boy the following year. The Burkes then filed another adoption application. The society placed a baby girl, E, with the Burkes. The following year, the Burkes filed to adopt E. The society investigated the Burkes’ fitness to adopt and found that the Burkes were warm, loving, and already wonderful parents to their baby boy. The society submitted a report to the court, recommending the adoption. The report also noted that the Burkes had no religious affiliation but had good morals and ethics. The trial court held a hearing, during which the judge repeatedly questioned the Burkes on their lack of religion. The Burkes testified that they were not religious but were confident in their morals and ethics. Following the trial, the judge denied the Burkes’ adoption petition. In the opinion, the judge stated that the adoption was not in the best interests of E because the Burkes were not affiliated with a religion and did not believe in a supreme being. The Burkes appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Proctor, J.)

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