Constitutional Law – Church and State – Statute Requiring Religion to be Taken Into Consideration in Adoption

ln 1951, a Jewish couple obtained custody of illegitimate twins who were then two weeks old. In 1954, the couple formally sought to adopt the children. Although petitioners were otherwise qualified to act as parents, a Massachusetts statute provides that “in making orders for adoption, the judge when practicable must give custody only to persons of the same religious faith as that of the child.” The twins’ natural mother was Catholic but had consented in writing to adoption by the petitioners and to rearing of the children in the Jewish faith. The lower court found that several Catholic couples had filed applications with the Catholic Charities Bureau to adopt Catholic children of the age of the twins, and thus that it was “practicable” to “give custody only to persons” of Catholic faith. On appeal, held, affirmed. The statute does not violate the First Amendment since it treats all religions alike and does not require, prevent or hamper any exercise of religion. The mother’s interest was only that the babies were in a good home; she permitted rather than commanded the adoption. Petitions of Goldman, (Mass. 1954) 121 N.E. (2d) 843, cert. den. 348 U.S. 942, 75 S.Ct. 363 (1955).