A few months later, both the DCPP and the Lasche family agreed that the 10 year old should be removed from her current home, for reasons that remain confidential. The 13 year old stayed. Then, the men in Illinois decided against adopting the siblings.
After a hearing about the children’s future, in June 2018, “inquiries about the Lasches’ religious beliefs intensified.”
The 13 year old, after one therapy session, appeared “visibly upset” because “the therapist repeatedly brought up religion and told her not to feel pressured to follow the Lasches’ religious beliefs.”
Higgins and a unidentified woman also questioned the teenager about her religious beliefs.
“Although Higgins told Foster Child 1 that the Lasches could not ‘meet her needs,’ that did not dissuade Foster Child 1 from wanting to remain with the Lasches,” the opinion describes.
At a June 2018 meeting that the Lasche family attended, DCPP employees “agreed that the Lasches’ religious beliefs were a problem.”
These employees “sought assurance from the Lasches that they would not reject Foster Child 1 if she ever decided to explore her sexuality,” the opinion continues. “One representative remarked that Foster Child 1 would need therapy to deal with her belief that homosexual conduct is a sin.”
In early July 2018, the 13 year old, whom Michael and Jennifer had hoped to adopt, was removed from the Lasches’ home — even though her appointed attorney objected. The DCPP pursued the teenager’s removal without providing the Lasches with a statutorily required notice.
Three months later, during the foster-parent license renewal process, the Lasche family discovered that the DCPP had suspended their license, without notice or explanation.
Judge Peter Phipps, joined by Judges Thomas Hardiman and Robert Cowen, wrote the March 1 opinion by the appeals court. The decision allows the Lasche family to continue their case by returning to the lower court.
(Story continues below)
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The appellate judges affirmed the lower court’s finding in part, and vacated it in part. At the same time, the court ruled, the Lasche family’s religious beliefs are constitutionally protected.
“Through the Free Exercise Clause, the First Amendment secures the ‘freedom to believe and [the] freedom to act,’’' the opinion reads. “Consistent with that protection, the Lasches allege two forms of constitutionally protected activity – one involving religious belief, and the other, action inspired by religious belief.”
“With respect to belief, the Lasches identify their religious opposition to same-sex marriage as constitutionally protected,” the opinion continues. “That is correct: the Free Exercise Clause provides an absolute right to hold religious beliefs.”
Citing high-profile Supreme Court cases concerning religious liberty (Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission and Fulton v. Philadelphia), the opinion also states that the Lasches “plausibly allege that they engaged in constitutionally protected conduct by sharing their religious views on same-sex marriage.”