Vermont couples barred from fostering children because of their Christian beliefs on sexuality, says lawsuit

Brian Wuoti of Vermont is a Baptist pastor and a high school math teacher. His wife of 14 years, Kaitlyn Wuoti, leads a bi-weekly women’s Bible study and homeschools their five children. They first became foster parents in 2014, adopting a pair of brothers who have become an “integral” part of their family.

Michael Gantt is the lead pastor of another church, and Rebecca Gantt, his wife of 25 years, raises their seven children. They became foster parents in 2016. Extra to their four biological children, they have adopted three children from the Green Mountain State’s foster care system.

Both families believe that God created everyone in his image; that sex is binary and fixed by God at conception; and that all people deserve respect and love.

These two families unfortunately share something more in common beside their establishment of loving homes, dedication to protecting the vulnerable, sterling records, and Christian faith.

According to their
lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont, the Vermont Department for Children and Families has barred them from continuing to foster children on account of their religious beliefs about sexuality.

‘Vermont would prefer children have no home than to place them with families of faith with these views.’

“Although the Wuotis and Gantts have adopted five children between them, the Department has determined they are unfit to foster or adopt any child solely due to their religiously inspired and widely held belief that girls cannot become boys or vice versa,” said the lawsuit.

“And Vermont applies this policy categorically — whether applicants want to adopt their grandchild, provide respite care for an infant for just a few hours, or foster a child who shares all of their religious views,” continued the suit. “Vermont would prefer children have no home than to place them with families of faith with these views.”

The Wuotis discovered that their mainstream Christian beliefs rendered them ineligible to give orphans and other vulnerable minors a supportive home in 2022, when the state was reviewing their application to renew their foster care license.

Despite a case worker suggesting that she “probably could not hand pick a more wonderful foster family,” and the Wuotis’ licensor apparently indicating there was “no doubt” they could welcome another child into their home, everything changed when they indicated they were Christians and would not embrace the ideological fads of the day. Somehow, they instantly ceased to be wonderful. An absence of doubt in their ability to foster another child became an absolute certainty in their inability.

They received a “Notice of Decision” from the VDCF recommending the revocation of their license.

Last year — a year where the state had
985 children in out-of-home protective custody, 467 in conditional custody, and 150 family support cases — the Gantts heard the call of a child in need.

The VDCF apparently asked the couple whether they could take an emergency placement — a baby about to be born to a homeless junkie. Prior to taking another child into their home, the couple received an email “explaining that families must accept the State’s orthodoxy about gender fluidity ‘even if the foster parents hold divergent personal opinions or beliefs,'” said the lawsuit.

The Gantts met with a caseworker about fostering the baby and made clear they would “love and accept any child” but that they would not compromise on their Christian beliefs. Michael Gantt also made clear to a department employee he would not bend the knee to gender ideology — no Pride parades, no incorrect pronouns.

The couple received a “Notice of Decision” concerning their license revocation in February.

‘The division is committed to making ongoing efforts to recruit, train, support and retain foster families who are LGBTQ affirming and supporting.’

While the lawsuit references various indicators that the VDCF is ideologically captive and hostile to traditional views, a number of which are still maintained by the
majority of Americans, it highlighted the department’s LGBT activist orientation, manifest in Policy 76.

The policy states, “When assessing safety and risk in an environment where an LGBTQ child or youth resides, family services workers will determine whether a parent, caregiver, or other family member’s attitude and behavior about the child or youth’s sexual or gender identity impact the safety and well-being of the child.”

“The division is committed to making ongoing efforts to recruit, train, support and retain foster families who are LGBTQ affirming and supporting,” the policy says in a section on placement considerations.

The lawsuit indicated that the VDCF has reinterpreted its existing requirements of foster parents in accordance with Policy 76 and that foster families must demonstrate they can follow the policy’s guidance.

Extra to the policy, other departmental communications and rules have indicated that devout Christians need not apply.

A Sept. 8, 2023, email circulated to all foster families by the VDCF reportedly stated, “Eligibility for licensure is dependent on foster parents and applicants being able to support youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, or another diverse identity (LGBTQI+) even if the foster parents hold divergent personal opinions or beliefs.”

‘It bears mentioning that this suit was filed at the start of pride month.’

A VDCF spokesman relayed a statement from Aryka Radke, deputy commissioner of the Family Services Division, to the
Christian Post, saying that while the department does not comment on the details of pending lawsuits, “generally speaking, DCF takes the care and support of youth in our custody seriously, and we work to ensure that youth in foster care are placed in homes that support all aspects of what makes them who they are. This includes their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

“It bears mentioning that this suit was filed at the start of pride month — a time when we reflect on the achievements and continued struggles of the LGBTQI+ movement,” Radke continued, signaling her bias. “The department stands in partnership with the community, and continually works to be a better partner, ally, and support system — rather than a barrier to the children and youth who identify as part of this community.”

“Providing safe, affirming, accepting and welcoming homes benefits all youth and it has the power to save lives. This is true year-round, and bears underscoring for these youth especially during pride,” added Radke.

‘They don’t need the state pushing its gender ideology on them.’

Johannes Widmalm-Delphonse, the Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel representing the families, highlighted to the Christian Post that contrary to Radke’s suggestion, it’s the state’s polices that “are actually harmful.”

“I would point people to the Cass review that came out of England showing that pharmacological and surgical intervention likely caused more harm than any good and that the evidence is incredibly weak in this area,” said Wildmalm-Delphonse. “Children just need a loving place, someone to care for them while they work out these types of issues. They don’t need the state pushing its gender ideology on them.”

Blaze News
previously detailed the extent to which the Cass Review, a multi-year investigation into the pseudoscience of transgenderism, commissioned by England’s National Health Service, undermined the ideology that now reigns supreme at the VDCF.

Dr. Hilary Cass, a British medical doctor who previously served as president of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health, reached a number of damning conclusions in her
final report, such as:

  • the “systematic review showed no clear evidence that social transition
    in childhood has any positive or negative mental health outcomes, and
    relatively weak evidence for any effect in adolescence”;
  • puberty blockers compromise bone density and have no apparent impact on “gender dysphoria or body satisfaction”; and
  • the evidence in support of “gender-affirming care” is “weak” and unreliable.

Alliance Defending Freedom
stated, “By denying people the chance to be foster and adoptive parents because of their religious beliefs and compelling them to speak the government’s preferred message about sexual orientation and gender identity, Vermont is violating the First Amendment.”

The lawsuit alleges the VDCF has specifically violated the couples’ rights to free speech, free association, and free exercise of religion, as well as the 14th Amendment Due Process Clause. The couple seeks a declaration on the part of the department that its LGBT activist mandate encompassing Policy 76 and a handful of rules violated and continues to violated their constitutionally protected rights. Additionally, they seek an injunction against similar and future denials of foster licenses on the bases of protected beliefs.

“Every child deserves a loving home, and children suffer when the government excludes people of faith from adoption and foster care,” added the Alliance Defending Freedom.

The Gantts and Wuotis are hardly the first to be precluded from adopting or fostering on the basis of their Christian faith. The Massachusetts DCF
rejected Catholics Mike and Kitty Burke last year. Washington State dashed Shane and Jenn DeGross’ dreams in 2022.

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