Indiana’s Child Services Department Separates Teen From Parents

Another case of a teen taken from home over pronoun usage.

By J. Stonestreet & T. Padgett Published on March 6, 2024

Several years ago, 16-year-old Yaeli Martinez was removed from her home by the state of California because her mother wouldn’t affirm that she was a boy. Struggling with depression and mental illness, Yaeli was encouraged by the state to socially transition and receive testosterone shots. Her mother was forbidden to talk about faith or her daughter’s gender confusion when visiting her. Despite the state’s “affirmation,” Yaeli tragically ended her own life at age 19.

State Overreach Into Families — It’s Not Just on the Left Coast

Lest we are tempted to think this kind of state overreach into families is limited to the Left Coast, a 14-year-old Montana girl was recently removed from her home on charges of neglect. When the parents defied the courts and publicly spoke out, they were charged with contempt. Though the state dropped the charge, the child has been relocated to her noncustodial parent in Canada.

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And recently, another story broke about a situation in Indiana, which is just now reaching the public’s attention due to the child’s age and because the parents are asking the United States Supreme Court to hold state officials accountable. In 2019, the son of Mary and Jeremy Cox announced he was a girl. As loving Christian parents, they worked to get him the therapy he needed to deal with any underlying issues, including an eating disorder, without affirming his gender dysphoria. After learning that the Coxes would not use their son’s “preferred pronouns,” state officials removed him from their care. As the Coxes said,

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.

Even more galling is the fact that the Indiana Department of Child Services initially claimed the Coxes had not sought treatment for their son’s eating disorder and were guilty of neglect and abuse. Despite these accusations, the government did not think it necessary to remove their other children from the home. Eventually, the state admitted the allegations were false, but the damage was done and their son was not returned.

“An Outrage to the Law, Parental Rights, and Basic Human Decency”

The Coxes have been forced to take their state to court. So far, both the Indiana Appeals Court and the Indiana Supreme Court have rejected their case. Now, they are waiting to learn if the U.S. Supreme Court will hear it. According to Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket, a religious liberty law firm,

If this can happen in Indiana, it can happen anywhere. Tearing a child away from loving parents because of their religious beliefs, which are shared by millions of Americans, is an outrage to the law, parental rights, and basic human decency.

The layers of state abuse in this case are staggering. First, there is clear violation of the religious freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment in the state’s presumption to tell a religious community which beliefs are acceptable and which are not. There’s also a violation of the rights of parents to raise their children according to their conscience, and the redefining of abuse and neglect to violate those rights. In the process, the state is essentially claiming that children belong, first and foremost, to the state and not to parents. The state altered and manipulated laws designed to protect children to impose a false and harmful ideology.

As the Coxes’ lawyer, Josh Hershberger, noted in an article for WORLD magazine:

The right and responsibility of parents — not the state — to raise their children according to their beliefs is a biblical, prepolitical principle that must be protected in state and federal law. This case — and others like it — demand our attention and action.

Pray for the Coxes, and the other parents fighting the state for their children because of this experimental ideology that is younger than social media. Pray for their lawyers, and consider supporting the groups that are fighting to protect religious liberty and parental rights. If you know a family that is personally going through this kind of nightmare, stand with them, both publicly and privately. And speak up for children and families. God gave our kids parents; they don’t need more on Capitol Hill.


John Stonestreet serves as president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

Timothy D. Padgett, Ph.D., is a resident theologian at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

Originally published on BreakPoint Commentaries. Republished with permission of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

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