Imagine opening your home and your heart to orphans and other children who need shelter, only to find the government demanding that you stop, not because you’d be a threat to the kids, but because you don’t believe the state religion.

That’s not a hypothetical—it actually happened in Vermont, to two Christian families who foster children in their homes, while daring to disagree with the state’s new established religion, transgender orthodoxy.

As my colleague Mary Margaret Olohan exclusively reported, Brian and Kaitlyn Wuoti and Michael and Rebecca Gantt sued the Vermont Department for Children and Families on Tuesday, because the state agency gave them an ultimatum: Endorse our religion or give up fostering.

The Christian religious freedom law firm Alliance Defending Freedom is representing them.

These families have adopted five children between them, but Vermont ruled them unfit to continue giving shelter to the most vulnerable young people, all because they disagree with transgender orthodoxy. They’re suing, alleging that Vermont is violating the First Amendment by discriminating on the basis of religion and by abridging the families’ rights to free speech and free association.

The licensing rules for foster homes in Vermont state that applicants and foster parents “shall exhibit … respect for the worth of all individuals, regardless of race, color, national origin, ancestry, culture, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual identity, and physical or mental ability.”

Christians like the Wuotis and the Gantts do respect people regardless of claimed gender identity. They just disagree with the gender identity.

The rules also bar foster parents from “engaging in any form of discrimination against a foster child based on race, religion, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or disability,” and they state that “foster parents shall support children in wearing hairstyles, clothing, and accessories affirming of the child’s racial, cultural, tribal, religious, or gender identity.”

These rules require foster parents to adopt transgender orthodoxy, and the Vermont Department for Children and Families has used them to apply a religious litmus test. The department presented both families with a questionnaire about whether they would “affirm” a hypothetical transgender identity of a hypothetical transgender child.

They responded by stating their faith, and the department revoked their foster care licenses.

“Gender identity” is a euphemistic term for the religious idea that, in addition to a physical body, each person has a quasi-spiritual identity that should be considered more real than that person’s biological sex. Unlike biological sex, for which there is a tremendous amount of scientific and material evidence, there is no evidence for this “gender identity.”

At best, it is a metaphysical concept taken on faith, much like promises of life after death. At worst, it is an excuse for predatory men to victimize women in private spaces, to win an edge over women in sports, or to confuse children about sex and make them more vulnerable to abuse.

Adopting this view isn’t just a matter of decency and respect like calling a man “sir.” It’s a statement of faith in a metaphysical realm. When the state says you must refer to a man as a woman, it’s forcing its worldview upon you, and the Wuotis and the Gantts had the gall to say no.

Vermont’s Department for Children and Families didn’t insist that these families adopt this worldview in order to serve a particular child the Wuotis and the Gantts wanted to foster or adopt. Rather, it treats gender ideology as the basic statement of faith required for all foster families. Any dissenters must be purged.

Vermont isn’t exactly awash in potential foster parents. The department told a local CBS affiliate in May 2023 that there are typically about 1,060 children in state custody, and approximately 900 licensed foster families.

Rather than helping the vulnerable, it seems the Department for Children and Families is prioritizing its religious commitment to gender ideology. Alliance Defending Freedom, writing the legal complaint on behalf of the Christian families, wrote, “Vermont would prefer children have no home than to place them with families of faith with these views.”

That’s chilling, but it also seems quite accurate. Indeed, Vermont’s policy would not just prevent conservative Christians who believe that God made humans male and female from fostering or adopting children—it would prevent any family that dares to dissent from gender ideology from doing so. That would include traditional Jews, traditional Muslims, and atheists who adopt the scientific view that sex is binary.

This isn’t just anti-Christian discrimination—it’s a religious test applied to the foster care system.

Sadly, this logic extends far beyond Vermont. Under President Joe Biden, the Department of Health and Human Services adopted a rule barring foster parents who refuse to “affirm” kids’ transgender identities, comparing a lack of “affirmation” to child abuse.

This state religion threatens parental rights even outside the foster care context.

California has become a “sanctuary state” for “gender-affirming care,” giving California courts custody of a child if someone takes that child away from his or her parents for the purpose of mutilating that child’s body to make him or her resemble the opposite sex. Meanwhile, at least one lawmaker in Virginia has proposed a bill redefining child abuse to include situations where parents might inflict “mental injury on the basis of the child’s gender identity.”

Transgender advocates may see these moves as helpful attempts to protect children, but they represent a government endorsement of a religion—a religion at odds not only with traditional forms of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and other faiths, but also with biology itself.

This intrusion into matters of faith deserves loud condemnation, and the Wuotis and the Gantts deserve praise for taking this issue to the courts.