Parents of the ailing Connecticut teen held captive by Massachusetts authorities for more than a year are pleading with the bureaucrat captors to let them celebrate Holy Week and Easter with their daughter, whose health is failing under the state’s custody.
“We are in communication with the Department of Children & Families and Wayside Youth & Family to see if Justina can attend Easter Service this Sunday,” said Rev. Patrick Mahoney, who is a Presbyterian minister and spokesperson for the Pelletier family. “There is no commitment from DCF, but we are still working on it.”
This time last year Justina was not permitted to attend Easter Mass nor Christmas or any other religious holiday even though the Pelletier’s are Roman Catholic, he said.
“We’re hoping with the massive media attention on this case and enough pressure bringing to bear they will allow Easter Mass to happen for Justina,” he said. The Mass is the central act of worship in the Catholic Church and Easter is the central holy day, more important than Christmas to Catholics.
Fifteen-year-old Justina Pelletier was unlawfully removed from the custody of her parents, Linda and Lou Pelletier, in Feb. 2013 after a disagreement over a medical-diagnosis between Boston Children’s Hospital and Tufts Medical Center, he said.
“As tragic and troubling as it is to be removed from her family unjustly, it is even more difficult when Justina’s civil and religious rights are being trampled.”
Since in the custody of DCF, Justina’s medical, education and religious needs have not been met, said Mahoney.
Monday Linda and Lou Pelletier filed a “habeas corpus” petition with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court requesting that Justina be released from DCF and be returned to their custody. A writ of habeas corpus is a court order in which a prisoner is released from unlawful confinement.
“Massachusetts DCF has no right to hold Justina captive. This is unacceptable. Justina needs to return home,” said Mathew D. “Mat” Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel who is representing the Pelletier’s.
Among other things, the petition argues that the requirement to issue detailed written findings of fact and conclusions of law justifying DCF???s intervention has never been met, he said.
“Cases like this one are not rare,” said William A. Estrada, who is director of federal relations at ParentalRights.org, which advocates for the adoption of the Parental Rights Amendment to the Constitution. “This is just one of the more egregious cases we have seen.”
Hospitals and social workers will step-in over a disagreement between physicians, and the state agency takes over for the parents, he said. “It is absolutely not what our constitution allows for; it is not in the best interest of a child; and it is not what should be happening.”
Parental rights are guaranteed by Supreme Court doctrine but the courts’ are not necessarily adhering to that doctrine which is the reason why ParentalRights.Org supports a constitutional amendment, he said.
“There has been a sharp rise in state courts, who mostly handle parent-child relationships, refusing to afford parents what the Supreme Court in Pierce v. Society of Sisters has required – the highest level of protection to parents.”
It is a weakening of parental rights and a reprehensible abuse of power, said Estrada, an attorney and member of the U.S. Supreme Court bar. “Social workers are making decisions over parents.”
Justina has not only been removed from her family, but she has not been in school in over a year and is regressing in her medical condition, he said. “We can lay the blame squarely on social services in Massachusetts.”
Despite claims to the contrary, Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick could intervene on behalf of Justina, he said.
“Patrick could direct DCF to relinquish control and return custody of Justina to her parents and this case would be over tomorrow,” he said. “The fact that the governor has not done so, is very problematic.”