Several years ago, 16-year-old Yaeli Martinez was removed from her home by the state of California after 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. 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.

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 non-custodial parent in Canada.

And the other week, a 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, contributing issues, including an eating disorder, without affirming his gender dysphoria. State officials, after learning that the Coxes would not use their son’s “preferred pronouns,” removed him from their care. As the Coxes described,

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 that the Indiana Department of Child Services initially claimed that the parents had not sought treatment for the eating disorder and were guilty of neglect and abuse. Despite these accusations, the government did not think it necessary to remove the other children. Eventually, the state admitted the allegations were false. However, the damage was done, and their child was not returned.

Mr. and Mrs. Cox have been forced to take their state to court. So far, the Indiana Appeals Court and the Indiana Supreme Court have rejected their appeals. Now, they are waiting to learn if the U.S. Supreme Court will hear their case. 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, described 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, pre-political 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 who are fighting to protect religious liberty and parental rights. If you know of 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.

This Breakpoint was co-authored by Dr. Timothy Padgett. For more resources to live like a Christian in this cultural moment, go to

Image credit: ©Getty Images / wildpixel

John Stonestreet is President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and radio host of BreakPoint, a daily national radio program providing thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of CrosswalkHeadlines.

BreakPoint is a program of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. BreakPoint commentaries offer incisive content people can't find anywhere else; content that cuts through the fog of relativism and the news cycle with truth and compassion. Founded by Chuck Colson (1931 – 2012) in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends. Today, you can get it in written and a variety of audio formats: on the web, the radio, or your favorite podcast app on the go.