Imagine that your foster home was permanently closed, and your foster children abruptly taken away from your home (apparently, so urgently that they were not even permitted to gather up their belongings), simply because you refused to lie about the Easter bunny. And then imagine that your foster home was closed even to the extent that you were prevented from ever serving as foster parents, even to Christian children—again, simply because of your refusal to lie about the Easter bunny. This was the experience of Derek and Francis Baars in their interaction with the Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton, Ontario. They recently went to court and won a lawsuit in which they insisted that their freedom of conscience and religion and freedom of expression had been violated.1 I think it is profitable to consider this case more closely.
Derek and Francis Baars are a young couple in their thirties who are conservative, Reformed Christians.2 They were married in 2010. In May 2015 they applied to open a foster home with the Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton, Ontario. During a training program, they revealed to the Society that, based on their religious beliefs, they do not celebrate Halloween or promote Santa Claus or the Easter bunny, as they do not want to lie to children. After passing a home study and going through numerous interviews, they were approved as foster parents. On December 17, 2015, the Baars entered into an agreement with the Society. The very next day the Society placed two sisters, ages 3 and 4, with the Baars. The Baars celebrated Christmas with their foster children without mentioning Santa.
On January 6, 2016 Derek and Francis were introduced to their new placement support worker. This support worker, knowing the religious convictions of the Baars, brought up the issue of Easter celebrations, and the cultural tradition of having the Easter bunny bring chocolate eggs for children. For two months the support worker repeatedly insisted to the Baars that they needed to affirm the existence of the Easter bunny to the foster children in their home. Although the Baars were very accommodating and sensitive to the cultural upbringing of the children, even willing to go so far as to hide Easter eggs for the children and buy them Easter outfits, they refused to tell the children that the eggs came from the Easter bunny, for that would be lying. The Baars even offered to have the children go to a different foster home for the weekend, but they would not perpetuate the existence of the Easter bunny. This did not satisfy the placement worker, nor, in the end, the Children’s Aid Society as a whole:
She [the placement worker] was insistent about the bunny, the couple [said].
“My husband and I were confused,” Francis said. “I asked her if she actually believed in the Easter Bunny or realized it was fictitious. After evading this question initially, she finally admitted the Easter Bunny was not real, but she did not consider it lying to tell children it was real; she believed it to be an essential part of every Canadian child’s experience.”
…The worker told them the girls would be taken away from their home if they did not tell them the Easter Bunny was real.3
In late February, the Society decided that it would not continue its foster-relationship with the Baars because “they are not prepared to support the agency position and support the needs of the children.” On March 3, 2016 the Society informed the Baars of their intention to remove the children from their care. The very next morning, the Society abruptly removed the children from the Baars’ home and closed their foster home permanently. They were no longer deemed suitable to be foster parents.
On April 11, 2017, after several attempts to appeal the decision (and without receiving the decency of any kind of a response from the Children’s Aid Society), the Baars decided to file a lawsuit against the Society, claiming that their freedom of conscience and religion and their freedom of expression had been violated. The fact that their foster home had been closed also ended the Baars’ ability to foster other local children, and likely interfered with the couple’s ability to foster or adopt children after they moved from Ontario to Alberta.
(When a person reads over the case, one asks himself why the Society would take such extreme and urgent action as they did. More on this in a moment.)
Earlier this year, on March 6, 2018, Justice Andrew Goodman of the Ontario Superior Court ruled in favor of the Baars. In his ruling, he declared that the Children’s Aid Society
attempted to convince the Baars that the Easter Bunny was not a religious figure and that, as a result, perpetuating its existence should not go against their religious beliefs. In addition, [the worker] essentially told the Baars that their approach to celebrating the Easter Bunny was not acceptable. In doing this, [she] was attempting to compel the Baars to perpetuate the Easter Bunny and celebrate the holiday in a manner contrary to their opinion and beliefs.
Writing for the National Post, Adrian Humphreys gives a nice summary:
The Baars sought no money, only a court declaration their rights were violated and that they not be blackballed from future fostering. Justice Andrew Goodman of Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice did just that….
[Justice] Goodman said the CAS’s actions were “capricious,” “not in the children’s best interests” and potentially reveal an “underlying animus” by the society and its workers….
The CAS said the children were not removed for the foster parents refusing to lie about the bunny but for refusing to support the birth mother’s wishes and failing to be respectful of cultural needs of the children.
“Nothing can be further from the truth,” Goodman wrote. “It appears that the Society would not be satisfied with anything other than confirmation from the Baars that they would lie about the Easter Bunny,” his judgment said….4
A disturbing detail
The mention of a potential “underlying animus” in the ruling is what, in my mind, adds a disturbing detail to the entire ordeal through which the Baars went. An animus refers to a strong dislike, or animosity, or hostile attitude. When you read the 62-page ruling, you find out that there appears to be some deeper issues that lie buried in this case. A few of the Justice’s remarks are as follows:
 While the Society insists that they were solely acting pursuant to their statutory objectives in taking the foster children away from the Baars’ home and closing their foster home, as outlined above, there is evidence that suggests otherwise….
 According to Francis’ affidavit, during a phone conversation with the [social worker] on or about the end of February, she states that [the worker] “introduced a new, offensive and entirely unfounded complaint against us: she informed us that she was personally afraid that if a same-sex adoptive couple met us, that we would not treat them well.” Francis states that [the worker] further expressed to them that she did not think that the Baars would treat same-sex couples with respect and, further, that the Baars might teach the prospective adoptive children that the couple was “living in sin.” The Baars assured [the worker] that they would treat any same-sex couple as people worthy of dignity and respect.
 Francis goes on to state that [the worker’s] comments had no air of reality, as they were unrelated to the actual situation that the Baars were facing as foster parents. At that point in time, there had been no interaction with prospective adoptive couples nor was there any plan in the near future to do so, since the plan was for the current foster children to return to their biological family. Francis goes on to state that: “[The worker], without any factual basis or grounding, persisted in telling us that because of our religious faith, we would discriminate against same-sex couples.”
… I find that the above evidence raises a large question with regard to [the worker’s] and, thereby, the Society’s, motivations in removing the children from the Baars’ home and ultimately the closure of their foster home.
… … I cannot imagine why, at that point in time, asking such questions [about same-sex couples] would be helpful…. It cannot reasonabl[y] be said that the conversation took place with the intention of assessing the Baars’ receptiveness to potential adoptive same-sex couples generally.
 As a result, it seems likely that [the worker’s] discussion regarding prospective same-sex couples to the Baars was fueled by a potential stereotypical belief in the inability of Christians to support samesex marriage and not, indeed, pursuant to any valid statutory objective.
As disturbing as this case is (where a Christian is being discriminated against simply for being a Christian), what is even more disturbing is that since the passing of Ontario Bill 89 in 2017, it is legal to discriminate against Christian foster-parents if they refuse to endorse the LGBTQ worldview. “Bill 89 changed the law to give the State the authority to refuse applications from prospective foster or adoptive parents if they refuse to affirm transgenderism or other forms of ‘sexual identity expression.’” 5
It makes you wonder: if this case were not about compelling the Baars’ to lie about the Easter bunny, but instead about compelling the Baars’ to lie about the goodness of same-sex marriage, would the ruling still have gone in their favor? No. Presumably, the Baars’ would have been blacklisted from ever being able to foster or adopt children in the future.
I think there are a few observations we can make as we look at these events.
First, this case reveals how easy and convenient it is to use the LGBTQ worldview and the new policies of the sexual revolution to target conservative Christians who do not think the way society wants them to think. The evidence in this case suggests that the social worker brought up LGBTQ issues simply because she had a growing dislike of the Baars and their Christian views, and was looking for an excuse to take the children away. I can only suppose that in the future, these kinds of tactics will be more and more common, and meet with increasing approval and success.
Second, this case reveals the attitude that many people have in society today, that they are able to determine for Christians what parts of their religious beliefs are vital and what parts are not, and what activities are reasonable for a Christian and what activities are not. According to society today, you are an extreme Christian if you cannot compartmentalize life into areas that are “religious” and areas that are “not religious.” As Francis so aptly stated in her interaction with the social worker, “there cannot be something that is not religion.” I think the burden for Christians, more and more, is to make sure that they are acting consistently according to their biblical convictions in every area of life.
Finally, after reading the ruling, I must give my hearty commendation to the Baars for how they behaved in such a difficult and harrowing ordeal. They remained true to their Christian convictions and acted blamelessly, even when it appears that they were being discriminated against because of their Christian convictions. In the circumstances they were in, they were taking the real risk that they might never be permitted to adopt or foster children ever again, all for the sake of the truth and God’s glory.
One of the newspapers that reported on this case stated that the Baars’ have moved to Alberta, and are in the process of applying to adopt a child there. My prayer is that the Lord would bless them and prosper them in their endeavors, and make their hearts glad.
1 The 62-page ruling can be accessed at https://www.jccf.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Decision-Baars-v-CAS.pdf
2 The 62-page ruling stated they were members of the Free Reformed Churches; news reports stated they were members of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America.
3 http://nationalpost.com/news/religion/christian-couple-says-child-welfare-removed-foster-children-because-they-refused-to-say-easter-bunny-is-real, April 12, 2017 (updated April 13, 2017).