When the state of Michigan asked William and Jill Johnson, a retired Marine and his tackle shop-owning wife, to be foster parents, they readily agreed.
After all, the child was their grandson, and the alternative was for him to go into foster care.
But during the course of the necessary paperwork for the placement, a local judge stunned them with the warning that they no longer would have all of their constitutional rights.
The judge explained bluntly: “We know we are violating numerous constitutional rights here, but if you do not comply, we will remove the boy from your home,” according to a complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.
The case has been brought on behalf of the Johnsons as well as Brian and Naomi Mason, and the Second Amendment Foundation.
They name as defendant Nick Lyon, the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, for his agency’s draconian rules regarding foster or adoptive parents – and their possession of guns.
It alleges civil rights violations under color of law “for enforcing restrictions on the Second Amendment rights of people who want to be foster or adoptive parents.”
The complaint explains the rule first was introduced to the Johnsons by social workers, who said, “If you want to care for your grandson, you will have to give up some of your constitutional rights.”
They explained, when the Johnsons raised questions about their agenda, “there would not be a power struggle, that they would just take his grandson and place him in a foster home.”
“The Johnsons would possess and bear loaded and functional firearms for self-defense and defense of family, but refrain from doing so because they fear their foster child/grandchild being taken away from them by the state,” the case explains.
SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb said the statements from the caseworker and judge “are simply outrageous.”
“This amounts to coercion, with a child as their bartering chip,” he said. “I cannot recall ever hearing anything so offensive and egregious, and we’ve handled cases like this in the past. Blatantly telling someone they must give up their civil rights in order to care for their own grandchild is simply beyond the pale.”
The lawsuit asserts that “the policy of the MDHHS, by implementing requirements and restrictions that are actually functional bans on the bearing of firearms for self-defense, both in and out of the home, completely prohibits foster and adoptive parents, and those who would be foster or adoptive parents, from the possession and bearing of readily-available firearms for the purpose of self-defense. This violates plaintiffs’ constitutional rights under the Second and Fourteenth Amendments.”
“This is a case we simply must pursue,” Gottlieb said. “State agencies and the people who work in those agencies simply cannot be allowed to disregard someone’s civil rights.”
WND reported in January when a federal judge took the side of the Constitution in a similar dispute.
The state of Illinois at that time had demanded that a lawsuit challenging its gun rules as applied to foster or potential foster parents be dismissed.
U.S. District Judge Colin Stirling Bruce said there were “sufficient factual allegations to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
When the case arose, WND reported the Shults family decided a weapon was needed.
Colleen Shults works as a nurse at Danville Correctional Center under the state Department of Corrections. Months earlier, she received a letter from her employer’s Central Intelligence Unit “that prisoners in the IDOC system were using people locator websites on the Internet to learn the home addresses of IDOC staff, including correctional officers and nurses.”
“The letter warned Colleen and those like her to be careful and diligent for their safety,” that complaint said.
The simple answer would be to possess a firearm for defense, and generally under state law that is possible.
But the couple also has been providing foster care in the state for many years, and the policy of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services suspends their Second Amendment rights, the lawsuit says.
“The Shultses would possess loaded and functional firearms for self-defense and defense of family, but refrain from doing so because they fear their foster children being taken away from them by the state, and/or being prohibited from being foster parents in the future, all due to the IDCFS policy complained of herein,” the complaint states.
SAF also brought a previous suit against Chicago over its handgun ban and later against the state over its restrictions on concealed carry. It won both cases.
“It was our legal action against Chicago’s handgun ban that incorporated the Second Amendment to the states via the Fourteenth Amendment,” Gottlieb noted. “It was another of our lawsuits that forced the state legislature to adopt a concealed carry statute in Illinois. Now we’re in court to make sure that the state cannot discriminate against foster parents who merely wish to exercise the rights we’ve restored in Illinois.”
There also was a case in Moore, Oklahoma, brought by Stephen and Krista Pursley.
That state prevent citizens from serving as foster parents while “legally possessing functional firearms for personal protection.”
“This mandate for foster parents is not just restrictive, it’s ridiculous,” Gottlieb said when the conflict arose. “Why should a foster parent be stripped of his or her right to self-defense, or their ability to defend their foster child, simply to appease some bureaucrat’s anti-gun philosophy?”