An Ontario court has ruled that the charter rights of a Christian couple were violated when a child welfare agency removed two girls from their foster home because they refused to lie about the existence of the Easter Bunny.
Derek and Frances Baars, who describe themselves as a Christian couple with "strong religious faith," sued the Children's Aid Society (CAS) of Hamilton in April 2017, alleging that an aid worker had insisted that they tell the two girls in their care that the Easter Bunny is real, despite their beliefs that lying is wrong.
The court has heard that CAS support worker Tracey Lindsay had acknowledged that the girls, aged three and four, looked well cared for in all respects. But the Baars claimed that the CAS worker had told them that it was part of their duty to teach the children about the Easter Bunny.
CAS had claimed that the children were not removed over the couple's refusal to lie about the Easter Bunny, but for refusing to support the birth mother's wishes and failing to be respectful of the cultural needs of the children.
The Baars, who lived in Hamilton at the time but have since moved to Edmonton, sought a declaration that their rights were violated and that they not be blackballed from future fostering, but they did not seek monetary compensation in their lawsuit.
Superior Court Judge A.J. Goodman sided with the Baars and declared that the welfare agency had violated the couple's right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression when the children were taken from their home and their fostering agreement was terminated due to the dispute.
"There is ample evidence to support the fact that the children were removed because the Baars refused to either tell or imply that the Easter Bunny was delivering chocolate to the Baars' home," Goodman stated in his decision on Tuesday, as reported by The Canadian Press.
"I am more than satisfied that the society actions interfered substantially with the Baars' religious beliefs," he continued.
The judge had found that the Baars had allowed the children to enjoy the holidays such as Easter and Christmas, even if they were not able to "positively perpetuate the existence of the fictitious characters that are associated with those holidays" because of their religious beliefs.
Goodman further noted that there are times when child welfare workers need to intervene, such as in cases of physical or sexual abuse, but a dispute over the Easter Bunny is not one of them.
Frances Baars welcomed the judgment saying: "We are very thankful for it, that we've been vindicated. Our names have been cleared and we don't have that hanging over us anymore."
The Christian couple said that they are trying to adopt a child, and they hope that Goodman's decision would help them in that process.
In light of the Baars' wishes, Goodman had ordered Hamilton CAS to "fully apprise" any agency that is considering the couple's suitability to become adoptive parents.