M.C. and J.C. v. Indiana Department of Child Services

Becket Role:


Decision Date:
March 18, 2024
Deciding Court:
U.S. Supreme Court

Case Snapshot

The state of Indiana launched an investigation in 2021 into the home of Mary and Jeremy Cox, Catholic parents who would not refer to their son using pronouns and a name inconsistent with his biological sex. A state court then removed their child from their home—and never returned him to their custody—even after dismissing all allegations of abuse and neglect against them. The state court also barred them from speaking to their son about their religious beliefs and human sexuality during visitation and placed him in a home that would affirm his preferred gender identity. The parents asked the Supreme Court to protect other parents from losing custody of their children over their religious beliefs.


On March 18, 2024, the United States Supreme Court declined to review the Coxes’ case.

Case Summary

Indiana officials investigate Catholic parents for their religious beliefs 

Mary and Jeremy Cox are a faithful Catholic couple living in Indiana. In 2019, their son left them a note informing them that he identified as a girl. Because of their religious belief that God creates human beings with an immutable sex—male or female—they could not refer to him using pronouns and a name inconsistent with his biology. The Coxes also believed that he needed help for underlying mental health concerns, including an eating disorder. As a result, they provided therapeutic care for their child’s mental health and scheduled appointments with a specialist to help him with the eating disorder. During this time, Mary and Jeremy spoke to their son about their religious beliefs regarding sexuality, and they agreed to find middle ground with him by calling him by the nickname “A”.  

In 2021, Indiana investigated Mary and Jeremy following a complaint that they were not referring to their child by his preferred gender identity. The reporting source falsely claimed that the parents were neglecting and verbally abusing their child. The state’s report also accused them of failing to utilize Indiana’s LGBTQ resources for parenting transgender children. Indiana then removed the teen from his parents’ custody and placed him in a home that would affirm his preferred identity.  

State courts allow removal of child from fit parents 

At the initial trial court hearing, Indiana officials argued the child “should be in a home where she is [ac]cepted for who she is.” The court restricted Mary and Jeremy’s visitation time to a few hours once a week and barred them from speaking to their child about their religious views on human sexuality and gender identity. 

After completing its investigation, Indiana made an about-face and abandoned all allegations against Mary and Jeremy, admitting that the accusations of abuse and neglect were unsubstantiated. State officials then surprised the parents by pointing to the disagreement over gender as a reason to keep him away from his parents. The state said it contributed to an eating disorder, even though that disorder became worse after he was removed and placed in a transition-affirming home. The trial court relied on Indiana’s argument to keep the child out of his parents’ custody and keep the gag order in place. And an appeals court upheld the removal, reasoning that the Coxes’ First Amendment rights did not apply to private speech in the home.

Religious parents ask Supreme Court to protect parental rights 

Almost two years after Indiana removed their child from their home, Mary and Jeremy had no other option but to ask the Supreme Court to step in. On February 15, 2024, Becket and attorney Joshua Hershberger filed a reply brief at the Court, asking the Justices to protect the parents and others from government interference in raising their children. The Coxes fear that Indiana could remove their other children from their home, and that other loving parents throughout the nation may lose custody of their children because of their religious beliefs.  

On March 18, 2024, the Supreme Court declined to take the case. Mary and Jeremy remain committed to fighting for religious freedom and parental rights, to ensure that what happened to their family does not happen to others.

Importance to Religious Liberty: 

Parental Rights: Parents have the right to direct the religious upbringing of their children. Teachings around family life and human sexuality lie at the heart of most religions, and Becket defends the right of parents to guide their own children on such matters. 


Case Information

Becket Role:
Case Start Date:
June 2, 2021
Deciding Court:
U.S. Supreme Court
Original Court:
Madison Circuit Court of Indiana
Supreme Court Status:
Cert Denied
Practice Area(s):