PROVIDENCE, R.I. – An adoptee has no right to gain access to his birth records simply because his Mormon beliefs compel him to learn about his ancestors, the state Supreme Court ruled.
Philip Sabatino, 34, of Erie, Pa., claimed in court records that according to his faith he “may be saved and exalted after death” if he meets certain requirements, including tracing his ancestry and fulfilling certain obligations to his blood relatives.
But the justices said confidentiality is important to the adoption process and the man did not show a need to know his parents’ names.
In a footnote, the justices added that they doubted they could open records only for Mormons.
“We do not see how deferring to such a belief would be anything other than a preferential treatment by government based upon religion,” the footnote said. It added, though, that the case would be different if a petitioner’s religious beliefs were “translated” into a secular context, such as a psychological need for the information.
Sabatino, who was born in Providence, has a criminal history, including robbery, resisting arrest and public intoxication. He converted to Mormonism several years ago “seeking the aid and comfort of God,” according to court records.
“He had been in prison and wanted to get his life together,” said his lawyer, Peter Margulies. “Getting information about his biological parents would have been one step along that road.”
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