Published January 16, 2009
Exactly why the state of New Jersey removed 3-year-old Adolf Hitler Campbell and his two younger sisters from their parents' home last week remains a mystery.
A state official was adamant Friday that a child would never be removed from his parents based solely on his name. But a First Amendment expert said that the boy's name might have had something to do with it.
Young Adolf Hitler was removed one week ago — along with his sisters JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell, 23 months, and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell, 9 months — by the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services. A family court hearing for the children's parents, Heath and Deborah Campbell, was postponed Thursday.
Although privacy laws prevent authorities from discussing specifics of the case, DYFS spokeswoman Kate Bernyk reiterated Friday that the agency "would never remove a child simply based on that child's name."
But a name like Adolf Hitler could have contributed to their removal, said Rod Smolla, dean of the Washington and Lee Law School.
"I doubt that the name alone would be enough to trump the First Amendment interests that the parents have, but if it were coupled with other things, it could be a factor that tells us that society has a legitimate reason to intervene with regard to the children," Smolla said.
Bernyk, speaking generally, told FOXNews.com Friday that the agency removes children from their parents only when "there's an imminent danger to the child's safety or well-being."
The children were taken on Jan. 9 without incident from the family's home, Sgt. John Harris of the Holland Township Police Department told FOXNews.com on Wednesday.
"I’ve dealt with the family for years and as far as the children are concerned, I have never had any reports of any abuse with the children," Harris said. Speaking of the children's father, he said, "As far as I know, he's always been very good with the children."
He said the DYFS did not tell police why the children were taken from their parents.
"They’re very confidential when it comes to their dealings because people make accusations and they have to follow up on them and, God forbid, an accusation’s not true," Harris said Wednesday. "You don’t need to parade people through the media and stuff."
The police department referred all inquiries about the case to the Hunterdon County Prosecutor's Office, which did not return phone calls Friday.
Smolla said the First Amendment protects parents' rights to make decisions regarding their children.
"There are actually cases from early in the last century, like in the 1920s, about the rights of parents to teach their children a foreign language, like German, and to make other decisions like that for their own children, and the decision to name the child is clearly a very personal decision," Smolla said.
He said, though, that even some names can go too far.
"The burden would be on the government to say that to name your child after Adolf Hitler places such a stigma on the child and would be so damaging to the child’s future in society that the government would have a right to intervene and prevent that name from being used," Smolla said.
"I’ve never heard of such a case, but I could see the argument."