Thursday, May 26, 2005

Parents Appeal Divorce Decree -- Judge Says No Pagan Teachings

Only in Indiana. I'm not kidding. This kind of story is what really sets me off living in the midwest. (And trust me, I was equally set off at times in California when some ex-hippie would force some granola-crunching edict down the political pipeline, so I'm a ranter at either extreme end of the spectrum.) So, a couple in Indiana gets a divorce. This particular couple happens to follow a different version of a religious belief than the judge granting the divorce decree. The couple follow the teachings of Wicca which, contrary to what popular television would have you believe about witches and magic, embraces a pagan spirituality around the earth and elements. Either way, it's a belief system different than the judge's -- read: non-Christian. So what happens in Indiana? According the the Indy Star, the judge adds language to the decree, inserting an "unusual order that prohibits [the father] and his ex-wife from exposing their child to 'non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals.' "

I haven't re-read that pesky freedom of religion clause in the Bill of Rights lately, but last I checked, it was still there. What could possibly be the judge's constitutional reasoning for limiting the rights of these parents to follow their beliefs and expose their child to teachings about the Earth, nature and life? They're not Satan worshipers. They don't dance around naked in the forest. (At least the Indy Star asked them.) Frankly, I think a few more people should question a more things in life -- and teach their children to question them as well. Why punish parents for teaching their children a few more things that just God, God and only God?

The judge -- Cale Bradford, chief judge of the Marion County Superior Court -- says he based his comments on a report filed by the Domestic Relations Counseling Bureau who interviewed the couple's son and observed him for the court. The son attends a parochial school (the report doesn't say which one). Even the father attended Bishop Chatard High School as a non-Christian student. And of course, both parents of the child in question are incensed.

Thank God for the Indiana Civil Liberties Union. I've never understood Republicans who cower in fear at the ACLU and its attendant state organizations. Why would anyone oppose an organization who steps in on the most egregious violations of civil rights? The ICLU is handling the appeal. The parents are appealing only the one paragraph of the divorce decree.

Worse, the judge's vague clause of "non-mainstream" is so vague that it gives the parents almost no lee-way. Who's to say what is "mainstream" and the parents fear a wrong step could land them in court again, this time arguing for custody of their son.

"When they read the order to me, I said, 'You've got to be kidding,' " said Alisa G. Cohen, an Indianapolis attorney representing Jones. "Didn't the judge get the memo that it's not up to him what constitutes a valid religion?"

More from the Star:
Doug Masson covers this today also and is tracking blogs picking this up across the country.


At Sat May 28, 12:15:00 PM, Blogger The Curmudgeon said...

This is judicial activism at its worst -- and what do you want to bet it's a conservative judge? (Good bet, here in Indiana.) While it wouldn't be unexpected to see a judge rule like this when one parent worshipped one way and one worshipped another, it's way out of line to jump into a situation where both parents share the same beliefs, no matter how unorthodox. Apalling.


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