Shielding child whose mother is Catholic from father's Wiccanlifestyle?

Brownstein, Alan aebrownstein at
Thu Jan 24 10:12:16 PST 2008

I have no clear answer to this problem - but I think part of what is
troubling to me about the potential scope of these constraints on
visitation orders is that they may make it difficult for the child to
have any meaningful relationship with one parent. A devout individual
may make his or her religious practices a regular part of life. Could
the court prohibit one parent from saying a prayer before a meal if the
child was present? If a Christian parent wants the child to be home on
Sunday (to attend Church and to observe the Sabbath) and the other
parent is an observant Jew so that if the child visited that parent on
Saturday the child would necessarily be exposed to Jewish religious
practices, how should a court resolve that tension. Would it be
appropriate for the court to rule that only one parent could ever be
with the child on weekends?


Alan Brownstein 


From: religionlaw-bounces at
[mailto:religionlaw-bounces at] On Behalf Of Vance R. Koven
Sent: Thursday, January 24, 2008 8:52 AM
To: Law & Religion issues for Law Academics
Subject: Re: Shielding child whose mother is Catholic from father's


I think Steve's message illustrates exactly the point. What's in the
best interests of *the* child is a matter to be decided with reference
to the particular child in question and to his/her family's unique
circumstances. It is not a matter for ideology. 

If a child is raised in a household in which differences are extolled
and exhibited, then being exposed to them post-divorce doesn't in itself
seem likely to harm the child. But where a family has adhered to a
particular framework, and that framework is suddenly jolted, not only by
the divorce but by radical changes in what had been viewed as a
fundamental aspect of child-rearing, then it seems perfectly consistent
with the legal standard, psychology and the still largely accepted role
of the family, for a judge to ascertain whether harm is likely to occur,
and take reasonable actions to prevent harm. 

Imposing a Unitarian world view on, say, a Pentecostal child who had
consistently been reared that way, while it may seem to Steve like a
"good thing," would be the worst kind of judicial bullying, as would an
order for a child raised in a Unitarian household to be sent off to
Catholic school, where in each case the judge reasonably concluded that
this would create a cognitive dissonance that could adversely affect the
child's emotional stability. 


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