Thinking that belongs in the dark ages

I almost can’t believe this is really the case, but it appears that in the US vowing to give a child a religious upbringing gives you the edge in a custody battle.  From Dispatches from the Culture Wars:

One of the rarely discussed tragedies in custody cases is how commonly judges assign custody based upon religious preference. There is enormous bias against non-religious parents and judges often reinforce that bias by awarding custody to a religious parent over a non-religious one, even where there are other serious factors that should compel the opposite outcome.

I’ve got a friend in New York who just went through this and I’m gathering all the legal documents to publicize that case. The outcome was beyond outrageous. The mother, who had full custody during the divorce and custody fight, lost custody because the father would make the child attend church while the mother would not.

This despite the fact that the father had multiple drunk driving arrests and even admitted under oath that he still drove with the child in the car after drinking. This also despite the fact that he had a history of violence, enough to warrant a personal protection order granted to the mother. But the judge felt that raising the child in a “Christian” environment trumped all of that.

Is it 2008 or 1808 in the US?  This, in a country where the religious right cry persecution when greeted with ‘Happy Holidays’ as opposed to ‘Merry Xmas’, or if children other than their own aren’t forced to recite the Lord’s Prayer at school, while non-religious people with the capacity to raise their children can’t do so because they won’t take them to church on Sunday.  If this doesn’t constitute a violation of the separation of church and state then I don’t know what does.


~ by Sammy Jankis on January 2, 2008.

3 Responses to “Thinking that belongs in the dark ages”

  1. Interesting point, but this whole issue involves things that are extra-Constitutional. Courts consider all kinds of things in determining custody, including income. Where in the Constitution does financial standing make a person a better or worse parent? And yet the courts are trying to make the best of a situation.

    The Constitution was signed in the 1700’s, but it IS still in force today. The Founders allowed for change as needed by the amendment process, which has been used many times. That should keep it up with changing times.

    But the Constitution is a wealth of smart thinking and effective rules. It still serves as a model to other countries. OPINIONS of our entire system of government (vs. something that was made into a law), DO prefer religious people in many cases.

    Read the words of John Adams here:
    The Adams on Religion and the Country.

    It’s just opinion, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

  2. OPINIONS of our entire system of government (vs. something that was made into a law), DO prefer religious people in many cases.

    That’s true: secular constitutions do not guarantee that governments will be free of religious bigotry or religious preferentialism. They do make it easier to challenge such attacks upon secular liberal democracy when they do occur, as evidenced by the recent Dover trial. Or this 1971 adoption case.

  3. Oh, and read Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli, approved by then President John Adams:
    As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.” (Emphasis added)

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