Judge: Parents can't teach pagan beliefs

Xtremehkr

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Jul 4, 2004
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Link.

An Indianapolis father is appealing a Marion County judge's unusual order that prohibits him and his ex-wife from exposing their child to "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals."

The parents practice Wicca, a contemporary pagan religion that emphasizes a balance in nature and reverence for the earth.

Cale J. Bradford, chief judge of the Marion Superior Court, kept the unusual provision in the couple's divorce decree last year over their fierce objections, court records show. The order does not define a mainstream religion.

Bradford refused to remove the provision after the 9-year-old boy's outraged parents, Thomas E. Jones Jr. and his ex-wife, Tammie U. Bristol, protested last fall.

Through a court spokeswoman, Bradford said Wednesday he could not discuss the pending legal dispute.

The parents' Wiccan beliefs came to Bradford's attention in a confidential report prepared by the Domestic Relations Counseling Bureau, which provides recommendations to the court on child custody and visitation rights. Jones' son attends a local Catholic school.

"There is a discrepancy between Ms. Jones and Mr. Jones' lifestyle and the belief system adhered to by the parochial school. . . . Ms. Jones and Mr. Jones display little insight into the confusion these divergent belief systems will have upon (the boy) as he ages," the bureau said in its report.

But Jones, 37, Indianapolis, disputes the bureau's findings, saying he attended Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis as a non-Christian.

Jones has brought the case before the Indiana Court of Appeals, with help from the Indiana Civil Liberties Union. They filed their request for the appeals court to strike the one-paragraph clause in January.

"This was done without either of us requesting it and at the judge's whim," said Jones, who has organized Pagan Pride Day events in Indianapolis. "It is upsetting to our son that he cannot celebrate holidays with us, including Yule, which is winter solstice, and Ostara, which is the spring equinox."

The ICLU and Jones assert the judge's order tramples on the parents' constitutional right to expose their son to a religion of their choice. Both say the court failed to explain how exposing the boy to Wicca's beliefs and practices would harm him.

Bristol is not involved in the appeal and could not be reached for comment. She and Jones have joint custody, and the boy lives with the father on the Northside.

Jones and the ICLU also argue the order is so vague that it could lead to Jones being found in contempt and losing custody of his 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?"

Some people have preconceived notions about Wicca, which has some rituals involving nudity but mostly would be inoffensive to children, said Philip Goff, director of the Center for the Study of Religion & American Culture at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

"Wiccans use the language of witchcraft, but it has a different meaning to them," Goff said. "Their practices tend to be rather pacifistic. They tend to revolve around the old pagan holidays. There's not really a church of Wicca. Practices vary from region to region."

Even the U.S. military accommodates Wiccans and educates chaplains about their beliefs, said Lawrence W. Snyder, an associate professor of religious studies at Western Kentucky University.

"The federal government has given Wiccans protection under the First Amendment," Snyder said. "Unless this judge has some very specific information about activities involving the child that are harmful, the law is not on his side."

At times, divorcing parents might battle in the courts over the religion of their children. But Kenneth J. Falk, the ICLU's legal director, said he knows of no such order issued before by an Indiana court. He said his research also did not turn up such a case nationally.

"Religion comes up most frequently when there are disputes between the parents. There are lots of cases where a mom and dad are of different faiths, and they're having a tug of war over the kids," Falk said. "This is different: Their dispute is with the judge. When the government is attempting to tell people they're not allowed to engage in non-mainstream activities, that raises concerns."

Indiana law generally allows parents who are awarded physical custody of children to determine their religious training; courts step in only when the children's physical or emotional health would be endangered.

Getting the judge's religious restriction lifted should be a slam-dunk, said David Orentlicher, an Indiana University law professor and Democratic state representative from Indianapolis.

"That's blatantly unconstitutional," Orentlicher said. "Obviously, the judge can order them not to expose the child to drugs or other inappropriate conduct, but it sounds like this order was confusing or could be misconstrued."

The couple married in February 1995, and their divorce was final in February 2004.

As Wiccans, the boy's parents believe in nature-based deities and engage in worship rituals that include guided meditation that Jones says improved his son's concentration. Wicca "is an understanding that we're all connected, and respecting that," said Jones, who is a computer Web designer.

Jones said he does not consider himself a witch or practice anything resembling witchcraft.

During the divorce, he told a court official that Wiccans are not devil worshippers. And he said he does not practice a form of Wicca that involves nudity.

"I celebrate life as a duality. There's a male and female force to everything," Jones said. "I feel the Earth is a living creature. I don't believe in Satan or any creature of infinite evil."
This is starting to go too far.
 

mischief

macrumors 68030
Aug 1, 2001
2,920
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Santa Cruz Ca
mkrishnan said:
LOL someone needs to put a hex on that judge for exceeding judicial authority.... :rolleyes:
Leave unto Caesar......

Hex initiated.

Googling home Addy for distribution to local High School and Collegiate Hacker community... (JK ;) )
 

solvs

macrumors 603
Jun 25, 2002
5,693
1
LaLaLand, CA
LethalWolfe said:
Why is this not surprising at all that it happened in Indiana.
Because Wiccans are afraid to live in Mississippi. :p

Seriously though, this is just stupid. Everyone knows Wiccans aren't real witches anyway. Most of the Wiccans I know don't even believe in the Devil either. The just chant and sit in drum circles and babble about peace and stuff. They don't even get stoned. Modern Wiccans are boring. When I was younger, it seemed like they were more fun.
 

skunk

macrumors G4
Jun 29, 2002
11,745
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Republic of Ukistan
solvs said:
Because Wiccans are afraid to live in Mississippi. :p

Seriously though, this is just stupid. Everyone knows Wiccans aren't real witches anyway. Most of the Wiccans I know don't even believe in the Devil either. The just chant and sit in drum circles and babble about peace and stuff. They don't even get stoned. Modern Wiccans are boring. When I was younger, it seemed like they were more fun.
Yeah, they haven't been the same since they gave up on sex with goats.
 

Cybernanga

macrumors regular
Oct 27, 2004
201
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Essex, United Kingdom
Seriously though, I think the judge was correct to point out that the parent's don't seem to understand that sending him to a catholic school and teaching him about wicca may harm the child.

I'm catholic, and went to catholic schools for most of my life, and I would never send my children to a similar school, as the level of brainwashing is excessive. (There are "values" I was taught at school, which I "know" to be wrong, but the damn Jesuits got hold of me when I was very young, and their brainwashing techniques still make me stick to these "mistaken" beliefs.

Like the Jesuits say, "Give me a boy until he's seven, and he's mine for life" (not an exact quotation, but you get the drift.)

If the parent's can't see the confusion they are putting their child in, they should be "assisted", however, I would have preferred that the Judge ruled that they should inseatd send their son to a wiccan school, but thhat if they can't find one nearby, they should settle for a secular/non-religious school.

Can you imagine being raised christian at home, but going to a Moslem or Hindu school, how confusing would that be for a young child?
 

pseudobrit

macrumors 68040
Jul 23, 2002
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Cybernanga said:
Seriously though, I think the judge was correct to point out that the parent's don't seem to understand that sending him to a catholic school and teaching him about wicca may harm the child.

I'm catholic, and went to catholic schools for most of my life, and I would never send my children to a similar school, as the level of brainwashing is excessive. (There are "values" I was taught at school, which I "know" to be wrong, but the damn Jesuits got hold of me when I was very young, and their brainwashing techniques still make me stick to these "mistaken" beliefs.

Like the Jesuits say, "Give me a boy until he's seven, and he's mine for life" (not an exact quotation, but you get the drift.)

If the parent's can't see the confusion they are putting their child in, they should be "assisted", however, I would have preferred that the Judge ruled that they should inseatd send their son to a wiccan school, but thhat if they can't find one nearby, they should settle for a secular/non-religious school.

Can you imagine being raised christian at home, but going to a Moslem or Hindu school, how confusing would that be for a young child?
I'm Catholic and went to Catholic school for everything but kindergarten. There were plenty of non-Catholic kids whose parents sent them to parochial schools in search of a better education. I don't think any of them were Wiccan so nobody raised a fuss.

My experience with Catholic schools were generally positive until high school, where I ran into what I can only describe as a politically tainted version of Catholicism: philosophical curiosity and questioning was stifled and right-wing thinking was encouraged. Any opposition to such was invariably met with cooked-up disciplinary action.

Looking back, I actually consider my high school to be an opposite environment of genuine Catholicism, which what I experienced in elementary school.

Education-wise, both schools were woefully inadequate. Had I gone to a public school, I would have had advanced classes and broader resources when I was young. The only solution my parochial school could think of was to offer to move me up a grade, and I was already nearly a year younger than all my classmates and a very small kid.
 

skunk

macrumors G4
Jun 29, 2002
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Cybernanga said:
Seriously though, I think the judge was correct to point out that the parent's don't seem to understand that sending him to a catholic school and teaching him about wicca may harm the child.
On the contrary (a) it's none of the judge's business, and (b) an intelligent and well-raised child will cope quite well in any environment.

I'm catholic, and went to catholic schools for most of my life, and I would never send my children to a similar school, as the level of brainwashing is excessive. (There are "values" I was taught at school, which I "know" to be wrong, but the damn Jesuits got hold of me when I was very young, and their brainwashing techniques still make me stick to these "mistaken" beliefs.
It's not the same in every school.

Can you imagine being raised christian at home, but going to a Moslem or Hindu school, how confusing would that be for a young child?
This happens a lot to children of every religion living abroad: what's the problem?
 

IJ Reilly

macrumors P6
Jul 16, 2002
17,915
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Palookaville
Cybernanga said:
If the parent's can't see the confusion they are putting their child in, they should be "assisted", however, I would have preferred that the Judge ruled that they should inseatd send their son to a wiccan school, but thhat if they can't find one nearby, they should settle for a secular/non-religious school.

Can you imagine being raised christian at home, but going to a Moslem or Hindu school, how confusing would that be for a young child?
My parents weren't Wiccan and I didn't attend a Catholic school, but I was still a confused kid. Is it too late to sue?
 

solvs

macrumors 603
Jun 25, 2002
5,693
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LaLaLand, CA
skunk said:
Yeah, they haven't been the same since they gave up on sex with goats.
Well, I know a guy who did it with sheep. But I don't think he was Wiccan, just drunk. BTW, most of that post was sarcasm. In reference to that Buffy episode where Willow is disappointed that her new Wiccan group is all ceremony and bake sales. My last Wiccan meeting was like that. I mean, come on, I like chanting as much as the next guy. But it's supposed to be about more than that. It's about... well, I know it was something. I forget now. Something about getting high around a camp fire or something.

Dunno, it's been a few years. :p
 

themadchemist

macrumors 68030
Jan 31, 2003
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Chi Town
Cybernanga said:
Seriously though, I think the judge was correct to point out that the parent's don't seem to understand that sending him to a catholic school and teaching him about wicca may harm the child.

I'm catholic, and went to catholic schools for most of my life, and I would never send my children to a similar school, as the level of brainwashing is excessive. (There are "values" I was taught at school, which I "know" to be wrong, but the damn Jesuits got hold of me when I was very young, and their brainwashing techniques still make me stick to these "mistaken" beliefs.

Like the Jesuits say, "Give me a boy until he's seven, and he's mine for life" (not an exact quotation, but you get the drift.)

If the parent's can't see the confusion they are putting their child in, they should be "assisted", however, I would have preferred that the Judge ruled that they should inseatd send their son to a wiccan school, but thhat if they can't find one nearby, they should settle for a secular/non-religious school.

Can you imagine being raised christian at home, but going to a Moslem or Hindu school, how confusing would that be for a young child?
My dad is Hindu and in India, went to a Catholic school for most of his childhood, as did his uncle. One of my good friends is Muslim and went to a Catholic school in New Jersey.

Kids are smart. They know how to separate their beliefs from the beliefs of an institution. I'm sure the kid can understand that others have different beliefs than him and that he is seeking not religious training, but academic training, from his school.
 

Zaid

macrumors 6502
Feb 17, 2003
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themadchemist said:
My dad is Hindu and in India, went to a Catholic school for most of his childhood, as did his uncle. One of my good friends is Muslim and went to a Catholic school in New Jersey.

Kids are smart. They know how to separate their beliefs from the beliefs of an institution. I'm sure the kid can understand that others have different beliefs than him and that he is seeking not religious training, but academic training, from his school.
If anything I would think it teaches the kid that their are people out there that believe something different to what he/she does and that despite this some of these people are actually ok, and that they could learn things from these people, or even be friends with them.

This is not such a bad thing, surely!
 

themadchemist

macrumors 68030
Jan 31, 2003
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Chi Town
Zaid said:
If anything I would think it teaches the kid that their are people out there that believe something different to what he/she does and that despite this some of these people are actually ok, and that they could learn things from these people, or even be friends with them.

This is not such a bad thing, surely!
Absolutely! I do believe, however, that if you are of part of such an extremely small minority as the members of Wicca, you are likely to learn these lessons quickly regardless. Therefore, I think it is important to point out that the lesson is reciprocal. Despite the intentions of the school administrators (or, hopefully, because of them), making a Catholic school multi-religious affords all students, including Catholic students, an opportunity to recognize the inherent dignity and humanity of their peers, regardless of race, ethnicity, class, or religion. Sadly, the same lesson will likely not be learned about sexuality for some time to come, even in most secular, public schools.
 

MontyZ

macrumors 6502a
Jan 7, 2005
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Kids wouldn't give a damn about religion if they weren't brainwashed by their parents from an early age.

But even so, the judge is breaking the law. Freedom of Religion doesn't mean Christian or Jewish only. It's just nuts. All of it.
 

mpw

Guest
Jun 18, 2004
6,364
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I wonder what other restriction this judge would dictate on a whim?

If the kid chooses to follow the Wicca religion are his parents going to be held in contempt if they turn up to watch him sing in the choir(or whatever the Wicca equivalent might be) because of their support for this religion?

I really makes me mad when judges make these sort of retarded comments and decisions.

A judge in the UK recently cleared a police officer of a speeding charge when the officer had taken out a new unmarked police car on his own and just for the hell of it and without getting any kind of permission or having any call to leathered it to 160mph on public roads with a limit of 70mph. His own colleagues brought the prosecution when they viewed the cars on-board video yet the judge says he did nothing wrong!

If I was ever in court as plaintiff or defendant for any reason I wouldn't want such retarded loose canons deciding my fate on their whim.