Judge Bars Parents from Exposing Their Son to Their Pagan Beliefs
File this in the "Huh?" category. A Marion County judge ruled in a couple's divorce decree that they could not teach their pagan beliefs to their son. Both parents practice Wicca, a pagan religion that emphasizes balance in nature and the connectedness of everything on Earth.
Now, I can see how during divorce proceedings parents of different faiths might fight over which religion a child is raised in, but how can a judge put a provision like this into the divorce decree against both parents' objections? Apparently a confidential report by the Domestic Relations Counseling Bureau, which advises the courts on custody and visitation rights, said there was "a discrepancy between Ms. Jones and Mr. Jones' [the parents] lifestyle and the belief system adhered to by the parochial school." (They send their son to a Catholic school.) I guess the judge took that report seriously and the result is soon to be resolved in a court battle.
So, I guess teaching your children about respect for nature, the Earth, and all living creatures is bad, and it would contradict the Christian teachings that a Catholic school provides. Makes sense. I don't think Jesus ever specifically said to be nice to birds and flowers and take care of the Earth, so I can see how a 9-year-old could get confused.
Anyway, how can a judge take it upon himself to make a decision like this, especially against the wishes of both parents? Talk about judicial activism. Hopefully there's very little room for interpretation, and another court will strike this down as unconstitutional right away. If not, I'll have some serious doubt about the court system in Indiana.
However, it does raise an interesting point. Right now the First Amendment protects our religious beliefs (that's why this provision shouldn't stand up in court). In a worst-case scenario an out-of-control judge could issue rulings like this when the parents are of a faith that particular judge doesn't believe in — say, a Protestant judge telling a family they can't raise their son as a Buddhist — but I kind of see that as unlikely (maybe I shouldn't be so confident, given recent happenings in the judicial system). However, what if the parents were Satanists or some other tiny, yet freaky religion or cult? A judge would arguably be doing society a favor by keeping us free from another nut job, so why not let him?
In the end it's an easy decision for me. It's not a judge's place to make decisions like that, even if the parents are totally freaky and worship turnips. In the end, that's one of the freedoms our society is made to protect — even if it makes the rest of us a little shaky to think that there are people out there like that. So I hope I don't have to follow this with another blog in a few months showing my outrage that another court allowed this horrible provision to stand. While personally I'm more in line with the Catholic beliefs taught at the child's parochial school, it's not my place to tell his parents they would be "confusing" him or hurting society by teaching him Wicca at home.