[Vision2020] 05-26-05 WISH-TV: Judge's Order Forbids Dad to Teach Religion to Son

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Thu May 26 18:59:31 PDT 2005


Judge's Order Forbids Dad to Teach Religion to Son
May 26, 2005, 7:07 PM 
By Rick Hightower
24 Hour News 8

An Indiana appeals court must decide if a judge's order prohibiting a nine-year-old from practicing his pagan beliefs will stand.

A Marion County judge issued what some are calling an "unusual" order a year ago in a divorce court. It prohibits the boy from being exposed to "non-mainstream" religious beliefs. 

The ICLU took the case of Thomas Jones Jr. after a court divorce decree forbade him from exposing his son to his pagan beliefs. Jones says it's just not right for his boy not to be able to participate in his Wiccan practices and holidays.

 "I don't understand why the court commissioner that oversaw the custody hearing put it in there. There's nothing within our belief structure or our ritual that would warrant this," said Jones. "I don't want a judge to tell me what he will or won't be."

Wicca is not a centralized, congregational-type religion but rather a belief system where its followers embrace nature, the earth, air, fire, water, and spirit. It's recognized by the pentagram symbol.

Jones believes the judge's decision might have been based on his son's educational environment. "It said there was concern because he went to a Catholic grade school there'd be some confusion."

Religious disputes are not uncommon in divorce cases. But according to the ICLU, the judge's order that forbids the boy from practicing his pagan beliefs could be a constitutional violation. As ICLU attorney Ken Falk puts it, the judge characterized the boy's pagan beliefs as "non- mainstream." Falk says it's not up to the court to decide what constitutes "mainstream" religion. "Mainstream to you or I may not be mainstream to someone else."

Military and Department of Correction documents recognize pagan worship, an indication of its constitutional protection.

Falk says the larger issue is that the state should not be telling parents how they or their children should worship. "This is their religion and I think the point of the first amendment is that it's not up to the government to question the wisdom or the rectitude of any religions practice," said Falk.

Judge Cale Bradford, who put the order in the divorce decree, says he couldn't talk about the issue. It's now up to the Indiana Court of Appeals to determine if Jones is allowed to worship his beliefs with his son at his side.

About Wicca - from Religious Tolerance.org
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