Judge bars parents from raising their kid as Wiccan.

Seems a judge in Marion County, Indiana by the name of Cale J. Bradford issued a ruling in a divorce settlement that effectively bars either parent from teaching their son about their Wiccan beliefs, specifically it states that they cannot teach their child “non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals.” The parents, Thomas E. Jones Jr. and Tammie U. Bristol, are outraged and Mr. Jones has filed suit to try and get the ruling removed.

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.

“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?”

So here we have what is clearly an activist judge going above and beyond his authority without even being asked and yet I can’t think of a single Republican Congressman who’s shitting bricks over this issue. Where are the angry calls for reigning in this obviously out of control judge from the Religious Right? Can you imagine the shit-storm we’d been in the middle of if this idiot had made that ruling and the religion in question happened to be Christianity? Someone needs to slap that judge upside the head with a rolled up copy of the Bill of Rights.

17 thoughts on “Judge bars parents from raising their kid as Wiccan.

  1. Just off the top of my head, (so it obviously means I could be mistaken) let me give you some possible background on the issue of religion. I have not seen the transcripts of this case but there are a few other cases that could be relevant in this discussion.

    In the late 1980s, there was a case against the Unification Church (aka Moonies) in the Supreme Court of California (Molko v Holy Spirit Association) where the courts (to a certain extent) declined to extend the protection of the establishment clause to the Unification Church.

    The main thrust of the decision was that while there is an establishment clause it does not protect all actions taken in name of the religion. It went on to talk about “New Age” religions and the theory of “brainwashing.” Although some claim that the Unification Church is a Christian organisation as opposed to “New Age”. And thus as a result the people are “compelled” to join the religion as a result of “brainwashing.”

    Whether one sees all religious proseltiing as “brainwashing” or not, the establishment clause is not omnipotent. However, it should be noted that the term “brainwashing” is quite a technical term and is found more often in US than in other countries. Although the EU Court of Human Rights in 1993 Kokkinakis v. Greece talked about brainwashing it does not seem to be using the term in its technical sense.

    Part II of the story came a few years later with the enaction of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993 which supposedly overturned the California decision. But the courts have not acted on it and have in some instances declared it to be unconstitutional.

    Finally, I did recall reading about a “list” of official religions but cannot remember it specifically. Or rather a list of religions and the rights, specifically on the issue of raising a child. Perhaps later on.

  2. Well you just knew I’d have to comment on this story didn’t you Les? First off I could understand if one of the parents had objections to the child being raised a wiccan, in which case an accomodation like this would perhaps be in order.

    However this is most certainly not the case here at all. This judge has just taken it upon himself to add this paragraph about religion due to his own bias and ignorance. I’d like to hear what this ‘learned’ judge actually believes Wicca is, I doubt he has an informed opinion upon which he is basing this ridiculous ruling of his.

    Probably he’s another one of the lump wiccans/pagans in with satanists crowd, and feels that bringing a child up with wiccan teachings is somehow wrong or unhealthy. I’m not going to go on about how wrong he is, I am sure anyone with an interest will be able to look up what wicca actually is and see for themselves how harmful the beliefs would be, compared to oh say a christian fundamentalist upbringing.

    If I was one of the parents I’d just blatantly ignore the court order, and see if they were idiotic enough to try and enforce it. It’s such a shame to see how far backwards the USA is slipping by allowing these religious zealots to meddle in affairs of state and law. It worries me when I think of where this is all leading, and I wonder what the world is going to look like in ten years time.

  3. A clarification on “official religions.” It appears in drips in the form the term “recognized religion.” It often appears in statutes dealing with the child and lower courts have rejected such a term as unconstitutional.

    Some would argue that certain decisions by courts proclaiming whether a religion is recognised seem to suggest that there is a list of “recognised religions.”

    That however, is attacked on grounds that the courts are not proclaiming whether is it a recognised religion but merely examining its practices to see if the practices employed are legal. But that obviously to some smacks of circularity in reasoning.

    I have not seen the transcript but the decision if couched only in terms of “non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals” would be problematic. Since to some, the Wiccan religion has been “recognised” by certain court decisions in the early 1980s (Dettmer v Landon) although such interpretation is problematic.

  4. I got to chime in here as a non-practicing agnostic/pagan.  I found the following on ReligiousTolerance.org

    Military Courts of Justice in the U.S. have also found Wicca to be a valid religion, deserving of protection under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In United States v. Phillips, (42 M.J. 346) in 1995) the concurring opinion by Judge Wiss stated: “First, Wicca is a socially recognized religion.  It is acknowledged as such by the Army.  See Dept. of the Army (DA) Pamphlet 165-13-1, Religious Requirements and Practices of Certain Selected Groups:  A Handbook for Chaplains (April 1980), revising A Pamphlet 165-13, “Religious Requirements and Practices of Certain Selected Groups:  A Handbook for Chaplains” (April 1978).  Further, it is acknowledged as such in courts of law.”

    A search for “Religious Requirements and Practices of Certain Selected Groups:  A Handbook for Chaplains” resulted in a hit on RELIGIOUS REQUIREMENTS AND PRACTICES of Certain Selected Groups A HANDBOOK FOR CHAPLAINS (1993) (ONLINE EDITION – last updated 30 May 2000) which details many mainstream and non-mainstream religions including two forms of Wicca and Antoine LaVey’s Church of Satan.  So it seems that the US government, well military, recognizes many religious faiths including some that are fairly dubious in both beliefs and practices.

    I hope this judge gets professionally neutered over this.  Most likely he’ll get a slap on the wrist though.

  5. Thanks, Chaz, you saved me the trouble of looking that up for Wanderlust.

    Even if we accept the idea that the government has a compelling interest in determining what constitutes a valid religion and what doesn’t as well as what parents would be allowed to expose their kids to the point remains that the U.S. Government in differing capacities has recognized Wicca as a valid religion.

  6. I just don’t see why that had to go on there at all…regardless of what they mean by mainstream.  The govt shouldn’t have any say in the matter.

    They’d do better to try and discourage parents from taking their kids to McDonald’s too often.

  7. Excuse me while I go bash my head against a wall.

    But really, I probably should have seen this coming.

  8. Les said: Where are the angry calls for reigning in this obviously out of control judge from the Religious Right?

    Yup, it’s the coming of the Theocracy all right.  Let’s check in with the American Family Association, one of the left’s favorite bogeymen.. What did they have to say about all this?  (article)

    The head of a conservative Christian group also sided with the Wiccans.

    “The parents have the right to raise their child in that faith, just as I have the right to raise my child in the Christian faith,’’ said Micah Clark, executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana.

    This is the same dangerous organization which publicly sided with a witch and a Satanist in front of the US Supreme Court, arguing for the right of prisoners to practice their religion.

    Real intolerant bastards, those Right-Wingers.

  9. I must admit my pleasant surprise at seeing at least one Right-Winger speaking out. Shame it’s not any of the folks in Congress who tend to rant and rave about activist judges on a regular basis, but at least someone on the Religious Right is speaking up. Now I’ll be impressed if a few more can manage to follow this group’s lead.

  10. Wicca is older than Christianity and that judge dares to do what he did? I hope he gets a severe censure for this. It is Constitutionally and morally wrong for him to have even considered putting that into his ruling.

    Once again, I say that no government entity should have any power over religion. Too much trouble ensues when they do.

  11. Actually, what people call Wicca these days is much more modern than Christianity.  Much of the reason for that is that the knowledge and ceremonies of the Celts was oral.  Ogham was used rarely.  What we have left are mainly chronicles from highly biased Roman historians.  Also, we have some attempts from even more biased scholar monks at recording some of the oral traditions, e.g., the not so venerable Bede and others.  What is left are patches and scraps of the original tapestry stitched together by outsiders who viewed it in a less than favorable light.  A couple of good references on religions of antiquity (other than the well known Golden Bough) are Margaret Murray’s The God of the Witches and Paul Newman’s The Hill of the Dragon.  Good luck on finding the second one.  I haven’t checked Amazon in a long while for it, but several years back I e-mailed Mr Newman to see if he knew where I could get a copy of the book.  He informed me that it was out of print.  I was looking for it because it had a quote from another book about the Dravidians being tricked into worshiping “the mother whore and her bastard son” that piqued my curiousity about the other book.  BTW, love the Tardis icon!

  12. Warbi’s right. Wicca itself is somewhere around 80 to 90 years old at the moment. A relatively young religion in comparison. Some of the various Pagan religions Wicca is based on do stretch back prior to Christianity, but Wicca itself does not.

  13. Les, now that was a real stupid evil bastard thing to do. I was quite content believing this kind of lunacy was happening only in the south and therefore, contained.  downer Bummer.

    Serai, I am glad they are fighting rather than defying. It’s just smarter.

    Chaz,  wink Well done.

    Talking Soup, share some space on that wall.

  14. May we rember the three fold law here.The judge maid a silly statement,maybe he will get it right in his next life time.It also makes me sad to live in Indiana.I live in a small “christan” town with at least 3 wiccan people in it.Looks as if we still have a path to set for all to see the wonders of the goddess.

  15. Actually, I was stuck living in Fort Wayne, Indiana for two years.  The whole state—with some exceptions—is a Christian theocracy.  Dan Quayle, who lived 25 miles to the west of us, is the epitome of the American democratic ideal, because never before has there been a candidate who so perfectly reflected his constituency on so many levels. 

    There are a few really wonderful people there in Indiana, but the asshole quotient was so high that it made me say “Jesus God, I wish I was in Texas instead of here” every day the last year I was there.

  16. This was overturned on Aug. 17, 2005, but not on constitutional grounds.  It was overturned because Indiana’s domestic law says that the parent with custody “may determine the child’s upbringing, including the child’s education, health care, and religion training.” 

    The law limits the custodial parent’s power to determine those factors only if the court agrees with an argument from the noncustodial parent that the child’s physical or mental health “would be significantly impaired” by the custodian’s decisions. Additionally that law allows for both parents to offer a written agreement for the court’s approval on the child’s upbringing.

    Both parents want the kid to be raised Wiccan.


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