Pagan Parenting Prohibited


An Indiana judge has ordered a divorcing couple, both of whom are Wiccans, to stop practicing their religion in front of their 9-year-old son. In fact, Marion County Superior Court Judge Cale Bradford has prohibited them from exposing the boy to "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals" generally. He seems to think it would be confusing, since the kid is attending a Catholic school.

[Thanks to Nicolas Martin for the link.]

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  1. Well, who better an authority is there than a Judge on being confusing?

  2. I’m holding my breath waiting for the Republicans to start complaining about activist judges.

    I’m turning blue. . .I’m turning purple. . . I’m passing out. . .

  3. Holy shit!

  4. In all seriousness, I know of a lot of non-Catholics who send their kids to Catholic schools because the education they get there is better than what the public schools have to offer. Assuming this ruling is allowed to stand (which I doubt), does this mean it will be illegal for Protestants, Jews, atheists and non-Christians to send their kids to Catholic school?

  5. Jennifer,

    The activist judges in question will be on the appellate court that removes Judge Bradford’s stipulation of mainstream indoctrination.

  6. Jennifer-

    I don’t know if this person qualifies as a “Republican” in your eyes, or whether you consider it a complaint about judicial activism, but here’s something for your consideration…

  7. Daniel-
    I was glad to read that; now I’m waiting to hear some outrage by the same people who were outraged by the wicked activist judges who had the gall to apply the then-current laws to the Terri Schiavo case.

  8. Jennifer-

    I went to a Catholic school for k-3 and 5-8. A majority of my graduating class was Protestant.

    And although kids everywhere can be mean, I think that a Wiccan kid would get more tolerance (certainly from the teachers) at my Catholic grade school than at the suburban public school that I attended for 4th grade. Conformity was much more important at the public school than at the school based on the teachings of a long-haired, anti-establishment radical. (Don’t confuse Catholics with the Vatican.)

    As an aside, I learned more about Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and other non-Western religions at Catholic grade school than I did in public high school. Hell, I learned more about Judaism in Catholic grade school too. In high school we read some novel where the characters were all Jews and their religious upbringing was a crucial part of the story. The teacher invited the assistant principal (a Jew) to tell us about Judaism. I was the one who knew all the answers to his questions, and he asked if I was Jewish. I said no, but my Catholic grade school taught us a lot about Judaism when we studied the Old Testament. He took it fine (I was far from the only Catholic school alum in my public high school).

    Anyway, maybe the judge should attend a Catholic school and learn something about tolerance.

  9. Thoreau-
    I don’t want kids, but if I did, *I* would send my kids to a Catholic school before I’d let the public schools get their hands on them. And I’m an atheist. I’d just give my children the following (apparently very confusing) message: Be polite and respectful during Mass and the other prayers; just remember that OUR beliefs are different. If you want to insult religion, wait until after school, and go on Hit and Run and pick a fight with Joe.

    What’s so bad about raising a kid with such a message? Except maybe the part about Hit and Run, I mean.

  10. Jennifer-

    While I’m generally skeptical of people who invoke the “judicial activism” mantra for the reasons you are implying, without a clearer understanding of the facts I think it’s too early to tell whether the trial court’s order implicates it. I’m not an expert on family law, but as a general matter judges in divorce/custody cases have pretty broad powers to fashion orders according to the needs of each individual case. Whether the order itself was legal or even wise (it was neither) doesn’t really have anything to do with the judicial activism debate. Put another way, a judge does not become an “activist” simply by giving orders that are wrong or misinterpreting the law, although he might simply be a bad judge.

  11. Daniel-
    According to Schiavo’s self-appointed defenders, a judge becomes an activist by interpreting the law in ways that the self-appointed defenders don’t like.

    But I don’t want to hijack this thread to Schiavo. The point is, you’ve got a judge who have just ordered both parties in a custody dispute to essentially abandon their religion in regards to their kid. More to the point, there’s a judge who’s decided that it’s bad for a kid to be raised in anything other than a mainstream religion. If that isn’t activism, I don’t know what is.

  12. Daniel-

    Well, as far as the article lays it out, it sounds like religion was never a disputed matter in the divorce case, and the judge just took it upon himself to insert this matter into the ruling. He figured that if he has the power then he might as well use it to suit his personal beliefs, even if the issue was not on the table.

    Abusing his authority like that sure sounds like judicial activism to me.

    Where’s Tom DeLay when you need him? Oh, that’s right, whoring himself on K Street.

  13. Hey, I wonder how long it will be before a judge orders a divorced couple to not expose their child to evolutionary biology!

  14. This guy’s no doubt the kind of “strict constructionist” and opponent of “judicial activism” that social conservatives want in control of the courts.

  15. Aside from the question of who decides which religion is “mainstream”, I’m sure a lot of orthodox Jews and Muslims would take exception to the idea that their religions are so similar to Catholicism as makes no difference. And I’ve seen Jewish kids in Catholic school, too.

    The only thing I can think of that would justify this decision is if a reputable psychiatrist who had examined the kid testified that the kid was being damaged by exposure to two conflicting world views.

  16. Mark Borok,

    These people have biologist who testify in support of Genesis, doctors who claim AIDS can be transmitted by sweat, and physicists who claim melting glaciers have nothing to do with rising termperatures.

    How hard would it be for them to round up a psychiatrist to say that being raised a Wiccan causes mental illness?

  17. “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.”

    If being subjected to nudity concerned the judge, then he should order them not to get Cinemax either.

  18. *I* would send my kids to a Catholic school before I’d let the public schools get their hands on them.

    Jennifer, any avid reader of this blog knows that you would go down shooting before letting the public schools anywhere any potential offspring of yours! 🙂

  19. Fyodor-
    When the first post-Columbine “Schools Gone Wild” news stories came out, I wished, for the first time ever, that I’d had children. Why? Because I read about schools outlawing black trench coats, and wanted to send my kid to school in a trenchcoat of solid navy blue.

    (Also, in all seriousness, I am slightly colorblind, and when they sent my kid home I could’ve sued for disability discrimination and made a FORTUNE. Whaddaya mean this trenchcoat is black? I could’ve sworn it was Slate Gray.)

  20. Sigh, I long for the days of Trench-Coat Mafia jokes….

  21. Me too, Fyodor. Life was so much simpler back in the twentieth century.

  22. IIt’s a good call by the judge. We certainly wouldn’t want the poor child influenced by the bizarre beliefs of weirdoes in long robes and pointy hats.

    Uh ? wait a minute.

  23. Joe –

    “How hard would it be for them to round up a psychiatrist to say that being raised a Wiccan causes mental illness?”

    Yeah, that’s why I said “reputable” psychiatrist. Meaning one who did not have an agenda of his own. Of course even reputable psychs can be wrong, but at least it would make a certain sense in that case.

  24. ..and what do you do to a witch?

  25. Here’s what I want to know: Do Wiccan fundamentalists bar their kids from reading Harry Potter on the grounds that it defames witches? Because I know the Christian fundamentalists bar their kids from reading Harry Potter.

    I’m just trying to identify the common ground so we can defuse this conflict.

  26. Pagan Parenting Prohibited
    He seems to think it would be confusing, since the kid is attending a Catholic school.

    [Thanks to Nicolas Martin for the link.]

    Then don’t send him to the Catholic school.

  27. My wife is a tongues speaking Charismatic. 30 years ago, her religion was far out of the mainstream, practiced mainly by minorities and uneducated rural women. Today, there are more Charismatics in America than in any of the established mainstream Protestant churches, with the exception of Southern Baptists. So, if the family decides to convert to Episcopalean, will they still be out of the mainstream?

  28. “So, if the family decides to convert to Episcopalean, will they still be out of the mainstream?”

    it depends. maybe they’ll get the amish dispensation, which allows for tiny but old groups to maintain small farms out in pennsylvania.

  29. The judge should just cut to the chase and tell the parents not to divorce since divorce is bad for kids.

    And since their maritial relationship is obviously messed up, the courts should have them both sterilized so they can’t make any more kids, and thus expose them to bad parenting.

    Y’know, for the sake of the kids…

    I’m just wondering if judges know about a document called the “Constitution,” or is the phrase “freedom of religion” somehow confusing for a man capable of obtaining judgeship?

  30. The hole in the judge’s argument, of course, is that there is no mainstream religion in the U.S.

    No two Christian denominations can interact for long without disagreements. Shoot, most of the bigger churches can’t even throw a convention with their own denomination without a theological food fight. Next week is our United Methodist Annual Conference. As usual everyone has their fingers crossed that certain unnamed subjects won’t be brought up and cause a ruckus.

    Ever since Constantine converted and made Christianity acceptable, almost all of the Christian martyrs have been created by other Christians.

    The main problem faced by the Christian religion is that there aren’t enough Christians in it.

  31. (At the trial)

    Judge Bradford: How do we know these parents are Wiccan?

    Random Neighborhood Blue-Nosed Busybody: Well, they turned me into a newt!

    Judge Bradford: …a newt?

    (Uncomfortable courtroom silence follows)

    Random Neighborhood Blue-Nosed Busybody: I… I got better…

  32. “I was glad to read that; now I’m waiting to hear some outrage by the same people who were outraged by the wicked activist judges who had the gall to apply the then-current laws to the Terri Schiavo case.”

    Well, you might check out the comments at Amy Wellborn’s blog on this story ( Lots of us were pretty frickin outraged.

  33. Seamus–

    I just read the link and the entire comment section. I’m assuming this is a Catholic Website which discusses modern stories from a Catholic viewpoint?

    On the one hand, it was indeed heartening to see a lot of people saying “I don’t agree with these parents’ religion, but they definitely have the right to raise their child in that manner,” but there were also a lot of folks who said they didn’t and shouldn’t have the right to raise their child in a “false” religion. Granted, as an atheist I’ve often had the same thoughts, particularly when in a bad mood, but I would NEVER seriously advocate making it illegal to raise a child in a religion (except the ones which refuse to give children access to modern medicine, or other clear and imminent dangers to the child’s life), if for no other reason than I know this has NEVER led to a better society in the past, and NEVER will in the future.

    But I’ll admit the scary posters were in the minority. I suppose that’s a good sign.

  34. Just a thought (and I didn’t read the article)…

    Couldn’t it have been template language for a judicial order in the realm of family law?

    I work for a law firm that does work in both Idaho and Washington, and there are all sorts of forms in both states for family law matters. It could just be that the Wiccan parents made the template language a little “unusual” for a change.

    (I couldn’t find any public access forms with such language after a brief search though.)

  35. Jennifer:

    Yes, Amy Wellborn is a Catholic blogger, and most of those who post tend to be both Catholic and what I’d guess you’d call conservative (though I think it’s misleading to use those political terms in referring to religious issues, and most of the issues discussed on Ms. Wellborn’s blog are religious).

    BTW, in reference to your comment of 11:23 yesterday morning, I’m not sure whether Eugene Volokh is a Republican, but he tends to line up with the Republicans, and he’s not fond at all of activist judging; he rightly denounces the Indiana judge’s decision as “outrageous” and appalling:

    And as a legal matter, the no-Wicca ruling is almost certain to be struck down on appeal, unless the Supreme Court in the meantime overturns Pierce v. Society of Sisters and Wisconsin v. Yoder. (And that’s making all due allowances for how Smith v. Employment Division weakened the theoretical underpinnings of those decisions.)

  36. The not unreasonable question was asked:

    “Couldn’t it have been template language for a judicial order in the realm of family law?”

    No. The order was made in this case and this case only.

    Wick Deer

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