Thursday, April 15, 2010

Judge’s ruling exposing child to religions too theoretical to work in real world

When I was a student at a college loosely affiliated with the United Methodist Church, I had a “religion” requirement to fulfill. I chose Religion 105: Introduction to Judaism.

It is a course I remember fondly. The reform rabbi who was imported from an area synagogue to teach the course had a humorous personality that could get serious when appropriate (such as joking about the holiday Tu B’Shevat, while becoming more solemn with regards to persecution throughout the centuries). I REMEMBER ONE issue where he got serious – the whole issue of inter-faith relationships and how they affect children. I specifically remember him saying that the idea of a Jewish parent and a non-Jewish parent saying they will expose their children to both faiths, then someday let them decide what they want to believe, just doesn’t work.

Too often, it becomes a choice of a child being made to feel like they have to “pick” a parent to respect – at the expense of the other. Despite anyone’s best intentions, that is what the situation ultimately becomes.

So Rabbi Jerry Stone, wherever you happen to be today (I haven’t heard from him in over 25 years), I only wish you could have somehow been in a Chicago courtroom this week when a Cook County judge issued what I’m sure she thinks is a “common sense” ruling that a father who nominally is Catholic can take his young daughter to Mass – even though the girl’s mother who is Jewish has the legal custody of the girl and is trying to raise her in that religious faith.

This ruling has the potential to create one very messed up young girl – who right now is only 3 and likely doesn’t have the comprehension level required to truly understand what is being put forth before her.

THIS IS A case where adults are supposed to look out for a child’s best interests. All I can see is that they are failing her, big time!

Based on news reports that have come out of this particular case, the couple in question were married for four years before splitting up. It also seems that her Jewish faith was much more important to her than Catholicism was to him.

He went through the motions of converting to Judaism so they could have the Jewish wedding service she wanted. In accordance with Jewish teachings, a child’s primary religious influence is the mother, which means I am sure she is convinced it is only natural her daughter should be raised Jewish.

When she got primary custody (with the father getting occasional visits), that would seem to make it clear this particular girl was going to be raised in the Jewish faith.

BUT AS OFTEN happens with divorce proceedings, bitter feelings can result in actions that can be perceived as hostile.

At least that is how the mother took it when she learned that her daughter was taken by her father to a church and was baptized. She learned about it because the father took pictures of the act (that is meant to cleanse the soul of sin) and made sure that she saw them.

I’m sorry, but that just strikes me as being spiteful. It strikes me as being an un-Christian act to want to rub this issue in her face, even though I’m sure the father will say publicly he merely wants to share his religious beliefs (the ones he nominally gave up in order to be married to a Jewish woman) with his daughter.

It strikes me as a father trying to stake his claim on a girl who will be spending the bulk of her life with her mother. When you think about it rationally, that’s just mean.

WHICH IS WHY I can’t help but think that Judge Renee Goldfarb this week reinforced that meanness by overturning an order that prevented the father from taking his daughter to church any longer. That order is the only thing that kept the girl from attending an Easter Mass.

Goldfarb gave permission for the father to take his daughter to church when she visits him, and also put in stipulations that she must visit him on Christmas and Easter. Of course, the judge also wrote in provisions giving the daughter to her mother on Rosh Hoshanah, Yom Kippur and Passover.

That is going to be one extremely-holiday-ed kid, being bounced back and forth like a yo-yo by parents who seem to want to gain the upper hand over the girl.

Now I’m not writing this out of any sense that the child is better off being Jewish (although I’m sure my step-mother, Cathy, would disagree – many of my nephews and nieces are being raised as Jewish). If the situation were reversed and the Catholic parent were the one with custody, I’d be as concerned about a Jewish parent trying to use religion to gain an upper hand.

BUT THAT IS the bottom line.

We have two people who have issues with each other, and in their attempt to one-up each other, they’re taking it out on their daughter. So much for the idea that a parent is supposed to protect their child from such mind-games. And for the idea that the courts are supposed to intervene when things get out of hand in our society.


EDITOR’S NOTE: A part of me wonders if it is appropriate for us to pray, regardless of our religious denomination, for the girl ( whose life is likely to become chaotic being bounced back and forth between religious faiths.

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