Divorce and religion: Whose faith should the children practice?

I’ve been following a divorce/custody case in Chicago that I wanted to share with you. It’s complicated so pay attention.

The parents divorced. The mother is Jewish. The father returned to his Catholic roots after his divorce and started taking his 3-year-old daughter to church with him. He even had the 3-year-old baptized in the Catholic Church without his wife’s permission.

The mother, Rebecca Reyes, was upset about him taking the daughter to church because she said they had an agreement to raise her in the Jewish faith. She had a judge issue a restraining order to keep him from taking the daughter to church with him.

The father, Joseph Reyes, said they never agreed to raise their daughter in the Jewish faith, they didn’t keep a kosher home and rarely observed Sabbath. He was facing fines and/or jail time if he violated the restraining order.

Here is the original story with the background.

So yesterday, a judge removed the restraining order and said the father could take his daughter to church with him despite the mother’s wishes.

From the Huffington Post:

“But on Tuesday, Cook County Judge Renee Goldfarb said Reyes can take his daughter to “church services during his visitation time if he so chooses,” she wrote in the divorce decree. “This court will also order that Joseph have visitation with Ela every year on Christmas and Easter.” The Chicago Sun-Times reports:

Goldfarb said her decision to let Reyes take his daughter to church was based on ‘the best interest of the child.’

“The judge said she found “no evidence . . . that taking 3-year-old Ela to church during Joseph’s visitation time is or would be harmful to Ela. She is three years old and, according to Joseph, while at church she waves at the other children, looks around and giggles. This court found that testimony credible.”

Here is the follow-up story with details on the resolution.

OK, so there are multiple parts to this for us to discuss:

  1. Should this father in this case be allowed to take his daughter to church?
  2. Should he have gotten the child baptized without his wife’s permission?

2a. Who should have the final call in something like that?

3. In general in divorce cases, which religion do the children follow if the parents differ?

4. Is it generally a problem or do the kids just follow whichever parent felt stronger in their faith?

116 comments Add your comment

A. Nusman

April 14th, 2010
6:57 am

Oh no…….Religion. Time to start swinging the ban stick.

motherjanegoose

April 14th, 2010
7:09 am

I am so glad that I do not have to fight this battle ( nor make the decision for anyone else) . T this one probably falls under the cat fight category as there will be those on polar opposites today.

Jeff

April 14th, 2010
7:41 am

The problem I have is the general consensus of what the father should be “allowed” to do. If it is his child and you’re going to call it his child in child support hearings, then he gets to make the decisions of what to do with his child when the child is with him.

mom2alex&max

April 14th, 2010
7:46 am

Interesting. So this wasn’t a problem while they were married???

There’s no simple solution here. We are not talking Catholic vs. Baptist here; where there are of course differences, but the core tenets are the same. The Jewish faith and the Catholic faith are very very different. Thing is, if I am not mistaken, by Jewish law the girl is considered Jewish.

My guess is that this girl will be shuttled back and forth to both places of worship (not for the right reasons either) and will grow to hate anything associated with worship. What a shame.

MomsRule

April 14th, 2010
7:51 am

They married knowing they followed different faiths, they had a child knowing they followed different faiths and then they divorced. So now Mommy wants everything her way? IMO, they need to be open minded and expose the child to both if they follow different religions. What harm can come from opening a childs mind?

I absolutely believe the father should be allowed to take the child to church and Mom can take the child to Jewish services. I can’t understand why the question is “should this father in this case be allowed to take his daughter to church?” He has as much right to take the child to church as Mom has to expose the child to her faith.

If Mom only wanted her children raised Jewish she should have married a man that shares her beliefs and vice versa. They knowingly created this situation. Suck it up and be flexible.

Nadia74

April 14th, 2010
7:58 am

When I read the title to this, my first thought was, “Both.” It is more complicated than that. Sucks to be that kid.

I think that it was wrong for the father to baptize the the girl, without the mother’s permission. I think that the most fair solution would be that each parent can practice their faith with the child, but nothing like baptism, confirmation, bat mitzvah, etc can happen until the girl is old enough to consent. That is a lot of pressure on that child though. She will feel like she is choosing one parent over the other if she chooses one religion over the other. I don’t know when she would be mature enough to make a decision like that, though. 14? 18? Never?

I am afraid the parents are going to be using religion as a way to piss off the other parent. Sounds like they were not very religious when married, so why the fuss now?

Who should make the call? Definitely the child, but she is too young right now.

Andrea

April 14th, 2010
7:59 am

Well, from reading this story, it sounds like the father converted to the Jewish faith and after the divorce decided to return to his original Catholic faith. It sounds credible that during the marriage they agreed the child would be raised in the Jewish faith because at the time both parents were practicing the same faith.

Fast forward to the divorce – there should be a clause within the decree to give tie breaking authority to one parent on issues of education, religion, etc. If they don’t have that, then the child should practice both faiths until she is old enough to make a decision as to which one she wants to practice. It really sounds like both parents are practicing members of the “I” religion. Sad for the little girl.

RJ

April 14th, 2010
8:05 am

If religion is so important to the mother, why would she marry someone of a different faith? I saw this case on TV a couple of months ago and I just didn’t get it. It appears that the two of them are trying to spite the other. What a shame. I’ve seen this handled by loving parents that allowed their children to worship both faiths. Personally I don’t agree with marrying someone of a different faith. Children shouldn’t become a part of your confusion.

Nadia74

April 14th, 2010
8:09 am

I remember reading something (Reader’s Digest, I think) about a similar case, only one parent wanted to circumcise the child (that parent was Jewish), and the other fought it.

http://www.rd.com/your-america-inspiring-people-and-stories/should-a-nineyearold-boy-be-circumcised-against-his-mothers-wishes/article173170.html

Good job, MomsRule...

April 14th, 2010
8:13 am

…my sentiments exactly…

Jeff

April 14th, 2010
8:14 am

Andrea, I understand you are trying to make a bad situation better and come up with a compromise, but my expereince has been that the one who has tie-breaking authority uses it like a dictator. Therefore, no vote is even necessary.

Jeff

April 14th, 2010
8:15 am

Oh yeah, I’ll ditto that good job to momsrule.

Roswell Jeff

April 14th, 2010
8:17 am

Andrea, who determines which parent has tie-breaking authority? There are many, many variables in that mess.

Becky

April 14th, 2010
8:27 am

Like others, I think MomsRule nailed it..I also saw this on TV a while back and think they both need to grow up and think about what is best for their child..

Polytron/E2M Sucks

April 14th, 2010
8:41 am

She had a judge issue a restraining order to keep him from taking the daughter to church with him.

Now I see why’s not married to a woman like that anymore.

Yet another woman using restraining orders as retaliatory tools and being a bee-yatch. Kind of sad and pathetic.

Last time I checked taking a kid to Catholic church didn’t instantly kill them or leave them with bruises.

mom2alex&max

April 14th, 2010
8:42 am

In re: tie-breaking authority. I may be wrong here, but I think that’s where there’s a difference between primary/full custody and joint custody. I think that when you have full/primary custody (which a lot of times includes visitation for the non-custodial parent, btw) you get to make those kinds of decisions legally. In joint custody, the parents have to agree. But I am not 100% sure on this.

Roswell Jeff

April 14th, 2010
8:48 am

@mom2alex&max – that sounds reasonable.

Lady Strange

April 14th, 2010
8:51 am

Usually in joint custody the custodial parent has the final say. Or at least that’s the way it is in my son’s case. His dad and I have joint custody but I am the custodial parent. I just have to discuss whatever it is with his father and hopefully agree but I get the final say. So far we haven’t had any problems.

Andrea

April 14th, 2010
8:55 am

The tie breaking authority is a part of the divorce decree. So either the mediator or the judge hearing the case makes the determination. Unfortunately, divorce (like most things) should be VERY explicit. You have to make sure every minute detail is included. It sounds harsh but that is just reality.

I learned from watching my friends. In one case, the parents share joint custody (both legal and physical) and in another case, the parents share joint legal custody with the mother having physical custody. In the case where both joint and physical custody were shared, they did not have a tie breaking clause and they were in court every 3 to 6 months arguing over where the child went to school, what church he attended, what foods the child could eat, you name it and they litigated it. In scenario two, the mother had physical custody but the father stipulated he have tie breaking authority on significant matters (i.e. church, school, medical treatments, etc.). It really is quite sensible. Every choice doesn’t require a summit conference so the mother is really making most of the decisions. But when big issues are involved, the father having tie breaking authority, makes the mother be required to consult with him before major decisions are made.

@Roswell Jeff, I agree with you that it is a mess and there are many variables involved. However, when you are facing a divorce situation, it is in your best interest to make sure EVERYTHING is addressed. You have to think to the future and include the “what ifs”. I don’t care if it takes you all month and 3 reams of paper to produce your decree – you better do it.

Roswell Jeff

April 14th, 2010
9:07 am

@ Andrea… *nods in agreement*

It’s just sad it has to be that way.

Otis

April 14th, 2010
9:08 am

If a person does not believe that a religious ritual is an actual spiritual event, on what grounds do they oppose it?

For example, if you believe that a Baptism is nothing more than water and hocus pocus words, what is there to oppose? By opposing it, you give credence to it.

More times than I can remember, I have heard Christians speaking on the dangers of “WitchCraft”. I always wonder of what dangers they are speaking. If you believe that your religion is the “one true faith” and that all others are false dogmas, whats to fear?

By opposing witch craft, you are in effect, stating that you believe that witch craft is an actual thing.

FCM

April 14th, 2010
9:11 am

Are you there God it’s me Margaret? Do you remember her year long study on religion? She ended up writing the teacher a letter that basically said that growing up with mixed faith parents bites a big one if they cannot agree on what to raise them. She also clearly states that kids should know and not be forced to figure it out for themselves.

The parent could get a religious custody of the child. Some courts permit that.

In our house we agreed to raise them Christian. I am a 5th generation Disciple of Christ (Stone-Campbell) and am raising my daughters the same. He is fine with it though not the same background.

Otis

April 14th, 2010
9:13 am

An oddity specific to this case is that the father is arguing to allow him to teach his faith in a lawsuit, while the faith he argues for suggests not to enter into lawsuits. Ironic.

Mom

April 14th, 2010
9:14 am

I believe there should be a mutual agreement, child belongs to both. Looks like father was practicing Jewish faith while married to his child’s mother, after the divorce this should have continued if it was taken seriously, not as a toy (faith is missing). Religion is not a toy you play with it, move to a next toy. It has to come from heart. I believe no matter what you practice, Christian, Jewish or Islamic faith, these three have same GOD, All are Abrahamic faith.

Isn't "Abrahamic faith"...

April 14th, 2010
9:25 am

…Jewish faith?

Aquagirl

April 14th, 2010
9:41 am

“Last time I checked taking a kid to Catholic church didn’t instantly kill them or leave them with bruises.”

It might, however, get them felt up.

Elliot Garcia

April 14th, 2010
9:53 am

Mixed religions is a big reason for divorce these days…marriage is a lot of work and having different religions makes it even more difficult

Randy

April 14th, 2010
9:58 am

Reguardless of what religion you raise your children, the real secret is them finding/accepting Jesus, in this case the child would probably have a better chance in finding Jesus in the Catholic faith. Although many Jewish people have also found him.

Polytron/E2M Sucks

April 14th, 2010
10:02 am

By opposing witch craft, you are in effect, stating that you believe that witch craft is an actual thing.

Not really. I think you’re dwelling on semantics. It should read, perhaps, practicing witchcraft.

What’s to fear? Being associated with some type of the occult leads to some rather unsavory behavior, beliefs, and getting further away from being a right place in your life both spiritually and morally. It opens you to things that will only pull you down further, despite what the classic occult rhetoric is.

Kind of like, once you start going down a certain road it makes it harder to come back, and puts your faith in things like “magic.” Belief in such things will pull you further away from being able to be close to God and maintaining a healthy, morally clean life free from the need to feel like you have to depend on “magic” or “making your wishes reality” in order to feel fulfillment in your life.

Those involved in witchcraft in some instances do some revolting things, that are fairly immoral and what most people would consider kind of nasty. I was surprised what some Wiccan girls do with a group of guys.

You will notice, if you look closely, those people practicing witchcraft often have personal issues not limited to emotional problems or self esteem, etc., but on occasion somewhat psychological issues.

jg

April 14th, 2010
10:08 am

Sounds like Mom is spiting Dad – if he converted and they never observed the Sabbath or attended synagogue BEFORE they divorced – then why should she gripe now? Seems to me if Mom wanted to raise the child Jewish – then she should be the major part in that. Not just denying the father of his right to take his child to church. Sounds like the parent who drops their kid off at church and then goes home- I want you to go to church but I won’t go.

God gives us all free will – hopefully the child will one day make her own choice.

Sad though.

Van Jones

April 14th, 2010
10:09 am

“Allowed” to take his daughter to church? Really? Don’t they worship the same God? Well, maybe not Jesus, but the same God. The parent who does not want the daughter to participate in another mainstream religion is the problem here.

JoeV

April 14th, 2010
10:10 am

They should both stop lying to her and tell her the truth about the fairytales.

Single Dad

April 14th, 2010
10:12 am

1 – no judge, attorney, and many parents do not care about “the best interests of the child”. this is a self-serving concept, introduced by the courts to ensure a steady stream of cases, which are very profitable if you are a family law lawyers.
2 – in a perfect world, parents would not divorce and in case where they are divorced, they would co-parent. again, this is nothing more than a concept created by adults (therapists, attorneys, parents) to enable poor parenting.
3 – dad should have discussed “baptism” in the interest of good faith, but does it really matter? this complaint has more to do with the shortcomings of “faith” than the shortcomings of family law.
4 – I have a better idea: expose the child ot both faiths and when the time comes, she can make her own decision; it’s what she is going to do anyway – and she might actually renouce both and become a Scientologist. another example of narcissistic parents viewing children as an extension of self.

Sorry, JoeV...

April 14th, 2010
10:12 am

…but the crux of this article has nothing to do with your comment…

Catherine

April 14th, 2010
10:12 am

I was raised by a Buddhist mother and a Presbyterian father. I went to a Buddhist temple with Mom during the week and a church with Dad on Sundays. Neither of them made me feel like I had to choose one religion over the other. I feel I was fortunate to have such open-minded parents, and to have had a chance to learn about more than one religion while growing up. Looking back, it was a great experience.

Aquagirl

April 14th, 2010
10:14 am

Those involved with Judaism and Christianity *in some instances* do some revolting things too, Polytron. So what’s your point?

Back on topic: I gotta side with the mom here—daddy converted to Judaism when he married, the dude sounds pretty shallow. Once you give up your religion for, uh, conjugal rights, don’t complain when the result of your conjugal rights is raised as a Jew. The mother didn’t marry a Catholic, she married a Jew. Or more properly, a fake Jew, but that’s not her fault.

And having TV cameras meet you at the church? Klassy. I hope the Priest didn’t let those cameras inside when mediahoe dad showed up.

Mattie

April 14th, 2010
10:19 am

I see no harm in the child being introduced to the faith of her father. When she is old enough to decide, she can select the religion she is most comfortable in, or otherwise choose her own path.

My brother married an atheist. He had been sent to Catholic schools his entire life, but no longer practiced his religion, and agreed to raise his kids without one. But, something niggled in his mind, and he called my mother once to ask her if she would have his children baptized one weekend when she was babysitting them. To her credit (and it must have been difficult for her because she is very devout) she refused. She would not make the arrangements unless the mother gave her ok.

DW

April 14th, 2010
10:22 am

Let the girl be an atheist.. problem solved

Randy

April 14th, 2010
10:22 am

Well really JoeV, the only fairy tales out there, are the ones that some people believe, that “everything” comes from “nothing”. Not possible. No disrespect intended.

Aquagirl

April 14th, 2010
10:22 am

My mistake, babydaddy converted when the kid was born, not before he was married. The dude is still a flip-flopper. And a sneak.

Single Dad

April 14th, 2010
10:25 am

Aqua girl, have you ever been married? ever been divorced? ever mediated a custody agreement or been sued for custody? I have and I was awarded primary custody and “tie breaking” authority, and it meant nothing. how is the father’s return to his Catholic roots different than mom’s “return” to not being married to dad? if the mom married a “fake Jew” how is it “not her fault”? I think “temporary Jew” might be a better phrase.

JoeV

April 14th, 2010
10:28 am

Oh Randy, none taken. I don’t know where it all came from, but I do know that just because I don’t know I am not going to believe a made up story about a bearded, white dude on a cloud molding clay 6,000 years ago. Sound fair?

JoeV

April 14th, 2010
10:30 am

Single Dad,

How did it mean nothing? I’m asking because I am curious how much the court plays into this situation and how much they stay involved after awarding custody.

fer

April 14th, 2010
10:41 am

When my children were young, my ex took them to church when they were with him. It’s not what I wanted but I figured there would be no real harm it, and that when they were adults, they would make their own decisions about religion. That’s what happened.

In this case, the mother should take the child to her temple and observe whatever Jewish customs she chooses, and the father should take the child to his Catholic church and observe whatever Catholic customs he chooses. At some point the child will choose one or the other, or some different religion, or even no religion at all.

DB

April 14th, 2010
10:41 am

Oh, dear. This is one of those situations that can’t be a win-win — the beliefs are just waaay too divergent. And, frankly, folks, if you AREN’T part of these belief systems — agnostic, atheistic, Wiccan, whatever — please restrain yourself from mocking those that do.

On one hand, you have the “uber-Christian” Catholic beliefs, with Jesus, the Pope and everything else mixed in. On the other hand, you have the Jewish beliefs, that stop just short of Easter. The entire Christian belief system is built around what Christians consider the miracle of the Resurrection.

It was wrong of the father to have the child baptised in the Catholic faith without consulting the mother. Does this mean that the mother gets to throw a secret bat mitzvah when the daughter is 13? It’s just mindboggling what these folks, in their spite, are doing to this poor kid. In a situation like this, I think that, in this case, it would have been best for each parent to have an opportunity to expose the child to the different faiths, and allow the child to make an informed decision when they are older. The baptism went too far — baptism is the first and most basic sacrament of the church. When infants (and others) are baptized in the church, they “confirm” their acceptance of the Church’s teachings at confirmation when they are older, so this may be the dad’s wiggle room.

Both of the parents need to be smacked — but in this case, I’d smack the dad harder, because in my mind, he’s using his daughter against his ex-wife. He might sneer that she wasn’t “practicing” her religion — but let’s face it, he actually turned away from his for several years — which is worse? Never miund — it’s a moot point, but he isn’t exactly blameless, here.

Single Dad

April 14th, 2010
10:44 am

Joe V, court orders and judgments are not worth the paper the are printed on because if one party ignores the order, the other must file a motion (contempt, or motion to enforce), which means another retainer and another $400/hour dance. and if you have the resources or gumption to go to court it doesn’t matter because people lie in family court all the time. unlike criminal cases, there is no “burden of proof” and there is no criteria for filing motions (beyond paying an attorney). I have been divorced for 7 years and I have been in court 6 times – all the result of my ex filing motions. I still have primary physical custody, but my ex continues to act unilaterally. this behavior was a carry-over from my marriage, and I remember sarcastically asking my attorney, “OK, so which provisions of this judgment do I have to abide by, and which can I ignore?” the court likes to project this image of “authority” but when you say, “the language of this order is very clear, and yet my ex continues to violate” the Judge says; “…then file a motion…” I actually had a court appointed therapist diagnose my ex with a personality disorder, and when I asked her to testify on my behalf she said, “I can’t because your ex is my patient too.”

Randy

April 14th, 2010
10:45 am

sounds fair. Really the only way to know that it is true, is to have a spiritual awakening, that may or may not happen to you. My best wishes.

Aquagirl

April 14th, 2010
10:46 am

Single dad, what does my (or your) marital status, custody battles, etc. have to do with this situation? If you have a chip on your shoulder, it’s yours to bear. Not some Jewish woman’s in Chicago.

Daddy returned to his Catholic roots with lawyers, “Good Morning America,” and TV reporters in tow. According to the follow up, the judge ruled he could take his daughter to church, but also noted that he engineered the media circus to get his way. This is after having her baptized on the down low. I’m sure Jesus would have Diane Sawyer in his Rolodex.

Brian

April 14th, 2010
10:47 am

Both. It won’t hurt the girl to be exposed to both religions. The problem I see is that the parents who previously weren’t religious fanatics all of a sudden going overboard and using religion as a weapon against one another. The daughter will suffer as a result. She may spend 7 days a week at either the synagogue or church – and yes that will be a problem for the girl.

mrs.w

April 14th, 2010
10:52 am

Religion is only causing more problems in the world (muslims v. christians, etc..) Why do ppl need this crutch? Why is it so hard to be good without the illusion of some fairytale? When we can’t explain something we attribute it to the supernatural. What happened to logic and reason? These 2 clearly tell you the difference between right and wrong. Religion will make ppl do horrible things in the name of some god while their logic is telling them that they are wrong but they usually choose to go with their religion. *Clearly their childs religion is not the problem, they, the parents, are the problem. It’s only an issue now that they are not together anymore.*