Monday, March 1, 2010

Can you Go to Jail for Bringing Your Child to Church?

Getting divorced doesn’t always mean the end of a relationship. When parents of a child get divorced, there is a need for some form of continuing communication and cooperation. When parents fail to recognize that need for ongoing cooperation, the child is the one who suffers.

The latest example of parents putting their child in the middles is the story of Joseph and Rebecca Reyes as reported in this ABC news story:

Joseph Reyes returned home from serving in Afghanistan and soon married his sweetheart, Rebecca. Because Rebecca is Jewish and Joseph was Catholic, Joseph converted to Judaism to make his wife, and her family, happy. After a few years, and the birth of a daughter, their marriage had started to deteriorate.

Religion became a contentious issue between the two, and they decided to get divorced. Rebecca became the daughter’s custodial parent, and Joseph had visitation rights. Although Rebecca had been raising their daughter in the Jewish faith, Joseph unilaterally decided to have her baptized. He sent pictures of the baptism to Rebecca, who responded by getting a court order prohibiting Joseph from bringing the girl to church. In response, Joseph had a local television crew follow him as he brought his daughter to church in violation of this order, for which he now may face jail time.

While some have been quick to criticize this as what feels like an unconstitutional endorsement of one religion over another, the issue was that Joseph had his daughter baptized without first discussing the matter with Rebecca. Getting along with an ex-spouse is often not an easy task, but some level of cooperation is necessary for the healthy upbringing of any children caught in the middle. With Joseph and Rebecca, regardless of who “wins” in a courtroom, their daughter loses.

Parents who find themselves struggling over child-care issues with an ex-spouse should consider going to a therapist with experience in post-divorce relationships, taking advantage of the resources that organizations such as The Divorce Center offer, or trying mediation. It’s certainly in the best interests of the child to work towards agreement on these types of issues rather than involving T.V. cameras.

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