Monday, March 01, 2010

Well, after a lovely Purim celebration of the day when Esther, queen of Persia, saved the Jewish people from becoming hanged by a bad, baaaad man (Note: A friend of mine played Haman in a country-western version of the Megillat Esther we did yesterday. It was Haman as Johnny Cash and she was perfect. Every time another character derided her as being a bad, baaad character, she would say "And that's why I wear black."), I am now forced to contemplate the ways in which we use religion to hang ourselves.

Coozan Pat alerts us to this custody battle he read about on Salon....
Joseph Reyes, an Afghanistan war veteran and second-year law student, converted to Judaism when he married Rebecca Shapiro in 2004. When they split up in 2008, Rebecca won primary custody of their daughter, and Joseph got regular visitation. The couple had allegedly agreed to raise their child Jewish, but Joseph, seeking to expose his 3-year-old to his Catholic faith, had her baptized last November. When she learned that her daughter had been baptized without her consent, Rebecca obtained a temporary restraining order in December 2009, forbidding Joseph from "exposing Ela Reyes to another religion other than the Jewish religion during his visitation." In January of this year, Reyes again took Ela to Mass at Holy Name Cathedral, with a local TV news crew in tow. His ex-wife's lawyers demanded he be held in criminal contempt—with a maximum punishment of six months in prison.

Can a court really tell a parent what religion his child will be? And can a judge possibly back up such an order with the threat of jail time?
First off, that this is even being taken in front of a secular court is simply awful. You know, that alone blows any pretense of the separation of church and state right out of the water....but Daddy upped the ante on TV and Mommy took his bait, so here we are.

Secondly, this tale is going to make some lovely fodder for the folks in the Jewish community who wring their hands in constant anguish over intermarriage already...and their arguments against it will be bolstered further by the courts' willingness to take this case. Under halakhic law, if the mother of the child is Jewish, then the child is Jewish...but hey, if that can be overturned by an American court of law, then watch out for the goyim, y'all. Shelter your children from any attraction to the non-Jewish opposite sex (or same sex, as the case may be), because look at what can happen.

Third, and finally, people in general can be complete idiots when they are angry...but I, too, am skeptical of their idiocy being determined by their degree of piety or belief/nonbelief in God. I can only hope that the young girl in the middle of this custodial tug-of-war can someday rise above her parents' petty use of religion in her upbringing in order to hurt each other...but the way things are going, she may decide no religion is her way. And with that, her parents' blindness to her pain will be brought into sharper focus when it is most likely much, much too late.

Terrible...and sad...and a real faith-shaker in the abilities of the human race to rise above their emotions for the good of future generations.

1 comment:

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

I'd bet the judge who issued the December 2009 TRO didn't realize what a pile of doo-doo he stepped in at the time. That opened the door for advocates of the male half to begin behaving very badly and paint this as something more than a father with visitation problems in an obviously non-amicable custody situation.

Make it about freedom of religion in this country, especially if the "freedom" being restricted is that of a Christian, and BAM! Television!

I'm interested in seeing where this ends up landing (if at all) in our 24 hour news cycle. Is it just a judicial oddity that people will think "boring?" Or is some advocacy group trying to take this for 15 minutes of fame?

That TV cameras are already involved tell me everything I already need to know about motivations.