Atheist Doesn’t Want Son to Attend Catholic High School

Edwin Kagin, National Legal Director for American Atheists (and a founder of Camp Quest), is representing David Ryan in his quest to prevent his son from attending a Catholic high school.

Ryan (an atheist) is divorced from his son’s mother (who is Roman Catholic):

According to Kagin, when Ryan and his wife got divorced, a judge ordered their son continue attending a Catholic school.

But Ryan is an atheist and wants his son to attend a public high school next year, so Friday, he took the issue in front of a judge in an Oldham County courtroom.

“David feels the orientation and the indoctrination of the church school is harmful to his child,” Kagin said.

According to court documents, Ryan believes if his son continues to attend a religious school, it will attempt to indoctrinate his son into a belief system that he as a parent rejects.

If Kentucky law comes into play, as it should, this should be an open/shut case:

Kagin said part of Kentucky’s constitution reads, “Nor shall any man be compelled to send his child to any school to which he may be conscientiously opposed.”

Kagin said going by the law, the judge’s decision should be easy, but he doesn’t know how much the judge will consider Ryan’s son’s wishes on the matter.

The mother hasn’t commented on this case yet.

Check out a TV news report here, and when you do, also note Edwin’s killer beard.


[tags]atheist, atheism, Catholic, WLKY[/tags]

  • Mriana

    Of course, being part of the Bible Belt the judge could set a new precedent. :roll:

  • http://bjornisageek.blogspot.com Bjorn Watland

    Does anyone know what the kid wants? It’s a shame these tugs of war happen. However, our minds are always free, no matter our situation. We live in a heavily religious country, one could say just living here would indoctrinate someone into a religion. I’m not bothered by attending a church, unless the leader is boring, which happens too often. They need to jazz people up in seminary. I can sit in a temple and listen to Hebrew and not become a Jew. I wouldn’t be so bothered by the decision, but I’d really like to know the kid’s opinion, he should be old enough to have a preference. Heck, if a 14 year old can refuse a blood transfusion on medical grounds, a kid should be able to choose where he goes to school.

  • The Unbrainwashed

    Bjorn’s post brings up an interesting issue. I contend that a 14 year-old is NOT intellectually mature enough to concoct an educated opinion on religion. I know I wasn’t able to do so until I reached about 19 and had undergone an immersion in college science. Any amount of exposure to religious ideas at such an early age, combined with the pressures from societal norms and his own mothers’ encouragement, will probably result in indoctrination.

    Nonetheless, public school is the biggest waste of money in this country. It’s all about pandering to the mediocre and dealing with behavior problems. Send him to private school, just not a catholic one.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Nonetheless, public school is the biggest waste of money in this country. It’s all about pandering to the mediocre and dealing with behavior problems. Send him to private school, just not a catholic one.

    I agree, private schools (even private religious schools) tend to be immensely better than our public school system these days. I attended a very conservative Christian school for the first 5 grades and I came out way ahead of my peers when I finally transferred to a public school – and that was even a “Blue Ribbon, Top 10 in the nation” public school. I was so far ahead in fact that I ended up skipping a grade when I transferred in.

  • Karen

    Alas, I fear Mr. Ryan has picked the wrong battle. I did all my K-12 schooling at Catholic schools, and entered college much better prepared than my peers who got the same grades at public schools. Better than that, though, was a very effective inoculation against evangelical Christianity, and a general education that encouraged me to think (and question) continuously. To some extent, I owe my atheism to the early training in question-asking I got from Catholic high school.

  • Maria

    Does anyone know what the kid wants? It’s a shame these tugs of war happen. However, our minds are always free, no matter our situation. We live in a heavily religious country, one could say just living here would indoctrinate someone into a religion. I’m not bothered by attending a church, unless the leader is boring, which happens too often. They need to jazz people up in seminary. I can sit in a temple and listen to Hebrew and not become a Jew. I wouldn’t be so bothered by the decision, but I’d really like to know the kid’s opinion, he should be old enough to have a preference. Heck, if a 14 year old can refuse a blood transfusion on medical grounds, a kid should be able to choose where he goes to school

    .

    I agree. It should be up to the kid. I think he is old enough to decide. It really depends on the school too. I went to a liberal catholic school and it did me no harm, and it was much better than the public schools around here.

  • Tracy

    I don’t get it. If a child’s brain (cerebral cortex) isn’t FULLY developed until about the age of 25, how can we think that “he is old enough to decide”? Indeed, if we carry that further, how can we send them to war to make rational decisions in the heat of battle?

  • Vincent

    I really wonder when I hear people saying how much better the Catholic schools are because it didn’t match my experience.
    I went to Catholic school 1st to 8th grade, then to public high school.
    Sure, I was advanced in my English skills and skipped Freshman English, but I was woefully behind my peers in math skills and had to take extra classes to catch up, yet by the time I graduated high school I took AP Calculus and scored a perfect score on the AP exam.
    Clearly my private school was much worse than public school at teaching science and math.

    So, I would like to know if a comprehensive study has been done that actually shows private schools are better. I’ve heard the claim but never seen the evidence.

  • http://www.reformedchicksblabbing.blogspot.com/ Michele

    So, it’s all about what the father wants and the mom doesn’t get her say? Her constitutional right to exercise her religion doesn’t matter?

    Do atheists really believe that the father’s rights supersede that of the child and the mother? Or is that only in the case where the mother is a Catholic and the father is an atheist?

  • Mriana

    So, I would like to know if a comprehensive study has been done that actually shows private schools are better. I’ve heard the claim but never seen the evidence.

    I would too.

    Michele said,

    January 5, 2008 at 9:29 am

    So, it’s all about what the father wants and the mom doesn’t get her say? Her constitutional right to exercise her religion doesn’t matter?

    Do atheists really believe that the father’s rights supersede that of the child and the mother? Or is that only in the case where the mother is a Catholic and the father is an atheist?

    No, no, no, and no. The child is 13, he should be able to the judge what he wants and without pressure from either parent. Neither parent should be imposing their wants and beliefs on him. He should be free to make his own decisions about religion.

  • Sarah

    This isn’t about religion, this is about the court ordering the father to pay for private schooling and dad deciding he doesn’t want to cough up the cash.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    So, I would like to know if a comprehensive study has been done that actually shows private schools are better. I’ve heard the claim but never seen the evidence.

    Actually, if I were going to take a position, I’d have to choose “none of the above”. IMHO our whole approach to education, whether public and private, is fundamentally flawed. It’s amazing to me that any kids make it out of our school systems with any love of knowledge or desire to learn still intact.

  • http://www.ineedtothink.com Seavee

    I don’t think the issue in this case is really about separation of church and state. It is about parental rights.

    If two parents can’t decide who is right, what legal precedents are there to make a decision? I don’t think a competent father has any more or any less rights than a competent mother.

    Maybe they should consider the potential educational benefits of both schools.

    Don’t assume that the Catholic School is better. It might be. Some private schools are but some are not. Georgia does have an exceptional public school system. They have their share of bad schools but they definitely have some winners as well.

    I don’t think a 14 year old is capable of deciding for himself. I think his opinion should be considered but ultimately it is up to his parents.

  • Claire

    Michelle said:

    So, it’s all about what the father wants and the mom doesn’t get her say?

    If you read it closely, it doesn’t say anywhere what the mom wants, it says a judge ordered the child to attend catholic school. This is judge vs. dad, and I think dad should have more rights than a judge.

    This next thing is not a shot at you, Michele, so please don’t take it personally, since others made the same mistake on this post and on others I have caught, and so have I from time to time: it pays to read the original post thoroughly before replying. Sometimes it’s not about what you think it’s about.

  • WayBeyondSoccerMom

    First, my kids attended a private secular school for the first five years, and when they got to public school, they were way behind, especially science and social studies. And, the public school has been amazing at discovering and correcting reading comprehension problems that my children had. When I went back to the private school in anger, after I found out my kids were behind in grade level in reading comprehension, I was told, “private schools don’t have the tools, staffing or training to work with kids who may have reading difficulty. Public schools do.”

    My kids are excelling at public school now, and challenged in every course. I can’t believe I paid all that money to private school when my children could have gotten a better education for free.

    And, I would be curious if money is a factor in the atheist father’s decision process. Why should he have to send his son to Catholic school, when the kid could receive a similar education at a public school for free, with the bonus of not getting Catholic doctrine drilled into the kid’s head.

  • http://www.ineedtothink.com Seavee

    The post does say the judge ordered that the boy remain in catholic school. I think it is a reasonable assumption that he did this on behalf of the boy’s mother since it also states in the TV report that she is a Roman Catholic.

    I am the first to admit I don’t have a lot of experience with child custody cases and divorce hearings, but it seems reasonable that if children of divorcing couples are attending private school, the judge would be inclined to include provisions to continue the existing schooling in the divorce settlement. That was my assumption anyway.

  • http://www.reformedchicksblabbing.blogspot.com/ Michele

    Clarie, I did read the original post and watched the video and the reason I assumed that the judge wasn’t just imposing his will on the child and making him attend Catholic school against both the mother and father’s wish is this: “son continue attending a Catholic school.” Continue implies already attending, no?

  • Claire

    Michele, thanks for pointing out the video, I had not seen that.

    One thing neither mentioned was how long ago this divorce decree was, so it’s possible things could have changed since then. The kid is now going into high school, so that’s a different school right there. It could be that neither mom or dad wanted to switch him out of the school he was going to at the time of the divorce and stress him out more, but now that he’s going to a different school anyway, dad is revisiting the judge’s decree.

    I don’t think we know enough to say, as you did, that “it’s all about what the father wants and the mom doesn’t get her say”. All we do know is that there is a law, it’s on the side of parent who objects to the fact that it’s a religious school, and there is no mention of the mother contesting it. Although that may just be because she hasn’t gotten her own lawyer yet…

    And as for the other thing you mentioned, “Her constitutional right to exercise her religion doesn’t matter?”, this isn’t about the kid’s religion, it’s about his school. She can still drag him off to church every single day (or take him there because he wants to go, who knows?), regardless of where he goes to school.

  • http://salemmassblog.blogspot.com/ David Moisan

    WayBeyondSoccerMom:

    I’m not surprised. The dirty secret about private schools is that they can screen their student body, which a public school can not. They can screen out the riffraff, behavior problems, and–people with LD’s like your kids.

  • Linda Matthews

    To those who are commenting, here are some facts related to the case. The child in question has attended Catholic school for all of his 9 years in the education system. Neither parent has money problems so tuition is not the issue. The father has attended many events at the school and church, including the child’s first communion. The father celebrates Christmas, and had no objections to his son attending Catholic school until the last year or so. The father’s newly discovered atheism is being utilized as a cudgel to promote his own agenda, not meet the needs of his child, who has attended the same school with his friends for all these years and now is in danger of having to start all over at a new school. He was looking forward to his high school experience. Before you jump on the “kids are resiliant “thing, remember, the family is not moving, nor is money an issue. So, in the name of political correctness, and the separation of church and state, this father is waging a public war without regard for his child. If he has so little influence over this child’s thoughts, maybe he should try listening to what they are.

  • The Unbrainwashed

    David:
    It seems you’re contending this screening process is somehow a bad thing. I completely disagree. Public schools are rife with all the negative and money wasting aspects of education that you list. Students should be free to not only fully engage in the material, but also excel as their ability dictates. In public schools, students have to deal with so many issues outside of the classroom that aren’t present in private schools. Furthermore, public schools waste so much money on lost causes, funding programs for kids who have no desire to be active in the academic environment nor continue their schooling.

  • Jen

    Hmm, reading the post, I thought this was clearly a case of divorced parents trying to stick it to each other. Some of these comments though bring up good points, like the money issue. I am not sure who has the child’s best interest in mind here. I am not sure the child has a real grasp of which school is better- he probably can’t see beyond wanting to be with his friends.

    Does anyone, especially a divorced parent, know where the law tends to fall in cases where one parent wants X and the other wants Y? My guess is with the custodial parent, and generally that seems to be the mother, though apparently the tide is changing with that…

    As to what schools are better, I went to public school and I think I generally met a wider range of people than my friends who went to private schools (or boarding schools) but I am not sure who was better prepared for college. Oh, and I had a Catholic school friend who wasn’t allowed to wear pigtails because they were deemed an “obscene hairstyle”. True story.

    Furthermore, public schools waste so much money on lost causes, funding programs for kids who have no desire to be active in the academic environment nor continue their schooling.

    That makes me a little uncomfortable. I don’t know if students that don’t respond to traditional teaching methods should be referred to as “lost causes” though I get where you are going with that. At my public high school, we had options for students who wanted to work, giving them shorter days, and we have auto classes, cosmetology, screen printing, and all sorts of other stuff. Some of those people left high school with marketable trade skills, and had careers before us college-bound kids found our dorms.

    I’ll agree that not everyone fits into the traditional school experience, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there is anything wrong with those kids, and it might mean there is something wrong implementing a school program that is designed to meet the needs of only certain kids.

  • Maria

    To those who are commenting, here are some facts related to the case. The child in question has attended Catholic school for all of his 9 years in the education system. Neither parent has money problems so tuition is not the issue. The father has attended many events at the school and church, including the child’s first communion. The father celebrates Christmas, and had no objections to his son attending Catholic school until the last year or so. The father’s newly discovered atheism is being utilized as a cudgel to promote his own agenda, not meet the needs of his child, who has attended the same school with his friends for all these years and now is in danger of having to start all over at a new school. He was looking forward to his high school experience. Before you jump on the “kids are resiliant “thing, remember, the family is not moving, nor is money an issue. So, in the name of political correctness, and the separation of church and state, this father is waging a public war without regard for his child. If he has so little influence over this child’s thoughts, maybe he should try listening to what they are.

    If that is true then he’s being very selfish. If the son wants to stay in that school then he should be able to. I really hate it when parents drag their kids into their own issues….

  • AnneS

    Just a note – the provision of the Kentucky Constitution that the father is staking his claim recognizes the individual’s rights not to send his children to a school that violates his conscience. It was most likely put in there to prevent the state from forcing parents to send their children to public rather than private (religious or non-religious) schools – in other words, public school is not the default “neutral” choice, but rather the very thing the law was designed to permit parents to avoid.

    So, assuming that mom wants to send the child to Catholic schoo at least in part for religious reasons, what we really have here are two parents’ constitutional rights clashing. Even if a court agrees with dad on what the law is, one of the parents will end up having his or her rights violated.

  • Dave

    I am about to be facing a similar issue. We have a 2 year old and the mother and I were never married and are no longer together. She is Catholic, I am non-denominational christian. Her story wil be her other 3 kids were raised in a catholic school and one will still be going there and she will have 2 other kids in a catholic high school and she can’t drive to 3 schools each morning (we have 50/50 custody), my other 2 were raised in a public school. I’m not gonna be asking for one christian school over another but simply the right to not have one religion forced on our child over another, she should be able to make up her own mind when she is old enough. I do have going against me she was baptized in catholic church.

    Any advice? I have been told don’t let her attend a religious preschool because that sets a precedent.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X