Imagine for a moment the following scenario:
You got married several years ago and had two children with your wife. You all attend an evangelical Christian church on weekends.
During your visits to the church, you begin to grow wary of what you hear. What’s with all the anti-gay rhetoric? Is the pastor really espousing a pro-life stance even in cases of rape and incest? And, for that matter, why does the church ignore the more abominable parts of the Bible?
You decide this church and this faith isn’t for you.
Meanwhile, you and the wife are having issues and you get a divorce. You’d still like to maintain contact with your children, of course. One is 10 and the other is 15 — neither are legal adults.
The judge in the case, however, says you may not have any contact with your children.
Because you continue to criticize the church and that is not in the children’s best interest.
My reaction would be: Are you shitting me?
And yet, that story is not very different from what has happened to an Australian man who left the Exclusive Brethren church:
A family court judge has denied a father any role in the parenting of his Exclusive Brethren children, in part because of his “continuing criticism” of the controversial Christian sect. In the judgment, judge Sally Brown ruled that, while there was a legal presumption that both parents should share parenting, this was “contrary to the children’s best interests” in this case.
The father, who cannot be identified because of restrictions on reporting of Family Court cases, is “devastated”, particularly as a previous court judgment had awarded him frequent access to two of his eight children. Justice Brown’s judgment means he has no right to see or even communicate with the children, in a reversal of those previous court orders.
The father had applied for custody of both children but late in the case changed his position, asking for custody of his daughter and access to his son. The judge condemned this as “indicative of a significant lack of understanding of the children’s needs” .
The cultish Christian sect Exclusive Brethren does not permit members to associate with non-members.
The only way the father will be able to see his children now is by buying their photographs from the church’s school… when the kids aren’t around.
He has no money to appeal the decision — the case has already set him back $100,000.
I’m no lawyer. Some of you who know Australian law may be able to shed some more light on this… but since when do absurd religious beliefs trump parental rights? That sounds like a dangerous precedent to set.