Question: When Do You Get to Choose Your Faith?

When should a child be able to make their own religious decisions? At what age does individual conscience outweigh parental guidance? A UK judge has decided that a 10-year-old should be able to make that choice, despite objections from one parent. "The schoolgirl’s divorced parents were “at war” over her desire to be baptised at the church her father, himself a convert, now attends. But at the end of an unusual case a judge has ruled that she is mature enough to choose her religion, and alongside his judgment wrote a personal letter to the girl explaining his decision." Since the judge cannot order someone to convert, or not convert, he simply refused to place any legal impediment from it h … [Read more...]

Minority Religions and Esoteric Practices as Courtroom Evidence

On Friday, the Contra Costa Times reported that an appeal to overturn a 2010 fraud conviction was denied. California's 2nd District Court of Appeal decided that prosecutors did not unfairly prejudice the case by bringing up a "voodoo" (though more likely Palo Mayombe, according to one expert) shrine that belonged to Ruben Hernandez, saying the evidence was "highly probative" of his "consciousness of guilt."In a 35-page ruling, the appellate court justices noted that Hernandez testified during the trial about the "benevolent purposes served by the dolls." "He characterized the dolls as an element of his Catholic faith in which the pins stuck in the dolls were a form of 'spiritual acup … [Read more...]

Wiccan Convert Faces Custody Battle in Texas

The Fox affiliate in Houston, Texas reports on the case of Sylvia Ruiz, a mother of three who's currently in divorce proceedings, and is having custody of her children challenged on religious grounds."Silvia accuses family court of scrutinizing her more because of her religious choice. That's why, without notice, she fired her attorney on the spot, asked Judge Robert Newey to recuse himself, and tried to fire her children's attorney. "I've been a good mother and they have nothing to put on me, some spot on my name as a mother," she said. [...]  Sylvia has a Wiccan shop and make-shift temple in the back of their Spring Branch home. Martin took us inside and there were pentagrams, oi … [Read more...]

Religion’s Role in Custody Battles

A common fear among adherents to minority faiths in the United States is that our beliefs will be used against us in child custody hearings. This is not an imaginary fear, as several modern Pagans have struggled with having their faith being made an issue of in court. I've covered this issue periodically almost since this blog started.  From a Wiccan couple barred from teaching their child about Paganism, to the harrowing and bizarre story of Subgenius member Rachel Bevilacqua (aka Rev. Magdalen). Even the mere accusation of adherence to Wicca or modern Paganism is sometimes enough to affect a custody case. In my interview earlier this year with Jen Lepp, founder of the Pagan-owned Internet h … [Read more...]