Questionable Motives

March 2, 2010

Why is any religious indoctrination of a child a parental right?

Filed under: belief,child abuse,civil rights,Law,Liberty,Parenting,Religion — tildeb @ 11:48 pm

From Slate:

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.

As Joseph Gitlin, a prominent Chicago family lawyer points out, in Illinois, the custodial parent is permitted, by statute, to “determine the child’s upbringing, including, but not limited to, his education, healthcare, and religious training.” That necessarily means the other parent will be carved out of decisions—even constitutionally protected parenting decisions—if it’s not in the child’s best interest. The tricky question in the Reyes case—the one the courts do not want to touch—is whether religion is a zero-sum proposition or a cultural buffet table.

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?


  1. Hmmmmmm. Interesting post. Well, let me see if I can communicate what I am thinking :smile:. The situation with the two parents and your child is, indeed, a sticky situation. But, my money is on the child. Being raised Jewish is definitely not a bad thing…since the Jews are God’s chosen people. So they do stand in pretty good with God on the religion thing. And Dad brings the Catholic influence. The world is becoming more and more integrated and open with every day. I truly believe with the God influence from both sides of the parental coin…this little child will likely make the right decision when she is old enough to consider for herself. So…no, I don’t think a judge can order one religion against another. Even if that happens…both influences will remain in place.

    Hmmm. good post.

    Carolyn /

    Comment by internet elias — March 3, 2010 @ 1:13 am | Reply

    • I wonder what the ‘right’ decision might be: realizing that the whole competing religious belief notion about some supernatural critter divides rather than unites people… even parents who would probably argue that they love this child? Why two adults cannot find it within themselves to allow a child to learn about all this stuff when the critical faculties are up and running is really quite fascinating and concerning. To use the law this way is even more so. Talk about an uncomfortable and unenviable position for the judge!

      As a side issue, who will instruct this child about islam and hinduism and buddhism? What about evangelical christianity and scientology? Why do the parents get to indoctrinate according to their beliefs and not the beliefs of other just-as-loving parents? As my friend Father Michael the Jesuit used to say, “Just give me a child until the age of 8, and I will return a catholic for life.” That doesn’t sound much like a ‘choice’ for this child with only judaism and catholicism on offer.

      Comment by tildeb — March 3, 2010 @ 4:00 am | Reply

  2. Tildeb…I see your point. But each parent has the responsibility of feeding, nurturing, teaching, and guiding the offspring born to them. Even the animals guard their young. The drive to ‘guard’ ones young is inate…natural..common to the species. And with good reason. But..both animals and humans drive the young from the nest when they are prepared for the outside world. From that day on…the offspring make their own choices. Some survive. Some don’t. Also, history proves that parental ‘indoctrination’ is not written in permanent ink. ‘Rebellion’ is the mainstay of a majority of offspring. The world is too mobile, too full of information, too open to intellectual choices for any parent to be blamed with the behavior of the offspring. I always say about my own offspring, “I don’t take credit for their successes. And I don’t take credit for their failures.’ :smile:. So ‘indoctrination’ is not a very powerful tool..especially when in the hands of parents. Don’t we wish our children would listen more to what we have experienced, learned, and proved! Oh..yea..that would be nice :ha:.

    And when you say ‘ who will instruct this child about islam and hinduism and buddhism? What about evangelical christianity and scientology?’….I say…’the mature offspring will have put MUCH thought to what the parents have taught for all his life.’ The nature of the intellect is to question, prove, compare, contrast, and draw conclusions. In my experience, I don’t recall one single person I know as being merely an ‘indoctrinated’ copy of the parent. Actually, the case is quiet the opposite. Which proves the individuality of the human being. I have seen much rebellion of offspring against parent. But, too, the nature of society involves more than the parent. Feedback to the behavior of an individual within a group is paramont in molding the behavior of that individual. So the parent is only one small facet of what forms the final behaviors of an offspring.

    Again, didn’t mean to offend. In my particular case, my children all rebelled. We raised them to be independent…in thinking and actions. They are definitely not clones of their dad and myself. Not at all. They are BETTER. I admire all three of them so very much. I am a Christian. But not in the way one likely thinks when they hear that term. I believe in God. I believe in right and wrong. But I, too, am an independent thinker. I make my own decisions. At the age of eleven, my dad sat me down in a green vinyl rocking chair and said the following to me (almost scared me to death), ‘Carolyn, your mother and me have taught you all we can concerning right and wrong. You are old enough to make your own decisions. You don’t have to ask our permission concerning things you might want to do…going home from school with a friend overnight…and so forth. Both your mother and I will continue to advise you from our life experience. You only get one chance. If you choose to make choices not in your best interest, we will again take the authority to make decisions on your behalf as long as you are under our roof.’ WOW! Can you imagine being told ‘that’ at age eleven. But…I was ready for that responsibility. And, again, that where society comes in. School teachers, uncles/aunts, brothers/sisters, cousins, school friends, church leaders/teachers, ….all sorts of people around me whose ‘reactions’ came in response to my ‘actions.’ All of it said to me, ‘you’re okay.’ I guess it’s like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Can’t be done. We all, I think, want to be quality people. And, yes, there are a LOT of self-rightous hypocrites in ALL religious groups. There are the good, the bad, the ugly….everywhere. But, too, there is the good, the kind, the lovely…everywhere. We just decide which we prefer to be.

    Comment by internet elias — March 3, 2010 @ 5:37 pm | Reply

    • I see your point, too, but it’s a terribly slippery one to really get a handle on, isn’t it? In a nutshell, because indoctrination doesn’t ALWAYS work, therefore we don’t need to be concerned about it.

      Also, history proves that parental ‘indoctrination’ is not written in permanent ink.

      That will explain why a significant portion of young people in, say, Idaho choose to become muslim… why nearly all people born in Saudi Arabia choose to become hindu. Oh wait, that’s not quite right, is it? I wonder why? To be honest, we cannot show causation between religious belief of young people to be the same as the religious beliefs of their parents because it isn’t 100%, so we don’t need to be particularly concerned about the very high rate of correlation (99% in Saudi Arabia and about 96% in Idaho), now do we? All these young people have some level or choice, after all, so you assert that we cannot lend ANY weight to the lasting effects of religious indoctrination at the feet of parents, thus suggesting that the child in the court case will also choose regardless of the parent’s efforts to affect religious indoctrination so we shouldn’t sweat the issue.

      Let’s change tack for a moment and see if the reasoning holds up in an analogy; rather than levels of successful religious indoctrination, let’s change the term and see if the hands-off approach still makes sense.

      99% of people at the mouth of the river dotted with various industrial sites have cancer. 95% of the people directly below the major industrial complexes have cancer but fewer than 10% above all the industrial sites have cancer. Hmm. Should we be more concerned about establishing causation between specific industrial sites and rates of specific cancers or should we be concerned at all about the toxic effects of the combined industrial sites? I think we need to be concerned.

      Would it be prudent to have any concern at all about the correlation between where people live and the rates of cancer? Of course. Should it be a legal concern when one parent wants a child to live at the mouth of the river while the other wants to live directly below the major industrial complexes, without taking into account the statistically significant lower rates of cancer living upstream? Again, I think this is a very responsible consideration.

      You would have us believe that a child caught between the competing choices of parents doesn’t really matter because there is a statistically slight chance that the child will not get cancer and, besides, someday the child will have the choice of living either upstream or down so the parent’s choice and its lasting effect doesn’t really matter.

      Now do you see the problem?

      Comment by tildeb — March 3, 2010 @ 7:30 pm | Reply

    • Imagine, for one moment – I set up a NAZI school – where, extreme fascism was taught as a doctrine – would you send your kid there thinking ‘it’s OK he will rebel and grow out of it’…

      I think the problem with many moderate and apologetic religious people is that they see their religion as benign – something that is generally good for the public at large, that just unfortunately goes wrong some of the time… you know with religions that are not really proper religions like Islam… after all Christianity does good things today… doesn’t it????? – Christian’s don’t kill people… do they?????

      But they do – and even if they do not directly, they influence and give reason and justification for others to do so. A mild mannered priest who says “homosexuality is a sin and should not be taught in school” is enough to ‘rubber stamp’ a thug into beating someone.

      Everyone has to raise their consciousness towards religion – even if you just attend church, even if you only donate to a Christian charity, even if you just believe a little bit for your own security – you are actually letting humanity down, because your poisonous little belief does propagate, and when it does people do get hurt…

      The judge should instruct the child to be brought up to be a Muslim or a Hindu – perhaps, this would make each of the religions think about how stupid the silly little belief is, if their Child also had a separate set of beliefs.

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 4, 2010 @ 8:35 pm | Reply

  3. “determine the child’s upbringing, including, but not limited to, his education, healthcare, and religious training.”

    Notice the use of the phrase ‘religious training’ :-

    TRAINING: 1) noun, a) the process of bringing a person, etc, to an agreed standard of proficiency, etc, by practice and instruction b) (as modifier).

    You need to be trained to believe in god?


    Surely if god exists – you don’t need to be trained?

    Does anyone else not find that phrase sinister?

    Training is what you do to dogs – you train them to behave a certain way, to be loyal to you…

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 4, 2010 @ 8:44 pm | Reply

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