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Religion and Child Custody

What control do courts have over a child's religious upbringing?


Does a court have the authority to prohibit a father from taking his children to religious services contrary to their mother's faith?

No, concluded a Pennsylvania state court. The mother was a devout Jew, and the father a nonpracticing Catholic. Throughout ten years of marriage, the couple regularly attended Jewish religious services, and raised their three children in the Jewish faith.

The divorce decree prohibited the father from taking the children to any religious services that were not Jewish. The father challenged this order, since he wanted to reserve the right to take his children to Catholic services on occasion. The mother defended the order on the ground that allowing the father to take the children to non-Jewish religious services would confuse and damage the children.

She also pointed out that she was a devout adherent of the Jewish faith, while the father was a nonpracticing ...

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  • January 1, 1991