Follow Up to A Secular Nation

An interesting story popped up on my radar this week, and relates directly to my stance on the importance of secular government:

A Hispanic Catholic woman in Chicago has found herself under court order to live like a Hasidic Jew on the weekends including restrictive observation of the Sabbath. The full story is here, the short version is that she recently married a man who shares joint custody of his son with his ex-wife, who switched to Orthodox Judaism after their divorce. The mother of the boy is insisting that he be raised Orthodox as well, leading to the divorce court's decision to force the father and Catholic step-mother to provide a complete Hasidic Jewish environment every weekend when they have him.

The article has all of the details about the restrictions the courts have placed on the family, so I'm not going to get into that here. The point is that a father with partial custody of his son should have the same right to share his culture and the culture of his wife as the mother does to raise the child Jewish.

The argument for secularism goes beyond just Separation of Church and State and the issue of establishment of a State religion. The argument for secularism also addresses cases just like this. The main principle of secularism is that religious considerations should not have influence in the concerns of the law and government. This means that the court should have no authority to dictate a family's religious observations.

By ruling that the father has to obey Orthodox Jewish regulations (which include what can be cooked, when, and how, what you can do with your day, whether or not you can drive your car, and so on) they have squashed any possibility of freely enjoying the time he does get with his son. If he doesn't follow those rules, I imagine that he risks losing any visitation rights to his son. The courts should have no authority to issue custody that is contingent on observing a particular religion.

This is why we fight for secularism, for the freedom of and from religion.

In search of reason,



  1. Is that even a legal ruling?

  2. Maybe I'm misreading, but I didn't see anything that said they only had to live as Hasidic Jews on the weekends with the child... Which strikes me as absolutely ridiculous. I'm with Trav - I can hardly believe this is a legal restriction to place on people.

    All this because the guy's ex-wife complained about non-kosher hot dogs. Divorce court is already monstrously unfair, usually to men, but this crosses SO many lines I hardly know where to begin.


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