How to Handle Religious Issues Delicately
Occasionally, a child is pulled in two different directions by separated or divorced parents who follow different religious faiths. If this is the case, be sure to address religious activities delicately, not obsessively.
In many states, the custodial parent controls the choice of religion. However, in many cases, the child may be exposed to several different religious persuasions, provided that there aren’t any direct conflicts in the way the child is being raised as a result of inconsistent religious beliefs. The religious upbringing of the child is best left out of the courts, and in many cases, the courts won’t address the issues on constitutional grounds (based on the First Amendment establishment clause, frequently referred to as the “separation of church and state”).
What concerns some judges is when the custodial parent follows one faith and the noncustodial parent exposes the child to contrary beliefs that require the child to disavow or disobey any of the teachings of the custodial parent’s faith. Consider, for example, an Orthodox Jewish custodial parent who raises his children to follow strict dietary laws, only to see them openly ignored on weekends when the children visit with their mother, a Christian. In such cases, the child may end up confused and less concerned about religious teachings than pleasing each of his parents. Indeed, over-exposure to conflicting religious beliefs may cause the child “turn off” religion altogether.
Where there is no conflict in the way different religions affect a child’s life, then the courts are likely to avoid the subject. But where such conflicts do arise, chances are that the custodial parent will prevail.
Please share your stories if you’ve experienced religious issues involving your children.