Once again from the Windy City, another article from Manya Brachear of the Chicago Tribune reports on a child’s religious upbringing post-divorce in an interfaith context, this time discussing a decision from a Cook County judge who decided that a father could take his daughter to church services to "expose" her to his religion during his parenting time. From my search of this case on the Internet, it seems to be making headlines in Chicago. Apparently, the parents divorced, the mother was Jewish and the father then returned to his Catholic roots (after having converted to Judaism once the child was born). As part of this return, he began taking the three-year old child to church with him, even having her baptized without mom’s permission. Dad argued that they never agreed to raise the child Jewish, did not keep kosher at home and infrequently observed the Sabbath.
The court ruled in favor of dad in what it deemed was in the child’s best interests. In so doing, it also ordered that dad could have parenting time with the child on Christmas and Easter each year. Notably, the order also stated that mom would always have parenting time on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Passover. The order lifted restrictions on the father from a prior restraining order preventing him from exposing the child to any "non-Jewish" religious activity. Apparently dad still faces potential penalties for violating the restraining order.
As we blogged earlier this week, also discussing an article from Ms. Brachear on the substantially higher rate of divorce amongst interfaith couples, in New Jersey it is the child’s Parent of Primary Residence – the primary caretaker – who makes the ultimate decision of a child’s religious upbringing/education. While the other parent – the Parent of Alternate Residence – can expose the child to their own religion, similar to what the father in the Cook County case can do, there may not be an educational aspect to such exposure without the primary caretaker’s consent.