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Agnostic man claims religious bias cost him custody

ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) — An Indiana man says he will appeal a court's ruling in a child-custody case because he believes it was based on religious bias.

Craig Scarberry, 29, of Anderson says a recent ruling granting sole custody of his three young children to his ex-wife included two references to his religious beliefs. The ruling noted that Scarberry and ex-wife Christine Porcaro did not participate in the same religious training and said that when Scarberry, who is agnostic, had followed the Christian faith, "the parties were able to communicate relatively effectively."

Madison County Superior Court 2 Commissioner George G. Pancol told The Herald Bulletin that his decision was based on the children's best interest and that Indiana law requires courts to determine whether divorced parents can agree on education, religious upbringing and other issues.

"The case law requires me to make a decision whether or not the parties can communicate effectively about these matters and others concerning their children," he said. "I have never rendered a decision concerning custody on the basis of one of the parents' religious beliefs."

However, Indiana University law professor Jennifer Drobac, a family law expert, said the references to Scarberry's religious beliefs "would be clearly unconstitutional unless the parent's religious practices were actually harming or posed a substantial threat of harm to the children."

Scarberry said he never interfered with his children's religious upbringing. "I don't understand how religion was even a factor when it shouldn't have been," he said.

Anthony C. Lawrence, attorney for Porcaro, said in a statement that religious instruction for the children was an "appropriate consideration" for the court but was just one of several factors considered. Other issues weighed included conflicts on education, health care treatment, child care and parenting philosophies, he said.

Scarberry said he never interfered with his children's religious upbringing.

"I lost my children due to courtroom games and religious bias," he said.

He plans a rally at the courthouse in support of fathers' rights on Dec. 16.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2010-12-05-agnostic05_ST_N.htm

 

Does religion have any business being included in the wording of a custody agreement?

Answer Question
 
NotPanicking

Asked by NotPanicking at 3:51 PM on Dec. 5, 2010 in Religious Debate

Level 51 (421,172 Credits)
Answers (54)
  • No, it doesn't. Unless, as the law professor said, "the references to Scarberry's religious beliefs would be clearly unconstitutional unless the parent's religious practices were actually harming or posed a substantial threat of harm to the children."
    TARARENEE

    Answer by TARARENEE at 3:53 PM on Dec. 5, 2010

  • Gosh, they gave her SOLE custody? Sheesh, they could have just given her legal custody, but share physical custody. That way she can still make most of the rules, but the kids also share time with the parents. Giving her sole custody is very harsh on the dad. I believe that any decent parent that wants to be in their kids life should at least have joint physical custody. It does seem very biased. ot right at all...

    The whole religious thing is nuts, it never should have been brought up. A rally won't help him win his children back though. I think that is a bad idea. I just believe he needs to try & go back to court & try again.
    samurai_chica

    Answer by samurai_chica at 3:59 PM on Dec. 5, 2010

  • No way.
    sahmamax2

    Answer by sahmamax2 at 3:59 PM on Dec. 5, 2010

  • Doesn't surprise me at all.

    Anyone who thinks elected judges are unbiased is crazy.
    LindaClement

    Answer by LindaClement at 4:02 PM on Dec. 5, 2010

  • A rally won't help him win his children back though. I think that is a bad idea. I just believe he needs to try & go back to court & try again.

    Actually, it might have an impact. Several years ago, there was another case down there around Indy where a judge included a line in the custody arrangement that forbid both parents from practicing their religion around their child because they were pagans. There was a huge public outcry, and the state got involved, censuring the judge.
    NotPanicking

    Comment by NotPanicking (original poster) at 4:03 PM on Dec. 5, 2010

  • Looks like there was more to it since she received sole custody BUT religion (unless dangerous) should not even play a minor role.
    soyousay

    Answer by soyousay at 4:10 PM on Dec. 5, 2010

  • I don't think beliefs should have anything to do with it, but there is no way to know what all the factors are that the judge considered when making the decision for care of the kids.


    I think it would almost impossible to make decisions in family court that are fair to everyone, that's why the interest of the kids is suppose to be most important. Hopefully that's what happened, if not then he needs to appeal the decision.

    RyansMom001

    Answer by RyansMom001 at 4:28 PM on Dec. 5, 2010

  • Under the First Amendment, each parent has a right to practice (or not) as they choose. It's not the place of the court to decide whether religious teaching or not is better for the child (or if one religious choice is better than another in the case of differing practices for the parents). The judge should not make a decision based on religion unless it can be proven that the child has been harmed in some way--physically or emotionally by the parent's religious practice or other acts, in which case it becomes something more than religious choices, it's would be child abuse or neglect).  Another scenario I could imagine would be if a child expressed a preference for one parent over the other (and religion was one of the reasons), but even that would be about child preference, NOT the judge's preference on which religious choice is better. 

    pam19

    Answer by pam19 at 4:44 PM on Dec. 5, 2010

  • all the more reason to keep your religious beleifs to yourself. That or play lip service to what people want to hear (at least in this case if its true).
    Anonymous

    Answer by Anonymous at 4:45 PM on Dec. 5, 2010

  • There must be more to that story. I fiond it hard to believe that there is anything wrong with his choice of 'agnostic'. I don't think that would be a factor in a custody decision.
    kerp1960

    Answer by kerp1960 at 4:46 PM on Dec. 5, 2010

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