Sunday, January 10, 2010

Pagan Parenting

People often say that they're afraid to come out of the broom closet -- what if their ex-spouse uses Wicca as a weapon in a divorce proceeding? What if a teacher singles out someone's child because mom and dad are Pagan? How do you find a balance that allows you to practice your faith, and yet still protect your rights as a parent?

Let’s talk first about child custody in divorce proceedings. There have been cases in which one spouse tries to remove children from the presence of the other in the belief that the parent might be practicing a religion that is harmful to the kids. In such cases, federal courts have been reluctant to get involved and have generally left decisions to state supreme courts, who tend to vary widely in their interpretations of law.

In New Hampshire, state courts will not examine any evidence concerning religion at all in a custody hearing, on the grounds that it would put the government into a position in which crosses the church-and-state barrier. In the State of Ohio, a 1992 ruling (Pater v. Pater) stated that custody "cannot be awarded solely on the basis of the parents' religious affiliations and that to do so violates the First Amendment to the United States Constitution." However, in some states, depending on what region of the country you are in, you may find yourself before a judge who proudly displays the Ten Commandments in his courtroom and who takes religious issues to be part of his domain. In ANY legal proceeding, you need to make sure you consult with an attorney.

In other cases, child welfare agencies have investigated complaints against Pagan or Wiccan families. Nearly universally, if a family has lost custody of a child to a government agency, it is because there was some other issue at play besides religion -- neglect, drug or alcohol abuse, or unsanitary living conditions. Bear in mind that unless there is an extreme situation taking place, it is rare for children to be removed from a home on the first visit by child welfare investigators.

If someone from a child protective agency comes to your home and asks to investigate, try to have a witness present. Learn ahead of time what your state's laws are regarding search and seizure. Find out if allowing law enforcement or child welfare agencies into your home without a warrent will waive your rights under illegal search. If it does, request that anyone who comes to your home have a warrant.

Finally, remember that there are ways you can help reduce the chance you'll face religious discrimination as a Pagan or Wiccan parent. Ultimately, education and communication are the key.

6 Thoughts:

  1. Great information hun!
    Thank you ♥

  2. Thanks for the great info, unfortunately I live in the bible belt and it;s full of judges that love to wave around the 10 commandments, so until my girls are grown I will stay firmly in my broom closet.

  3. This is one of the many reasons that I am so thrilled to be leaving the South and heading back up to the Blue States. When my husband and I were in the ditches of marital hell (we're fine now, after years of serious hard work) the thought of losing my son because I'm Pagan was always on my mind. I feel so bad for any woman in the United States of America, no matter where she lives, who should ever have to worry about losing her children because of her religion. It seems to go against everything this country was founded upon.

  4. As in anything, facts can always be twisted to say what one wishes them to say. Yet I do believe that it is important that each parent in their own way deals with their beliefs. It is not just the pagan that can be looked at with a crooked eye if the issue at hand is one that is not in agreement with the one who is looking. What we beleive in and what we gain our strength from deserves reverence and a place in our lives . That does not necessarily mean we need to all carry our brooms around and wear our black hats in public, yet we should stay true to that which has helped us to be and become all we are.

  5. It is very scary to generalize when dealing with subjects like kids, law, prejudice. It's like a child saying "but that's not fair". We as thinking adults realize sometimes things don't work out, in fact not fair. But there still, even though we think it ought not to be the case, narrow minded, uneducated, unaccepting people in this world, our world. We as pagans want it to be different. The fact is in this country at this time there are still those that would mess with someone else's life just because they can, not because of anything else. So like the others, I am proud to be a pagan but I am not gonna put a sign on my lawn so that others have something at which to throw stones. Literally and giguratively.

  6. Wow, I had no idea that could be a problem. Thanks for the information.