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Mom faces jail for baptizing kids against dad’s wishes

A mother is facing possible jail time for contempt of court after she allegedly violated her child custody order. But the violation was not something like knowingly violating the parenting time schedule or taking the children out of state without their father’s knowledge. What could land the mother in jail is something that most parents do without a second thought: baptizing her children.

What made the baptism so egregious in the eyes of the mother’s ex-husband and the governing family court was the fact that it was a major violation of the child custody order. After the parents had intensely disagreed about when to baptize their children, the court had ordered them to participate in mediation if they every found themselves at an impasse regarding religious decisions.

But instead of complying with that order and seeking mediation when she wanted her children, ages 5 and 7, to be baptized, the mother reportedly went ahead with the ceremony, knowing it would violate both the court order and her ex-husband’s wishes. As a result, she is facing criminal contempt charges, with a possible sentence of 20 days in jail and a $100 fine.

In her defense, the mother argues that the court has no constitutional right to dictate how she handles the religious upbringing of her children, and that the order was forcing her to comply with her ex-husband’s religious preferences. An appellate court disagreed, stating that the issue was not about religion but about the violation of the court order, and remanding the case to a lower criminal court for a trial on that issue.

What do you think? Does the court order violate the mother’s constitutional rights?

Source: New York Daily News, “Tennessee mom faces jail for baptizing her two children without husband’s consent,” April 1, 2012