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Generally, there is no such thing as a "national child custody law". Although similar, each state has established its own laws regarding child custody, and each state's courts interpret those laws using legal standards that may vary from those used by courts in other states. As site visitors will quickly see from reading the following summaries, state courts apply one of the following three different legal standards when deciding these cases:
1. Actual Or Substantial Harm: Existing actual or substantial harm to the child must be proven to have been caused by a parent's religious practices before the court will restrict that parent's constitutional rights. Such states include California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington.
2. Risk Of Harm. For a court to restrict a parent's constitutional rights, it only has to be proven that that a parent's religious practices pose a risk of harm to the child. Such states include Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
3. No Harm Required. In only a few states, such as Arkansas and Wisconsin, a parent who has sole legal custody also has the exclusive right to determine the child's religious education.
Child custody court case decisions typically are lengthy and complex, and deal with a multitude of legal issues. The following case summaries will generally include only those issues in which religion was a factor. Some summaries may omit issues relevant to the court's decision, but not relevant to the theme of this website.
For those readers who are not looking for any specific DIVORCE case, but who are simply browsing our website for general education regarding Jehovah's Witness Marriages and Divorces, we have posted THREE JW WIFE AUTOBIOGRAPHIES which were submitted by real-world victimized husbands, which relate REAL WATCHTOWER WORLD behind-the-scenes accounts of three Jehovah's Witness marriages about which the WatchTower Society hopes that no insiders nor outsiders ever learn. These three autobiographies are so controversial that most JW readers will deny their authenticity. All three autobiographies are authentic. We have confirmed that.
BOTH the first and the second submitted autobiographies pertain to single Jehovah's Witnesses looking for marriage mates at District Conventions, Circuit events, and via the internet. Things are not always as they appear in "JW World". JWs are marrying other JWs who live hundreds and even thousands of miles away, and often one or both parties eventually learn that they have married a stranger, or worse. Naive Jehovah's Witnesses are marrying JWs from other JW families who have serious ongoing problems which were hidden from them during the courtship. Bankrupt JW in-laws. Criminal JW in-laws. Incestuous JW in-laws. JWs with serious mental health and physical health problems are not fully disclosing their personal "baggage" to prospective marriage mates. In the following two autobiographies, both JW Husbands believe that they were deceived during the courtship period by their future JW Wife, by her JW Parents, by her Congregation Elders, and by other Members of JW Wife's congregation. CLICK ON LINK TO READ:
MY TEENAGE JEHOVAH'S WITNESS WIFE:
EXEMPLARY CONGREGATION PUBLISHER & SERIAL ADULTERESS
MY TEENAGE VIRGIN JEHOVAH'S WITNESS BRIDE
CARRIED ON HER OWN SECRET SEX LIFE BEFORE & AFTER WE MARRIED
The third submitted autobiography relates the account of a recently married non-JW Wife who converted to the Jehovah's Witnesses and soon thereafter disowned her loving and trusting Husband. JW Wife then began using her busy JW witnessing and meeting schedule and her morally-corrupt JW friends to hide serial "cheating", and eventually something so SHOCKING that you will have to read the autobiography to believe it. Readers are put on notice that this account contains some sexually explicit material which we have attempted to edit as best as we could and still retain the info and image that the victimized husband wants readers to take away from his unbelievable REAL JW WORLD marriage. CLICK ON LINK TO READ:
MY BUSY-BUSY JEHOVAH'S WITNESS WIFE:
REGULAR AUXILIARY PIONEER & PARTTIME BROTHEL PROSTITUTE
Visitors may also be interested in reading the "Real WatchTower World" account posted in our JW EMPLOYEES website about a JW Elderette who put on a "burlesque show" at her home during a business appointment with a lone out-of-town businessman. Foolish JW Elderette never even considered that the out-of-town businessman might possibly have JW connections.
LOUIS DOSSA v. ELVA DOSSA was a 1961-62 California divorce case. Louis Dossa, age 56, and Elva Todd were married in California in March 1958. In 1961, Louis Dossa filed an annulment lawsuit complaining that Elva Todd was guilty of fraudulent inducement. Louis Dossa alleged that Elva Todd had promised him that if he would marry her that she would never criticize his Catholic religion, and that she would never publicly distribute WatchTower Cult literature. Louis Dossa alleged that Elva Todd had LIED in both matters. Alternately, Louis Dossa sought a divorce based on "extreme cruelty". The couple ultimately went their separate ways, but court decision unknown.
JEAN CICILY KINIVAN v. THOIMAS KINIVAN (1964) is an Australian divorce we include here due to the observations related by the family court judge, who both granted the divorce and custody of both children to the Jehovah's Witness Mother, after the politician-husband had finally moved-on and had an affair with the couple's governess in 1963. The non-JW husband contested only the division of assets.
The couple were married in 1957, and had a daughter in 1958, and a son in 1960. Jean Kinivan converted to the Jehovah's Witnesses in 1959 -- TYPICALLY after having her first child. The court described Jean Kinivan as a "fanatical" devotee. TYPICALLY, once Thomas Kinivan made it absolutely clear that he had zero intention of following his wife into the WatchTower Cult, Jean Kinivan began a campaign to drive her husband out of the home (undoubtedly prompted by her fellow Jehovah's Witnesses). TYPICALLY, one of the first notable confrontations was when Thomas Kinivan attempted to celebrate Christmas for his infant daughter. TYPICALLY, Jean Kinivan later went on to accuse her husband of being "possessed by a demon". The father further complained about his JW Wife dragging along his infant daughter and son in the WatchTower Cult's door-knocking work.
The family court judge pointed out for the record that three different female Jehovah's Witnesses had called at his own home just in the previous three years, and all three had been dragging along very young children, who had been pre-prepared with a short sermon, before then offering WatchTower Cult literature. The judge stated that he found the use of children for such purposes to be "utterly reprehensible".
DR. JOHN M. LEVITSKY v. BILLY JEAN LEVITSKY R.N. was a 1963 Maryland appellate court decision. Dr. John M. Levitsky and Billie Jean Levitsky were married in 1949 immediately after the Doctor's graduation from the Medical School of the University of Nebraska. The mother was a Registered Nurse. Thereafter, the couple moved to Chicago, where they had twin daughters in 1953, and a son in 1954. In 1959, Dr. Levitsky moved his family to Baltimore, where he had been appointed to a fellowship for advanced study at Johns Hopkins University Hospital.
When the Levitskys married in 1949, they both were members of the Roman Catholic faith. However, in 1956, Billie Jean Levitsky started studying with the Jehovah's Witnesses, and eventually converted. Dr. Levitsky continued to attend the Catholic Church by himself on occasion.
IN RE NICHOLAS LEVITSKY. After living in Baltimore for only about six months, it appears that Dr. Levitsky took a new position in Alabama, and moved there by himself; thus separating from Billie Jean. In March 1960, the Dr. Levitsky obtained a divorce in an Alabama court. The custody case was conducted in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County. In December 1961, in the midst of the divorce and custody contest, the youngest child, Nicholas Levitsky, age 7, was admitted to a hospital and was hemorrhaging internally due to ulceration in the intestinal tract. His hemoglobin count became critically low, and Nicholas needed a blood transfusion to survive. However, Nurse Levitsky refused to consent to a blood transfusion for Nicholas. Probably due only to Dr. Levitsky's prominence in the medical community, the Hospital knew where he was and contacted him to obtain consent. Blood transfusions were administered, and Nicholas Levitsky was spared from becoming another martyr for the WatchTower Society.
By a decree entered May 11th, 1962, custody of the three minor children was awarded to Billie Jean Levitsky, subject to the right of Dr. John M. Levitsky to visit his three children and to have them visit him "at all reasonable times." The custody decree provided that Billie Jean Levitsky, R.N. was required to "give immediate notice to this Court, in writing, in the event any of the said children shall be admitted to a hospital for care or treatment of any kind." The Circuit Court also retained continuing jurisdiction over the children, so that the Court might require periodic reports by competent pediatricians, periodic reports of school attendance, achievement and adjustment, and such other information as may be reasonably required, to keep the Court informed of the welfare and progress of the children.
Dr. Levitsky appealed the award of custody of the children to Billie Jean Levitsky, but also lost the appeal. Unfortunately, I don't have access to what must have been an interesting decision. Commentary on the net indicates that the decision noted that it could not order Billie Jean Levitsky to consent to future transfusions due to her own right to religious freedom, but the court tightened the custody restrictions and made additional provisions to protect the children's lives in the event of any future need for blood transfusions.
We are including here the following CANADIAN case due to the 2015 British non-JW religious magazine article which claimed that instances of Jehovah's Witness Parents kidnapping their own children were undocumented. There are other American JW kidnapping cases scattered in this section. Not only have such cases been documented, but it is an "unproven" FACT that in each and every instance that the WatchTower Society orchestrated the kidnapping, as well as orchestrated the necessary assistance from the underground network of congregations and individual Jehovah's Witnesses who conspired with the criminal JW Parent.
We are including this older British case because it ably shows that there is not a nickel's difference between Jehovah's Witnesses and Jehovah's Witness Families in the United States and elsewhere. Even in Great Britain, today's courts would merely dismiss much of the evidence then presented as being irrelevant and prejudicial to the JW religion. Today's court members generally are FOOLS and IDIOTS.
ADRIENNE JILL LOCKE v. ROGER HUMPHREY LOCKE was a 1968 British DIVORCE case which we include here due to its notoriety in the British press, which called the Jehovah's Witness husband and father a "Prophet of Doom". The couple had heen devout members of the Church of England when they met. However, not long after their marriage in 1957, Roger Locke became interested in the WatchTower Cult, and soon joined up. The couple's marriage soon floundered.
Roger Locke forbade his two children to be baptized in the Church of England, and that sincerely hurt Jill Locke. Roger made all types of negative remarks whenever Jill Locke attended church. Roger even criticised the religious instruction his children were given at school.
Roger Locke repeatedly frightened his children by continuously talking about an impending Battle of Armageddon and the "end of the world", when blood would run in the streets. Roger Locke also continuously confused his children. Roger disapproved of the Boy Scout and Girl Guide uniforms; disapproved of the Oath of Allegiance to Queen and country, and thought that saluting the flag was based on idolatory. Roger regarded birthdays, Christmas, and Easter as pagan festivals -- disapproving of presents, cards, and Christmas trees.
Although Jehovah's Witnesses claim to celebrate their wedding anniversaries, Roger had given flowers to Jill only once. Roger's discipline of his two children wa described as "repressive". Finally, in 1966, Jill Locke obtained a legal separation, along with custody of the two children.
In 1968, a final divorce was granted to Adrienne Jill Locke, age 32, versus Roger Humphrey Locke, age 37. Roger Locke's attorney had described Roger as "a mild mannered Jehovah's Witness", who was sincere in his religious belief that the end of the world was imminent, and that the only way for salvation was being a Jehovah's Witness. It would have been inhuman, it was asserted, that if Roger had not attempted to acquaint Jill and his children with that way to salvation.
The Judge noted that Roger went considerably beyond "acquainting" his wife and children with the way to salvation, but instead, "distressed them". The Judge held that Roger's religious beliefs resulted in unkindness of such a grave nature as to be "cruel".
The marriage was reasonably tranquil until 1966 when Hazel became interested in the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses and began studying the Bible. As a result her interest in her husband and children gradually waned to the point where she told Robert and the boys her religion meant more to her than her family or anything else. Finally, after Robert told her he would not "live with the religion" any longer, Hazel departed the home in February 1967. Following a short sojourn to Montana, she returned to Kansas and lived apart from her family. Hazel maintained little or no contact with them and did not so much as attend Gary's graduation exercises in June 1967 ...According to Robert, when his wife first started studying to be a Jehovah's Witness he "figured any religion was a good religion as long as they believe in God," but then she started asking him if he "would leave money to the clan if she were to die," and stated that "she would let her children die for lack of a blood transfusion and that the world was coming to an end in 1975." Hazel, in her husband's opinion, had undergone a complete personality change: her religion came before everything, she became inattentive to the children and lost interest in their school activities, she no longer believed in Christmas and refused to take part in any of the season's festivities, and she ceased to prepare regular meals for the family as she had done before. By the testimony of Robert, the two boys, and Hazel's own sister, the record leaves no doubt that Hazel had become so obsessed with her religious beliefs and activities that she completely neglected her duties as a wife and mother, and as a result, she and her husband could no longer live together.The religious zeal of a spouse may be carried to such lengths that domestic harmony is completely disrupted and the legitimate ends of matrimony destroyed, with the result that the life of the complaining spouse is rendered intolerable. ... Such a course of conduct, we believe, characterizes behavior amounting to extreme cruelty within the purview of our divorce statute. ... Likewise, under the circumstances disclosed in this record, such conduct may constitute gross neglect of duty. ... The record discloses ample evidence to support the action of the district court in granting a divorce to Robert. ... ...Finally, Hazel contends the lower court abused its discretion in granting custody of the boys to Robert. She urges that the court's decision was based solely on the ground of religion, which is impermissible under Jackson v. Jackson, ... The case is clearly distinguishable. The import of our holding in Jackson was that religious views alone afford no ground for depriving custody to a parent who is otherwise qualified. Here, the religious beliefs of Hazel precipitated a course of action on her part of utter disregard and indifference to her children and their activities. Several events have already been mentioned. In addition, we note that after Hazel left home in February 1967 she did not contact the boys for nearly six months, and thereafter no more than three times until the time of the divorce in February 1968. At the trial both boys expressed a strong desire to remain with their father. The paramount consideration of the court in custody cases between parents is always the welfare and best interests of the children. The trial court is in the most advantageous position to make the inquiry and determination, and in the absence of abuse of sound judicial discretion, its judgment will be upheld on appeal.... We find nothing in the record which would justify our disturbing the custody order of the lower court.
RASMUSSEN v. RASMUSSEN (1969) and RASMUSSEN v. ELDERS OF SHELBY MONTANA CONGREGATION OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES and POLSON MONTANA CONGREGATION OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES were a 1969 Montana divorce court case and the related defamation lawsuit filed in 1971 that was not settled by the Montana Supreme Court until 1987. This is an OUTRAGEOUS case, which should be read slowly to make sure the reader understands the evolving details.
Ray and Violet Rasmussen were members of the Polson, Montana JW Congregation in Spring 1968, when Ray learned that Violet had committed adultery in 1967. In July 1968, Ray forgave Violet. However, in Spring 1969, Ray learned that there had been additional instances of adultery that he did not know about when he agreed to forgive Violet. In Summer 1969, Ray separated from Violet and moved to Shelby, Montana, where he became associated with the Shelby Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses. In July 1969, Ray filed a petition for divorce, which was granted in October 1969.
In July 1969, Ray met Pauline Ferris at the Shelby Kingdom Hall, and Ray started inquiring with the "Servants", or "Elders", as to whether he would be "scripturally free to remarry" after his divorce was final. In October 1969, Servant Donald Whiting, on behalf of the Polson Congregation, wrote Ray a letter informing him there were "doubts" as to his scriptural freedom to remarry. Despite the "doubts" raised in the letter, Ray married Pauline Ferris in October 1969. The marriage was performed by Daniel James, who was a "Servant" in the Shelby Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses. Later, at trial, the Rasmussen's alleged that the Shelby Congregation had told them that Ray was free to remarry, and only changed their minds after they received the 1970 letter from the WatchTower Society.
However, the Polson Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses continued to investigate the additional acts of adultery committed by Violet Rasmussen. In December 1969, Ray wrote the Polson Congregation informing them that he had been told he was free to remarry, and that there seemed to be a misunderstanding on the matter.
In February 1970, Larry Bennett moved to Shelby, Montana to begin his duties as the new "Overseer" of the Shelby Congregation. Larry Bennett thereafter questioned Ray Rasmussen's scriptural freedom to remarry. The Shelby Congregation wrote to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society for guidance on the matter. In March 1970, the Watchtower Society responded to the Shelby Congregations' inquiry, and stated that Ray was not scripturally free to remarry, and that Ray and Pauline Rasmussen should be disfellowshiped.
On March 18, 1970, Ray and Pauline Rasmussen were disfellowshipped from the Jehovah's Witnesses. At the next meeting of the Shelby congregation the Congregation was informed that Ray and Pauline had been disfellowshipped for adulterous "conduct unbecoming Christians", with the public proclamation, "We got the filth cleaned out of the congregation, now we will have God's spirit." The Rasmussens were thereafter "shunned" by the members of the Shelby Congregation in accordance with WatchTower doctrine.
In November 1971, Ray and Pauline Rasmussen filed a defamation lawsuit claiming that they had been wrongfully disfellowshipped by the Shelby Congregation. Due to a series of legal technicalities, the case did not significantly proceed until 1982. In 1982, the Rasmussens and the Shelby Congregation agreed to draft a letter to the Watchtower Society, asking the question: "Would forgiveness of one act of adultery forgive all other acts of adultery, known or unknown, committed prior to the time of forgiveness?"
The Watchtower Society responded in the affirmative, that in 1969, the position of the Society was that an act of forgiveness for one act of adultery forgave all previous acts of adultery, and the forgiving spouse was not scripturally free to remarry. Despite this response, Rasmussens proceeded with the litigation and requested a trial date. After another series of legal technicalities, the Congregation Elders were granted summary judgment in 1986. On appeal to the Supreme Court of Montana, that court ruled in favor of the Congregation Elders (No justice from the Congregations, the WatchTower Society, nor the Supreme Court), stating in part:
Rasmussens assert that defendants' statements that the Rasmussens were living in adultery and had been disfellowshipped for conduct unbecoming a Christian were defamatory. ...
We find the defendants' statements to be privileged ... . It is firmly established that statements of church members made in the course of disciplinary or expulsion proceedings, in the absence of malice, are protected by a qualified privilege. ... There is no dispute here that the statements complained of were delivered at the Jehovah's Witnesses congregational gathering in Shelby. The statements of disfellowship made by Churchleader Bennett were made to other Church members interested in the matter.
Rasmussens contend the congregational gathering included non-Church members thus the statements exceeded the scope of the privilege. We disagree. The incidental communication to non-Church members attending the service does not eliminate the privilege. ... Having established a qualified privilege on the part of defendants, the burden is upon Rasmussens to show the privilege has been abused by excessive publication, by use of the occasion for an improper purpose, or by lack of belief or grounds for belief in the truth of what was said. ... Rasmusssens allege malice on the part of defendants. Rasmussens contend defendants told them it was permissible under Church doctrine for Rasmussens to remarry, but defendants later changed their minds.
Defendants point out that Rasmussen received a letter prior to his remarriage which expressed doubts as to his scriptural freedom to remarry. [Yes, from the Polson Congregation -- not the Shelby Congregation.] To prove malice, Rasmussens must show that defendants' statements were made "with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not." ...
Rasmussens cite no evidence in this case which would raise a question of malice on the part of defendants. Defendants have asserted truth as a defense. Defendants disfellowshipped Rasmussens in accordance with Church doctrine. The Watchtower Society confirmed the fact that Ray Rasmussen was not scripturally free to remarry under the Jehovah's Witnesses doctrine. Even though Rasmussens believe defendant Bennett was motivated by animosity toward Ray Rasmussen this does not raise a question of malice. Malice is defined in defamation actions as reckless disregard for the truth but such malice does not include hatred, personal spite, ill-will, or a desire to injure. ...
Rasmussens contend defendants' statements were defamatory under state law and this Court need not delve into the religious affairs of the Jehovah's Witnesses. We disagree. Defendants' statements were made within the congregation and were based on ecclesiastical doctrine. Defendants are guaranteed the free exercise of religion under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and ... the Montana Constitution. ... ... ...
In the present case, this Court would be violating defendants' right to free exercise of religion if we were to find defendants' statements actionable under state defamation law. The record is clear that the hierarchical church, the Watchtower Society, determined that Ray Rasmussen was not scripturally free to remarry in 1969. It is not within this Court's power to question the Watchtower Society's determination.
We find summary judgment in favor of defendants to be proper. Even assuming each allegation by Rasmussens to be true, Rasmussens' claim is barred by the free exercise of religion clause found in both the Federal Constitution and Montana Constitution.
The members of that Montana Supreme Court were clueless, in more ways than one. This clearly was a case of individual Jehovah's Witnesses being "damaged" by the Shelby and/or Polson Congregations failing to properly follow WatchTower organizational procedures and teachings, which is an issue that is addressable by the public Courts. If the Shelby Congregation did not approve the marriage, then why did one of its Servants perform the marriage? The Rasmussens had been messed over by the Shelby Congregation, and the WatchTower Society knew that they had been, yet, instead of acknowledging a mistake on the part of the Congregation, and making a fair and just decision that would not harm the innocents, Brooklyn directed that the Rasmussens be "executed" -- disfellowshipped. What about the Servant that perform the marriage, and the members of the Shelby Congregation who attended and publicly validated the wedding? The later public statements made by the Shelby Congregation members were clearly slanderous given the circumstances, and should have resulted in a large damages award against not only the Shelby Congregation, but also the WatchTower Society for directing the Rasmussens to be disfellowshipped, when the WatchTower Society knew that the problems was the fault of the Congregation(s) -- not the Rasmussens -- and clearly how the power and opportunity to make certain that justice was done. Just like all human bureaucracies, the first priority of the bureaucracy is to maintain the image and existence of the bureaucracy -- no matter the cost to the individual members of the Borg.
McDANIEL v. McDANIEL was a 1968 Ohio appellate court decision. James McDaniel and Deloris McDaniel were divorced in the early 1960s. Deloris McDaniel received custody of their daughter, Jolene Kay McDaniel. At some point, James McDaniel both remarried and converted to the Jehovah's Witnesses. James McDaniel then sought custody of Jolene McDaniel. At the 1967 hearing, James McDaniel attacked Deloris McDaniel's fitness as a parent, while Deloris McDaniel made much ado about James McDaniel's new religion. James McDaniel's petition for custody was denied at the local trial and local appellate levels, and then denied at the interim appellate level. Further appeals and outcome unknown.
"[Clair Meredith] is teaching his boys in accordance with the tenets of his [Jehovah's Witnesses] religion not to salute the flag, and that it is better to go to jail than to serve the country or participate in elections and support the country's institutions."
"If this were the only ground upon which the trial court had found and concluded appellant was an unfit party for the custody of his minor children, it appears the great weight of authority in other jurisdictions would require reversal of the trial court's decree and a new trial. ..."However, there was competent evidence in the record before us that appellant was guilty of incestuous conduct with an older daughter from a prior marriage who had been living with appellant and the two boys of this marriage during the separation of the parties hereto. The record also contains competent evidence that appellant requested and desired having anal intercourse with respondent. Additionally the evidence discloses that this older daughter by the prior marriage who for years served as a baby sitter for appellant with the two boys, the custody of whom are involved here was married and had left the home some six months prior to the date of the trial. The record fails to disclose what care appellant would provide for the two minor boys when he absented himself from the home in his religious endeavors. It is true that the abnormal sexual habits of appellant were denied, but it has long been the rule of this court that where the findings of fact of the trial court are supported by substantial, competent, though conflicting, evidence such findings will not be disturbed on appeal. ... ... ..."While respondent's conduct left much to be desired, still the trial court found, and the record amply supports the finding, that her misconduct was caused by appellant's complete devotion to his religion to the exclusion of his family and that at the time of the trial respondent had reformed. Also it is to be noted that the misconduct on the part of the respondent, relied upon by appellant, was from months to years prior to the date of the hearing; and there was no showing of her unfitness as a mother at the time of the trial.
"Thus there is no showing of an abuse of discretion on the part of the trial judge in awarding custody of these minor children of tender years to respondent-mother. ... ..."Next, appellant contends the court erred in permitting evidence concerning appellant's religion to be introduced on the questions (1) of determining his fitness for custody of the children, and (2) in considering respondent's grounds for divorce, claiming in each instance that appellant's constitutional rights were infringed under the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and Article 1, section 4 of the Constitution of the State of Idaho. There was no reversible error committed by the admission of such evidence in determining appellant's fitness for custody of the children because, as previously pointed out in this opinion, the evidence supports the trial court's findings and conclusions in this respect on other grounds. There was no error in the admission of such evidence in support of respondent's grounds for divorce because, as she testified, and as the court found, it was appellant's total absorption with his religion that primarily caused the disruption of the parties' marriage."
"The basic issue, in the view of this court, is whether the children are being so adversely affected by their continued education in a Catholic school while continuing to live with a mother, who is a Jehovah's Witness, that they should be removed from the custody and care of their mother. The facts are clear that the mother is a good mother, providing a good and clean home and that the father is a devoted father, equally concerned about the welfare of the children. Were there no difference in the religion of the parents, the likelihood of a fairly stable, normal family relationship might have been good.
"The difficulty seems to be compounded by the fact that the mother, aged 31, born in Italy and raised in the Catholic faith, who married her husband in the Catholic Church, has only within the last three years become a practicing Jehovah's Witness. The children had all been baptized in the Catholic Church and the older two children now attend a Catholic school, although the oldest child did attend a public school in the first grade and the second child attended kindergarten in a public school.
"The mother admits that she would prefer to bring her children up as Jehovah's Witnesses but did testify that she felt, as a Jehovah's Witness, that the father did have the right to decide what kind of education the children should have. Thus she agrees that, if the father wishes the children to attend a Catholic school and to attend Catholic Church, she will allow them to do so. She states that she tries to help her children with their lessons in all but their religious subjects. Yet she feels she has the right to express to the children her feelings, as a Jehovah's Witness, that the Catholic religion 'is not based on the Bible'. She admits taking the children at times to Kingdom Hall, the headquarters and meeting room of Jehovah's Witnesses, once in spite of the court's oral admonition not to do so.
"It is also true that when the court, in chambers, discussed the situation with the oldest child, aged 9, in the presence of counsel for both parties, he indicated he wishes to be brought up as a Catholic and that he was somewhat confused by the fact that his mother practiced another religion. I do not feel, however, that this is all-controlling in view of the age of the boy and in view of the boy's statement that he and his father had discussed the expected interview with me. (He did say he had been told to tell the truth). ..."There is no question that the mother had the right to change her religion and to practice her religion. Nor is there any question that Jehovah's Witnesses have a moral and legal right to bear children and to raise them in the precepts of their religion. Those who are not Jehovah's Witnesses will, of course, not agree with their beliefs and practices. They may be appalled, as is the father in this case, by their attitudes toward such matters as refusing to salute the flag, to hold public office, to serve in the armed forces or even to permit blood transfusion. But no one would suggest that where the spouses are both Jehovah's Witnesses that they should be denied the right to bring up their children as Jehovah's Witnesses, even if their beliefs are distasteful to us. Thus, a mother's being a Jehovah's Witness is no bar, in and of itself, to having custody of her children. And in this case, there is no evidence to suggest her unfitness as a mother.
"The question does arise about the effect upon the children of the conflict presented by their continuing to attend Catholic school and being brought up as Catholics in spite of the mother's difference in religion. The general rule is that the parent having custody will, absent special circumstances, be allowed to raise the children in his or her own religion. In this case the mother has agreed that the children may continue to attend Catholic school and may go to Catholic Church. There are many instances of intermarriage in which the children are brought up in a faith other than that of one of the parents, in which the relationship remains a good, healthy one. This is dependent largely upon the willingness and understanding of each parent to respect the right of the other parent to be what he or she wishes to be. It is helpful if the child is taught to respect the religious difference of the other parent and to recognize that, regardless of differences, there may be good in the heart and soul and deeds of those who believe differently than we do. This is particularly so where it is one's mother or father whose faith is different, as is her or his right in our democratic way of life.
"This does not imply that we do not recognize the inherent difficulties in a situation such as this. It will not be easy for the children to reconcile the teachings of the Catholic Church with the attitude of their mother. The mother should try to understand that this is so and should attempt to treat with respect the religious differences of the father and her children, especially since she agrees that the father has the right to determine the nature of their schooling.
"Yet I feel that the choice must be in favor of allowing the children to remain with their mother. The alternative of having them live with their father's brother and sister-in-law, the very same people who initiated the eviction action against the mother, is not a good one. Nor is there any other better plan available. ..."Custody is awarded to the mother under the following conditions, violation of any one of which may be a basis for reconsideration of this determination:"(1) The father may visit with children on Sundays from 8:30 A.M. to 12 noon, for the purpose of taking them to Catholic Church.
"(2) The father may visit with the children, in or out of the mother's home, on Saturdays from 9:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M.
"(3) The father may take the children of school age to Catholic school every morning and he shall return them to the mother's home directly after school.
"(4) The mother shall not take the children to any headquarters or meeting hall of Jehovah's Witnesses nor shall she instruct them in any teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses.
"Mutual order of protection for one year to incorporate above conditions.
"Referred to Probation Department to discuss with the parents the possible referral for counselling around the above problems in relation to the attitudes of the parents and for any help which the children may need.
The appellant, William Alfred Reagan, filed a petition for divorce against his wife, Ester Naoma Reagan, in October, 1963, alleging as ground for divorce that she had wilfully deserted him in December, 1960, and has continued such desertion since that time. The defendant wife, appellee here, filed an answer and cross action which, as amended, denied the desertion of appellant by her and alleged wilful desertion of her on the part of appellant since January, 1961, and prayed for alimony and for a divorce. This action has been tried once before and this is the third appearance of this case before this court. On the first trial the jury returned a verdict granting both parties a divorce and awarding alimony to Mrs. Reagan. In Reagan v. Reagan  ... this court held that such verdict was inconsistent in view of the pleadings and evidence and ordered a retrial of the case. In Reagan v. Reagan  ... this court held that the new trial previously ordered by the court rendered defendant's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict a nullity and ordered the court to dismiss the motion.On the retrial of the case, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the appellee for divorce and awarded her alimony. The trial court entered judgment and decree on the verdict and also awarded appellee $750 as attorney's fees. The appeal is from that judgment on assignments of error stated hereafter. ... ...We hold that there was evidence to support the verdict in favor of the wife on the question of desertion by her husband. It appears from the evidence that a controversy over religion between the parties had led to their separation. The wife had become a follower of a religious group known as the Jehovah's Witnesses. Her husband had long been a member of the Methodist Church in Rome, Ga. The wife testified as to the events immediately preceding the alleged abandonment and desertion of her by the appellant as follows: "Well, we had a wonderful dinner. He had gone to the Methodist Church, and our meetings are in the afternoon; and I had dinner ready for him when he came in, and we ate dinner. And I always study my Bible before I go to church, to the meetings. And he was playing solitaire in the living room, and I went in there and took my Bible down, and he began, 'Why are you reading that stuff,' and so on, and 'You are going crazy.' And finally he got so mad, he said if I ever went again that he would be gone when I got home. So I calmly said, 'Well I'm going this afternoon.' So when I got home he was gone, and has been gone ever since." She testified that he left on a Sunday late in January of 1961; that appellant moved back in to the upstairs apartment in their house after about three months; that during this time he did not communicate with her or make an attempt at reconciliation but that be came and got his clothes from her on two occasions. She further testified that she left the home of the parties on November 13, 1961 to take a job helping an elderly woman in her home with the intention of staying there only until Christmas, but that she has remained at this job ever since and appellant rented the apartment she had vacated after she left. She testified and appellant confirmed the fact that she had left a considerable amount of her clothes and personal items in the apartment which was rented to others by her husband with these clothes and items still there as she had left them.The husband testified that he had left Mrs. Reagan and stayed in a hotel for about six to eight weeks "Because I was about to go crazy. She was running me crazy talking about that Jehovah thing to me all night long. I couldn't sleep--I couldn't sleep, and I had to get somewhere where I could rest a little, so I could work." He stated that he had never left her with the intention of staying away forever. It appeared that when he moved back home into the upstairs apartment, Mrs. Reagan had the key to the downstairs apartment where she was staying and kept it locked most of the time. There was further testimony by him to the effect that he tried to effect a reconciliation and get Mrs. Reagan to come back to him. This was contradicted by Mrs. Reagan and by testimony of a married daughter of the parties, Mrs. Buck Ransom. Another married daughter, Mrs. Tom Sumerour, testified that Mr. Reagan had never asked her for Mrs. Reagan's address and this directly refuted the testimony of the appellant.In conclusion, there is evidence which, although in conflict in some particulars, is sufficient to support the verdict in favor of the wife. The jury was authorized under the evidence to find that appellant left Mrs. Reagan, that he intended to desert her, that he acted without justification and that cohabitation was not resumed and that the desertion continued for a period of at least one year. Furthermore, even if the jury believed that appellant had offered to resume marital relations and that appellee had refused to do so, the verdict would be proper under the ruling in Born v. Born, ... that "the questions of good faith on the part of the husband in making the offer and whether the refusal of the wife to resume marital relations was justified or not under the circumstances and the period of time when the desertion began, are all for the determination of the jury and cannot be resolved on demurrer."2. The second assignment of error is upon the admission by the court, over the objection of the appellant, of the testimony of the wife that she had a will leaving all she had to her children, and that it was her intention on her death to leave what she had to her children. It appears that the court sustained appellant's objection to the wife's reference to her will on the ground that the will itself was the highest and best evidence of its contents, but permitted her to testify as to what her intention was with reference to disposing of her property upon her death. She then testified that she intended to leave it to her children. The husband had testified earlier to the effect that she had asked him and tried to persuade him to make a will leaving their house to the Jehovah's Witnesses. The court did not err in admitting the testimony of the appellee since it was relevant to the question as to what disposition appellee would want Mr. Reagan to make of his property at his death and would tend to rebut his testimony that she tried to influence him to give the home to the Jehovah's Witnesses. This question would bear not only upon the credibility of appellant but upon the broader issue of the degree of his wife's involvement with the Jehovah's Witnesses. Such involvement, depending upon its degree, would bear upon the question whether the husband was justified in leaving her when he did and whether she would be justified in refusing to resume marital relations with him, if it is believed that he had tried to get them back together. Thus, its relevancy bears directly upon the main issues of the case and the testimony of appellee was properly admitted.
"... the court thus finds sufficient evidence to substantiate plaintiff's grounds for extreme cruelty and hereby grants to the plaintiff a divorce. ... ..."... it appears to this court from a careful analysis of the testimony elicited from the witnesses testifying in this case that even though the defendant's motives may have been good, nevertheless if his conduct destroys 'the legitimate ends and objects of matrimony', then his actions have constituted extreme cruelty. ... ..."The court further finds, that because of the tender age of the children and because there is no testimony to controvert the fact that the plaintiff is a fit, proper and suitable person to have custody and control of the said children, that the plaintiff is therefore awarded exclusive custody and control of the children of said parties until further order of the court.
"The court also feels that there should be reasonable visitation rights on the part of the defendant to see his children at such times as are mutually agreed between the parties."
DOROTHY M. SCOTT v. DONALD L. SCOTT. In 1963, 27 year-old Dorothy Scott, of Maryland, filed for legal separation from her 32 year-old husband, Don L. Scott. Dorothy gave as her basis the facts that Don Scott had converted to the Jehovah's Witnesses, and was now forcing her to attend his local Kingdom Hall, and Donald Scott was prohibiting her from having their 4 year-old daughter inoculated. Don Scott was also indoctrinating the daughter with WatchTower Cult beliefs and practices. Outcome unknown.
HAM v. CAVETTE was a 1962 Texas appellate court decision. Claudie A. Ham and Karlita Cavette Ham were married in June 1951, and divorced in July 1957. Custody of their two children, Kathy, who was born November in 1953, and Claudie Allin, Jr., who was born in 1954, was awarded to Karlita Ham. Karlita Ham died in March 1958. In April 1958, Claudie A. Ham, who had remarried, petitioned the court for custody of his two children. The hearing was held in June 1958.
SMITH v. SMITH was a 1961 Supreme Court of Arizona decision. In September 1957, Betty Jean Smith was granted a divorce from John Paul Smith after she converted to the Jehovah's Witnesses. Custody of their child, Mark Smith, was granted to Betty Jean Smith, with reasonable visitation rights given to John Smith. Mark, then six years old, was enrolled in the first grade in the public schools in Phoenix, Arizona.
In August 1958, just prior to the start of the child's second year in school, John Paul Smith petitioned the superior court for a change of custody, alleging that the child was not receiving proper care, teaching and education. Following a hearing, which focused on Mark Smith being forbidden by Betty Smith to salute the American Flag, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and participating in school holiday festivities, an order was entered switching custody from Betty Jean Smith to John Paul Smith. The Superior Court record stated, in part:
"... I think I must recognize that any deviation from the normal school routine brings a certain amount of ridicule and criticism to the child which is, of course, the basis of implanting neuroses in the child. ...
"... unless the court is satisfied that Mrs. Smith is willing to forego those beliefs as far as her child is concerned, I certainly feel that there is some justification for a change of custody in this case. ..."It is the judgment of the court Mrs. Smith that your attitude in that respect tends to bring ridicule upon your son. It tends to implant into his mind intolerance for his father's beliefs; and as long as that attitude prevails, I feel in all fairness you are not a fit and proper person to have his care and custody. ..."You don't love him enough Mrs. Smith - although the court has repeatedly put this question to you - to forego your religious beliefs to the extent of letting him acquire some of the religious beliefs and the normal activities that children enjoy and participate in in the public schools."
"The first challenge to the aspirations of the family presented itself to [Reinhardt L. Frantzen] on a night in April, 1958, when upon his return from a Scout Meeting, he found [Betti Rose Frantzen] in company with--apparently engaged in a conference, known as a 'Study Session' -- with three members of the local Jehovah Witness Organization. As soon as the parties to the cause were alone, [Reinhardt L. Frantzen] expressed his apprehension to [Betti Rose Frantzen] and requested her to desist in further studying with the group. [Betti Rose Frantzen] refused, claiming [Reinhardt L. Frantzen's] apprehension unfounded and insisted that [Reinhardt L. Frantzen] meet with [Betti Rose Frantzen] and the local Jehovah Witness leader -- 'Pioneer' --so as to become informed of the true purposes of the Jehovah Witnesses. ... In this meeting, the [Reinhardt L. Frantzen] was informed by the Pioneer, Jehovah Witnesses believe and advocate that: (a) 'All world governments are ruled by the devil', (b) for such reason Jehovah Witnesses refuse to take part in any governmental activities such as voting, offering for public office, service on juries, refuse to salute the Flag and to pledge allegiance to any Nation; ... ." Reinhardt L. Frantzen filed for divorce and custody of his two boys in January 1959. His case was dismissed in January 1961. Outcome of appeal unknown.
In 1965, Leo Gerhardt, age 48, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, made the national news when he began to protest at the Albuquerque Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses attended by his wife and children. Leo Gerhardt, a military veteran and member of the Naval Reserve, was upset about the WatchTower Cult beliefs and practices with which his children were being indoctrinated. Gerhardt installed a sign on his truck which said, "Jehovah's Witnesses are un-American. They teach draft dodging. They don't salute he flag. They don't vote -- but many are on welfare." Gerhardt was also marching in front of the Kingdom Hall with a sign that stated, "I want a Wife not a preacher in my home." and "Don't send your boys to prison." Gerhardt was particularly concerned that his 15 year-old son would choose to go to prison rather than even perform non-combatant service in the military when he became an adult.
Gerhard's wife embarrassingly told a reporter that, "I understand my husband. He is a Navy man. If he wants to picket, that's his business. I still love him." The Congregation Servant told reporters that Gerhardt "had an 'obsession' against the Jehovah's Witnesses' teachings."
JOYCE KITTY BARKER v WILLIAM GEORGE FREDERICK BARKER was a 1965-66 Australian child custody decision of the SUPREME COURT OF VICTORIA. Pertinent excerpts:
Respondent is in many respects a good man, although he is given to moodiness and seems not to be able to see any viewpoint but his own. His approach to the question of access is strongly influenced by his relatively recent conversion to the religious beliefs held by the sect known as Jehovah's Witnesses. ... The respondent is avowedly desirous of inculcating in the minds of the children the religious truths which he finds in the tenets of Jehovah's Witnesses.
At common law a father is entitled to insist upon his child being brought up in a particular religion. However, where a court is concerned with the question of the religious upbringing of a child, the ... common law right is subject to ... the interests of the children of a marriage as the paramount consideration ... .
On the face of it the access which the children's father seeks, and his claim that he be entirely responsible for the religious training and instruction of the children, would be an unreasonable interference with the mother's custody of the children, a custody which she has by virtue of an order to which respondent consented. It seems to me that his demands, if acceded to, would also be an unreasonable interference with the children's ways of living. Respondent admits that the boy, Lynton James Barker, who is now 11, has stated his disinclination to be subjected to the course of religious training and instruction which the father, as a convinced Jehovah's Witness, thinks he should have. Respondent claims that the daughter, Beverley Anne Barker, now aged 13, was at one time drawn to this instruction, but he agrees that now her interest has waned, a state of affairs he ascribes to the influence of her brother, Lynton.
Respondent's present wife is a confirmed adherent to the same sect as her husband. When the children go to stay with their father and his wife on the occasions when access is exercised in that fashion, the wife gives the children Bible instruction, and on the Sunday afternoon the children are taken to the meetings of the members of the sect for further instruction in the doctrines of the sect. As the respondent is employed on shift work, it may happen that he is sleeping when the children come to stay, and the main control over the children would then be exercised by his wife.
The respondent is fanatically sincere in his religious beliefs, and I think that may truly be said, too, of his present wife. ... but respondent considers, perhaps rightly, that the children are not of an age when they should be allowed to make decisions about the religious denomination to which they desire to adhere. He agreed that he considered he would be justified in coercing the children if they showed a disinclination to interest themselves in the religious truth as he sees it, although he disclaimed any notion that he would use physical punishment to force them to do so.
I am satisfied that it is not in the interests of these children that they should be compelled to undergo instruction and training in the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses. ... They attend State schools, and on occasions a Presbyterian Sunday School. Nominally their mother adheres to the Church of Christ and their step-father is a Lutheran. ...
Although they are still immature, I do not believe it is possible in the existing circumstances for the respondent effectually to achieve his purpose of indoctrinating the children in preparation for their adherence to the sect to which he is so fervently attached. If he were able to carry out his expressed wish that he should have complete control over the religious instruction of his children, I think the results would certainly be highly unsatisfactory and possibly disastrous. I am completely persuaded that it would be inimical to their welfare, placed as they are at present, to make an order that would enable him to pursue his avowed purpose.
Short BIBLE TOPIC Readings Selected For Those With Jehovah's Witnesses Backgrounds
Wifely Subjection: Mental Health Issues in Jehovah's Witness Women
Jehovah's Witnesses and the Problem of Mental Illness
The Theocratic War Doctrine: Why Jehovah's Witnesses Lie In Court
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