Pre-1950s 1950s 1960s 1970s Early-80s Late-80s Early-90s Late-90s Early-2000s Late-2000s 2010s
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.
SHEILA A. CARR v. BOBBY G. CARR was an ongoing 1974-79 Indiana divorce and child custody case in which BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS for a child became an issue (which 21st century Family Court Judges knowingly falsely claim are an extremely rare occurrence -- so rare that Family Court Judges almost unanimously refuse to consider the issue of blood transfusions when making custody decisions. In fact, the American judicial system is engaged in a conspiracy to ignore this side of the blood transfusion issue, because to acknowledge such would tilt custody decisions nationwide in favor of non-JW Parents. The American judicial system is well aware that the issue of blood transfusions for children arise much more frequently than they will publicly acknowledge. Family Court Judges are well aware of the fact that due to recent privacy legalities these scenarios are no longer documented publicly, nor are they currently available for medical and judicial statistical study.)
Sheila Carr and Bobby Carr, of Indianapolis, Indiana, were divorced in 1975 (the year that the WatchTower Cult was prophesying that Armageddon would occur), with Sheila Carr receiving custody of the couple's two children -- Robert E. Carr, age 17, and Lisa Ann Carr, age 10. In June 1979, Sheila Carr and Bobby Carr agreed that custody of 14 year-old Lisa Carr would return to her Jehovah's Witness Father. Shortly thereafter, under emergency circumstances, Lisa Ann Carr needed an ovarian cyst removed, and the need for a blood transfusion during that surgery was anticipated. Typically, Booby G. Carr refused to grant permission for the blood transfusion, so Indianapolis Community Hospital was forced to seek judicial intervention. A local judge appointed Sheila Carr custodian of Lisa Carr as regards her medical care. Sheila Carr immediately signed the consent form, and the necessary operation was began soon thereafter.
EDGAR DAVIS v. LORETTA DAVIS. In March 1978, a Jehovah's Witness named Edgar Davis, age 37, of Clinton, Ohio, filed for divorce from his Jehovah's Witness Wife, Loretta Davis, age 32, also of Clinton, Ohio. The couple had been married in April 1976, and Loretta Davis had a 9 year-old son from a previous marriage. Loretta Davis contested the divorce action. The Davis couple reconciled after several efforts were made by Loretta Davis. Edgar Davis dropped the lawsuit.
LORETTA DAVIS v. EDGAR DAVIS. In April 1978, Loretta Davis was hospitalized for two days after allegedly suffering a beating by Edgar Davis. In early May 1978, police responded to a domestic disturbance call at the Davis home. A handgun was confiscated from Loretta Davis. In latter May 1978, Loretta Davis filed for divorce. A restraining order was issued barring Loretta Davis from going to the marital home --apparently indicating that Edgar Davis owned the home separate from his recently new wife and her son.
OHIO v. LORETTA DAVIS. Only days after filing her divorce suit, Loretta Davis, accompanied by her then 11 year-old son, went to the marital home to pickup some clothes. At the home, Loretta Davis reported a domestic dispute. Responding police broke up an argument between the couple, escorted Loretta Davis from the home, and then watched her drive away before they left. Shortly thereafter, Loretta Davis reported a shooting at the marital home to police, and called for an ambulance. Loretta Davis claimed "self-defense", and alleged that at the home, Edgar Davis had beat her, threw her down a staircase, and then charged her. Thankfully, a loaded, cocked, safety-off shotgun belonging to Edgar Davis just so happened to be within arm's reach. Loretta Davis grabbed the shotgun and fired it into Edgar Davis's groin just as he reached her. Edgar Davis survived for four hours -- going in and out of consciousness. Davis faithfully refused life-saving blood transfusions, and then died of blood loss. Loretta Davis was arrested and charged with felonious assault, but local prosecutors were last known to be considering dropping the case. Outcome unknown.
NOWLIN v. NOWLIN is a 1976 Oklahoma appellate decision in which Justice Brightmire simply could not control his amusement with this Jehovah's Witness appellant. If you read only one case summary on this webpage, be sure you read this one.
The reason why Bennie sought a divorce in the first place was because the mother, instead of taking care of her four children, fell into the habit of "going out and staying out all night or until real late" [presumably at the local Kingdom Hall] then sleeping all day, requiring Bennie to call upon his parents for child-care help. It was for this same reason that the court placed legal custody of the children in their father.Between that time and February 24, 1975, when defendant filed her motion to [seek custody], the record contains no great detail about her life. It does show, however, that she twice remarried. The first time was to a man named Barker who sired her fifth child. This marriage was "annulled out in California." The second marriage ended when, after living with her for a while, the man died. Mary testified that after being divorced from Bennie she lived several places, got married once in Las Vegas, worked a little while part-time in a cafe, and before that worked some as a nurse's aide. At the time of filing the motion in question she and her six-year-old son by Barker were occupying an apartment in Wilburton, Oklahoma, living on $180 a month the source of which was $30 from the cafe work and $150 from the welfare department. When questioned about whether she could take care of four more children on that income she said, "Well if the welfare is helping them now, why couldn't they help me then?" ... ...Defendant's interest in the children is revealed by her testimony that for three years she did not visit them at all and since then she has seen them only once in a while. During a visit a few days before the hearing she took 17-year-old Tammy, the oldest child, aside for a talk. Said Tammy, "She told me she wanted us [the four children] to go with her and that she would get a big four bedroom house and just stuff like that . . . ." But, continued Tammy, "I told her that even if she did I would not go with her." A little later the grandmother came into the room and found Tammy crying. According to the grandparent, "they were all just really upset and Mary used some really bad language," prompting Tammy to say, "I thought you were a Christian." Responded Mary, "Well Jehovah['s] Witnesses are people just the same as anybody else." ... ...In reading the record one gets the same impression that the trial judge must have received from listening to the live testimony and that is that the natural mother in abandoning the children eight years ago demonstrated a love for them that was perhaps something less than boundless and that her current interest in them arises from a concern for welfare but not necessarily that of the children. ...The most defendant has attempted to prove here is that she has decided to settle down in Wilburton and involve herself with a religious organization. The implication is that she has stopped running around at night and is willing to devote substantial time and attention to her children whom she alleged in her motion she "loves." While this, to be sure, is a change of conditions it falls short of being a material one. Moreover, defendant has also failed to show how being in her custody would improve the children's lot.We can hardly keep from wondering about the sincerity of her profession of love when she seems willing to remove the children against their will from the only home most of them can remember having - the same one they had when the divorce was granted. Through the years it has been a home that, though lacking in material things, has not been deficient in achieving for the children genuine affection, self-respect, kindness, and desirable behavioral patterns. At the hearing the children recognized and appreciated the advantages they had and to a child - now ranging in age from 9 to 17 - opposed leaving such an environment and chancing their well-being with a woman who to them was little more than a stranger, a woman who was mother in fact but not in effect. The trial judge wisely declined to separate the youngsters from their established and adequate surroundings. ...
"It is well established that in all cases involving the custody of a child, the paramount consideration is the best interests and welfare of the child. ... Although best interests is necessarily a nebular term, rendering itself amenable to neither simple definition nor application, it embraces the child's physical, intellectual, moral, and spiritual well-being. ..."Presently, we are convinced that embraced within the best interests concept is the stability and consistency of the child's spiritual inculcation. It would be an egregious error for our courts in a custody dispute to scrutinize the ability of the parents to foster the child's emotional development, their capacity to provide adequate shelter and sustenance, and their relative income, yet not review their respective religious beliefs. One need not concur with the biblical injunction that man's needs exceed the simple requirements of the body to acknowledge the impact of religious instruction. Quite apart from any concern with the child's spiritual salvation - and we readily acknowledge the inadequacy of a legal forum to resolve which, if any, creed is superior in effecting that goal - it is beyond dispute that a young child reared into two inconsistent religious traditions will quite probably experience some deleterious physical or mental effects.
"Of course, this conclusion merely begs the question of whether we are constitutionally capable of factoring religion into the best interests equation. Turning to that question, both the weight of authority and established legal principles support the proposition that it is legitimate for a court to examine the impact of the parents' beliefs on the child."... our citizens have been constitutionally guaranteed the right to hold any religious belief without interference from the state. ... Coupled with the fact that parents have traditionally been considered to have the primary, or natural, right to control their children's nurture, see Prince v. Massachusetts, ... there has been erected a rampart of privacy about a child's spiritual development as formulated by his parents. ... Nevertheless, while the adoption of a belief is absolutely protected, there exists only a qualified right to act on that belief. ... Cantwell v. Connecticut, ... Thus, as our supreme court reiterated in In Re Green, ... quoting Prince v. Massachusetts,... :'But the family itself is not beyond regulation in the public interest, as against a claim of religious liberty. ... And neither rights of religion nor rights of parenthood are beyond limitation. Acting to guard the general interest in youth's well being, the state as parens patriae may restrict the parent's control ... Its authority is not nullified merely because the parent grounds his claim to control the child's course of conduct on religion or conscience. Thus, he cannot claim freedom from compulsory vaccination for the child more than for himself on religious grounds ... .'"Probably the most graphic example of this intrusion into a nominally sacrosanct area is the power of the state to order a blood transfusion for a critically ill child over the objection of his parents, typically Jehovah's Witnesses. See, e.g., Application of President and Directors of Georgetown College Inc., ... (1964); Jehovah's Witnesses in the State of Washington v. King County Hospital Unit No. 1, (1967), ...; Re Sampson, ... (1972)... (discretion of court to order necessary surgery not limited to mortal illness); In re Green, supra (recognizing rule but refusing application because no evidence child's life was in immediate danger);..."Appellant would have us accept these cases as support for the proposition that only under the most extreme circumstances, not here manifest, may the state weigh religious preferences. ... In matters of custody, the family unit has already been dissolved, and that dissolution is accompanied by a weakening of the shield constructed against state intervention. A parent cannot flaunt the banner of religious freedom and familial sanctity when he himself has abrogated that unity. Consequently, the courts of this Commonwealth, in accord with those in other jurisdictions, have consistently held that while religious beliefs must not constitute the sole determinant in a child custody award, the court may consider those beliefs in rendering a decree. ... Indeed, the very concept of 'best-interests' would be but a hollow shiboleth were not parental rights to yield to the welfare of the child. As we emphasize again, however, we neither intend to, nor are capable of, rendering a value judgment on the intrinsic truth of the varied religious beliefs, but confine our investigation solely to any detrimental effect their practice may have on the development of the child. We remain loath to tamper in such a delicate area, and while, as indicated by the standard developed infra, our review will be narrowly circumscribed, and action will not be taken on a record supported by mere conjecture, it is clear that such matters should and can be considered. ... ..."Several other state courts have echoed this rule of allowing the non-custodial parent to provide religious instruction for his child absent a showing of damage to the child's well-being. ... In Robertson, the non-custodial father appealed a lower court order prohibiting him from taking his two sons to any meetings of the Jehovah's Witnesses, and from teaching or expressing to them certain religious doctrines. He contended, inter alia, that such an order infringed upon his first amendment privilege to the free exercise of religion. The Washington Court of Appeals vacated the restriction because the quantum of evidence demanded by the Munoz criterion was lacking:'The record contains only the affidavit of Mrs. Caul [appellee] that the teachings of the Jehovah's Witnesses "confuse and alarm the children" and "have a detrimental and confusing impact upon their welfare". ... While we do not ignore the possible effect of a child's "confusion" caused by exposure to different religions, Munoz ... requires a factual showing, not mere conclusions and speculations.'
"Appellant's brief ... argues that no evidence was offered which indicated an immediate probability of harm to Lisa. Confronted with such a claim, it is necessary to carefully scrutinize the record for facts supporting the court's decision. ..."During the hearing, Paul T. Carstetter, an elder of the Jehovah's Witnesses congregation in Williamsport, testified that an active member of the congregation is expected to engage, to the extent of his ability and free time, in door-to-door solicitation and teaching. He stated that there is an absolute obligation on the part of the parents, devolving primarily on the father and unaffected by divorce or separation, to inculcate the child into their religious belief. This education extends to the door-to-door solicitation:Q. [COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE]: Is it required of parents that if they undertake to do and become active and do door-to-door work, that they take their children with them?
A. [MR. CARSTETTER]: It's a scriptural requirement and an obligation on the parent himself, between he and his God.
Q. Well, is it a requirement, specifically, that when a parent does missionary work, door-to-door work, that they take their child or children with them?
A. This is at the discretion of the parent and how they understand their responsibility.
Q. Okay. Do you understand that that is a responsibility of your church, that the parent must take the child with them on door-to-door missions?
A. Personally, yes.Q. Do you feel that that is part of the teaching of Jehovah Witnesses?
A. Yes, sir.
"Basically, what we do is we prepare ourselves with the Bible and also the Watch Tower and Awake magazines, and we knock at an individual's home and an individual comes to the door and we ask them a little bit about the Bible. We try and start a conversation; usually we try and do it in a sense that it is a carefree conversation, one that does not bring any problems to the mind. But what we try and do is focus on the benefits of what this kingdom is going to bring to mankind. We see so much trouble and turmoil in the world today and we are just trying to share a little bit of happiness with people, from the Bible.""He testified that he believed it a religious requirement to raise Lisa as a Jehovah's Witness, and such a requirement included the door-to-door teaching. .... It was, further, absolutely necessary to Lisa's salvation and physical well-being:Q. [COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE]: Would it be fair to say that the harm that you foresee might be described in terms of harm to her eternal being and her soul; you do not envision harm to her physical well being?
A. [APPELLANT]: Her physical well being, that is her soul. Yes, I see if she was to be raised in Catholicism and believe it and fight against the truth about the Bible, she would lose her life.
Q. That is the only harm that you see that - I think you have generalized it; I don't mean you have to give it in detail, but that's the type of harm you see?
A. Well, there could be.
Q. You don't see her being involved in an emotional trauma; you don't see her being involved in physical damage to her body as a result of that, do you?
A. It's quite possible.
Q. Would you envision damage to her physical body because she believed in Catholicism?
A. I just mentioned to you that her life would be lost.""The critical testimony as to psychological damage was delivered by John H. Bone, a clinical psychologist, who examined Lisa for one-half hour some one month prior to the hearing. He testified that a child of Lisa's age would tend to adopt her parents' beliefs rather than form her own judgments, and that considerable inconsistency in the former would cause the child to disregard the teaching of either parent.Q. How might that [inconsistent beliefs] manifest itself in her daily relationship with people?
A. This could lead to a very irresponsible type of behavior. From the standpoint that if she gets to the point - if she conceives of regulations and morals and standards as being something that can be debated between two people as important as a mother and a father, then she is going to take lightly any regulation of any kind.
Q. And what, in your - in your opinion, would a period of contradictory teaching be contrary to the best interests of this child?
A. It would be definitely very contrary. The ideal situation would be to have the mother and father living together and teaching a consistent doctrine of one or the other. I'm not evaluating either Jehovah Witnesses' doctrine or Catholicism. But I do believe that the very fact that there is a difference, and there they are debating over it, and they are really fighting a battle over this child's mind.
Q. To the extent that the two religions have consistent moral values, Christian moral values, wouldn't the teaching of those, simultaneously by
both parents, be expected to improve the child's overall moral outlook?
A. Not as long as there would be inconsistencies in addition to the consistencies, because this child is not at an age where she can arrive at conclusions by herself, conclusions that are based on perceptive thinking.""He also testified that the door-to-door solicitations would probably, although not necessarily, result in some psychological impairment."In the light of such testimony, we cannot conclude that the hearing judge erred in restricting visitation. Appellant would contend that the psychiatric testimony did not evidence sufficient probability of harm to the child, whether measured against the standard of Munoz or those developed in conjunction with the medical transfusion cases. See In re Green, supra. We do not agree. First, we reiterate that this question arises in the context of a custody dispute. The state is not extending an Orwellian eye into the private decisions of an intact family unit. Second, we cannot accept an argument that the absence of present harm constricts the court's power to act. Were this the case, we would have to allow the psychological harm to Lisa to progress to a mentally crippling point before action could be taken. With that damage a fait accompli, however, any remedial action would be marginally effective. For our purposes it may be unfortunate, but the state of the art in psychiatry is such that absolute certainty is not possible. Unlike the medical practitioner who can proclaim with reasonable medical certainty that a child will die if not provided with a blood transfusion, the psychiatrist treads in a cryptic area replete with uncertainty. Nevertheless, while we do not expect psychiatrists, or judges, to be prescient, in the absence of more accurate data we consider it necessary to carefully weigh their opinions on the future development of the child. Instantly, Mr. Bone testified that the inconsistent teachings would probably result in some mental disorientation to Lisa. We believe that this is sufficient to override any right appellant may have in draping the whole of his religious beliefs upon the child.
"The order is, at any rate, quite liberal. Appellant is not prohibited from seeing Lisa, nor from discussing his beliefs with her, but only from forcing her to accompany him on his door-to-door visits. Moreover, as with all custody orders, this is temporary in nature, ... and in the event of a change in circumstances, appellant would be entitled to seek an alteration of the conditions. Order affirmed."
"We think the trial court was clearly correct in granting the divorce to the husband. His testimony as to the conduct of the wife was lucid and believable and must have been made entirely credible to the trial court by the irrational and improper behavior of the wife at the trial. The court at one point left the bench and took a recess in order to calm his anger over the arrogant and improper remarks of the wife, both off and on the stand. That the wife was guilty of mental cruelty is quite believable from the testimony on both sides and we have no hesitation in affirming the judgment of divorce on the ground of mental cruelty. It is plain from the testimony that the wife was unreasonable, if not irrational, in some of her judgments, and there was evidence she was not a good housekeeper and she was at times seemingly harsh, and at other times perhaps too lax, in dealing with the children. On the other hand, however, the husband was not in a position to take care of several small children, nor did he wish to take care of two of them, whom he did not acknowledge as his own. Moreover, the husband caused much of the family difficulty to begin with by delaying so long to provide more living space for a family consisting of husband, wife, several infants and two teenage stepdaughters. There is little doubt that this crowding contributed to the chaotic condition of the household which he testified to. His income during these years was apparently sufficient to have afforded more spacious living arrangements, had he wished to do so. It appears to us, therefore, that if the wife was at times irrational as to the character and habits of the husband - whom she characterized as being a homosexual and a racketeer - the husband was also, to some extent, selfish and unresponsive to the best interests of the children. Faced with this situation, we agree with the trial court's ruling that it was in the best interest of the children to leave the custody with the mother. ... ... ..."Another controversial aspect of the trial court's division of the marital assets concerns its finding that the wife owed the husband a $9,000 credit from the proceeds of the Appleton bank savings account. The account was admittedly in the name of the wife only and she contended the fund was her property alone, and even if most of the deposits in the account came from the husband, they were a gift and not joint property. The husband, however, contended he had allowed the deposits to be made in an already existing account in the wife's name just to preserve domestic peace, but that the funds all came from him and both parties understood the account was intended to be a joint one. Apparently the court concluded from the wife's evasiveness on this point and her refusal to allow the source of the funds to be traced and disclosed, that the husband was telling the truth as to the intention of the parties and he treated one-half of the funds as being subject to a resulting trust in the husband's favor. Since the wife admittedly had little or no income during the years when the account was being built up, it seems probable that the funds in question did come from the husband. The court's ruling that the fund was intended to be a joint one does not, therefore, seem to be inequitable. ... ... ..."At oral argument on appeal it was disclosed that there have been certain developments subsequent to the decree in connection with the minor children. As this is not a part of the record on this appeal, these events cannot be the basis for any decision here. If a post-decree motion, based on such subsequent developments is felt to be justified, it should be made by the party interested, before the trial court.
"This was a complicated and tedious case, rendered even more difficult by evasive testimony, at times, on the part of both parties, and by the contumacious behavior, at times, of the wife. The trial court's patience was obviously strained, but it is apparent he proceeded throughout with the best interest of the minor children in mind and attempted to apportion the property rights as equitably as might be done, within the practical limits of providing for dependent minors. It is a complicated decree because the situation of the parties was a complex one, but we believe the trial court patiently and conscientiously attempted to and did do justice between the parties.
"In Munoz v. Munoz, ... (1971), the Supreme Court held that: 'the courts should maintain an attitude of strict impartiality between religions and should not disqualify any applicant for custody or restrain any person having custody or visitation rights from taking the children to a particular church, except where there is a clear and affirmative showing that the conflicting religious beliefs affect the general welfare of the child'.
"In 1973, the legislature enacted [state law] which provides in part: 'The court may modify an order granting or denying visitation rights whenever modification would serve the best interests of the child but the court shall not restrict a parent's visitation rights unless it finds that the visitation would endanger the child's physical, mental, or emotional health'.
"Thus, there must be a showing in the record and a finding by the court that the requirements of Munoz and [state law] were met. In this regard, the record contains only the affidavit of Mrs. Caul wherein she states that the teachings of the Jehovah's Witnesses 'confuse and alarm [the] children' and 'have a detrimental and confusing impact upon [their] welfare' and that the specific precept of nonobservance of holidays 'causes a great deal of trauma for the children at school because they feel guilty ...' While we do not ignore the possible effect of a child's 'confusion' caused by exposure to different religions, Munoz and [state law] require a factual showing, not mere conclusions and speculation. In the absence of a clear and affirmative showing that the conflicting religious beliefs affect the general welfare of the children, the restrictive order of the trial court relating to religious training cannot be upheld. ... ... ..."The cause is remanded for the taking of evidence on the effect upon the children, if any, of exposure to conflicting religious doctrines."
WAITES v. WAITES was a 1978 Missouri Supreme Court decision. Charles R. Waites, Jr., and Karon M. Waites were married in Raytown, Missouri in October 1971. Evidently, both Charles and Karon grew up in the area, since all of their parents lived nearby. Charles had served in the United States Marine Corps - possibly in Vietnam. Charles' father was also probably a USMC veteran, since he was very patriotic, and he had a collection of firearms. Charles earned his living as a Police Officer - having been employed by two or more of the smaller communities. The Waites were members of a local Baptist Church. Shelley R. Waites was born first in July 1974.
15. That the primary beliefs and the doctrines professed by the petitioner which created problems between respondent and petitioner are as follows:(a) Petitioner does not believe in blood transfusion, even if necessary to save the life of one of her daughters;
(b) Petitioner does not believe in saluting the flag;
(c) Petitioner does not believe in celebrating birthdays;
(d) Petitioner does not believe in celebrating the Nation's birthday or any national holidays;
(e) Petitioner does not believe in celebrating relative's birthdays;
(f) Petitioner does not believe in celebrating Christmas;
(g) Petitioner believes that all governments are under the control of Satan;
(h) Petitioner believes that all other forms of religion other than Jehovah's Witnesses are false religions;
(i) Petitioner believes that all governments and all other false religions stand in the way of world peace;
(j) Petitioner believes that all military bodies are instruments of the devil;
(k) Petitioner would not use life threatening physical force even to save the life of her child;
(l) Petitioner literally believes in the doctrine of Armageddon and believes that only members of the Jehovah's Witnesses will be spared from the holocaust and believes this holocaust shall occur during her lifetime.18. That the present beliefs of petitioner are contrary to the beliefs mutually enjoyed by both of the parties prior to her conversion to the Jehovah's Witnesses denomination of the Christian religion.
19. That according to the principles professed by petitioner, [husband] is an "unbeliever."
20. That petitioner acknowledged as authoritative and true and professed and stipulated a belief in the doctrines set forth in respondent's Exhibit No. 2, "The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life." At page 131 of said Exhibit it is stated as follows:"If you love truth and righteousness, then you will also hate and avoid what is false and displeasing to God."
"(Pg. 132) Because there can be no proper fellowship between those practicing righteousness and those practicing lawlessness, God commands: 'Therefore get out from among them, and separate yourselves.' "21. That petitioner has acknowledged and would raise her two infant daughters of tender years in the doctrines and beliefs of the Jehovah's Witnesses and command their attendance at all meetings and functions until they were approximately sixteen years of age.
22. That by the defined doctrines of the Jehovah's Witnesses denomination of the Christian religion, [husband] would be considered an unbeliever, follower of a false religion and practicer of pagan rituals.
23. That upon the court's inquiry, petitioner acknowledged that she does not believe in participating in governmental functions of voting and that this is a belief of her religion.
3. The primary factors set forth in Revised Statutes of Missouri 452.375 in determining the custody of children is the best interest of the child and include, among other things, the interaction and interrelationship of the child with his parents, his siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interests and the child's adjustment to his home, school and community.
4. That the children of this marriage are of tender and impressionable years and it can be reasonably expected that, if raised under the indoctrinations which petitioner-wife professes they will be, it would not be in their best interest for the following reasons:(a) That the children's health is severely threatened by reason of petitioner's refusal to agree to blood transfusions when needed;
(b) The children's affection for their father and, therefore, his rights of visitation and companionship and respect would necessarily be alienated because of the father's alleged pagan activities and belief in an allegedly false religion;
(c) The children's association with other members of their family, i. e., grandparents, etc., would be significantly affected for the reasons set forth in Subparagraph (b) above;
(d) The children's adjustment to their home, school and community would be adversely affected in that they would not be allowed to participate and develop normally in the school and community relationship;
(e) That the children's growth and development as productive citizens within our society would be hampered.5. Petitioner has love for the children and attempts to properly provide for them. However, her beliefs as a Jehovah's Witness comes first, and by her actions and beliefs she is jeopardizing the health, welfare and best interests of the children.
6. That respondent-husband is a fit and proper person for the care and custody of the two minor children.
7. That the best interest and welfare of the minor children of the parties would be best served by placing said children in the care, custody and control of respondent-husband.
8. That petitioner wife should not, at this time, be required to pay respondent-husband any sum of money towards the support of said minor children.
9. That petitioner-wife should be granted the right to visit with said minor children at all reasonable and proper times.
WAITES v. JUDY MARSHALL and INDEPENDENCE MISSOURI CONGREGATION OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES. In a little known footnote to the WAITES v. WAITES divorce, Charles Waites also filed a civil lawsuit for $2,500,000.00 in damages against the Jehovah's Witnesses East Congregation of Independence, Missouri, and the individual JW Female, named Judy Marshall, who was responsible for the conversion of Karon Waites. Waites alleged that Marshall and the Congregation were the driving forces behind the breakup of his marriage. Although the details are uncertain, it appears that there was a jury trial in which the jury held for Charles Waites only against Judy Marshall, for "alienation of affection", in the amount of $75,000.00. However, the trial judge apparently overruled the jury's decision.
"Richard contends that the custody award was an abuse of discretion; the argument is that Suzan's religious belief as a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses sect render her unfit to have custody. Specifically, it is complained that she would not consent to a blood transfusion if some future hypothetical accident or illness created a medical necessity for such treatment, that she would not permit the children to participate in competitive sports, and that she would not permit them to participate conventionally in certain holidays. This contention cannot be sustained. There was uncontradicted evidence that Suzan is a devoted mother. There was no compelling evidence that her religious beliefs and observances would be harmful to the children. The report of the probation officer recommended that the children be placed with her."The determination of child custody rests with the discretion of the trial court; such an exercise of discretion is not to be disturbed on appeal in the absence of a showing of [the court's] abuse. ..."
"She stated that she does not celebrate Christmas; that she would not have a birthday party for the child; and that she would not give him a birthday present as such, although she might otherwise give him gifts. She admitted having made statements to the husband within a year prior to the divorce to the effect that all churches and governmental organizations were led by the devil, and that she therefore would not vote or otherwise participate in the electoral process. She said she hoped that she would be able to teach the child not to kill and, if necessary, to prove himself a conscientious objector in court to enforce this conviction and avoid military service. She also stated that she would teach the child to respect and obey the law. Jehovah's Witnesses apparently believe that the end of the world is imminent, and in conjunction with this belief, the appellant-wife stated her belief that long range plans are unnecessary and fruitless. She was uncertain as to whether she would have already begun a college education fund for the child, as had the appellee-husband."
"If placed in the situation, again, all I can say is, in my heart I say I would not give him blood; but, in actuality, I don't know what I would do until I am faced with that. I can't say what I will do. That's all I can say. Even for my own self, I don't know what I would do."
"... appellant-wife contends that the trial court erred to reversal in allowing introduction of evidence pertaining to her religious beliefs. She contends that consideration of such evidence in a child custody proceeding is an unconstitutional infringement on her right to pursue religious beliefs of her choice. Authorities she cites for this proposition do not support her contention.
"66 A.L.R.2d 1410, 1413-14, states: 'The view taken in the great majority of the decisions which have touched upon the matter seems to be that while the courts in a child custody proceeding cannot pass upon the comparative merits of various religions and controlling effect must be given to the temporal welfare of the child, religious questions may well be bound up in the issue of temporal welfare and, if so, may properly be considered by the court.'
"Similarly, it has been said: 'Religion may be an element in the award of custody of infants insofar as it remains a secondary factor to be considered along with all other circumstances weighed to promote the child's best interest and general welfare; in no case may religion be the sole basis upon which a parent or other person is to be deprived of custody.' ... We deem this to be the applicable statement of the law.
"The Constitution guarantees that citizens of the United States shall be free to pursue the religious beliefs of their choice. Consonant with this First Amendment right, courts have repeatedly declared that religious beliefs alone shall not constitute the sole determinant in child custody awards. ..."However, that one's religious beliefs may not serve as the sole consideration in a child custody proceeding does not necessarily preclude exploration into those beliefs. In this state, as in other jurisdictions, the ultimate consideration in determining the proper custody of the child is what is in his best interests. ... Religious beliefs are as diverse as the individuals who comprise the citizenry of this country. Unfortunately, some of these beliefs embrace philosophies which, contrary to being in the best interests of the child, might actually imperil his physical or mental health. Albeit courts are forbidden from weighing the merits of the religious tenets of the various faiths, they nevertheless are not precluded from inquiring into the beliefs of the parties who are seeking custody of the child in order to insure that such beliefs do not endanger the child.
"'When custody of a child is in issue, the court has a narrow scope of inquiry regarding the religious concepts of the parents: Does the prospective custodian hold views which might reasonably be considered dangerous to the child's health or morals? Thus a court would be warranted in denying custody to a parent whose religious notions would prevent such child's receiving vaccinations or blood transfusions." (Welker v. Welker, ... 1964)'"Where the court prohibited from hearing all testimony regarding religious beliefs, it would never learn of any religious ideas which might reasonably be construed as inimical to the child. We hold that questions concerning religious convictions, when reasonably related to the determination of whether the prospective custodian's convictions might result in physical or mental harm to the child, are proper considerations for the trial court in a child custody proceeding."Applying this standard to the facts of this case shows the trial court erred. Questions regarding the celebration of Christmas and birthdays or relating to participation in the electoral process or military service are not within the ambit of religious views which may reasonably be construed as endangering the mental or physical health of the child.
"However, as shown infra, we do not deem the admission of this evidence to mandate reversal; for the decree of the trial court is supported by other evidence. ... ..."Appellant-wife contends that the trial court deprived her of custody of her child solely on the basis of her religious convictions. She also states that the trial court erred by awarding custody of a child of tender years to the father, in the absence of a showing that she was unsuitable or unfit to have custody. We disagree.
"That testimony concerning one parent's religious convictions has been introduced does not warrant reversal of the trial court's decree awarding custody to the other parent when the decree is sustainable on other evidence."In Salvaggio, the trial court changed custody of a child from her father and the latter's second wife to the child's natural mother, her father's first wife. The trial court made the following findings of fact:
"'During all the time Lee Salvaggio [father] had the custody of the child he has cared for her with kindness and attention, and has provided a home for the child and also has adequately provided for all her physical needs. Both Lee Salvaggio and his present wife are devoted to the child and have given it love and care. ... Lee Salvaggio is a fit and proper person to have the custody of his child except that he and his present wife, because of their belief that the Bible requires it, propose to teach [the child] that it is wrong to salute the American Flag, and that it is wrong to celebrate and exchange gifts at Christmas and that it is wrong to kill others even in defense of the United States. Lee Salvaggio did not formerly follow such beliefs and was in the late war during which time he was in several battles and saluted the flag.'"The court's 'Conclusions of Law' stated: 'The Court is of the opinion that conditions affecting the welfare of [the child] since the rendition of the decree of divorce have materially changed so that it is now to the best interests of said child that her natural mother ... should have the custody of said child. ... The changes of condition affecting the welfare of such child include the change in the financial circumstances of [the mother] and her ability to provide a suitable home for her child. However, in arriving at its conclusions, the Court is primarily influenced by the proposed teachings of Lee Salvaggio and his present wife with reference to saluting the flag, fighting in defense of the United States and celebration of Christmas. ...' ... ... ..."Here, the trial court specifically stated that its decree was not predicated solely on religious convictions, although it did point out that they had been considered. The evidence reveals that the husband will be able to spend approximately 75% of his time with his son. They will live on a farm where they will be able to fish and go horseback riding together. Appellee-husband has had a stable income for five years and will be able to adequately provide for the physical needs of his son. On those occasions when he cannot be physically present with the child, John will be able to stay with his grandmother, aunt and two cousins, or in a day nursery.
"On the other hand, the mother's economic future is uncertain. She is untrained and has not worked since the marriage of the parties. There was no showing of what custody arrangements were likely if she obtained employment. In any event, it does not appear that she would be able to spend 75% of her time with John, as would appellee-husband. More evidence for affirmance of the trial court's decree is contained herein than was present in Salvaggio, supra, a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States denied certiorari. ... Also, see Battaglia v. Battaglia, ... ... ..." ... 'All things being equal, the mother is presumed to be best fitted to guide and care for children of tender years.' ... Here, we cannot say all things are equal. As previously stated, the mother will presumably be compelled to work and be away from the child. At its inception, the presumption of a mother's being best suited to care for a child of tender years was premised on a different society, wherein the mother's place was in the home where she attended to the children. ... In a case such as this, where the father's work will enable him to spend 75% of his time with his child and the mother, should she find employment, would quite likely be separated from the child, the presumption is not to be accorded the significance it might in other circumstances.
"Moreover, appellee-husband has been engaged in the business in which he has demonstrated a capacity to earn a reasonably stable income. He has already begun planning for the child's future. He has made arrangements for someone to keep John in those instances when physical separation is necessary.
"Appellant-wife, to the contrary, is doubtful as to what the future holds for her. She is currently untrained and is uncertain what type employment she may eventually find. Although tentative, it seems certain she will be required to work. Custody arrangements for the child at such time were not revealed.
"Child custody may be altered at any time upon a showing of changed circumstances. Presently, however, the record does not reveal the plain error or manifest injustice such as to warrant reversal. ... ."
DORANN C. CLOUD v. GEORGE W. CLOUD was a mid-1970s Kentucky-Michigan divorce and custody battle. In September 1970, a 20 year-old Jehovah's Witness named Dorann Chase, of Mount Vernon, Kentucky, daughter of JW Mother Esther L. Chase, married a non-JW named George W. Cloud, whom had briefly attended congregation meetings at the Mount Vernon, Kentucky Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses shortly prior to the marriage, and stopped soon thereafter. Christopher Shane Cloud was born to the couple in July 1972. By 1976-77, this mixed religion couple were having problems, and this divorce was filed. In 1977, Dorann Cloud's parents sold their home and relocated faraway to Michigan, where they were soon joined by their daughter and grandson. The out-of-state relocation of Dorann Cloud and Christopher S. Cloud apparently was not reported to Husband-Father George Cloud given the fact that by Summer 1978, George W. Cloud began placing advertisements in a local newspaper which offered a CASH REWARD to anyone knowing the whereabouts of Dorann Cloud, Lawrence R. Chase, and Esther L. Chase. Outcome unknown.
"Marital misconduct such as adultery is a pertinent factor to be considered in a divorce proceeding in determining which parent should be awarded custody of the parties' children but it is not in and of itself the controlling factor.
"In Greene this court also stated: 'A child's preference in custody matters may, of course, be considered as an aid to the court in making a proper order. ... Such preference, however, is always subordinate to the over-all best interests and welfare of the child. Thus, when there are objective factors affecting the child's welfare that are contrary to his wishes, the latter must yield to the former.'
"The trial court heard much testimony by knowledgeable persons respecting custody and its memorandum reveals careful consideration of the issue. The weight of that evidence, including the testimony of some witnesses called by David, was that Sandra, despite her indiscretions, had devoted much time and attention to the children and had provided them with good care. It is true that one psychologist recommended David be given the boy's custody, this based principally on psychological tests given to the boy and upon his expressed preference. The trial court was not bound to base its decision upon this testimony. It did consider this evidence. This expert had no factual background on the two parents nor had he made any testing of them. Another psychologist recommended that custody of the daughter be granted Sandra. The trial court expressed concern that divided custody would add to the emotional instability of the children resulting from the breakup of their home. Award of custody of the children in David would have resulted in his sister, who was in ill health, and his seventy-seven year old mother having the principal daily responsibility for looking after the children.
"The trial court made no finding of unfitness on the part of Sandra. It specifically found the best interests of the children would be served by awarding her their custody. It clearly appears religious beliefs were not a factor in the findings made. Everything considered, we cannot say the trial court abused sound discretion in this respect.
"In rendering his judgment, the Court made no finding of fact, nor did he indicate upon what he relied for granting the Plaintiff a divorce and awarding him custody of the child. From reading the record, we can only conclude that the judgment was predicated upon the Defendant's religious beliefs. ... ... ..."The Defendant insists that it was error for the Court to grant the Plaintiff a divorce because: (a) The proof did not support the allegations and (b) That since the divorce was grounded upon divergence of religious beliefs, the action of the Court was unconstitutional. ... ..."We are unable to find any cases in Tennessee where our courts have had occasion to pass upon the question of divergence of religious views constituting cruel and inhuman treatment as the grounds for divorce. However, other jurisdictions have consistently held that, while acts growing out of religious beliefs or activities may create grounds for a divorce, the divergence of religious beliefs per se is not grounds for divorce. ... ..."The courts, in addressing themselves to the question of divorce, where the divorce action is grounded upon divergence of religious beliefs, have consistently held that no relief can be granted. However, they have just as consistently held that conduct growing out of religious beliefs may constitute grounds for divorce. ... ..."In the case at bar there was no conduct on behalf of the Defendant, either related or unrelated to her religious beliefs, which could be said to be "a wilful, persistent and continuing course of abusive and humiliating treatment" of the Plaintiff.
"Since the Court was without authority to grant a divorce based solely upon divergent religious beliefs of the parties, it was error for him to grant the Plaintiff a divorce."The Defendant contends that it was error for the Court to award custody of the minor child to the Plaintiff in that: (1) The evidence shows the best interest of the child would be served by her remaining with her mother and (2) The Court was without Constitutional authority to award custody of the child based upon the Defendant's religious belief."There is no dispute in this record but what both the Plaintiff and Defendant are persons of good reputation and character and are both fit persons to have custody of their child. Therefore, there is only one question to be determined. This is the paramount question in all custody cases: What is for the best interest of the child? ... ..."We have searched the proof in the transcript of this record in an effort to find evidence to justify the action of the Trial Court in awarding the custody of this 22-month-old daughter to the Plaintiff instead of to the Defendant, and we have found none.
"On the contrary, the proof demands that the custody of this child be awarded to the Defendant. The Plaintiff not only works regularly, but has no home or facility or close relatives to care for this child while he is away at work. ..."Just as the Court cannot grant a divorce because of divergence of religious beliefs, the religious beliefs of the parents cannot be controlling in custody cases.
"Again, this question has not been before the courts of Tennessee, but an Arizona Court, in the case of Smith v. Smith, ... (the mother was a member of Jehovah's Witnesses), the court said:'... it has been the uniform judgment of every court reaching the question that if a teaching does not conflict with the fundamental law of the land a parent may not be deprived of the custody of a child because of the court's disagreement with such parent as to religious beliefs.'"In the case of Salvaggio v. Barnett, ... , in a case where the father was a member of Jehovah's Witnesses and was seeking custody of his child, the Texas Court of Civil Appeals said:'Under the American principle of separation of Church and State, the secular power is so shackled and restrained by our fundamental law that it is beyond the power of a court, in awarding the custody of the child, to prefer, as tending to promote the interest of the child or surround it with a more normal atmosphere, the religious views or teachings of either parent.'"The Missouri Court of Appeals, in the case of Brewer v. Cary, ... , said:'Nor can we, in determining what is for the welfare of the infant, determine that on considerations of religion. That would involve our determination between religions - and that we are not permitted to do.'"In In Re Laura Doyle, 16 Mo. App. 159, 166:'A great deal has been said in the argument as to the religious question. In determining what will be best for the child, we cannot, under the system of law which we are appointed to administer, look at that. The state of which we are citizens and officers, does not regard herself as having any competency in spiritual matters. She looks with equal eye upon all forms of a so-called christianity, and subjects no one to any disability for rejecting christianity in any form, nor for rejecting the generally accepted doctrines of natural religion. A father in Missouri forfeits no rights to the custody and control of his child by being, or becoming, an atheist, nor are his rights in this respect increased before the law by his believing rightly. The law does not profess to know what is a right belief.'"We think the Court was in error in awarding the custody of this child to the Plaintiff. The Defendant's assignments of error are sustained.
CHARLES NEWTON v. LOIS NEWTON was a widely publicized 1971 Iowa divorce case. The Newtons, of Des Moines, Iowa, were both Methodists who married in 1954. At some point in their marriage Lois Newton's mother converted to the WatchTower Cult, and she in turn recruited Lois Newton into the Cult in 1962. Typically, at the expense of her husband and three children, Lois Newton immersed herself into the Cult's five meetings per week, plus Lois spent 75-130 hours per month performing door-to-door recruiting. Somehow, Charles Newton withstood the situation until 1971 when he finally filed for divorce and custody of his three children.
In November 1971, Judge Gibson C.Holliday of the Polk County District Court granted Charles Newton a divorce, plus granted his request for custody of all three children. Judge Holliday noted that Lois Newton had "provided generally for the basic physical needs of her children" and "without question loves her children." However, Judge Gibson continued:
She is dedicated to the teachings of this organization and states she intends to continue as a member of it regardless of family ties. In view of the beliefs of the Jehovah's Witnesses, it would be truly a tragedy to expose these children to what the Court believes would be a relentless effort to instill in the children these beliefs if the Respondent were granted custody of the minor children upon the dissolution of this marriage. ...Even though it is all right for each to have his or her own religious beliefs, the Respondent has carried hers to the extent of disrupting and destroying the family life. ... While the Court recognizes that our government and the courts of this country have vigorously defended the religious freedom of an individual and his right to worship in the manner he chooses, the testimony and exhibits in this case indicate to the Court that the Jehovah's Witness organization embraces teachings and beliefs far outside the general scope of other religious denominations in this country. Some of these appear to be so far afield from the mainstream of religious thought that they would not be accepted by other denominations as true religious concepts.1. Witnesses permit no blood transfusions for themselves or anyone they control, even to save a life.2. Witnesses teach that the public schools in the United States are under the influence of the wicked system ruled by Satan. They also discourage after-school athletics and school clubs, dances, bands, plays, and assemblies.3. Witnesses neither sing the national anthem, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, nor salute the flag. They prefer alien status within our Government.4. Witnesses do not participate in community-sponsored activities, such as voting.5. Witnesses teach that the United States Government is characterized as the "image of the beast" in the book of Revelation and is the "mouthpiece" for Satan's propaganda.6. Witnesses believe all other religions are insidious creations of the devil and that their clergymen, along with Government officials, are agents of the devil.7. Witnesses hold that such traditional holidays or celebrations as Christmas, New Year's, Easter, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and birthdays are dangerous observances inspired by the devil.8. Witnesses discourage higher education or college training because today's industrial society is nearing its end and because youth should be spared exposure to an increasingly demoralizing atmosphere.9. Witnesses hold that the world is soon coming to an end and that that day is called Armageddon, which, as matters now stand, will arrive in 1975. Witnesses publications describe the "terror and violence" of Armageddon, with the apparent purpose to "teach children by terror and fear in an attempt to influence belief in their religion, which is not for the best interests of a child."
Once again, the WatchTower Society backed legal team UNSUCCESSFULLY appealed the trial court decision all the way to the Supreme Court of Iowa.
SANTA MARIA v. SANTA MARIA was a 1971 Arizona court decision. Peter R. Santa Maria was awarded a decree of absolute divorce from his wife Reynalda Santa Maria, in June 1971. Custody of the couple's only child was awarded to the mother, with the father receiving visitation rights. The 18 year-old couple had married in August 1969 after Reynalda became pregnant out-of-wedlock, and the couple permanently separated in September 1970. The marriage quickly fell apart after Reynalda Santa Maria actively joined the Jehovah's Witnesses. Reynalda Santa Maria's mother was already a JW, and Reynalda apparently had been reared as a JW. Peter testified that his wife left his home on approximately seven occasions during the marriage to spend time with her mother attending religious conventions, remaining away from three days to a month at different times.
PHILLIP J. GRANT v. THERESA ANN GRANT was a 1975 to 1977 20-month long marriage and divorce which either was initiated or ended due to the WatchTower Cult religion. Details are unclear. Theresa Ann Robinson, age 17, of Cincinnati, Ohio, joined the WatchTower Cult in 1975 (Armageddon at been predicted for October 1975) close in time to marrying 25 year-old Phillip Grant. In any event, the marriage broke up shortly after the failure of the WatchTower Cult's prediction.
IN RE THERESA ANN GRANT. In April 1986, Theresa A. Grant was admitted to Cincinnati's Jewish Hospital suffering from complications of lupus and pancreatitis. During unidentified surgery, blood transfusions were needed to save Grant's life. Grant's non-JW Parents stepped in and asked the hospital to seek court intervention. The local judge ruled that Grant was incompetent to make her own medical decisions and granted authorization for all needed medical treatment, including the necessary blood transfusions.
After Grant's life was saved by her non-JW Parents and the hospital, Grant followed directions from the Watchtower Cult's Legal Department and attempted to get a restraining order preventing further blood transfusions, which were no longer needed. The local court denied Grant's request. Grant's attorney filed for appellate review of the original order. Nothing found. Assumed that appellate court ruled that the issue was now MOOT.
STAPLEY v. STAPLEY was a 1971 Arizona appellate court decision. Walter Keith Stapley II and Rosemary Stapley Hallquist were divorced in August 1967. Custody of their three children, then 5, 3 and 1, respectively, was given to Rosemary Stapley Hallquist, with Walter Keith Stapley II to have certain visitation privileges. In December 1968, Walter Keith Stapley II petitioned the court to modify the custody provisions of the decree because Rosemary Hallquist was apparently not allowing her ex-husband to have visitation as directed by the divorce decree. In February 1969, a court order was entered modifying the divorce decree as to Walter Stapley's privileges. It specifically detailed his visitation rights on weekends, holidays, and during the summer months. It further ordered that neither party could remove the children from the state of Arizona without the written consent of the other party, or an order of the court being first obtained permitting such removal.
The mother and her husband both testified that they did not believe in blood transfusions and that if one of the children should be seriously ill or injured and a blood transfusion necessary to save its life, they would not consent to a transfusion. The mother also admitted, in response to questioning by the court, that if a child needed medical treatment and she had the opportunity to contact the father to consult him with regard to such treatment, she would not do so.
The trial court found that Rosemary Hallquist had flagrantly, wilfully, and without cause or justification refused to comply with the orders of the court as to the father's visitation rights, notification of the father as to a child's illness requiring medical attention, allowing the children to be taken to public places to sell WatchTower literature, and therefore was in contempt of court. The court further found that Raymond Hallquist exercised a very strong degree of control and authority over both Rosemary Hallquist and her minor children; that he had aided, advised and participated with the mother in violation of the court order; that Rosemary and Raymond Hallquist had created an environment of tension and turmoil for the children thus jeopardizing their welfare, by refusing exercise of the father's visitation rights, by refusing to allow the children to participate in activities with their father, and instilling fear in their minds as to associating with their father and possessing gifts given by him to them; and that all of this conduct on the part of the mother and her husband had adversely affected the children and jeopardized their welfare.
The court also found that Rosemary and Raymond Hallquist had indicated by their conduct that in the event any child had an illness or an accident which required blood transfusions, they would not comply with court orders to notify the father so that he could make a decision as to whether a transfusion should be given, and that if the choice was left to them as to such transfusion, they would allow the child to die rather than to permit a transfusion; that the safety and welfare of the children was in jeopardy and would further be jeopardized if they were allowed to remain in their mother's custody; that the mother and her present husband were not fit and proper persons to have the care, custody and control of the children whereas the father and his wife were; and that the best interests and welfare of the children would best be served by awarding custody of them to the father. The Hallquists appealed, but the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's ruling, in 1971.
<<<------PREVIOUS PAGE----------HOME PAGE----------NEXT PAGE ------>>>
Pre-1950s 1950s 1960s 1970s Early-80s Late-80s Early-90s Late-90s Early-2000s Late-2000s 2010s