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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.
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One of the "dirty little secrets" which the WatchTower Cult has successfully managed to keep quiet dating all the way back to the days of Charles Taze Russell is the Cult's targeting for recruitment of disgruntled and dissatisfied married females whom after their conversion are then targeted for illicit sexual relationships by married males in the local Congregation -- typically a married Elder whom a newly converted married female has quickly come to both idolize and idealize. Like getting ticketed for speeding, for every instance that is eventually exposed, there are dozens if not hundreds of instances of Elder-Member adultery within Congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses which are never exposed.
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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:






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:



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.

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CHARLEEN SPEERS v. PATRICK SPEERS was a 1979-80 South Dakota divorce case. No details about the divorce except that the Rapids City, SD couple had been married for 19 years, and had four children: Loa Jane Speers, age 18, Patrick Speers Jr., age 16, Jeffrey Speers, age 12, and Heather Speers, age 7. Charleen Speers had requested and been granted custody, in January 1980, of Heather Speers, who was then living with her father. Rather than turn Heather over to Charleen, Loa Jane Speers KIDNAPPED Heather and took her to MISSISSIPPI, where they hid out with local Jehovah's Witnesses. From there, they traveled to MINNESOTA in February. Circumstances unknown, but Charleen Speers went to Minnesota and retrieved Heather in latter February. Only a few days later, while shopping at the Rushmore Mall, Patrick Speers KIDNAPPED Heather once more. Outcome unknown.

NEW YORK v. CORNELL DAVIS was a 1984-85 New York criminal court case which resulted from the storming of the Speonk Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witness, on Long Island, New York, by the ARMED non-JW Husband of a Jehovah's Witness Wife who had been having an "affair" with one of the Elders at the Speonk Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses.
On a Tuesday evening in December 1984, a completely sober but enraged Cornell Davis, age 44, who was employed as an electrician at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, barged into the Speonk Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witness during the closing song, where his JW Wife, Estella Davis, was attending services. Waving a semi-automatic rifle, Cornell Davis held approximately 65 attendees hostage as he accused Elder Arthur A. Arch, then age 49, of having an "affair" with his wife. After slapping his own wife, Davis then shot one time towards Arthur Arch striking him in the arm, and striking Arch's wife, Martha A. Arch, in the face. Some of the attendees then wrestled the rifle away from Davis. The Arches were hospitalized in fair condition. Davis was arrested and charged with attempted murder. Interestingly, the outcome of Davis's prosecution is unknown.
Years after this nationally-publicized incident had passed, the WatchTower Society published an obscured mention of the Speonk Kingdom Hall shooting in a WATCHTOWER magazine "study article", in which it acknowledged that Elder Arch had in fact been screwing Davis' wife. The WatchTower Society discounted the affair between the Elder and the married JW Convert as being nothing more than those JW members' failure to exercise "self-control", due to their "fleshly weaknesses", while the article doubly hammered the most important point that it was attempting to make -- that the adulterous affair had brought "reproach on Jehovah's [WatchTower's] name" in the national media.
MORE INTERESINGLY, in that obscured WATCHTOWER magazine account of that night's events, the WatchTower Cult claimed that the "disfellowshipping" of Elder Arch had been announced earlier that same evening to the Speonk Congregation before Cornell Davis had barged in. Yet, all of the media reports portrayed Cornell Davis as a "nut" who merely had "believed", or had "suspected", that Elder Arch had been screwing Davis's wife. Even the Police Detective who investigated the shooting told reporters that Cornell Davis was just an "overly jealous husband".
Either the Governing Body LIED in that WATCHTOWER magazine "study article" about Arthur Arch having been disfellowshipped prior to that evening, and LIED about the announcement having been made earlier that same evening, or ALL of the JW members of the Speonk Congregation who talked after the shooting with police and reporters LIED to them. Which group of persons are the most likely BUNCH OF LIARS???
JAMES CARL GREENE v. PATRICIA MAY GREENE was a 1980-86 Missouri divorce and running child custody battle which we believe to be a Jehovah's Witness related case for the reason cited below. We believe it significant that it was Patricia May Greene's husband who filed to dissolve this marriage of 20 years, which had produced three children. We believe it significant that Patricia May Greene apparently did NOT contest this divorce given that it was filed sometime in early 1980, and it was final in July 1980. Divorces of 20 years, involving three children, do not get finalized that quickly unless "something is up". We believe it significant that the man whom Patricia M. Greene, age 40, married in September 1980, only 70 days after her divorce was final -- Bobby Gene Kent, then age 48 -- was a brother of the Jehovah's Witness multi-millionaire founder of RUG DOCTOR, Jerry Roger Kent.
Notably, Bobby Gene Kent and Jerry Roger Kent owned and operated KENT CHEMICAL COMPANY located in Springfield, Missouri. Kent Chemical Company manufactured and sold chemicals to RUG DOCTOR. In January 1981, James Carl Greene also re-married, and relocated to Springfield to live near his two remaining minor children. In Summer 1982, James Carl Greene was notified by his ex-wife Patricia that Bobby Kent, she, and Carl's two children were moving 180 miles to Eureka, Missouri, so that Bob G. Kent could work at RUG DOCTOR's main Fenton, Missouri manufacturing facility. (Interestingly, in 1983, Bobby and Patricia Kent formed KENT ENTERPRISES, INC., which continued in business until 2006.)
Between 1982 and 1986, James Carl Greene did everything that he could in an effort to have his two remaining minor children returned to live in Springfield. Greene lost at every step of the way, including in the final decision issued in 1986 by the Missouri Court of Appeals, whose decision demonized James Carl Greene. Because this divorce probably was not contested, we believe that the Missouri appellate court judges did not have a sufficient record for them to understand what actually had happened in this failed marriage, and failed to understand what was continuing to happen to James Carl Greene, thereafter. We welcome contrary evidence.
VESTER LEE FLANAGAN v. BETTY DAWSON FLANAGAN was the 1981-2 divorce court case which involved the Jehovah's Witness Parents of the VIRGINIA NEWSCAST SHOOTER -- Vester Lee Flanagan II. Vester Flanagan filed for a divorce, custody of the couple's three children -- Vester Lee Flanagan, age 8, Valerie Lynn Flanagan, age 9, and Vicki Latrice Flanagan, age 10 , plus an emergency protective order, which was necessary due to schoolteacher Betty Flanagan's escalating threats of violence toward Vester and the three children over the previous several months. The EPO was issued and required Betty Flanagan to move out of the family's home, plus stay more than 150 feet away from Vester Flanagan's workplace. Apparently, the Flanagans either reconciled or later re-married.

DUDLEY v. DUDLEY was an Oklahoma divorce case which occurred sometime in the latter 1970s or early 1980s. Around 1967, shortly after James Dudley was assigned to Bryan County, Oklahoma, by the United States Department of Fish and Wildlife, James Dudley's wife converted to the Jehovah's Witnesses. Years later, James Dudley claimed that he objected to his wife's conversion from the very beginning due to the WatchTower Society's teaching that his employer, the Government of the United States, was "of the Devil". Dudley also objected to the WatchTower Society's teachings against blood transfusions given that one of his three daughters had already needed a life-saving blood transfusion. After many years of contention over his wife's WatchTower beliefs and practices, and such being taught to their three daughters, the marriage finally ended in divorce.

In July 1985, James Dudley learned that his ex-wife was going to re-marry to another JW, who lived in the Bennington, Oklahoma area. Dudley lost his composure when he learned that he had been wrongly accused of having committed adultery in order for his ex-wife's re-marriage to be approved by her local Body of Elders ***. James Dudley retaliated by attempting to hold a barbeque at that local Kingdom Hall. Dudley was eventually convicted of second degree arson, and was sentenced to one year in jail.

Interestingly, also in July 1985, there was a somewhat similar Kingdom Hall incident which occurred in Australia. Given that this was pre-internet, it is doubtful that either perpetrator knew about the incident in the other country. Click HERE to read a summary of the Australia incident. (Use FIND function with keyword "BOMBING".)

*** Over the decades, there have been numerous incidents of divorced Jehovah's Witnesses falsely swearing that their ex-spouses had committed adultery, or falsely swearing that their ex-spouse had admitted to having committed adultery, so that the ACTIVE JEHOVAH'S WITNESS could get their local BODY OF ELDER's approval to re-marry another active Jehovah's Witness. The LIAR is always the ACTIVE JW "in good standing", while the SLANDERED FORMER SPOUSE is no longer a Jehovah's Witness, or never was a JW. The satanic GOVERNING BODY of the WatchTower Society knowingly established the procedures for this SCAM, and its' local BOE underlings knowingly turn a blind-eye to the sworn falsehoods, so as to allow older unmarried ACTIVE JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES to re-marry.

This exact scenario occurred to this editor. The morally-corrupt, satan-directed BODY OF ELDERS at the BEREA KENTUCKY CONGREGATION OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES gave my JW ex-wife permission to re-marry after she signed a sworn document stating that I had admitted to her that I had committed adultery (which is one of the most hypocritical allegations committed in the history of planet Earth given that JW ex-wife can't even count, much less name, all of her paramours during the past 30 years). I would never have admitted any such thing, because I have NEVER committed adultery. In fact, I've been so happy since JW ex-wife finally moved out that I have never even had the desire to date again.

No ELDER from the BEREA KENTUCKY CONGREGATION OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES, nor anyone else, even bothered to come and ask whether my JW ex-wife's sworn statement was truthful or accurate, or get my side of the story, despite the fact that JW ex-wife was a known pathological LIAR.

Even my own JW relatives, who knew that I was not the type person to commit adultery, demonstrated their personal support for the STD QUEEN by attending her 2006 wedding to a JW Elder held at the BEREA KENTUCKY KINGDOM HALL OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES. A circuit-wide prominent JW ELDER escorted the STD QUEEN, who wore a WHITE GOWN, while a circuit-wide prominent JW ELDERETTE served as STD QUEEN's maid-of-honor. Whatever EVIL HOLY SPIRIT "directs" Jehovah's Witnesses was certainly working overtime that day!!! May every attendee ROT IN HELL!!!

I look forward to the day when I will confront not only the STD QUEEN, but all of her satanic JW co-conspirators, in the courtroom presided over by Jesus Christ with evidence not only of my JW ex-wife's LIES and DECEIT committed against me, but also evidence of ADULTERY and TRUCKSTOP PROSTITUTION committed during the very time that JW ex-wife was under the supervision and guidance of the "holy spirit-directed" BODY OF ELDERS at the BEREA KENTUCKY CONGREGATION OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES.

Until that day in court before Judge Jesus Christ, I am collecting "interest payments" on the future judgment from my morally-corrupt half-wit relatives, and there is a certain degree of satisfaction and amusement in knowing that, per WatchTower interpretation, a JW Elder is biblically "fornicating" with my still biblical wife in a congregation in Owensboro, Kentucky.

For those readers wondering why I did not pursue a civil lawsuit against the above parties, it was because I was afraid that JW Elder would want to give the STD QUEEN back after I and my own "witnesses" disclosed everything that we know about JW ex-wife. In fact, I would LOVE for someone to challenge anything I have stated above. However, they should first ask the STD QUEEN how much of her ADULTERY and PROSTITUTION she is willing to have very-publicly disclosed. I've finally reached that point in my own senior life that I will no longer keep JW ex-wife's illicit secrets hidden merely to protect my own ego and reputation. Rack 'em up. I'll break.


The DUMBASS "holy spirit-directed" BODY OF ELDERS at the BEREA KENTUCKY KINGDOM HALL OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES was NOT the first "holy spirit-directed" BODY OF ELDERS conned by JW Wife. Before JW Wife could divorce and re-marry, she first had to get the permission of the DUMBASS "holy spirit-directed" BODY OF ELDERS at the MOUNT VERNON KENTUCKY KINGDOM HALL OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES to SEPARATE from her then Husband. Notably, the DUMBASS Body of Elders at the MOUNT VERNON KENTUCKY CONGREGATION OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES didn't have the testicles to then attempt the "admitted adultery" ruse against Husband, so the JW Elders and the STD QUEEN pulled out the "spiritual endangerment" card, which was hilarious given STD QUEEN's level of fake spirituality.

The DUMBASS "holy spirit-directed" BODY OF ELDERS at the MOUNT VERNON KENTUCKY KINGDOM HALL OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES essentially acted as CO-CONSPIRATORS to conceal a THEFT committed by JW Wife against Husband. The reason that JW Wife needed precisely at that time to "separate" from Husband was because "tax filing time" was fast approaching, and JW Wife's 1099s would reveal to Husband the THEFT of the contents of a FIVE FIGURE IRA ACCOUNT, which equitably belonged to Husband.

Early in the marriage, for tax purposes, Husband had opened an IRA Account under JW Wife's name. Husband deposited EVERY SINGLE PENNY that went into that account. Unbeknownst to Husband, during the previous tax year, JW Wife had secretly CASHED-IN the FIVE FIGURE IRA ACCOUNT ($10.00 BJs down at the Truck Stop simply weren't making a dent in JW Wife's 8-10 secret, hidden credit card accounts.) JW THIEF's only option was to move out and leave Husband BEFORE the tax filing deadline approached and she was forced to turn over her 1099s to Husband. So, JW THIEF went to her local BODY OF ELDERS at the MOUNT VERNON KENTUCKY CONGREGATION OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES, where they and the "Holy Spirit" insightfully gave JW THIEF permission to leave Husband on the grounds of "spiritual endangerment" -- thus concealing the THEFT from Husband until the later Divorce proceedings. (The WatchTower CULT -- which publicly claims to practice "restitution" -- knows about this THEFT, but has made ZERO effort to require restitution from its active member. Equitably, the two conspiring BOEs are just as liable for the amount of the theft as is the thief. They can repay the loss, or their children or grandchildren will pay. It is not a question of "if", its a question of "when". With interest -- $30,000.00, in cash, or in-kind.)

It is anyone's guess as to how the STD QUEEN showed her appreciation to the Elders at the MOUNT VERNON KENTUCKY KINGDOM HALL OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES, or the Elders at the BEREA KENTUCKY KINGDOM HALL OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES, for their complete and total failure to verify a single allegation in the previously described events.


FAYE HENDERSON v. DENNIS HENDERSON was a 1978-85 California divorce case. Dennis Henderson, age 38, and Faye Henderson, age 35, were African-American Jehovah's Witnesses who married in Los Angeles, in May 1978. Several brief separations followed, with the final separation occurring in December 1978. The couple's daughter was born in February 1979.

Thereafter, Faye Henderson filed this divorce action, which came up for its first hearing in August 1980. Faye Henderson later alleged that the Jehovah's Witness Attorney whom had been representing her turned her case over to an attorney named Hiram Martin, whom Faye Henderson alleged also was a fellow Jehovah's Witness. Faye Henderson alleged that JW Attorney #1 admitted that he was not actually a licensed attorney. Faye Henderson later alleged that Hiram Martin negotiated a settlement with Dennis Henderson which gave Dennis Henderson "visitation" on alternating weekends, holidays, and vacation periods. Faye Henderson alleged that on Hiram Martin's advice, she signed the settlement without reading it, and without knowing that Dennis Henderson was receiving "visitation".

Around March 1981, Faye Henderson began to accuse Dennis Henderson of sexually molesting their two-year old daughter during his agreed visitation periods. Faye Henderson took her two year-old daughter for examination to Centinela Hospital in Inglewood, California, where two Jewish doctors discovered what they said was evidence of "possible abuse". A detective with the Inglewood Police Department investigated the matter, and declined to pursue the matter.

However, Faye Henderson refused to allow Dennis Henderson to have further visitations. In December 1981, the court ordered Faye Henderson to allow visitation, or go to jail. After Dennis Henderson returned his daughter to Faye Henderson, Faye Henderson took the child to Martin Luther King Junior Hospital, which discovered that the child had "serious vaginal injuries". MLK Hospital reported the matter to the Inglewood Police Department.

In early 1982, Dr. Gloria Powell, a UCLA Psychiatrist, began treating the three year-old daughter for sexual abuse. In April 1982, Dr. Powell testified for Faye Henderson in a court hearing which suspended Dennis Henderson's right of visitation. Dennis Henderson was thereafter investigated for child molestation, but NOT charged as of May 1984. In 1983, Dr. Powell alleged that the daughter was so traumatized by Dennis Henderson's sexual abuse that she elected not to speak to anyone but Faye Henderson, plus the daughter was "fearful", and "emotionally troubled". Outcome unknown.

FAYE HENDERSON ET AL v. HIRAM MARTIN, CITY OF INGLEWOOD, CENTINELA HOSPITAL, ET AL. In September 1983, Faye Henderson filed a $20 MILLION civil lawsuit against Hiram Martin, Inglewood Police, Centinela Hospital, and the two Jewish Doctors. Outcome unknown. 


IN RE HAWKINS and HAWKINS v. HAWKINS were related 1984 Pennsylvania cases. In 1984, a Pittsburgh area Jehovah's Witness Couple, named William Hawkins Jr. and Edith [Henderson] Hawkins, 43, were in the process of divorcing when Edith Hawkins was killed in an automobile accident. The two JW Families apparently fought over the time scheduling of the funeral at one of Pittsburgh's Kingdom Halls of Jehovah's Witnesses given that an uncle of Edith Hawkins, named William Lee, sought and obtained a court order delaying the funeral for several days, so that more of Edith's relatives could attend.


SHORT v. SHORT was a 1983 Colorado appellate court decision. In the 1980 divorce proceedings of Carl Short and Laramie Short, custody of their 2 and 4 year-old sons was awarded to Laramie Short. At trial, Laramie Short had requested of the court: "to exclude and preclude all evidence concerning the beliefs or the practices or any other facet of the [Mother's] Jehovah's Witness religion or any participants thereof ... ." The trial court ruled it would accept inquiry only into those religious practices which might result in harm to the children of sufficient magnitude that it would require the attention of a physical or mental health professional.
On appeal, Carl Short contended that the trial court improperly limited or excluded certain evidence of Mother's religious practices which were relevant to the issue of the best interests of the children. Carl Short argued that the trial court erred in limiting his inquiry into the Jehovah's Witnesses practice of "disfellowshiping", or excommunication (which had been imposed him), and of how the religious practices and tenets of the Laramie Short affect the medical care and needs of the children. Carl Short also urges as error the exclusion of evidence of the religion's encouragement of "shunning" of former members (which had been imposed him); evidence concerning the practice of door-to-door solicitation and distribution of literature; and testimony of an expert witness that the values and attitudes of Laramie Short and the WatchTower religion could have adverse psychological effects on the children. This Colorado appellate court affirmed the trial court's ruling; nonsensically stating in part:
"We cannot agree with Father's argument that [state law] allows a critical examination of the religious beliefs, tenets, and practices of parents in custody proceedings. While this specific issue has not been addressed by the Colorado appellate courts, the general rule is that religious decisions and acts may be considered in a custody proceeding only to the extent that those decisions or acts will jeopardize the mental health or physical safety of the child. Thus, the trial court's limitation of evidence to practices which affect the physical or mental health of the children was correct.

"Evidence of religious practices, in order to be admissible must relate to more than just a possibility of future harm. We note that in a dependency determination under [state law], the court can consider only those religious practices which actually endanger the physical or mental well-being of the child. This is because of the heavy burden upon the states to justify any infringement of an individual's First Amendment freedoms. ...
Thus, we hold that, in custody proceedings, for evidence of a religious practice to be admitted, the proponent of such evidence must establish that there is a substantial probability that such practice will result in actual harm or endangerment to the child's physical or mental health. Otherwise, such evidence may not play any part in a custody determination.

"Here, the trial court determined that the offered evidence did not tend to establish a substantial probability of harm and thus it was not relevant and would not be admitted. This determination of relevance is within the court's sound discretion. We have reviewed the record and we agree with the trial court's determination that the excluded evidence was not relevant to a determination of whether the children's physical or mental health was actually endangered by the beliefs, tenets, or practices of mother's religion. In this regard, we note that Father was granted substantial visitation rights with his children."

Trial and appellate court judges who actually believe that the WatchTower Society's teachings and practices relating to disfellowshipping, shunning, and others noted above, are not relevant to the determination of whether children's physical or mental health is endangered by the beliefs, tenets, or practices of mother's religion" are ignoramuses.


WILGER v. STATE OF ALABAMA were a series of state and federal court cases -- starting in the early 1970s and continuing into the early 1980s -- that involved a Jehovah's Witness Couple, named Anthony M. Wilger and Martha D. Wilger, and their eight children, some of whom include Dorothy Wilger, Sandra Wilger, Joseph Wilger, etc. The Wilgers apparently were originally from Wisconsin, where they reportedly started having children nearly every year starting in the early 1960s. The Wilgers relocated to Alabama in 1969, and not long thereafter started having encounters with child welfare officials. Starting in 1973, and involving multiple state "neglect" actions, custody of all 8 children was gradually removed from Anthony Wilger and Martha Wilger, and placed with various state agencies.

In 1977, the Wilgers filed a ONE BILLION DOLLAR lawsuit against various state officials and agencies. Outcome unknown, but it did reach the appellate level, but was probably eventually dismissed. In 1980, the Wilgers filed a SIX MILLION DOLLAR lawsuit against various state officials and agencies after the by-then 17 year-old Sandra Wilger became pregnant and had an abortion while living in a state-operated group home. By 1983, the last of the state claims were finally dismissed by the Alabama Supreme Court.

One media article reported that Martha Wilger suffered from a "brain disease", and that Sandra Wilger suffered from a "significantly low" IQ. The Wilgers reportedly blamed their many troubles on "white neighbors" who complained about their socializing with "blacks".


BENTLEY v. BENTLEY was a 1982 New York appellate court decision. Jeffrey Bentley and Margaret Bentley were married in December 1970. The parties separated in October 1977, and were divorced on August 17, 1978, in an action in which Margaret Bentley was the plaintiff. Margaret Bentley was awarded custody of the two minor children, with Jeffrey Bentley receiving reasonable rights of visitation. Visitation has been amended at various times by agreement of the parties. The most recent order, dated January 15, 1980, established specific and detailed visitation rights and privileges. Since their divorce in 1978, the parties have returned to court on various occasions as a result of their continuing disagreements over various aspects of their relationship. In this matter, Jeffrey Bentley alleged that Margaret Bentley willfully denied him the visitation rights established by the order of January 15, 1980. Margaret Bentley denied having violated the provisions of the visitation order, and asserted that Jeffrey Bentley had used the period of visitation to afford him an opportunity to instruct the children in the Jehovah's Witnesses beliefs and dogma and to involve them in Kingdom Hall activities contrary to her wishes and to the general well-being of the children and their best interests.
At the time of marriage in 1970, both parties were of the Catholic faith. However, at some unspecified point in the marriage prior to the divorce, Jeffrey Bentley joined the Jehovah's Witnesses. Margaret Bentley subsequently halfheartedly joined her husband in observing the same religion, although she did not regularly attend the Kingdom Hall. [They probably joined just prior to October 1975, which was the "date de jour" which the WatchTower Society was predicting for Armageddon to occur. From 1966 (when prediction was initially began) until 1975, the Jehovah's Witnesses doubled in numbers.] Jeffrey Bentley remarried a Jehovah's Witness in October 1980.

The two young children did not want to participate in the Jehovah's Witnesses beliefs and practices. They did not want to engage in bible studies at the father's local Kingdom Hall, nor attend the religious conventions or assemblies of the Jehovah's Witnesses. They were being reared by Margaret Bentley in the Catholic faith. She and the children actively participated in and attended religious services together on a regular basis and the children received and accepted training in the church school. In December 1980, the trial court ruled that there had been no violation by Margaret Bentley of either the terms or intent of its visitation order of January 15, 1980, stating in part:

"Jeffrey B. has inferred that this court lacks the jurisdiction to interfere with his rights as a father to direct his children's religious education and training and it would invade his constitutional rights contrary to the freedom of religion and separation of church and State clauses of the Federal and New York State Constitutions if the court does so.

"Having the custodial parent determine the religious upbringing of a child is necessary in order to limit the conflict and trauma on said child. In the present matter, these children are emotionally strained and torn as a result of the conflict of religious beliefs of their parents. It has been difficult for the children to reconcile the teachings of the Catholic Church with that of the Jehovah's Witnesses. The best interests of these children dictate that they be subject to being reared in only one religion. Since the parents are unable to agree on the subject, this court must make a determination which is in the children's best interest. As they grow and develop they may do as did their father and change their choice of religion or choose none at all, but it is clearly evident from the proof herein, they are being emotionally and physically strained as a result of the conflict of their parents' religious beliefs. ... ...

"... In light of the strained relationship between the parties as evidenced by the many proceedings in this and other courts and the decision in this proceeding, the order of this court of January 15, 1980 shall be and hereby is modified and amended by adding the following decretal provision:
'Ordered, that said respondent/father shall refrain from instructing said children in the teachings of the Jehovah's Witnesses and shall also refrain from taking said children to any assemblies, meetings, conventions, religious services or other social or religious activities of the Jehovah's Witnesses during his periods of custodial visitation.'"
On appeal, Jeffrey Bentley contended that the trial court erred in denying him the right to instruct his children in his religion and that, under the circumstances, it should have remained neutral. He further contended that the Family Court's "intrusion" violated his First Amendment right to the free exercise of his religion. The NY appellate court disagreed, stating in part:
"The Family Court's order should be affirmed. As a general rule, it is the custodial parent who is the appropriate person for determining the religious upbringing of the children. We conclude that the court would be intruding on petitioner's First Amendment rights were it to enjoin the noncustodial parent from discussing religion with his child absent a showing that the child will thereby be harmed. In the instant matter, the record amply supports the court's finding that the children were being 'harmed' by [Jeffrey Bentley's] actions in instructing and involving them in the teachings of the Jehovah's Witnesses. The 'best interests' of the children is the threshold consideration in a custody proceeding ... . The Family Court was well within its broad discretionary power in reaching its determination that the best interests of these children dictate that they be reared in only one religion. We find also without merit [Jeffrey Bentley's] contention that he was denied due process by the Family Court's refusal to allow cross-examination of the Law Guardian concerning his interviews with the two children. ... the interviews are privileged since the relationship of the Law Guardian and the children is one of "attorney-client" and, as such, is not subject to cross-examination. Order affirmed"

HAMEL v. HAMEL was a 1981 Rhode Island Supreme Court decision, which involved William J. Hamel and Joanne S. Hamel. The Hamels were married in 1967, and they had a son in 1971. Bear in mind that the WatchTower Society had started in 1966/7 predicting that Armageddon would occur in October 1975, or soon thereafter. Sometime in 1975, Joanne Hamel converted to the Jehovah's Witnesses. The marriage started falling apart, and months of arguing culminated in July 1976, when Joanne left, because she "couldn't live there with a non-believer."
William filed a petition for a bed-and-board divorce, in which he listed as one of the grounds irreconcilable differences resulting in an irremediable breakdown of the marriage. Joanne's cross-petition for a bed-and-board divorce was predicated on the ground of extreme cruelty. William assured the trial justice that if Joanne were to "renounce her religion and become a Roman Catholic," he would have "no qualms about Joanne moving back in." Joanne agreed that the couple's problems began over her religious conversion. She stated that she would like to see William become a Jehovah's Witness but would never force him to do so. She also made it clear that she still loved her husband. In October 1978, a Family Court dismissed both petitions. In the denial, the trial justice ruled that a bed-and-board divorce could not be granted on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. William appealed. The Supreme Court ruled that a trial court could entertain the couple's original petition. Outcome unknown.
FELTON v. FELTON was a 1981 Massachusetts Supreme Court decision. Wayne Felton and Diane Felton were married in 1967, and two daughters were born in 1971 and 1974. Wayne Felton began in live apart from his wife and daughters April 1976. The parties agreed to an informal arrangement that left custody with Diane, and allowed liberal visitation to Wayne Felton. The divorce judgment June 1977, continued custody and visitation on a similar agreed basis. Sometime around the time of separation in mid 1976, Wayne Felton became interested in the (or a) Jehovah's Witnesses. The Felton's divorce became final in December 1977, and Wayne Felton married a Jehovah's Witness that same month. He was eventually baptized as a Jehovah's Witness in May (April? see below) 1978.
According to Diane Felton, she knew of Wayne's "new religious interest" around the time of the separation. In the latter months of 1977, she became apprehensive of the effect on the children of the WatchTower religious instruction imparted by their father during visitation. She remonstrated with Wayne about this in October/November, 1977. There was an abortive effort in March 1978 for the two to meet to discuss the matter. Then, in April 1978, Wayne took the children to a weekend-long convention of Jehovah's Witnesses. Diane then decided to refuse to allow further visitation; permitting Wayne only weekly telephone conversations with the children. On April 28, 1978, Wayne commenced contempt proceedings against Diane, in response to which Diane sought a change of the visitation part of the divorce judgment. Following a pretrial conference, the probate judge in January 1979, made an interim order suspending Wayne's visitation rights. An evidential hearing took place on January 30, 1979, resulting in dismissal of the contempt application and entry of judgment the same day:
"... [Wayne Felton] shall hereafter have the right to visit and to take Deborah Jean Felton and Jennifer Lynn Felton, minor children of said parties, at reasonable times, provided that he refrains from giving his children any religious training or education which shall be in conflict or contrary with the religious training and beliefs of the custodial parent."
Diane Felton disliked the Jehovah's Witnesses' doctrine and style. What especially concerned Diane was that the Jehovah's Witnesses did not celebrate birthdays or holidays such as Halloween, Christmas, or Easter. Jehovah's Witnesses also were negative with respect to the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Diane thought Wayne should not be impairing Deborah's enjoyment of birthdays and holidays or puncturing her fantasies - there would be time for disillusionment as the children grew up. Diane celebrated birthdays and carried on at the family home in the other conventional ways with the children. Diane was rearing the children in the Congregational Church, with attendance at Sunday school and Bible reading there. In Diane's view, the Bible reading on Wayne's side was too strict or literal and not suited to young children. She though it detracted from Wayne's "knowing" the children. Attendance from morning to afternoon at the April WatchTower convention in her estimation was wrong for children. Diane Felton complained that the father's indoctrinating the children in the WatchTower faith was causing them to be confused, and disoriented the children and in some degree alienated them from her.
Wayne Felton verified that the doctrine of the Jehovah's Witnesses forbade birthday celebrations and so forth and bound him to instruct the children in his religion with its emphasis on strict reading of, and implicit belief in Biblical text. He held that those who deviated from this text and the direct derivations from it were "wrong," but he did not depreciate or lessen them on account of such errors. It was not true that the children's visits consisted only of Bible lessons and other religious instruction: the children were entertained by being taken to the movies on occasion, by games played with Gail's young sons, and other diversions. Deborah did not seem to Wayne to be upset, and there was love between his daughters and himself.
Gail Felton, Wayne's new JW wife, sought to picture Diane Felton as balefully influencing the children and deliberately turning them against their father. Gail said that when Deborah told her on April 8 that she feared telling her mother that she had been at the WatchTower convention, she, Gail, indicated that Deborah need not report this when she got home.
Wayne Felton appealed, and the Massachusetts Supreme Court transferred the case on its own motion for direct review. Holding that the evidence brought forward was not sufficient to support the judge's disposition, this court reversed the judgment and remanded for further proceedings, at which the facts, including particularly those bearing on the physical and emotional consequences to the children, may be more fully developed. The Supreme Court reasoned, in part:
"'The courts have refused to restrain the noncustodial parent from exposing the minor child to his or her religious beliefs and practices, absent a clear, affirmative showing that these religious activities will be harmful to the child. ... The refusal to intervene in the absence of a showing of harm to the child reflects the protected nature of religious activities and expressions of belief, as well as the proscription against preferring one religion over another.'
"... The parents together have freedom of religious expression and practice which enters into their liberty to manage the familial relationships. ... But the 'best interests' of the child are to be promoted, and when the parents are at odds, the attainment of that purpose may involve some limitation of the liberties of one or other of the parents. ... However, harm to the child from conflicting religious instructions or practices, which would justify such a limitation, should not be simply assumed or surmised; it must be demonstrated in detail. ...
"If the dominating goal of the enterprise is to serve a child's best interests, ... then it might be thought to follow that a policy of stability or repose should be adopted by which the child would be exposed to but one religion (presumably that of the custodial parent) at whatever cost to the 'liberties' of the other parent. ... The law, however, tolerates and even encourages up to a point the child's exposure to the religious influences of both parents although they are divided in their faiths. This, we think, is because the law sees a value in 'frequent and continuing contact' of the child with both its parents ... and thus contact with the parents' separate religious preferences. There may also be a value in letting the child see, even at an early age, the religious models between which it is likely to be led to choose in later life. And it is suggested, sometimes, that a diversity of religious experience is itself a sound stimulant for a child. ... In all events, the question that comes to the courts is whether, in particular circumstances, such exposures are disturbing a child to its substantial injury, physical or emotional, and will have a like harmful tendency for the future. ... ... ...
"We have noted the meagerness of the evidence on such elementary points as the precise manner of Wayne's Bible lessons. The more striking weakness is a failure of proof about Deborah's physical and emotional condition or about any causal connections between her visits with her father and that condition, such as it may have been. General testimony by Diane that the child was upset or confused (and that testimony was contradicted by testimony of like generality on the part of Wayne) will not suffice. ... There are few ground-level facts to be found in the record on this entire matter. The decisions hold such an infirmity to be fatal to an action seeking to limit materially or to cancel visitation rights. ... Thus there is clear error, for lack of foundation in the record, in the judge's findings of a 'deleterious effect' on the children and an 'undermining' of the custodial relationship by reason of the father's religious instruction or practice. The findings seem traceable to a predisposition on the judge's part. His remarks during the hearing would indicate that, despite some protestations by him to the contrary, he assumed that differences of religion, at least where one of the parents took his religion zealously, must have such grave damaging effect on the children as to require the censorship he imposed by the judgment. The assumption is far from self-proving. ... ... ...
"Upon the reversal of the judgment of modification appealed from (which will have the effect of restoring the original judgment) and remand of the case to the Probate Court, Diane may, if so advised, again apply for modification upon additional and updated evidence. A suggestion of the kind of proof that might be influential on either side, and the likely sources of such proof, appears by implication in Pope v. Pope, ... where, upon reversing an order restricting visitation on account of religious differences, the court said the custodial mother 'gave no testimony whatever that his [child's] general demeanor, attitude, school work, appetite, health or outlook has been affected one iota by the so-called conflict in his mind. Her testimony was wholly uncorroborated. No church, school, medical or psychiatric authorities, nor any of the boy's associates, in or out of school, appeared in support of this charge.' We should mention, too, that a judge may seek correction of the possibly self-serving testimonies of the father and mother by appointing a qualified investigator (whether called a guardian or given some other title) who would look into the facts, render a report, and be subject to examination by the parties. ...


ROSS v. ROSS was a 1980 New York appellate court decision. Stephen Ross and Karen Ross were divorced in August 1979, and Karen Ross was awarded custody of the minor child. Karen Ross was a Jehovah's Witness, and the impact of her WatchTower beliefs on this marriage prompted Stephen Ross to remove himself and child from the marital residence and file for divorce and custody. Stephen Ross appealed, contending that the mother's adherence to the religious beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses is such that it would not be in the child's best interest for her to have custody. Although the trial was five days long, and much testimony must have been presented on this topic, this decision does not address any specifics. In affirming the lower court's decision, this court stated, in part:
"After careful examination of the record, however, we can perceive no basis for interfering with Family Court's exercise of its discretion in awarding custody to the mother ... . Five days of hearings were conducted before the court, which was in a position to assess the demeanor and credibility of the parents The discretionary power of the Family Court in matters of custody is broad and must be 'accorded the greatest respect'. .. Here, the court's exercise of its discretion is reasonably substantiated by the evidence contained in the record ... and in the absence of an abuse of discretion, an appellate court should not set aside a custody award upon the ground that the other parent is also fit to care for the child."


PATRICK v. WILSON was a 1980 Kansas Supreme Court decision. The 1971 marriage of Dennis Wilson and Mary Wilson ended in divorce in June 1975. (For non-JWs: At that time, the WatchTower Society was predicting Armageddon would occur in October 1975, and in the 7 years preceding 1975, the Jehovah's Witnesses had more converts than in their previous 90 years.) Mary Wilson was granted custody of their two minor sons. Dennis Wilson was ordered to pay $250.00 per month child support and keep certain insurance in effect. In September of 1975 Dennis remarried. In April 1976, Mary married Glenn L. Patrick, her present husband and petitioner herein. By June 1976, Dennis Wilson was some $400.00 delinquent in child support payments, and he moved the court for a change of custody of the children or, alternatively, for a reduction of child support payments. Change of custody was denied, but child support was reduced to $100.00 per month plus arrearage payments of $50.00 per month. Upon completion of the arrearage payments, child support would then become $150.00 per month. The obligations to maintain health insurance covering the children, and life insurance thereon, were eliminated. (That court ordered modification seems to indicate that Dennis Wilson was not a "deadbeat dad", but rather reflects the negative financial circumstances of Wilson and the positive financial circumstances of the Patricks.)

In November 1978, Glenn L. Patrick filed to adopt the two natural sons of Dennis Wilson. The adoption was approved based on the court's finding that Dennis Wilson had failed or refused to assume the duties of a parent for two years immediately preceding the filing of the adoption petition. This Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's decision.
The case presented by the Patricks included the fact that Wilson had made no child support payments from November 1976 and November 1978; he had not visited nor shown interest in his two sons during the same period; and that he had not sent any Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, nor gifts of any kind.
The case presented against the adoption by Dennis Wilson included his testimony that he had not sent gifts because the Patrick family were Jehovah's Witnesses. That excuse as to why Wilson had sent no gifts at all could very well have been completely truthful. (Readers should read all the other custody cases posted on this website which reflect the stink that JWs raised due to other parents trying to give gifts and celebrate holidays with their children.) Even today, after the number of Jehovah's Witnesses in the U.S. has doubled, well informed non-JWs are confused about the Jehovah's Witnesses refusal to celebrate holidays, gift-giving, etc. The Supreme Court countered that: "The record does not indicate that this explanation was the result of any request or agreement or that the explanation had surfaced at anytime prior to trial." (Maybe so, but that does not mean that the Patricks and/or children had not lead Wilson to his confused conclusion. For him to even come up with this defense would mean that a lot more about the Patrick's WatchTower religion had come up during the two families' pre-November 1976 interactions than made it into the trial court record.)
While true that Dennis Wilson made no child support payments for the period in question, he testified that he had incurred heavy expenses during the period in question, and was earning less money than previously by virtue of a change of occupation. Additionally, evidence was introduced to the effect that the children's basic financial needs had been met and any support payments received would have been placed in the children's savings accounts which were to provide for their college education. (In the late 1970s, the Jehovah's Witnesses were still awaiting a delayed Armageddon and were adamantly against sending their children to college. As has occurred in the past, and is still occurring today, Jehovah's Witnesses and their attorneys take full advantage of judges and juries that are essentially CLUELESS about the actual beliefs and practices of this CULT.) (It is clear that Dennis Wilson was struggling financially, and again, the Patricks in anticipation of filing for this adoption may very well have lead Wilson to believe that not making his child support payments "would be okay".)
The trial record also included this: "Outside of an inquiry incident to a request for release of judgment lien and a letter written to the mother of the children requesting custody for a weekend, which was not received by the mother until after such weekend, Dennis R. Wilson made no attempts to visit his two minor children nor indicated any other interest in such children".
In fact, Dennis Wilson had had visitation with his sons during the 1976 Christmas holidays, and if circumstances typical of other such families occurred, it was probably at that time that Wilson got "schooled" on the Jehovah's Witnesses hatred of Christmas and other holidays.

Then, on July 13, 1977, Dennis wrote Mary Patrick requesting weekend custody commencing July 16, or at another time if the requested date was inconvenient. Mary was out of town when the letter arrived and the requested date passed before her return. Mary did not respond to the letter. (Again, for those who are familiar with the WatchTower organization, we know that the Patricks were most likely attending the annual summer Convention of Jehovah's Witnesses, which was 4-5 days long at that time. JWs typically come home from that with more zeal and zest for their practices than at any point in the year. Believing that Armageddon could occur any day now, Mary Patrick probably just blew off Dennis's letter.)
Then, in August 1978, Dennis Wilson telephoned Mary Patrick to request release of a judgment lien to which Mary agreed. At the end of the conversation Dennis inquired about talking to the children, but "broke down" and the conversation ended. (Does this not confirm Wilson's struggling financial situation? Does his emotional breakdown not confirm that Dennis Wilson was a man with a heart?) In my opinion, Dennis Wilson was a poor struggling lower middle class schmuck, who got shafted out of his parental rights by a scheming conspiracy of Jehovah's Witnesses (probably including the WatchTower legal dept assisting behind the scenes), in junction with a woefully ignorant judiciary.


IN RE DIANE JACKSON LETT, RONALD LETT, AND CHARLES LAMB was a 1976-82 Kansas child custody court case which involved two children of three parents then living in Parsons, Kansas. The Kansas Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decision to sever the parental rights of these three parents and place the two children into the state system for future adoption or foster care. Terrance Jackson (b1976) was the illegitimate son of Diane Jackson and Charles Lamb. LaRhonda Lett (b1978) was the daughter of Diane Jackson and Ronald Lett, who were married only two days before LaRhonda was born. The appellate opinion mentions that Diane Jackson attended meetings at the Parsons Kansas Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses.


OSIER v. OSIER was a 1980 Maine Supreme Court decision. Jay Osier and Barbara Osier were divorced on Jay Osier's petition in June 1976. No court order was made regarding the custody of their 4 year old son, although the parties agreed that Barbara Osier would retain physical custody due to Jay Osier's military duties in the U.S. Navy. Jay Osier subsequently remarried, and he then filed for custody in October 1978.

At the hearing, one of Jay Osier's arguments was that Barbara Osier was a Jehovah's Witness who would not consent to their son's receiving a blood transfusion if such ever became medically necessary. On December 12, 1978, a final order granted custody of the child to the father and his present wife, with visitation rights to the mother. In his "Findings of Fact and Decision thereon" the District Court judge stated that the mother's religious practice in regard to blood transfusions raised an "issue of major importance." On the basis of the mother's testimony that she would withhold her consent to a blood transfusion for her son even if it became medically necessary to safeguard the child's health, the court concluded "that the (mother's) religious beliefs are such that they would endanger the physical well-being or life of their child."

Barbara Osier appealed the judgment. She lost at the Superior Court level, but then the Maine Supreme Court concluded: "We conclude from the limited record before us that the District Court in granting custody to the father gave undue weight to the fact that the mother as a Jehovah's Witness would not consent to a blood transfusion for the son. Since the custody decision implicates the constitutionally sensitive areas of religious freedom and familial relationships, we vacate the judgments below and remand the case to the District Court for the purpose of making a custody determination in accordance with the principles here enunciated."

The Maine Supreme Court reasoned, in part:
"When, as in this case, it appears to the divorce court that an appropriate determination of custody will involve inquiry into the consequences of the religious practices of one of the parents, the court must be alert to the impact that its order concerning care and custody may have on that parent's fundamental rights under the due process clause ... and the religious freedom clause. ... Second, any decision terminating or limiting the right of a parent to physical custody of his child also affects his constitutionally protected liberty interest in maintaining his familial relationship with the child. ...

"As a general rule courts should endeavor to resolve the controversies before them without deciding constitutional issues, reaching such an issue only 'if it is entirely necessary to a decision in the cause in which it is raised.' ... Therefore, in approaching a case of this sort the divorce court should make a preliminary determination of the child's best interest, Without giving any consideration to either parent's religious practices, in order to ascertain which of them is the preferred custodial parent. Where that preliminary determination discloses that the religious practices of only the Nonpreferred parent are at issue, any need for the court to delve into a constitutionally sensitive area is avoided.

"If, on the other hand, that preliminary determination discloses a preference for the parent whose religious practices have been placed in issue, the divorce court, in fashioning an appropriate custody order, may take into account the consequences upon the child of that parent's religious practices. Because of the sensitivity of the constitutional rights involved, however, any such inquiry must proceed along a two-stage analysis designed to protect those rights against unwarranted infringement. To summarize that analysis briefly: First, in order to assure itself that there exists a factual situation necessitating such infringement, the court must make a threshold factual determination that the child's temporal well-being is immediately and substantially endangered by the religious practice in question and, if that threshold determination is made, Second, the court must engage in a deliberate and articulated balancing of the conflicting interests involved, to the end that its custody order makes the least possible infringement upon the parent's liberty interests consistent with the child's well-being. In carrying out that two-stage analysis, the trial court should make, on the basis of record evidence, specific findings of fact concerning its evaluation of all relevant considerations bearing upon its ultimate custody order. ...
"It is firmly established that 'the right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose ... the child ... to ill health or death.' ... Thus, the divorce court, where it finds that a particular religious practice poses an immediate and substantial threat to the child's well-being, ... may make an order aimed at protecting the child from that threat.

"We therefore agree with the mother's principal contention on appeal, that the first amendment guarantee of religious liberty prohibits the divorce court from taking her religious practices into account in determining custody unless such practices pose an immediate and substantial threat to the temporal well-being of the child. The mother further contends, however, that the mere remote statistical probability that a normal, healthy child may require a blood transfusion at some time in the future is as a matter of law an insufficient reason to impinge upon her religious liberty. Since we have no way of knowing what that statistical probability is, we decline now to rule upon that contention.

"If and only if the court is satisfied that an immediate and substantial threat to the child's well-being is posed by the religious practice in question, need it proceed to the second stage of the inquiry, requiring it to engage in an explicit balancing of the conflicting interests. In fashioning the appropriate order, the court should adopt a means of protecting the best interests of the child that makes the least possible intrusion upon the constitutionally protected interests of the parent. .. This balancing process requires the judge to conduct an evidentiary hearing on the alternative remedies available. Although this court is not now willing to say that an order completely denying custody may never be appropriate where the temporal welfare of the child is genuinely threatened by a religious practice of the parent seeking custody, the divorce court should explore every reasonable alternative before resorting to such a drastic solution. .. Although a less restrictive order does not completely remove the 'price tag' from the custodial parent's exercise of his first amendment liberty, it significantly lowers the price of its exercise, preserving intact the continuing familial relationship to which he is otherwise entitled.

"We emphasize that the court, when faced with a question of this nature, must never assume that a threat to the child's welfare exists. Rather, at this threshold stage of the inquiry, the court must conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the religious practice at issue in fact poses an immediate and substantial risk to the temporal well-being of the child. ... An affirmative finding to that effect, supported by substantial evidence is a necessary prerequisite to a valid order concerning the care or custody of a child that infringes to any significant degree upon the religious liberty of one parent.

"At oral argument, counsel had no recollection of any evidence before the District Court that we view sufficient to justify a finding that the mother's religious practice posed an immediate and substantial threat to the child. The court's sole finding concerning the boy's health indicates that he is a normal and active 8-year-old. We do not know what specific evidence, if any, was available concerning his proneness to accidents or to illnesses requiring blood transfusions. Furthermore, facts such as the statistical frequency of blood transfusions for normal children aged eight and older and the degree of risk involved in taking or refusing blood or chemical substitutes, are not the proper subjects of judicial notice but must be proved by evidence, like any other facts, in the court of first instance. In the absence of any such proof of that threshold factual requirement, there could be no legitimate occasion for the court's impingement upon the mother's constitutionally protected liberty interests.

"Turning to the case at bar, the District Court was faced with a sensitive constitutional issue, and one that was novel to Maine. As we have indicated, the court's initial error lay in failing to make a preliminary determination of which parent would be the better custodian, independently of any consideration of the mother's religious practices But even if we were to overlook that error and to assume that some degree of inquiry was warranted in this case, our examination of what record is available on appeal, as explained by counsel for both parties, makes plain to us that the court neither purported to use, nor had before it, evidence legally sufficient to satisfy the requirements of the two-stage analysis we have described as necessary to protect the sensitive constitutional rights involved against unwarranted infringement.

"Remand to the District Court is therefore necessary for a completely new hearing on the father's motion seeking custody. As a preliminary matter, the court must determine, Exclusive of any religious factor, which parent is better suited to have custody. If the father prevails on that preliminary inquiry, the entire matter is settled. If, on the other hand, the court concludes that the child's welfare is best served by awarding custody to the mother, any subsequent inquiry into the consequences upon the child of her religious practices must be strictly in accordance with this opinion. 

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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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