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2004 - 2009 JEHOVAH'S WITNESS DIVORCE CASES
Generally, there is no such thing as a "national child custody law". Although similar, each state has established its own laws regarding child custody, and each state's courts interpret those laws using legal standards that may vary from those used by courts in other states. As site visitors will quickly see from reading the following summaries, state courts apply one of the following three different legal standards when deciding these cases:
1. Actual Or Substantial Harm: Existing actual or substantial harm to the child must be proven to have been caused by a parent's religious practices before the court will restrict that parent's constitutional rights. Such states include California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington.
2. Risk Of Harm. For a court to restrict a parent's constitutional rights, it only has to be proven that that a parent's religious practices pose a risk of harm to the child. Such states include Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
3. No Harm Required. In only a few states, such as Arkansas and Wisconsin, a parent who has sole legal custody also has the exclusive right to determine the child's religious education.
Child custody court case decisions typically are lengthy and complex, and deal with a multitude of legal issues. The following case summaries will generally include only those issues in which religion was a factor. Some summaries may omit issues relevant to the court's decision, but not relevant to the theme of this website.
For those readers who are not looking for any specific DIVORCE case, but who are simply browsing our website for general education regarding Jehovah's Witness Marriages and Divorces, we have posted TWO JW WIFE AUTOBIOGRAPHIES which were submitted by real-world victimized husbands, which relate REAL WATCHTOWER WORLD behind-the-scenes accounts of two Jehovah's Witness marriages about which the WatchTower Society hopes that no insiders nor outsiders ever learn. These two autobiographies are so controversial that most JW readers will deny their authenticity. Both autobiographies are authentic. We have confirm that.
This first posted autobiography pertains 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 autobiography, JW Husband believes that he was deceived during the courtship period by his future JW Wife, by her JW Parents, by her Congregation Elders, and by other Members of JW Wife's congregation. CLICK ON LINK TO READ:
MY TEENAGE JEHOVAH'S WITNESS WIFE:
EXEMPLARY CONGREGATION PUBLISHER & SERIAL ADULTERESS
The second submitted autobiography relates the account of a recently married non-JW Wife who converted to the Jehovah's Witnesses, and soon thereafter disowned her loving and trusting Husband. JW Wife then began using her busy JW witnessing and meeting schedule and her morally-corrupt JW friends to hide serial "cheating", and eventually something so SHOCKING that you will have to read the autobiography to believe it. Readers are put on notice that this account contains some sexually explicit material which we have attempted to edit as best as we could and still retain the info and image that the victimized husband wants readers to take away from his unbelievable REAL JW WORLD marriage. CLICK ON LINK TO READ:
MY BUSY-BUSY JEHOVAH'S WITNESS WIFE:
REGULAR AUXILIARY PIONEER & PART-TIME BROTHEL PROSTITUTE
Visitors may also be interested in reading the "Real WatchTower World" account posted in our JW EMPLOYEES website about a JW Elderette who put on a "burlesque show" at her home during a business appointment with a lone out-of-town businessman. Foolish JW Elderette never even considered that the out-of-town businessman might possibly have JW connections.
ECUADOR JW FATHER v. QUEBEC JW MOTHER were multiple legal proceedings in both Ecuador and Quebec relating to the divorce of an unidentified JW Couple and the resulting child custody contest. JW Mother and her two JW Parents moved from Quebec to Ecuador in 1991. JW Mother married JW Father in July 1997. Their son was born in 2001. The JW Couple separated in 2004. Legal action seeking a mutual divorce was filed, but such was pending as of 2008. Initially, JW Mother shared custody with JW Father, but things quickly turned nasty. JW Mother accused JW Father of sexually molesting their son, and even filed criminal charges against JW Father in September 2004, which resulted in JW Father spending 7 weeks in an Ecuadorian jail. After over a year of JW Mother and her JW Parents repeatedly doing everything they could in the Ecuadorian legal system to get JW Father convicted of sexually assaulting his son, all charges were dropped in November 2005. JW Mother and her JW Parents refused to permit JW Father or any of his family to see the son.
From November 2004 until November 2006, JW Mother and her JW Parents moved five times -- with Jehovah's Witness "needgreaters" and missionaries apparently helping to hide them from JW Father. In November 2006, JW Mother and her JW Parents ILLEGALLY drove son to Columbia, where they all flew back to Quebec. It was not until May 2007 that JW Father learned that his son had been kidnapped away to Canada. JW Father thereafter initiated international legal proceedings to have his son returned to Ecuador. The Quebec courts granted JW Father's request in February 2008.
How had JW Father's son faired under the care of his JW Mother and her JW Parents? Quebec Child Protective Services determined that the child suffered from pervasive development disorders which required the services of a psychologist, a speech therapist, and some other type of therapist, and obviously was socially handicapped by the fact that he had not been in school.
KENDEL LOUIS OLDFIELD II v. ROXANNE ELISHA OLDFIELD was a 2003-05 Utah divorce and child custody case of some notoriety which BEGS for more specific details. In August 1998, Kendel L. Oldfield, then age 21, who was reared in an Ogden, Utah, multi-generation Jehovah's Witness family, married then gorgeous 17 year-old Roxanne Elisha Duquette. Thereafter, the couple reportedly lost one or more children under unknown circumstances.
In December 2000, Kendel Oldfield was arrested for ASSAULT, and pled Guilty. In October 2001, Kendel Oldfield was again arrested for ASSAULT, and pled Guilty. In February 2002, Kendel Oldfield was arrested for DISORDERLY CONDUCT, and pled Guilty. Victim or victims unknown.
In January 2003, Kendel Oldfield filed for divorce from Roxanne Oldfield, despite the fact that Roxanne Oldfield was again PREGNANT with what turned out to be the couple's only surviving child, a daughter named Lejynd Reyan Oldfield, who was born in March 2003.
The divorce and custody battle still proceeded. In August 2004, Roxanne Oldfield was arrested on charges of CHILD ABUSE/NEGLECT and CHILD ENDANGERMENT, to which she eventually pled Guilty. In March 2006, Roxanne Oldfield was arrested and eventually pled Guilty to ESCAPE FROM CUSTODY.
Kendel L. Oldfield was granted sole custody of Lejynd Oldfield in 2004/05, and maintained such until his on-the-job accidental death in July 2008.
KALEB EMERY OLDFIELD v. MANDY LEIGH ANDERSON OLDFIELD was the September 2000-2003 divorce of the marriage of Kendel Oldfield's older and only brother, Kaleb E. Oldfield, then age 25, and sister-in-law, Mandy L. Oldfield, then age 19, whom married in July 1997. The couple are believed to have had two children for whom Mandy Oldfield has primary if not sole custody. Kaleb Oldfield may have remarried and had two additional children. No further details.
CANDICE MARIE SANDERS-MULLER v. MARLON RANDELL MULLER was a 2005 California MARRIAGE ANNULMENT due to admitted FRAUD. The parties were married in October 2004 based on the representations made by Marlon R. Muller that he was no longer a "Jehovah's Witness", and that any children resulting from this marriage would be reared as non-denominational "Christians". Candice Sanders separated from her husband in May 2005 after discovering that her husband Marlon Muller was still a Jehovah's Witness, and after he insisted that any children of the marriage would also be reared as "Jehovah's Witnesses".
WISCONSIN v. BROUGHTON and WOHLERS v. WHITE are related Wisconsin criminal and paternity cases (now turned into a grandparents visitation case). Shari L. Broughton is the daughter of African-American Jehovah's Witnesses, Leo White and Diane White, of Madison, Wisconsin. Baby Broughton was born to Shari Broughton, in 2001, while Broughton was doing prison time. The Whites assumed care of the baby for five years.In 2004, Steve B. Wohlers initiated paternity proceeding, and was so adjudicated. Between 2004 and 2007, primary placement of Baby Broughton was gradually transitioned to Steve Wohlers. The Whites were granted "grandparent visitation" rights. Litigation followed relating to visitation matters and exposure of Baby Broughton to the WatchTower religion. Media articles indicate that Shari L. Broughton was subsequently released from prison. A 12/2007 media article reported:
Broughton, who has no permanent address, has a long criminal record in Dane and Sauk counties dating to 1991, with convictions including retail theft, damage to property, forgery, bail jumping, disorderly conduct, resisting police and drunken driving. She was immediately arrested Tuesday night on a parole violation and remained in the Dane County Jail on Wednesday. Detectives began talking to her about the murder Wednesday and planned additional conversation with her today.
MARIO MALDONADO v. MARIA MALDONADO was a lengthy and complicated California 2004-09 child custody case of which we only note certain highlights. Father and Mother were married in February 1992. A daughter was born in January 1994, and a son was born in July 1995. Both parties were arrested for spousal abuse during the marriage, but no charges were filed. Father and Mother separated in February 2004. Father filed a petition for dissolution of the marriage.
In April 2005, the trial court granted sole legal and physical custody to Mother pending trial of the parties' custody issues, and ordered Father to enroll in an approved 52-week domestic violence program. In April 2006, the court entered a judgment of dissolution that did not address custody and visitation. Father completed the 52-week domestic violence program and voluntarily enrolled in an additional 26-week program.
In summer 2006, Mother and the two children moved from Northridge to Moorpark, which required the son to attend a new school. In September 2006, the court granted Father unmonitored visitation rights. In December 2006, Mother began dating Wilson Reyes, who lived in the state of Washington. Mother discussed moving to Washington with her children. The son did not want to move again. In February 2006, Mother married Reyes in Nevada without telling her children. The son, who had met Reyes a few times, visited Reyes in Washington during his school vacation in April 2006. The son repeatedly attempted to intervene in any physical affection between Mother and Reyes.
Mother filed an order to show cause regarding custody and visitation, requesting permission to move the children to Washington in order to live with Reyes. In April 2007, Father filed a responsive declaration objecting to Mother's request to move the children to Washington. At a hearing in April 2007, however, Father apparently agreed to allow the children to move to Washington. Father and Mother executed a stipulation permitting Mother to move to Washington with the children and providing for specific visitation rights to Father. Multiple problems ensued. ... ... Mother ... had known Wilson Reyes only briefly and married him quickly because of their religious beliefs as Jehovah's Witnesses. She acknowledged that she had not prepared her children well for the marriage.
IN RE M.G. I and IN RE M.G. II were 2005 and 2009 Texas child custody cases. M.G. was born on July 12, 2005. The first case was initiated when M.G.'s Mother refused to permit a blood transfusion for M.G. soon after he was born on the grounds that she was a Jehovah's Witness. Case I resulted in M.G.'s being in State custody from July 14, 2005, until January 2006. Case II was initiated on May 3, 2007, when the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFPS) filed a Petition for Order to Participate in Services. At one point, M.G. was placed with appellant's aunt. When the aunt returned the child to appellant, TDFPS took custody of M.G. on an emergency basis. TDFPS filed a petition to terminate appellant's parental rights, and the final trial ensued. Parental rights to M.G. were terminated in January 2009 based on trial court findings that: (1) appellant failed to comply with provisions of the court's prior orders establishing actions necessary for the return of the child after removal for abuse or neglect, and (2) termination was in the child's best interest. On appeal, the trial court decision was affirmed in December 2009. Excerpts from Court of Appeals opinion:
Robert D'Angelo, a clinical psychologist, performed testing on appellant on September 6, 2007. In his resulting report, D'Angelo noted that appellant "expressed multiple delusions that became more paranoid and fantastic" as she attempted to "clarify and explain herself." Among other claims, she asserted that Oprah Winfrey was a relative of hers who spoke to her through a television show. D'Angelo concluded that appellant's "thinking is severely distorted by paranoid delusions" and that her "psychotic thought processes . . . likely place [M.G.] at high risk for exposure to dangerous situations." He warned that appellant's "paranoid concerns" might prevent her from seeking medical attention for M.G. when required or from enrolling him in school. He further suggested that appellant's delusions could be detrimental to M.G.'s emotional development as he matured. D'Angelo urged that appellant "receive a psychiatric evaluation in order to determine if she would benefit from treatment with psychotropic medications." D'Angelo also noted in his report that appellant "greatly cares about" M.G. and has positive thoughts and feelings about her maternal role. However, appellant "showed no insight into her difficulties or a need for treatment," and did not perceive a need for medication. ... ... ....
On December 6, 2007, Dr. Ignacio Valdes, performed a psychiatric assessment of appellant. Valdes concluded that appellant suffered from a delusional disorder, and his report recounts some of the same apparent delusions appellant told to Dr. D'Angelo. Valdes further stated that appellant "is quite delusional and is likely unable to carry out the duties of caring for her son at this time." ... ... ...
Jill Stevens, a Court Appointed Special Advocate case manager, testified that her duties include case investigation, visiting the child monthly, and making sure the placement for the child is acceptable. She further stated that she had been visiting M.G. monthly since August 2008. She said that he has bonded with his foster family, a father and two boys, and that he gets along very well with them. When she first began visiting M.G., "he wouldn't talk at all," but at her latest visit, "he was a lot more talkative." M.G. said "I love you" to his foster father "multiple times" during that visit. At one point, Stevens talked to appellant about why she (appellant) had missed several recent visits with M.G. Appellant would not answer Stevens' questions on the matter except to say that M.G. was being abused and that TDFPS was bringing a different boy to the visits. During this conversation, appellant also told Stevens that she hoped Jehovah would kill all employees of TDFPS. Ultimately, Stevens recommended termination of appellant's parental rights based on her lack of stability and because M.G.'s emotional and mental well-being would be at risk in her care.
CIHON v. WRIGHT was a 2009 Ohio child custody case. In 2001, Lynn Wright moved from New York to Ohio to reside with Michael Cihon after the couple met via the internet. Mikaela Cihon was born eleven months later. The parties lived together with Mikaela until April 2008, when Wright moved out. Cihon filed for custody, but the trial court found that it was in the best interest of the child for Wright to be the residential parent and custodian. On appeal, that decision was affirmed.
Lynn Wright testified that she had been reared as a Jehovah's Witness, and that she was reared to believe that the world would end in 1975. Because of such, Wright never felt the need to learn how to take care of herself. Wright gave birth to eight children before Mikaela: Jeffrey, age 28; Sarah, 26; Thomas, 24; Samantha, 20; Amber, 19; Melanie, 15; Garrett, 13; and Jack, 11. Wright did not raise any of these children to the age of majority. Jeffrey was raised by her parents from birth, because Wright was only 17 years old when he was born. Sarah was taken away by her father, and ended up in a children's psychiatric hospital. Wright voluntarily surrendered Thomas to Social Services in New York. She testified that she raised Samantha herself for a period of time, but Samantha then lived with her father. Amber had not lived with Wright since she was young, and was raised by her father. Melanie was conceived when appellee was raped in California, and appellee gave her up for adoption at birth. Garrett and Jack live with their father in New York.
According to Cihon's understanding, Jeffrey was adopted by appellee's parents. Sarah and Thomas were taken by Children's Services, and Thomas was adopted by a family while Sarah was raised in an institution. Amber and Samantha were abandoned at their respective grandmother's homes at the age of 3 and 2 when Wright moved to California. Prior to trial, he had not heard that Melanie's father raped Wright, but Wright told him that Melanie's father was an abusive drug addict, and she gave Melanie up for adoption at birth. He believed Garrett and Jack were taken away from Wright by the court in New York for neglect, and were in the custody of their dad.
Dr. Gary Wolfgang conducted a psychological analysis of Wright in conjunction with the instant action. While the report was filed under seal, portions of Dr. Wolfgang's findings were read into the transcript during the questioning of appellee. Dr. Wolfgang found that Wright's "longstanding difficulties in relationships and parenting suggest difficulties of a personal and interpersonal nature that combine to produce dysfunctional outcomes in her life." He further found that she "would seem to have little insight into these various tendencies, and thus, would seem to be at risk for repeating them." However, he also found that "the custody of many of [Wright's] children were lost when she was quite young amid conflict with her family of origin and amid relationships that were troubling her at the time. At one point she was homeless and largely unable to care for herself, let alone a child. At this point she is older and presumably more stable and established." Yet, the Ohio Court of Appeals ruled in Wright's favor, stating in part:
We cannot find that the court abused its discretion in naming appellee the residential parent. Appellant is correct that the evidence demonstrated a past history of unsuccessful parenting by appellee and concerns that appellee would not facilitate visitation with appellant after she moved to Florida. However, while appellant has taken positive steps to address his problem with alcohol, his sobriety was relatively recent as of the time of trial. Appellee testified that appellant was violent in the past and had threatened to kill both her and Mikaela. She also testified that appellant did absolutely nothing to help care for Mikaela and had no interest in her except to use her to fetch items he needed. The trial court is in a better position than this court to observe the demeanor of the witnesses and judge credibility. ... Based on the record, we do not find that the trial court's decision rose to an abuse of discretion.
CANDACE S. v. SUPERIOR COURT was a 2008 California appellate decision. A Jehovah's Witness, named Candace S., who was a member of the Coyote Creek Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, alleged that she was date-raped and impregnated in 2003 by a fellow Jehovah's Witness, named Ryan T., who was a member of the Oak Grove Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses. The child was born in 2004, and in 2005, Ryan T. initiated legal proceedings to establish a parental relationship with the child, which Candace S. did not want to occur. The court evaluator recommended "joint legal custody", with a visitation schedule, to the Santa Clara Superior Court, despite the fact that California law prohibits a person convicted of rape from being awarded custody or visitation with the child that results from that rape.
Apparently, Ryan T. now denied that the child had been conceived as a result of a rape, and because Candace S. had decided to "handle" the alleged rape within the confines of the Jehovah's Witnesses organization back in 2003, rather than reporting such to the civil authorities, she had little proof that her child had been conceived as the result of a rape. Why? Because, the JW Elders who "handled" the case back in 2003, now refused to testify as to what was then stated and agreed by the involved parties. [LESSON ALERT!!!]
In 2003, about three months after the alleged rape (probably when Candace S. was certain that she was pregnant), Candace S. reported the alleged rape to her Elders at the Coyote Creek Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses. Those JW Elders typically counseled Candace S. to deal with the situation using WatchTower Society procedures, rather than reporting the alleged rape to the civil authorities, likely so as to avoid "bringing reproach on Jehovah's name" (as if "WatchTower" equals "Jehovah").
Following WatchTower Society dictated procedures, ultimately there were three meetings held, which were attended by Candace S., Ryan T., family members of Candace S. and Ryan T., Elders from the Coyote Creek Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, and Elders from the Oak Grove Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses. Allegedly, Ryan T. admitted to the rape during the first meeting, which was attended only by the Elders and Candace S. and Ryan T. Allegedly, Ryan T's admission and other related info was discussed in front of both parties' family members during the two subsequent meetings. In the end, the parties allegedly agreed to Ryan T's paternity, and a visitation schedule.
After Ryan T. initiated custody proceedings, the Santa Clara Superior Court appointed an evaluator to make a custody/visitation recommendation. During the evaluator's investigation, the JW Elders refused to even speak with him. The JW Elders claimed "clergy-penitent" privilege. That left the evaluator with a "He said - She said" situation that left the evaluator with little option but to ignore Candace S's claim of rape and recommend that Ryan T. receive joint custody and visitation. Candace S. then sought an order from the Santa Clara Superior Court, which would require the JW Elders to cooperate and testify, but the Santa Clara Superior Court sided with the Jehovah's Witness Elders.
On appeal, Candace S. argued that that the "clergy-penitent" privilege only applies to communications made where no third party is present, because the presence of a third party eliminates the necessary expectation of confidentiality. Candace S. argued that she was such a third party at the first meeting, and that various family members were such third parties at the second and third meetings. The Court of Appeals agreed with Candace S., and overruled the Santa Clara Superior Court, in deciding that just because WatchTower Society procedures considered the three meetings to be "confidential" did not mean that California's courts, nor California law, were governed by WatchTower Society procedures or interpretations. Outcome of any further appeals, or the underlying case itself, is unknown.
COLETTA v. COLETTA was a 2008 Connecticut trial court decision. Lisa Coletta, 47, and Luciano Coletta, 47, met in Connecticut during high school, but they were married in Italy, in August 1981, where Luciano Coletta was then living with his parents. The couple then lived in Italy until 1987, after which they returned to the United States. Luciano Coletta maintained a very close relationship with his family in Connecticut. He was an employee and partner in the family restaurant, and he partnered with other relatives in various real estate investments. Lisa Coletta also occasionally worked at the family's restaurant. Lisa Coletta eventually came to dislike this close relationship that her husband maintained with his Italian family.
By approximately 1989, the couple had had three sons -- two of which resided with Luciano Coletta, as of May 2008, although all are over the age of majority. The parties were both Catholic when they married, but some time after the birth of the three boys, Lisa Coletta converted to the Jehovah's Witnesses. Lisa's conversion caused many difficulties in the marriage. She stopped celebrating holidays and birthdays, and removed her husband from having any say over any medical treatment she might require. Luciano Coletta did not agree with his wife's decision to convert, but he eventually accepted her decision, but disagreed that their children participate in WatchTower meetings and activities.
Over the years, the couple argued over the husband's family and the wife's religion. Occasionally, the arguments escalated to physical violence from both parties -- although Luciano alleged that he never ever struck Lisa until she struck him first. Luciano also alleged that Lisa gradually developed a drinking problem. He further claimed that he attempted to work on the couple's problems. Luciano even occasionally met with the Elders from his wife's Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses to enlist their help to counsel Lisa Colleta about her issues and her alcohol consumption. Luciano Coletta also spoke to a priest as well as a psychiatrist. In early 2005, Lisa Coletta started cheating on her husband, and even traveled to the Virgin Islands with her new boyfriend to attend a niece's wedding. In December 2005, Lisa Coletta filed for divorce. Granted in May 2008.
CLICK HERE to read a January 2008 newspaper article reporting a "divorce and custody battle in the making". This unidentified Racine, Wisconsin couple consists of a Jehovah's Witness Husband/Father and a Catholic Wife/Mother. The wife called the Police to their apartment to report that her JW husband and she had had a day-long argument and fight on Sunday, January 13, because she had refused to attend services at the local Kingdom Hall that morning. The wife reported that the JW husband had made various threats as the day progressed, including that he strangled her until she blacked out, held a knife to her throat, threatened to cut her hand off, and to kill her. The mother was able to escape with her young daughter after the JW husband left, but not before first grabbing some booze and saying that he was going to commit suicide.
IN RE GOODLIFFE
was a 2008 Iowa court decision. Vincent Goodliffe and Rebecca Goodliffe were a Jehovah's Witness couple who were married in 1991, and subsequently had two daughters, Andrea and Alisa. The couple separated in 2004, and the divorce was effective in March 2005. The decree provided for joint legal custody of the children. Vincent was awarded physical care of Andrea, and Rebecca was awarded physical care of Alisa. A detailed visitation schedule was entered. At the time of the decree, Vincent and Rebecca lived in close proximity, and both children attended school in Des Moines.
In June 2005, Vincent moved to Afton, Iowa, which is approximately one-and-one-half hours from Des Moines to live with Tami, whom he married in February 2006. Tami has three children from a previous marriage who reside with Vincent, Tami, and Andrea in Afton. In February 2006, Rebecca married David. They have one child together, born in July 2006. David has four other children from a previous marriage. When David exercises his visitation (every other weekend and holidays), David's children stay with Rebecca, David, Alisa, and the baby.
At some point during the breakup of the marriage, both Vincent and Rebecca were disfellowshipped. Only Rebecca sought reinstatement and continued as a member of the WatchTower religion. Rebecca has multiple sclerosis. During the marriage, she was hospitalized several times, and for limited times was confined to a wheelchair. Rebecca has also sought treatment for depression. Since Vincent's move to Afton, which made the visitation arrangements as established in the divorce decree unworkable, the parties have experienced much conflict. In June 2005, Vincent initiated an investigation by the Iowa Department of Human Services alleging one of David's children was sexually abusing Alisa. DHS investigated the claim and concluded the abuse allegations were unfounded. In August 2005, Rebecca filed a petition for relief from domestic abuse. Among her complaints were allegations that Alisa was being sexually abused by one of the children in Vincent's home; that he was using an unregistered babysitter; and that he had removed Andrea from her school. Following an August 2005 hearing, the petition was dismissed.
Despite Rebecca's objections, Vincent enrolled Andrea in the East Union School District. Vincent also wrote a letter to the school stating Rebecca was not to visit with or take Andrea from the school without his permission. Andrea started school at East Union on August 22, 2005. Rebecca drove to Afton to get Andrea because Vincent had not returned her pursuant to the visitation agreement. Vincent refused to allow Rebecca to see or talk to Andrea. When Rebecca went to the school, school officials and the Union County Sheriff would not allow her to leave with Andrea. They requested she leave the school, and Rebecca complied.
On August 24, 2005, Rebecca reported to law enforcement officials that Vincent broke into her home, held a knife to her throat, and told her that if she did not drop the child custody issue, she would never see the children again. A police investigation revealed that at the time Rebecca claimed Vincent was at her home he was actually with co-workers on his way to work. On August 31, 2005, Rebecca filed a petition for relief from domestic abuse regarding the alleged incident, which was dismissed for failure to present sufficient evidence to enter a protective order. Rebecca was charged with filing a false report to law enforcement and ultimately entered a "no contest" plea to the charge.
In November 2005, Rebecca filed a petition to modify the divorce decree, seeking physical care of Andrea due to Vincent's move to Afton. Vincent filed an answer seeking sole legal custody and physical care of both Andrea and Alisa. The district court denied the parties' petitions to modify the decree and ordered liberal and reasonable visitation to be agreed upon by the parties. Vincent appealed, contending the district court erred by failing to modify custody to award him physical care of Alisa, and by failing to award him sole legal custody of both children. In January 2008, the appellate court affirmed.
HOEING v. WILLIAMS was a 2008 Indiana appellate court decision. In this case, a Jehovah's Witness Mother, named Christi J. Hoeing, successfully contested the granting of "grandparent visitation" to one of her children's grandparents, who was not a Jehovah's Witness, because those grandparents wanted to celebrate holidays with their grandchild.
Christi Hoeing was married at some point to Kevin Williams, and a daughter, "S. Williams", was born in January 1997. When they divorced sometime in the 2000s, Hoeing was granted custody of the child. Kevin Williams was granted visitation every other weekend and one evening per week, but stopped visiting with the child around April/May of 2006. Kevin Williams' whereabouts were unknown at the time of the hearing, in February 2007. during which Kevin's mother, Jean L. Williams, had petition the court for "grandparent visitation". After Kevin Williams disappeared around April/May 2006, Hoeing had permitted the child to visit with Jean Williams every other weekend and every Wednesday. In December 2006, Jean Williams asked Hoeing if their 9 year-old granddaughter would be able to come to the grandparents' home on Christmas Day. Christi Hoeing not only refused to allow the child to visit the Williams during Christmas 2006, but Hoenig even told Jean Williams that their 9 year-old granddaughter would no longer be permitted regular visitations.
WHY? Because, Christi J. Hoeing had been reared as a Jehovah's Witness, and although she had left the WatchTower religion, and although she had celebrated holidays and birthdays with all her children up until that point in time, Hoeing had recently re-joined the WatchTower religion, and Hoenig stopped celebrating holidays, etc. Hoenig was gracious enough to allow the Williams Grandparents to deliver Christmas and birthday gifts, but only on the condition that such gifts not be attributable to Christmas and their granddaughter's birthday in January 2007. In January 2007, Jean Williams filed a petition for "grandparent visitation", in which Williams explained that Hoenig had stopped regular visitations with their granddaughter, despite the fact that the child had visited with them weekly during the child's entire lifetime, and that their granddaughter had developed a close, strong familial relationship with her father’s side of the family. The Williams' Petition also noted that this recent controversy all centered around Christi Hoeing's recent re-conversion back to the Jehovah's Witnesses. In March 2007, the trial court issued an order that read in part:
"2. Jean I. Williams, paternal grandmother of [S.W.], a minor child, has standing to petition this Court for grandparent’s visitation with said minor child ... . The marriage of the child’s parents was dissolved in Indiana.
3. In light of the evidence presented, Petitioner has rebutted the presumption that the mother’s decision to deny Petitioner visitation is in the child’s best interest. The Court finds that Grandparent’s visitation is in the best interests of the minor child and the Petitioner has had meaningful contact with [S.W.] for the duration of the child’s life. It is in the child’s best interests to continue to have a close, familial relationship with her grandmother.
It is therefore, ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that:
1. Petitioner shall have reasonable visitation with said minor child. If the parties cannot agree to a visitation schedule, the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines shall apply ... .
Hoenig appealed, and the Indiana appellate court sided with Hoenig, and reversed the trial court's grant of "grandparent visitation", stating in part:
"... the Grandparent Visitation Act provides that a child’s grandparent may seek visitation rights if the marriage of the child’s parents has been dissolved in Indiana. Indiana Code ... states that the court may grant visitation rights if it determines that visitation rights are in the best interests of the child. In determining the child’s best interests, the court may consider whether a grandparent has had or has attempted to have meaningful contact with the child. ... ...
"Hoeing contends that the trial court erred in several respects in granting Williams’s petition for grandparent visitation. Typically, the determination of whether granting grandparent visitation rights is in a child’s best interests is a matter for the trial court’s discretion, reversible only upon a showing of an abuse of that discretion. ...
"We conclude that Hoeing has established prima facie error in the trial court’s decision to grant Williams - a grandparent with no constitutional liberty interest in visiting her grandchild - visitation rights nearly equivalent to those of a non-custodial parent. As noted above, the Grandparent Visitation Act contemplates only 'occasional, temporary visitation' that does not substantially infringe on a parent’s fundamental right 'to control the upbringing, education, and religious training of their children.' ... In Swartz, we reversed the trial court’s decision to grant the child’s paternal grandparents and great-grandmother visitation on alternate weekends, a schedule 'akin to that devised for non-custodial parents,' which would have resulted in the nine-year-old child living outside her custodial mother’s home seventy-three days per year. ... We noted that such an arrangement would 'fundamentally alter' the 'close, healthy, and loving' relationship between the child and her mother and was 'complicated by the possibility that [the child’s father] may also exercise his visitation rights at any time.' ... We further noted that the grandparents had 'essentially been given the visitation rights of [a] parent in lieu of [the child’s father], with no corresponding duties.' ...
"In this case, Hoeing points out ...
'Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the award of such extensive visitation to Williams clearly interferes with Hoeing’s constitutionally recognized fundamental right to control the upbringing, education and religious training of [S.W.] [Italics placed by appellate court.] Hoeing argued at trial that she was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, that although she had not been practicing the faith for awhile, she had recently gone back to following the precepts as a Jehovah’s Witness, which include not celebrating birthdays, Christmas, and other holidays. It is Hoeing’s constitutional right to control the religious training of [S.W.].'
"Constitutional considerations aside, we note that our legislature has specifically granted custodial parents the authority to 'determine the child’s upbringing, including the child’s education, health care, and religious training.' ... Such authority may be limited “after motion by a noncustodial parent” only if the trial court finds that the child’s 'physical health would be endangered' or 'emotional development would be significantly impaired.' ... In short, a child’s grandparent has no statutory authority to ask the court to limit the custodial parent’s right to raise that child as the parent sees fit.
"In light of the foregoing, we agree with Hoeing that the trial court’s visitation order impermissibly interferes with her fundamental right to control S.W.’s upbringing and religious training. Therefore, we reverse."
MATTER OF STEVENS was a 2007 New York Surrogate Court decision. This case involved the guardianship of a 35 year-old severely mentally retarded daughter of a Jehovah's Witness Mother and non-JW Father, who were divorced, and lived in different states. Ruth Grier Streety and Warren Streety, the mother and stepfather of Natalie Stevens, sought appointment as co-guardians of Natalie Stevens, and authority to make end-of-life decisions for her. Nathaniel Stevens, who was Natalie Stevens' biological father, who lived in California, opposed the appointment of Warren Streety as co-guardian, and the appointment of Hermana Finnie (probably also a Jehovah's Witness), Natalie's cousin, as standby guardian. Instead, Nathaniel Stevens sought appointment as co-guardian, along with his ex-wife, and appointment of his current wife, Betty Stevens, as standby guardian.
Ultimately, Judge Kristin Booth Glen decided to appoint Ruth Grier Streety as sole guardian of Natalie Stevens, with authority to make end-of-life decisions, and her current husband, Warren Streety, was appointed as standby guardian. Based on the totality of the circumstances, I will not quarrel with the decision. However, in her opinion, Judge Kristin Glen demonstrates her ignorance and shortsightedness on the issue of Jehovah's Witness Children and blood transfusions. Judge Glen wrote, in part:
"For many years, Ms. Streety has been a Jehovah's Witness and, as such, eschews blood transfusions. In accordance with the tenets of her faith, she cannot consent to a blood transfusion for herself nor would she consent to a blood transfusion for Natalie. However, she acknowledged that if medical professionals disagreed:
"'I know that they can overrule me and go to court and if they decided that she needed it they would give it to her anyway. So it would be out of my hands. There's nothing I can do about it.'"
... ... "Since at least 1968 it has been clear that, notwithstanding the First Amendment, the state has the power to override parental refusal of blood transfusion for minors where transfusion is necessary to preserve a child's life. (Jehovah's Witnesses in the State of Washington v Kings County Hosp., ... ). New York courts have not hesitated to intervene and order transfusions in life or health-threatening situations. (See e.g. Matter of Kevin Sampson, ... ; Matter of Brooklyn Hosp. v Torres, ... 1965]; cf. Matter of Jamaica Hosp., ... 1985]). Thus, were Ms. Streety given guardianship, her own personal religious reservation could - and undoubtedly would - be overcome if ever a transfusion were necessary to save Natalie's life. Ms. Streety has indicated her willingness to acquiesce in such a decision if it were '[taken] out of [her] hands.'
"While neither side submitted evidence on the frequency with which the necessity for blood transfusions arises, the possibility that Natalie's life could be threatened by refusal of a transfusion is surely remote. There is no controlling case law that would prevent granting 17-A guardianship - or custody of a minor child - to a parent solely because of her unwillingness to consent to a blood transfusion on some hypothetical future occasion. Rather, in the analogous area of custody the court may consider religion as one of the factors in determining the best interests but religion alone may not be the determinative factor (see Gago v Acevedo, ... 1995].) Only when physical conditions are so bad that they seriously affect the health of the children should the court intervene (see De Luca v De Luca ... 1994] [denying father's application for custody because mother's adherence to 'Jehovah's Witness religion would not allow his children to receive proper medical attention ... ']). Natalie has lived with her mother for 33 years of her life, and the issue of a blood transfusion has never arisen. It would be both unreasonable and unfair to deny Ms. Streety de jure guardianship when she has, for so long, lovingly exercised de facto guardianship without harm to her daughter. Ms. Streety's religious beliefs do not constitute a disqualification, nor should they weigh against her in any way. ( see Burkham v Burkham ... 2000]) [importance of continuity of care and residence; non-relevance of Jehovah's Witness's religious beliefs.]). ... ... ... ... ... ...
"Footnote 9: In a non-binding decision, Battaglia v Battaglia 9 Misc 2d 1067 [Sup Ct, Albany County 1958]), the court denied custody to a mother because, in the hypothetical cause of necessity for a transfusion, 'the child should not be deprived of life because the mother's religious persuasion opposes such transfusion.' (id. at 1068). That decision, rendered almost half a century ago, is surely outmoded, and based on assumptions and views which are no longer applicable.
Judge Kristin Booth Glen evidently assumes that no Jehovah's Witness Child has ever died in the ER during the time delay caused by Jehovah's Witness Parents who refuse to consent to a necessary life-saving blood transfusion for their child, and/or the further time delay caused by a Hospital's administration being forced to seek court authorization to administer the life-saving blood transfusion.
Judge Kristin Booth Glen evidently failed to consider the fact that as Jehovah's Witness Parents, Ruth Grier Streety and Warren Streety, are duty-bound by WatchTower rules to place a "NO BLOOD" card on Natalie Stevens' person, and/or in her file at any institution, school, or service which has temporary custody of Natalie.
Judge Kristin Booth Glen evidently failed to consider the fact that Ruth Grier Streety is not bound by her courtroom assertion of "her willingness to acquiesce in such a decision." Judge Kristin Booth Glen evidently failed to consider the fact that as a Jehovah's Witness Parent, Ruth Grier Streety is duty-bound by WatchTower rules to reconsider and reverse "her willingness to acquiesce in such a decision." Judge Kristin Booth Glen evidently failed to consider the fact that Warren Streety apparently never asserted such.
Judge Kristin Booth Glen evidently failed to consider the unique circumstances of this case, i.e., how Natalie Stevens' severe mental retardation might increase the possibility of physical injury in the future, or more significantly, the fact that Natalie Stevens' advanced age would possibly cause a Hospital's administration to not even contest her parent's refusal to consent to a blood transfusion, especially if Natalie Stevens was unconscious during an emergency scenario, or where Hospital staff was otherwise unaware of her legal incompetence; or at a minimum, increase the time delay, both in the ER and later in the courtroom, as the various issues are pondered.
Lastly, if Judge Kristin Booth Glen is going to ignore the BATTAGLIA decision, which has been cited for decades by numerous courts outside of New York state, and casually wave off its reasoning as "surely outmoded, and based on assumptions and views which are no longer applicable", then maybe she could have been kind enough to explain how the BATTAGLIA decision is "outmoded", and educate us as to the "assumptions and views which are no longer applicable."
WASHINGTON v. ALAMEDA COUNTY SOCIAL SERVICES ET AL (2004-5) and WASHINGTON v. ALAMEDA COUNTY SOCIAL SERVICES ET AL (2006-7) are related California federal court cases. An African-American Jehovah's Witness, named Lisa Washington, was the pro se plaintiff in both lawsuits, in which she alleged that numerous public and private defendants, who were motivated by racial and religious discrimination, conspired to "kidnap" her son.
In March 2002, Lisa Washington had a physical altercation with her son. Thereafter, Alameda County Social Services filed a dependency petition alleging that Washington had physically abused her son. During a series of state court hearings between June 2002 and November 2004, Washington’s ex-husband was eventually awarded custody of their son.
In November 2004, Washington filed the first federal lawsuit against numerous Alameda County agencies and employees, judges, attorneys, and numerous other private agencies and individuals who were anyhow involved with the state court proceedings. In February 2005, the USDC dismissed the complaint with leave to amend. In that Order, the Court instructed Washington that if she wished to file an amended complaint, she must comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) and provide a short, clear statement of her claims against each defendant. The Order also informed Washington that the judicial defendants were immune from suit, because she had not alleged any acts by these defendants that fell within the two limited exceptions to the doctrine of judicial immunity. The Order also advised plaintiff that if she sought review in this Court of the final determinations of a state family court, such claims were barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Finally, the Court informed Washington that the State of California was immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment.When Washington failed to filed an amended complaint, the USDC dismissed the action without prejudice, in March 2005.
In September 2006, Lisa Washington filed the second lawsuit, which appears almost identical to the first. In May 2007, Washington was granted leave to amend on her remaining claims. That 2007 order directed Washington that if she wished to amend the complaint, "she must comply with the following instructions and guidance: (1) plaintiff could not name the State of California or any judicial defendants due to immunity; (2) to the extent plaintiff is challenging the state court custody order, or any child support orders, the Court lacks jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine; (3) any 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and § 1985 claims arising from events prior to September 18, 2004 are untimely; (4) any 42 U.S.C. § 1986 claims arising from events prior to September 18, 2005 are untimely; (5) any §§ 1983, 1985 and 1986 claims against private entities and individuals must be based on specific factual allegations showing that the private parties were “willful participants in joint action with the State or its agents”; and (6) plaintiff cannot bring a claim under 18 U.S.C. § 1623(a) because that criminal statute does not create a basis for civil liability." On May 21, 2007, Lisa Washington filed an amended complaint, but failed to serve the Defendants with such. In August 2007, the USDC ruled:
"Plaintiff’s first amended complaint suffers from many of the deficiencies discussed in the May 9, 2007 order. Plaintiff has again named the State of California and state court judges and commissioners as defendants, and has re-alleged a claim under 18 U.S.C. § 1623. In addition, it is unclear why a number of defendants are named in the complaint, as the amended complaint contains specific factual allegations against only a few of the many defendants listed in the caption.
"However, the fundamental problem with plaintiff’s amended complaint is that it fails to allege facts showing that the claims are not barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine or the statute of limitations. The first amended complaint challenges numerous events from 2002-2004 related to plaintiff’s child custody proceedings. As the Court has repeatedly informed plaintiff, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars federal courts from reviewing allegedly erroneous state court decisions. ... Further, federal courts generally do not adjudicate domestic relations cases, including those involving the custody of children. ... Finally, the only facts mentioned in the amended complaint occurring after September 18, 2004 relate either to plaintiff’s federal lawsuits, or to an order allegedly issued by an immune state judicial defendant in 2006.
"Accordingly, for all of the reasons set forth in the Court’s prior orders and this order, the Court finds that plaintiff has failed to state any cognizable claims over which this Court has jurisdiction. The Court finds that further leave to amend would be futile, and thus the Court grants defendants’ motions to dismiss without leave to amend. ... As the Court informed plaintiff at the hearing, plaintiff is cautioned that filing any further lawsuits against these defendants regarding the child custody matters may subject plaintiff to sanctions."
JOSEPH AMBROSE v. ROBIN AMBROSE
and CONNECTICUT v. JOSEPH V. AMBROSE
are related 2005-07 Connecticut court cases. At some point around 2005, a Jehovah's Witness Elder
at the Canton Connecticut Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, named Joseph V. Ambrose, 54, and his wife, Robin Ambrose, 40, obtained a legal separation, and were pursuing divorce, but continued living in the same Canton, Connecticut house. The couple are the parents of four children, but only the three youngest still lived at home.
Jehovah's Witnesses On A Mission
One recent weekday morning, a group of well-groomed men and women gathered, Bibles in hand, in the parking lot of the Kingdom Hall in Canton.
Their destinations, after they divided into two carloads, were the doorsteps of homes in surrounding communities. Their mission was to spread the word that God is interested in mankind and that he will bring about changes in the world.
These are the publishers, the members of the Jehovah's Witnesses who travel door to door to discuss their beliefs. Almost every day, publishers head into nearby neighborhoods from the Kingdom Hall in Canton or Granby to discuss the words of the Bible with anyone who will listen.
It is a task Witnesses undertake to let their neighbors know what they believe the Bible predicts is in store for the world. Judging by the polite but uninterested reception they often receive, it's clear to many Witnesses that their purposes are misinterpreted.
"Most people have a lot of misunderstanding about Jehovah's Witnesses,'' said Rick Tomasko, an elder with the Granby Jehovah's Witnesses. "They think they know what we are . . . They don't because they've never talked to us.''
Jehovah's Witnesses believe the Bible is the word of God and suggest that many worldly events, particularly those they see as evidence of the continual decline of civilization, are fulfillments of a biblical prophecy.
They say the Bible predicts a time when God will destroy all evil influences, in the battle of Armageddon. Many people will survive Armageddon and many others will be resurrected from the dead. Afterward, all will live eternally in a universe filled with peace and beauty.
"The reason we go door to door is, [for example], if you saw your neighbor's house on fire, no matter what time it was, you would notify them,'' Tomasko said. "We feel the Bible gives clear indication that we're living in the last days of the system of things. We want to tell people . . . what the Bible has to say. We're not out to convert the world.''
What they are out to do is get their booklets and magazines into the hands of others and to impart the knowledge that everlasting life can be had here on Earth. On a good day of canvassing door to door, Witnesses find someone willing to discuss the Scriptures. On a really good day they reach somebody who is interested enough to request a call back in the future or perhaps to schedule a Bible study session at home.
"I placed six magazines Saturday and Sunday,'' said Joe Ambrose an elder in the Canton congregation, about his accomplishments on a recent weekend. "And I had four conversations in the morning. Normally, if we get in one good conversation, we feel we have accomplished something.''
Those seemingly slight achievements are just what Witnesses expect from their door-to-door ministry.
"We don't expect most people to listen,'' said Scott Perry, an elder in the Canton congregation. "Most will not be interested. We just want them to have the opportunity to know what will happen . . . to have a proper warning.''
The Canton Kingdom Hall, which was built in 1981, serves about 140 members -- up from the 100 who belonged when it opened. The Kingdom Hall in Granby, which took three days to construct in 1989, serves about 100 members. That congregation has decreased slightly over the years, Tomasko said.
There are 123 congregations with about 12,000 Witnesses in the state, according to Gary Breaux at the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society in New York, the headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Jehovah's Witnesses can trace their origins to the early 1870s in Pennsylvania, to a Bible study group led by Charles Taze Russell. By 1880, congregations from that group had moved into nearby states.
In 1884, Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society was incorporated. Its name was later changed to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. By 1909 the work had spread internationally and the society's headquarters moved to Brooklyn, N.Y.
New members trickle in slowly to the Kingdom Halls in Canton and Granby. Those who join often say their initial contact with the organization was that encounter on their doorstep. But becoming a Jehovah's Witness involves more than quoting the Bible. Those who join must be committed to the faith.
"Your conduct has to be right in harmony with the Scriptures,'' Ambrose said. "Your morals have to be right in line.''
Late on a Sunday night in January 2006, Joseph Ambrose attacked his wife with a pipe -- smashing her face and head. Ambrose later drove his wife to Hartford Hospital, where he let her out at around 2:00 AM, and he then fled. After a Monday long manhunt, which included a search of the fields and woods which surrounded the local Kingdom Hall by S.W.A.T., and a lockdown of nearly the entire town, police finally captured Joe Ambrose, who had a loaded pistol in his possession. Several more weapons were found at the home. The three children were temporarily placed with CPS. Police records also indicated a prior domestic violence incident in 2003, which involved Joe Ambrose and the oldest son who no longer lived at home. Joseph Ambrose was charged with attempted murder, first-degree assault and first-degree kidnapping. In October 2007, Joseph V. Ambrose was convicted on a single count of first degree assault and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
KRACHT v. KRACHT and ILLINOIS v. KRACHT were related 2004-5 Illinois court cases. In 2002, a Chicago area Jehovah's Witness, named Shaun Winston, started a "Home Bible Study" with Martin Kracht. Kracht, 22, soon converted to the JWs. In January 2003, Kracht married Winston's 19 year-old JW sister, Vanese Bell (or possibly half-sister -- the mother of Winston and Bell has even a third last name -- Sherry Harris). Emory Kracht was born sometime around January 2004. However, by Fall 2003, a pattern of domestic abuse and violence had developed, and the couple separated, but stayed in touch as Kracht continued attending Kingdom Hall meetings. By Fall 2004, Vanese Kracht filed for divorce. In the last week of November 2004, at the Sunday Kingdom Hall meeting, Vanese Kracht apparently agreed to bring Emory to the home of Martin's mother later that day, where Martin was apparently living. As it turns out, Martin Kracht had strangled to death his own 52 year-old mother on Saturday evening. Apparently, when Vanese and Emory arrived at the home, Martin also strangled them to death. Interestingly, Martin Kracht had been "disfellowshipped" only a few days previous. Martin Kracht reportedly attempted suicide twice. Police found him sitting inside a running auto inside a relative's garage. He had reportedly also eaten rat poison. Assumed that Kracht is now serving life without possibility of parole in an Illinois prison.
SMITH v. QUIGG was an extremely enlightening 2006 Ohio appellate court case. Gavin Izaak Smith and Christina Quigg, an unmarried couple, had a child named Izaak in April 1998. Smith was legally declared Izaak's father in December 1998. Smith filed for custody in January 1999, and Smith was declared the residential parent in October 1999. After Smith obtained custody of Izaak in 1999, the child resided at the home of Smith's parents, Gregory and Joyce Smith. Smith also had an older second child with whom he had visitation rights, and that second child also stayed with Gregory and Joyce Smith during such visitation. Smith did not always reside with his parents, but his two children always stayed with the Smiths, and were parented at least in part by them. Joyce Smith is a practicing Jehovah's Witness, and reared Gavin as a Jehovah's Witness, although he is currently "disfellowshipped" (excommunicated). Gregory Smith did not attend any church, but wanted Izaak to be reared as a Jehovah's Witness.
In February 2001, Christina Quigg was killed in an automobile accident. Christina's parents, Carla and Eugene Quigg, who were Methodists, were granted rights of companionship with Izaak in September 2001. On October 5, 2001, Smith denied the Quiggs their scheduled companionship. On October 10, 2001, the court allocated visitation rights to the Quiggs. Part of the order directed the Quiggs to comply with the wishes of Smith regarding the religious training for Izaak. Visitation with Izaak continued to be a source of conflict between the parties.
Jehovah's Witnesses do not celebrate birthdays, holidays, or political and national holidays. They do not say the pledge of allegiance, do not salute the flag, and do not honor other secular icons. Jehovah's Witnesses do not participate in competitive team sports. By contrast, the Quigg's Methodist church does not forbid those activities.
On January 2, 2002 and on August 22, 2002, the Quiggs filed a motion for contempt against Smith for denying their companionship rights. In the August 22 motion the Quiggs also moved for reallocation of companionship rights. On October 23, 2002, the court appointed a guardian ad litem for Izaak. On May 4, 2003 Dr. Jack Tarpey submitted his report on the psychological evaluations he had done on the Quiggs and on Smith. Dr. Tarpey reported Izaak had no developmental difficulties and was age appropriate in his behavior and abilities. Dr. Tarpey reported he observed Izaak's interaction with Smith and there was no indication of avoidance. Dr. Tarpey also indicated he found nothing in his evaluation of the Quiggs to justify Smith's criticisms of them, but noted that Smith had a strong motivation to deny them a relationship with Izaak.
On May 13, 2003, the Smiths commenced a proceeding to adopt Izaak in Franklin County, Ohio. Smith consented to the adoption of his son by his parents. The Fairfield County Court, where all prior legal proceedings had occurred, was not notified of the adoption proceeding, nor were the Quiggs, nor the guardian ad litem. On July 3, 2003, the Franklin County Probate Court issued a final decree of adoption.
When the fraudulent adoption was disclosed to the Quiggs, they took legal action. The Franklin County Probate Court vacated the adoption decree on August 28, 2003, and transferred the adoption case to the Fairfield County Probate Court, which subsequently dismissed the adoption proceedings. On September 2, 2003, the Quiggs filed a motion for emergency custody of Izaak. The court granted the motion. On September 11, 2003, the Smiths filed a motion to intervene, which was also granted. At the hearing on the emergency custody order, the Smiths were awarded temporary custody of Izaak with the Quiggs receiving companionship rights. The court ordered the Smiths to submit to psychological testing by Dr. Tarpey. Conflict between Smith and the Quiggs continued, and in December of 2003, the Quiggs again filed for emergency custody. The court granted the emergency custody order, and at the subsequent hearing, the court continued temporary custody of Izaak with the Quiggs. The Smiths received companionship rights, but Smith was not given any specific companionship rights. The court found appellant had abandoned Izaak and indicated he had no interest in parenting him. The record indicated Smith's previous practice was to share parenting time and duties with the Smiths and the court found Smith could continue to visit with Izaak when he was at the Smiths' home.
The guardian ad litem reported Gavin Smith repeatedly lied about his religious observances and church attendance, and the report gives the distinct impression the guardian ad litem questioned the sincerity of appellant's beliefs. The lower court record indicated that both Gavin Smith and his mother Janice Smith participated in emotional and physical abuse of Izaak. After Izaak reported incidents of sexual abuse, ie inappropriate touching, by Joyce Smith, the Fairfield County Children's Services investigated but did not intervene. The guardian ad litem was extremely critical of Gavin Smith and the Smiths, and their own counselor testified they were inflexible and Joyce Smith is hot-headed.
The court awarded temporary custody of Izaak on September 16, 2003 to the Smiths on their assurance they would honor the court's visitation orders in the future. However, the record shows they did not do so. On December 18, 2003 the court again entered an emergency ex parte order awarding custody to the Quiggs, and continued it on January 5, 2004 after a hearing. Apparently, Smith withheld Izaak from a 48 hour visit with the Quiggs because the Quiggs intended to trim their Christmas tree that weekend, which is contrary to the Smith's WatchTower religious beliefs. The record indicated that Gavin Smith and his parents paddled Izaak if he participated in any of the Quigg's activities if those activities were forbidden by the WatchTower Society.
The Quiggs moved for an order that the Smith Trio pay all attorney fees, guardian ad litem fees, psychological examination fees, and other costs associated with the proceedings. The court eventually sustained the motion and ordered appellant and the Smiths collectively to pay $105,540.37 with statutory interest. The court found the Smith Trio in civil and criminal contempt in the final entry dated December 30, 2004. The court found because of the contemptuous actions of the Smith Trio, the Quiggs were required to take drastic, prolonged court action. The court found all activity and expenses after the initial visitation order were a result of the Smith Trio's improper conduct. The court found the Smith trio had all operated in bad faith, and all the fees stemmed entirely from their refusal to comply with the orders of the court. The court found they all participated in the fraudulent adoption proceedings in July 2003. The court found the Smith Trio never had any intention to allow the Quiggs any contact with the child. The trial court specifically found both Gavin Smith and his parents had a "track record" of total disdain for any court order and believe their own personal wishes outweigh the court's order.
ARY v. DAVIS was a 2004-5 Oklahoma custody case, which involved a Jehovah's Witness couple named Jerry and Delphine Davis, a 2-year-old child whom the Davis' had been appointed custodial guardians, despite being unrelated to the child, and that 2-year-old child's paternal grandparents, named Kenneth and Murriel Ary.
Kenneth and Murriel Ary's daughter-in-law, Rebecca Stewart Ary, the child’s mother, and the Davises were friends. The Davises often served as baby-sitters until the spring of 2004, when Rebecca Ary apparently left the child in the Davises’ care for good after Rebecca Ary and Kenny Ary were ordered out of the Ary's home due to unspecified ongoing undesirable conduct. Kenny and Rebecca Ary moved to Oklahoma City, where they eventually attempted to cleanup their lives. The Davises were granted formal guardianship in January 2005.
The Arys had court-ordered visitation only every other weekend and overnight every other Tuesday. They also were not happy about having their granddaughter reared by Jehovah's Witnesses. However, the Arys were especially concerned about their grandchild's safety at the Davis home. According to a newspaper report about this case, one of the Davises' sons, named Leslie O. Davis, is a registered sex offender, who has served jail time. Leslie Davis reportedly pled guilty to a 1998 charge, and no-contest to a 2003 charge. Additionally, the Arys alleged that Enid police often were called after incidents involving members of the Davis family. An Enid Police Department report from September 2004 alleges the Ary child was nearly hit twice during an altercation between the Davises’ granddaughter and another teen. This custody case was supposed to be resolved in November 2005, but the outcome is unknown.
PAWLIK v. PAWLIK was a 2005 Indiana appellate court decision. Joseph T. Pawlik married Ivy Collins in March 2002, and a daughter was born around Nov/Dec 2002. In November 2003, Pawlik moved back home with his parents. He filed for divorce in December 2003. The decree of dissolution was entered on August 3, 2004. The court awarded physical custody of the daughter to Collins, with Pawlik getting visitation. Pawlik appealed the award of physical custody. Collins claimed the trial court erred in permitting Collins's counsel to question Pawlik's mother, Mary Ann Pawlik, about her JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES religious beliefs and practices:
Q. You go [to the Kingdom Hall for church services] several times a week? A. Uh-huh.
Q. Do you read [M.P.] Jehovah Bible stories? A. No.
[IT IS NEARLY A CERTAINTY THAT COLLINS LIED IN HER ANSWER TO THAT LAST QUESTION. THE WATCHTOWER SOCIETY PUBLISHES IT OWN BIBLE STORY BOOK FOR CHILDREN, AND IT IS NOT UNCOMMON TO HEAR JWs RELATING STORIES OF EXPECTING JW MOTHER'S READING SUCH OUTLOUD IN THE HOPES THAT THE UNBORN BABY WILL HEAR AND ABSORB THE STORIES.]
Q. As a Jehovah's Witness, are you discouraged, for example, from wearing or displaying a cross or a crucifix?
A. Well, we don't wear - well, we don't wear them because if you go in and you research, you find out that Jesus Christ didn't die on a cross. It actually was a pagan symbol. That's why we do not wear them.
Q. All right. So you are discouraged then as a Jehovah Witness from wearing or displaying a cross or crucifix?
A. No, it's my conscience. I'm not discouraged. You know, it's part of a pagan religion. And if you would do research, you would find that such [sic].
COLLINS LIED IN HER ANSWER TO THAT LAST QUESTION. NOT ONLY ARE JWs DISCOURAGED BY THE WATCHTOWER SOCIETY FROM DISPLAYING AND/OR WEARING CROSSES AND CRUCIFIXES, ANY JW WHO DID SUCH WOULD IMMEDIATELY BE DISFELLOWSHIPED (EXCOMMUNICATED) FROM THE JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES. THE WATCHTOWER SOCIETY TEACHES JWs THAT A CROSS IS ACTUALLY AN ANCIENT PHALLIC SYMBOL USED IN PHALLIC WORSHIP. THIS WAS NOT A SIMPLE ERROR ON HER PART. THIS IS ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS A CONVERT TO THE JWs IS TAUGHT. IT IS ALSO SOMETHING THAT EVERY JW REARED AS A JW WOULD KNOW.
Q. Are you discouraged from saluting the flag?
A. I do not salute the flag for the simple reason that I'm not - I pay my allegiance to my God, the God of the Bible, Jehovah. And I don't disrespect the flag. I would not ever do anything to disrespect the flag, spit on it, do any damage to the flag. I would not - you know, I have respect for laws, the government and laws. I wouldn't do anything to -
Q. Do you also refrain from celebrating holidays?
A. I do not celebrate certain holidays - religious holidays because of the origin of the holiday. And anybody can look in the encyclopedia and find out that a lot of the religious holidays all stem from pagan religion, start in Babylonia [sic]. That is the reason why I and all of the Jehovah's Witnesses do not celebrate those holidays.
Q. And you don't celebrate birthdays either, do you? A. No, we don't. No.
Q. - you don't believe in celebrating birthdays? According to your religion, it's too pagan?
A. The Bible has two birthdays that were celebrated in there and they were of men who were ungodly men. And again, you know, that's something that anybody can find out. No. But that doesn't mean that my son - my son is not one of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Q. We're talking about you. A. Okay. Fine.
Q. You're not too crazy about the Girl Scouts either. Right? A. What do you mean Girl Scouts?
Q. In your religion? A. I don't know about that. I never got into the Girl Scout thing. I don't -
Q. What is your position on voting?
A. What was I saying? No, I don't vote. I don't get involved in political - because when you get involved with politics, you are saying that you want that person to - you're saying you want that person to represent you. And no, I don't. But I still have respect for the governments and the rulers of the world. I do.
Q. Aren't there going to be about 144,000 people that will be chosen in your religion? A. 144,000?
Q. Yes. A. Well, in Revelation 7 and 14, it does say there are 144,000 that will be reigning with Christ in heaven for a thousand years and they will be kings and priests. It says that in that -
Q. And you believe that as part of the Jehovah Witness religion? A. Yes. That's - that's what the Bible says, you know.
Q. Are you one of the 144,000? A. Am I one of the 144,000?
Q. Uh-huh. A. Am I one of the chosen ones? That's something that is a personal thing with each person. Whoever it is, it's a personal thing.
Q. Is [Pawlik] one of the 144,000? A. I don't think so. He's not one of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Q. Is [M.P.]? A. She's not one of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Q. Would you like her to follow your path through Jehovah's Witnesses? A. That's up to her father.
In his appeal, Pawlik contended generally that this questioning violated the fundamental concepts of religious freedom and tolerance embodied in the Constitutions of the United States of America and Indiana, and specifically violated Indiana Evidence Rule 610, which states: "Evidence of the beliefs or opinions of a witness on matters of religion is not admissible for the purpose of showing that, by reason of their nature, the witness's credibility is impaired or enhanced."
In response, the appellate court ruled that the questions pertaining to Mary Ann Pawlik's religion did not relate to her credibility as a witness, but rather related to what sort of a factor Mary Ann Pawlik would be in the child's religious training in the event Pawlik was awarded physical custody. Indiana law provides: "Except: (1) as otherwise agreed by the parties in writing at the time of the custody order; and (2) as provided in subsection (b); the custodian may determine the child's upbringing, including the child's education, health care, and religious training."
The appellate court stated: "The foregoing provision confers upon the party awarded custody of a child the right to direct the child's religious training. Therefore, like any other matter affecting a child's health, education, and general welfare, the religious beliefs and practices of a party seeking custody are appropriate topics for the court to consider. It would make no sense to confer that right upon a custodial parent by virtue of the court's custody decision, but forbid the court from exploring factors that might come to bear upon the parties' respective exercise of the right. This is not to say the trial court should or even could make its determination based upon an assessment of which parties' religious beliefs are preferable. That clearly would be inappropriate. There are, however, legitimate reasons for the court to consider such evidence. For instance, the court is empowered to order the noncustodial parent to refrain from allowing the child to participate in activities that are inconsistent with the custodial parent's religious beliefs. ... The court might also need to know of the custodial parent's religious beliefs in fashioning its visitation schedule. ... The court also might need information about the parties' religious beliefs for purposes of determining the noncustodial parent's duties under the decree of dissolution. ... In short, there are practical, value-neutral reasons for the court to consider the parties' religious beliefs and practices that do not infringe on any of the parents' religious constitutional rights and liberties. We are satisfied that the questioning concerning Mary Ann's religious beliefs was not intended to buttress or impugn her credibility, but was instead aimed at gathering facts relevant to child custody and visitation matters to be decided by the trial court."
"In summary, we emphasize that Rule 610 applies in dissolution and custody proceedings just the same as it does in all other proceedings. We clarify today, however, that it does not operate as an absolute bar to evidence about the religious beliefs of parties seeking custody of a minor child. Rather, by its own terms, it operates only to bar the use of such testimony if it is offered for the purpose of buttressing or impugning the credibility of a witness. In the instant case, Pawlik lived with his parents at the time of the final hearing and had done so for a period of eight months. Although Pawlik testified that his goal was to secure his own housing, he admitted nothing had been done in that respect. It was undisputed that while Pawlik lived with Mary Ann, she assumed considerable responsibility in taking care of M.P. on a daily basis. Finally, we note that Mary Ann acknowledged Pawlik and M.P. did not share her religious convictions and practices. She further acknowledged that M.P.'s religious instruction would be Pawlik's responsibility - not Mary Ann's - in the event that Pawlik was awarded custody. Under these circumstances, and after reviewing the disputed cross-examination, we are satisfied the questioning of Mary Ann about her religious beliefs did not run afoul of Rule 610, and therefore did not violate anyone's constitutional rights. There being no other claim of error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court."
CONFLENTI v. HUFF was a 2004 Indiana appellate court decision. In 1994, Frank Conflenti and Alice (Robbins) Huff had an extra-marital relationship which produced a child. In 1996, Conflenti established paternity and was awarded visitation. Over the years, the parties' relationship had been extremely contentious, and both parties have filed numerous petitions and motions. The factor that produced the most controversy was Huff's decision to rear the child as a Jehovah's Witness, and the requirement that Conflenti observe the child's WatchTower tenets while the child is in Conflenti's custody. In August 2003, the trial court issued an order setting Father's parenting time in accordance with Huff's religious beliefs and ordering the payment of child support and attorney's fees.
The trial court specifically prohibited Conflenti from encouraging or allowing his son to participate in holiday-related activities, such as giving and receiving gifts and trick-or-treating. In addition, the trial court ordered Conflenti not to have parenting time on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. This appellate refused to modify the lower court's decision, stating:
"The custodial parent enjoys the right to determine the religious training of his or her minor children. ... A non-custodial parent may not impose that parent's own religious views on the child, and the custodial parent's right to choose religious training is paramount so long as the training does not unreasonably interfere with the non-custodial parent's right to parenting time. ... the custodial parent's right to determine the child's religious training can be limited only upon motion of the non-custodial parent demonstrating that the child's physical health or emotional development would be significantly impaired unless thecustodial parent's rights were limited."
The trial court ordered Conflenti to notify Huff within sixty minutes of any emergency for which their son required medical care and explain to her the nature of the emergency and the location where the child was receiving treatment, but failed to order Huff to do likewise. This appellate court reversed the trial court's decision on this issue requiring both parties to promptly provide medical information to the other party. (The blood transfusion issue was not specifically mentioned, thus it appears that Conflenti's attorney may not have raised this extremely important issue.)
BOOTH v. BOOTH was a 2004 New York appellate court decision. Ronald Booth and Loida Booth are the divorced parents of three children. The lower court awarded Ronald Booth sole custody of the former couple's three children, with Loida Booth receiving limited visitation, excluding unsupervised overnight stays.
Loida Booth had been diagnosed with depression and paranoia, but she refused to acknowledge that diagnosis or to obtain treatment for her mental condition. Loida Booth received disability income for that mental condition. (That is curious given the fact that SSA typically requires a history of diagnosis plus treatment to qualify.) The lower court also permitted Loida Booth, who is an active Jehovah's Witness to take the children with her to services at her local Kingdom Hall. However, Loida Booth was specifically prohibited from taking the children with her when she went out in "field service", or door-to-door recruiting. The appellate court stated, in part:
"Finally, the court allowed petitioner, who is a Jehovah's Witness, to take her children to religious services with her but prohibited her from taking them with her when she stopped at the homes of strangers in various neighborhoods to teach others about her religion. Contrary to the contention of petitioner, the court did not thereby infringe upon her constitutional rights inasmuch as there was no interference with her own religious practices. ... Contrary to the further contention of petitioner, the evidence established that it was not in the best interests of the children to accompany her to the homes of strangers."
DEALING WITH JEHOVAH'S WITNESS CUSTODY CASES
Wifely Subjection: Mental Health Issues in Jehovah’s Witness Women
Blood Transfusions: A History and Evaluation of the Religious, Biblical, and Medical Objections (Jehovah's Witnesses perspective)
Blood, Medicine, and the Jehovah's Witnesses: The Hidden History of the Watchtower's Position on the Blood Issue
Jehovah's Witnesses and the Problem of Mental Illness
FREE JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES CHILD CUSTODY DVD -- BATTLING OVER THE CHILDREN
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