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Article ID: 2168

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Section: white

Age Group: Adult

Days Up: 7,856

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Pagan Divorce: Child Custody - An Overview

Author: Wren
Posted: July 26th. 1998
Times Viewed: 25,188

A divorce is a significant event in a person's life. Whether or not the divorce is amicable or ugly, a mutual agreement or an adversarial battle, the mere action of the dissolution of a marriage will have its impact on the entire family. When children are involved, the courts will take an added interest in the case. This legal concern about the "best interests of the children" would be something that we all could embrace in a perfect world where every decision was indeed both fair and equitable and did in fact result in the best interests of children impacted by divorce.

However, the world is made up of people who make decisions and act in ways that often reflect-consciously or not- their own personal viewpoints and/or prejudices. Fair or not, these little items of personal baggage often have an effect on the process. That is why it is important for you to have some basic knowledge of the legal system, how it works and how you can get it to work for you.

As a Witch, Wiccan or Pagan, you already have years of stereotypical or derogatory images to contend with. When these images begin to be flashed about in a court of law, you are likely to feel intimidated, threatened or overwhelmed. Don't panic. Don't despair and don't ever let them see you sweat.

Let's get real! Just about the only time Witchcraft, Wicca or any other form of Paganism would even come up in a custody case is because someone-spouse, child social services or an adversary lawyer-is attempting to influence the court and somehow "prove" that your religious choice is harmful to your children. This hurts. This makes you angry. This gets you scared. This sucks.

Now, you'd think that the First Amendment-you know the part that states that, "...Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." would pretty much prevent this sort of thing. After all, Witchcraft/Wicca is a constitutionally protected religion. That means this "free exercise" clause applies to you, too.

The most often cited opinion relating to the issue of whether (in this case) Wicca is a religion deserving First Amendment protection is Dettmer v. Landon in 1985.

A Wiccan prison inmate brought a civil rights claim alleging that his Free Exercise rights had been violated by prison officials who refused him access to religious objects and worship materials.

The district court in that case ruled that adherents of the path of Wicca:

  • Exercised a belief system "'parallel to that filled by the orthodox belief in God".

  • "Adhere to a fairly complex set of doctrines relating to the spiritual aspect of their lives.' These doctrines concern ultimate questions of human life, as do the doctrines of recognized religions."

  • "Believe in another world and have a 'broad concern for improving the quality of life for others.'"

  • Believe in a "supreme being." (Gods and Goddesses)

  • Engage in ceremonies comparable to those of recognized religions.

  • Worship both individually and as organized groups.

  • Acknowledge spiritual leaders.(Priests, Priestess, Elders)

  • Have a long history. (It {Wicca} "enjoyed a following in Northern Europe during the Middle Ages as an ancient pagan faith, losing public expression when systematic persecution began in the fifteenth century. It regained some popularity after repeal of English witchcraft laws... .")

Good Decision!

The Supreme Court in Thomas v. Review Board, also stated "'religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection", and in Yoder v. Wisconsin, that the free exercise of religious beliefs includes the right to direct the religious upbringing of one's children. That should have been the end to all this sort of nonsense.

Remember that "perfect world" that I spoke of earlier? This ain't it.

But each case brings us a little bit closer...



Location: Tampa, Florida

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