“Exposing Kids to Parent’s Religion Desirable”
THAT was a headline in The Lawyers Weekly, a Canadian law journal. The accompanying article gave details of a noteworthy decision rendered by the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, Canada. In that decision, the court affirmed the right of noncustodial parents to expose their children to parental religious beliefs.
The case involved parents who had separated in 1983, with the wife gaining custody of the two children, eight- and ten-year-old boys. The issue in the case arose more recently when the father became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The mother tried to bar the father from exposing the children to his religion during their visits with him.
In the ruling, Nova Scotia Supreme Court Judge Donald M. Hall declared that although the mother had custody of the children, she could not interfere with the father’s exposing the boys to his religious beliefs. Judge Hall said that he was satisfied “beyond any question of doubt, that no harm is coming to the children from their exposure to their father’s church, his friends in the church, and the beliefs and practices of the church.”
Judge Hall added: “It seems to me that the values and basic teachings of the church will be of assistance to the children in establishing for themselves proper standards of values and standards of conduct as they mature.”
The Lawyers Weekly noted: “Both Mr. Pole [a lawyer for the father] and John M. Burns, of W. Glen How & Associates in Georgetown, Ont., a firm which represents Jehovah’s Witnesses across the country, charge that it is ‘completely unethical’ for lawyers to use religious beliefs against parents in child custody and access proceedings.”
The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia agreed, for Judge Hall stated: “It is inappropriate to call into question a person’s beliefs in a proceeding such as this except for very strong reasons, and it indeed may be unconstitutional.” The decision followed a similar ruling in favor of Jehovah’s Witnesses by an Ontario court a few months previously.