The Indy Star reports:
Bradford refused to remove the provision after the 9-year-old boy's outraged parents, Thomas E. Jones Jr. and his ex-wife, Tammie U. Bristol, protested last fall. ... The parents' Wiccan beliefs came to Bradford's attention in a confidential report prepared by the Domestic Relations Counseling Bureau, which provides recommendations to the court on child custody and visitation rights.
Notice that both parents are Wiccan. This isn't a case where one parent isn't a Wiccan and doesn't want their child exposed to it by the other. If it were such a case, then there might be some remotely reasonable basis for Bradford's order — at the very least, the judge would have the excuse that he is acting in the interests of both parents' custodial responsibility. Maybe.
But that's not what is going on. Both parents are Wiccan and, presumably, have some general agreement on what they believe and what they would expose their son to. Cale J. Bradford, however, doesn't want them to do this. The judge is interfering with the religious beliefs and upbringing of their son. Now, it's impossible for the child to celebrate important religious holidays with either parent — imagine if a child were prohibited from celebrating Easter or Christmas with his parents.
Jones' son attends a local Catholic school. "There is a discrepancy between Ms. Jones and Mr. Jones' lifestyle and the belief system adhered to by the parochial school. . . . Ms. Jones and Mr. Jones display little insight into the confusion these divergent belief systems will have upon (the boy) as he ages," the bureau said in its report.
This is a completely unbelievable excuse. The boy shouldn't be exposed to Wicca because he is also being exposed to Catholicism at a Catholic school and this might cause confusion? Why doesn't Cale J. Bradford forbid him from being sent to a Catholic school instead — why privilege the exposure to Catholic beliefs over the exposure to Wicca? Would the judge similarly prohibit parents from exposing their child to Hinduism? Buddhism?
Cale J. Bradford doesn't actually define what a "non-mainstream" religious belief or ritual is, so anything could potentially qualify so long as the judge doesn't personally approve of it. Who does Bradford think he is to declare that "non-mainstream" religious beliefs should have fewer rights and protections than mainstream religious beliefs?
"When they read the order to me, I said, 'You've got to be kidding,' " said Alisa G. Cohen, an Indianapolis attorney representing Jones. "Didn't the judge get the memo that it's not up to him what constitutes a valid religion?"
"The federal government has given Wiccans protection under the First Amendment," [Lawrence W. Snyder, an associate professor of religious studies at Western Kentucky University] said. "Unless this judge has some very specific information about activities involving the child that are harmful, the law is not on his side."
"That's blatantly unconstitutional," [David Orentlicher, an Indiana University law professor] said. "Obviously, the judge can order them not to expose the child to drugs or other inappropriate conduct, but it sounds like this order was confusing or could be misconstrued."
It's amazing that any judge would think for a minute that he had the authority to forbid parents from exposing their child to a religion they all shared for the past nine years. Not only should this provision be struck form the divorce agreement, but there should be some means for holding Cale J. Bradford accountable for what he has done. A man like that simply cannot be trusted to uphold the law.