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Austin Cline

Indiana: Judge Forbids Parents Teaching Son Wicca

By May 26, 2005

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Cale J. Bradford, chief judge of the Marion Superior Court in Indianapolis, has forbidden a divorced mother and father from exposing their son to "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals" - which essentially means their Wiccan beliefs. Why? Apparently because the judge doesn't approve.

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.

Read More:

September 19, 2006 at 6:02 pm
(1) Chelsea says:

Im just going to come right out and say that judge should be REMOVED from his position as a judge. I have never heard of something so stupid. When I read this I was completely outraged. I am a Wiccan parent and I would ignore this decision. Our constitution says Freedom of Religion and Wicca is a relgion. I would hope that they (the parents) would seek some sort of an overturn or would just teach their children anyway they please after all they are the parents. This judge who is incredibly ignorant should read up on the truth about Wicca and let these parents raise their child.

April 6, 2009 at 12:04 am
(2) Anayah says:

I don’t know that he should be “removed” from his bench based on one seriously stupid incident but definitely educated on his ignorance.

I’m sure they did ignore his ruling to the extent of continuing to teach the boy the Wiccan values. As far as the actual ruling,it was overturned on appeal.

June 13, 2009 at 12:08 pm
(3) Rev. Darcie Clausen De Velez says:

This is a clear violation of both the parents and childs rights of Freedom of Religion under the Constituition of the United States. The Government nor State have NO right to interfer with one Religious Beliefs.

President Clinton during his tenor in office safeguarded children with such a protection that Schools, Courts and State officials do not have the right to determine in religious beliefs or symbols in which are worn by children in school.

He needs to be removed from his position.

Know your Legal Rights, please view the document at http://templeofdianainc.org/KnowyourLegalRights.doc it covers the rights of Parents and Children.

August 28, 2009 at 12:14 pm
(4) K. says:

Did this judge ever get removed and were the parents allowed to raise their child in their beliefs? Are there any updates to this in the four years since?

February 1, 2010 at 5:10 am
(5) WTF says:

No the judge shouldnt lose his job but he should be removed from the bench, by an angry bear, and then immediatly skinned alive set on fire and then dropped into a swimming pool filled with lemon juice alcohol and salt and have a spiked pool cover sealed over the top. This is one of the more outrageous pieces of shit rulings I’ve heard in my life, and I’ve heard some whoppers. Someone get a giant rubberband and snap that guy the fuck out of it before someone else decides to wink at him from a mile and a half away.

August 4, 2010 at 4:24 pm
(6) Beenthere says:

I agree with the judge. The conflict presented to the child is paramount.
While, the adults have the maturity to process and then discard the conflicting beliefs of Catholicism and Wiccanims, the child does not have the added years of maturity.
His brain, his impressionability, his cognitive level and his emotional age all need to be taken into account.
The judge’s ruling would stand up in the Supreme Court.
It is correct.

August 9, 2010 at 11:03 am
(7) Chris says:

Having attended Catholic grade school and high school with students who weren’t Catholic, I can say that while you might be correct about the Supreme Court, you’re wrong about the boy. I have seen children as young as 7 and as old as 18 hold firmly and without confusion to the faiths they were raised with, while simultaneously learning about Catholicism.
You also seem to forget that Catholic school doesn’t only teach Catholicism. The primary aim of a Catholic school is to teach a child what he or she ought to know, so they can continue their education successfully, only with a religion class and a few masses thrown in. Who’s to say that this boy wasn’t unusually mature or intelligent for his age, and would have had little or no problem attending a Catholic school and learning about Wicca from his parents?

October 18, 2012 at 3:12 pm
(8) Steven R says:

OK this judge needs to be removed, his orders of not expossing or teaching wicca to the kid is wrong and cant be inforce. A note to the judge my x-wife and I are pagon/ wiccan and we not only do but will continue to teach our two girls ages 12 and 13yrs old this as our right. and even if you want to try to come after either one of us go ahead and try . i will turn my self in ass hole and you will be infor one hell of a law suit. its our constitution right freedom of religion and to also practice any belief so your ruleing is wrong and you are up for a lot of trouble. Bless a be. Ass Hole aka judge.

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