I was thinking what to write about myself. My mind shut down and I wasn't sure what to write, and how to write to make it interesting. I guess I got intimidated. But I will do my best and I hope you will like it.
my name is Sara. I am a mother of 3 lovely children that I love them with all of my heart.
I am living a life that is not easy. My life choices are not mainstream. My husband and me decided to do what is best for us and our family. The price is the people's disapproval and we sometimes people around us try to force us to conform to their way they believe, and they take us to court, and we end up having to fight for our fundamental to live our lives in our way.
We believe in living a holistic lifestyle. I will share a little about this with you. We are eating as healthy as available. using fruits and vegetables in our diet, and high quality foods, like whole grains, seeds and nuts and fats.
We believe in solving health problems by addressing them to the roots and not just taking medicines. We don't vaccinate our children. First of all, vaccinations go against our religion beliefs. The vaccines contain cells from aborted babies, and this is just one of the reasons we don't vaccinate. I believe in sanctity of life, regardless if the person is born or unborn, and therefore we believe its unacceptable to use their cells.
In our house there is no 'Tylenol' or 'Advil' We are aware if there is any fever or any pain, it signals that something needs to be helped, instead of suppressed and ignored. Pain is the body's smoke alarm. Find the source of pain, resolve it at its roots and the pain is gone. If the child has fever, he needs rest, not taking a medicine to go around feeling 'better' as if she isn't sick and needing to rest! In my experience the discomfort goes away very quickly the moment the problem is addressed and taken care of.
As for fear if the fever will go dangerously up, let me tell you something: Fevers that go dangerously up, they would go up anyway, even if Tylenol was taken religiously! Tylenol can't cure big diseases, and unnecessary for small diseases.
I birthed my 2 younger children at home, unassisted. There is a large support group for women who choose to birth unassisted at home. There are thousands of women who do this in the US and in the rest of the world. When I was pregnant with my first son, I wondered why are the animals having such easy births, and humans suffer births so much. The biblical story of Adam and Eve and their curse that Eve will birth with sorrow didn't make much sense to me, because I heard about the Native American women who gave birth unassisted. The story goes like this. They were working in a field, and when she went into labor, she went behind the bush, or climbed a tree or went to her hut, or whatever is it traditional in her tribe. she would squat and easily birth the baby into her own hands. She would bundle the baby in a homemade sling, tie it on her body and she would go out to the field to continue to work as if nothing happened! This inspired me so much! I
I heard also about the Yemenite women who birthed almost as easily. They would stop their housework go to their private corner and just have the baby, wash the baby put her in her clothes tie the baby on her body and continue the housework as usual. I just didn't get it how did the Eve's curse skip on these women. They had painless births.
I searched the internet about birth and found Laura Shanley. She told stories of her 4 unassisted births she birthed her children. She had 5th child born to die few hours later. The doctors confirmed her 5th child had a fatal heart defect, there was no way for medicine to save that baby. A mainstream mother would probably find this problem in ultrasound scanning and be told to abort the defected baby.
My 2 younger children births were amazing. When I went into labor, and it was intense, I filled up the bathtub with water and had uneventful relatively easy births. My youngest was at least over 9lbs. No tears. I birthed them to my own waiting hands. I got my dream to birth them without painful interventions or birth trauma that happen in hospitals. Many of the babies saved in the hospitals were from birth complications that were caused in first place by the interventions. Any intervention. Even merely sitting down with a strap around the mother's abdomen can complicate the birth. Or merely fasting, can tire the mother and make her contractions ineffective. Or when doctors induce the birth by medicine or by breaking the waters, it also can cause distress to the baby. Rushing things alone make births more painful and more dangerous than they should be.
I am so grateful my husband was on my side with these births. I am aware that most men are fearful of births with no professional let alone at home!
3 years ago we lived in Israel. My youngest son started to look ill. He got pale, and lost his weight. He was tiring easily. He threw up every morning. I knew he was not well. He had no fever. I took him to the doctor to check why he isn't well. Doctors are good in diagnosing problems in many cases. But the doctor didn't see anything wrong with the child. When Moshe told me he is dizzy and sees double and his heads hurts 'back there' I suspected it was cancer. More specifically I suspected it was Medulloblastoma. The symptoms matched this.
Years before someone very special taught me of cancer cure that can be done at home in most cases. My own mother had cancerous tumor and I used what I was taught on her, and she did the protocol 32 days until the surgery, then when she had the surgery to remove the tumor, the doctors said it wasn't so malignant as it was thought before. Actually the tumor was dried like a prune and almost dead. She decided to continue with the protocol for another 32 days.
The doctors still pushed her for chemo and radiation. I told her not to. I got on information that cancer industry is actually a scam. It kills more people than cancer actually kills. The war on cancer is actually a scam. There are many effective cancer cures but the cancer industry don't want these cures to be known to the public. They make so much profits they don't want to lose it. They make trillions of dollars every year. Each cancer patient brings profit of around $250,000 in the duration of his or her illness. Chemotherapy and radiation and surgery are actually killing the patient. Its poison, burn and cut! It doesn't address the root reason why the cancer came in the first place. When the body is at its worst threat to its lives, it means the body is at distress. It needs to be helped. It can be helped by detoxifying, by giving its proper nutrition, and also address the emotional issues behind cancer. Sometimes physical trauma and lack of oxygen to a limb can bring caner. In many cases cancer thrives in a body because the body is acidic and lacks oxygen. The acidity is induced by improper diet of too much sugar, of too much processed foods and also of emotional stress.
My son's teacher was very concerned about my son as he threw up every morning in pre-school and was tired all of the time. (the symptoms were worst in the morning, but during the day he seemed ok, so I didn't see him at his worst when he came home from the pre school.) When I decided to take him to the hospital, the teacher drove me with my son to the hospital as my husband was in US.
When I came to the hospital with my son, I asked them to do MRI scanning. They first did eye test to determine if he has some problem in his brain. The eye test determined that he has indeed some problem. The optic nerves in his eyes were swollen, indicating that something in the brain is pressing on the eye nerves.
My son ran to the bathroom to throw up again. He was very tired as usual. They let him to lie in the bed to sleep. His turn to MRI came. They wheeled his bed with my sleeping son on it to the MRI room. The MRI worker thought he was anesthetized . I told him that he fell asleep naturally. They wanted to give him sleeping medicine so he won't move. I convinced them to let him sleep on and to not give him any anesthesia. My son woke up. He was groggy. I told him to keep still.
After 20 minutes in MRI a professor came in. From him not being there before to his solemn face, I knew something was wrong.
The professor called me to go to his office. A male nurse with green outfit came along. (I was thinking, he is to give me sedation in case I freak out to the bad news)
When I was seated in the professor's office, the professor said this: "He has a tumor in his brain, and it doesn't look good"
I asked him , "Is it Medulloblastoma?"
He said, " Its very likely to be this or could be Ependymoma but its more likely to be Medulloblastoma"
I said I knew it.
Now the professor was panicking. "You don't get it?!!!!" He screamed, "your child's life is in danger!!!!!"
I knew he was freaking out because I didn't react the way he expected me to react: Scream my head off, cry, throw myself on the floor, bang my head on the wall or whatever.
So I told him "yes I got it very well. I know my son is in danger and if you don't give him surgery NOW he will die"
The doctor calmed down as he saw I did get it. He said, "Yes that's right. He needs immediate surgery. His life is in immediate danger. I have to give him surgery the first thing tomorrow morning. I am pushing off other client surgery as your son's is an emergency!
I asked the professor if he could reschedule the surgery in next month as it all was overwhelming and all of the sudden. In my mind I hoped he will say its not so dangerous and he can push it off so I could use the natural protocol I used on my mother and have him healed within that month. But the professor said again its critical to be done as soon as possible!
My other children were home. I had no way to go home. I had the hospital's social worker to call my aunt to notify her of the situation. I am deaf and unable to speak on the phone. I had her to call my oldest son's best friend mother to have my 2 oldest children at her home.
My aunt came to stay with me overnight with my son. We went to stay at NICU as my son was in danger that the tumor will stop his heart or his breathing. The tumor was at brain stem by critical body functions. In the night my son had his vitals monitored. my son couldn't sleep. He called me. He said that he is afraid to die. I asked him does he see himself going by airplane to visit far place in next few years and he said yes. Then I told him, don't worry you are going to live, and if you will die, it will be only after many years if he will get very old. He said 'good' and went to sleep.
I thought that after the surgery I will be able to choose the way to treat my child to wellness. I was very against chemo and radiation as I knew they are so damaging and can cause cancer to come again.
In the morning I had to take my son to the shower before the surgery. It was so scary. It felt like I was taking to his last shower before taking him to the gallows. I was afraid what if the surgery will damage him? What if it will render him blind? What if it will render him unable to walk? What if it will impair his hands function? What if it will make him mentally retarded? I knew all of the real risks of this surgery!
My son was afraid of the surgery but he was more afraid of death, that why he came along.
The child was walking with no hesitation to the surgery room. He was looking around the hospital's corridors and at the nurse who accompanied us with big alert serious eyes. My heart broke. He looked his normal self, so OK! I was screaming inside I didn't want him under the scalpel. I didn't want him to be handicapped or damaged.
When he was in the surgery room, I could tell him a goodbye. I kissed all over his face and told him how much I love him, and that I will pray for him and I let him kiss my hand. As they injected him with anesthesia he was kissing my hand nonstop until he drifted off to sleep. His kisses got weaker and weaker until his lips didn't move anymore. The nurse pulled me backwards as the surgeons surrounded him and I was taken out of the surgery room. I kept my eyes on my son that was almost hidden from view from the doctors being busy around him, until the door closed, blocking the sight. I went to the waiting room.
The surgery was expected to take 7 hours. My aunt was with me to support me. I prayed psalms from the book. I took a pillow put it on the floor and used my laptop on a chair to update my friends about the surgery.
I cried so much all of these hours! One time I went to the bathroom. I was so distraught from sorrow I forgot to lock the door. I lied on the floor and cried and cried. Someone opened the door and was socked to see me. I got up and went out, and apologized to her.
The surgery went on 9 hours. He was sent back to the NICU. He was on breath support, and with water iv to nourish him.
My husband came to Israel to be by our side.
It was 1 whole week before my son woke up. When he woke up he looked terrible. He was groggy. His eyes were very crossed. He wasn't very responsive. He wasn't himself anymore. He couldn't eat or drink. He had pneumonia.
Eventually they let my son to sit on wheelchair. I immediately wheeled him outside to sit in the sun every day. The sun has amazing ability to heal pneumonia. He wasn't coughing well to get fluids out of his lungs. It was part of the reason he had this.
The nurse wanted my son to use diapers. I insisted he goes to the bathroom. My son was aware enough to nod his head to signal he wants to go to the bathroom. The nurse was angry that I wanted to remove him from his bed to go to the toilet. I had to support him and hold him helping him to walk and to hold his weight on his feet.
The hospital personnel decided to start him on chemo at 10 days after the surgery. He was barely alive. I knew it can get him worse. I told the doctors to push the aggressive treatments to later when he will get stronger. I told the doctors there are better ways to treat cancer without hurting him. The doctors disagreed with me and wanted to go ahead with a very aggressive chemo and radiation treatment.
In these days my son was barely alive. When he was sleeping, he was monitored. His vitals would plummet and the machines will beep. The nurses didn't always pay attention to this. I had to watch him every night to make sure he doesn't sleep too deeply. Every time I would see the numbers of his heartbeats or his oxygen levels plummet, I would gently touch him to wake him up a little to stabilize them.
Only at 5 am when the people in the hospital started to wake up, his vitals would stabilize. It was the time I joined sleeping with him in the bed. I had to sleep together with him so I would be his pacemaker to keep him from sleeping too deeply. And if he will be too still I would wake up to check on the monitor over his bed to see if his vitals are OK.
If I would put him on the wheelchair he would slump being unable to sit upward.
My son was on steroids and he was very hungry. He wanted to eat. I gave him food. The nurses didn't let me to feed him or water him from fear it will choke him. But he was eating relatively well. He was eating slowly but reasonably. I gave him to drink only water, in case it will be inhaled to his lungs, it won't harm him. The nurses put him nasal cannula to feed him with 'Ensure' My son didn't like the cannula and he removed it. The doctor threatened us that if he will remove it again, they will make him a surgery to insert a tube to his stomach. I told the doctor the child is eating. The child is hungry. What you are doing to him, is making him weaker. He was losing weight from being prevented from eating.
When the doctors scheduled to start his treatments on the 10th day after the surgery I planned to escape with him on a day before. I wanted to come to the USA in an hope they will be more humane than in Israel. I found out that the present hospital we were at, their statistics were just 80% of survival for the first 5 years after being diagnosed with Medulloblastoma. I found out there were other hospitals that boasted of 85% .
I found a friend who agreed to take me from the hospital. We sneaked out on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, when they were the least guarded. I took my son for a 'walk' on wheelchair and we sneaked to their car. We went to their house. I closed my facebook account and my email account to prevent the police from harassing my friends.
Later I heard they arrested my husband and one friend of mine and held them at the police station for hours to question them into the night.
In these days we were at my friend house, my son ate very well. He was gobbling up food to make up for the days he wasn't allowed to eat. he ate and drank very well. Once he almost chocked on the chicken soup. I slapped on his back. He eventually coughed it all out. It was obvious he re-learned to cough.
After 2 days we hid at my friend's house my friend was too fearful to hold us. The police were searching for us all over the country with helicopters and patrol cars. We waited to Monday when the US embassy will be open, in an hope I will be able to leave the country safely.
My friend got me on a taxi that took me to the embassy. At the embassy I took my son inside. I asked them for help. They refused to help us and said they are not involved. So I asked them to phone call to a malpractice lawyer on the phone (I had his number in advance) and when confirming he is home, send me with the taxi to his house. I was determined to stop a malpractice before it happens.
I came to his house. He let me in with my son and the suitcase I took with me. I don't know how did I manage to drag my son along with the suitcase. He would lean on the suitcase and take lots of rests. The suitcase gave him some support as I held him from the back and I pushed the suitcase.
5 minutes after we were at his house, and the lawyer gave me and Moshe water someone knocked on the door. It was 15 policemen. They came in and crowded the whole living room.
I asked the lawyer did you call the police? He was upset with me for blaming him. I told him I don't blame you I just ask! And one of the police officers told me they don't need the lawyer calling them as they know everything about me. I told the police officer, if you know everything about me, why did it take you 2 whole days to find us?
The policeman asked me why is my facebook and email accounts are shut, I told him, Look, I had to close them so you won't harass my friends. They have nothing to do with my escaping.
The policeman laughed and waged his finger at me.
Social workers came and took us in their car, accompanied with 3 other police cars and with my suitcase and my baggage straight back to the hospital.
At the hospital they checked my son, and immediately inserted a needle in his arm to prepare him for an iv line. They weighed him. he gained 4.5 pounds in the days we were absent. I told the doctor, "Don't dare to do the don't eat and the cannula nonsense!" I told him, you the doctors believe in facts and numbers? You see his weight scale is heavier. The child is breathing better. He isn't chocking so let him eat and drink!!!" The doctor raised his hands helplessly and said, "OK OK!!!" When the nurse came in and told me: "The child isn't allowed to drink. he will be allowed only Jello and we need to insert the cannula again," I just shaked my hand impatiently. She left us alone at that and didn't push us anymore.
We had 4 weeks of grace of no chemo and no radiation. As they were waiting for court to determine what to do. I used this time to give him the natural protocol I gave to my mom. Most of the hospital's food fitted the diet according to the protocol: potatoes, mashed potatoes, vegetable salad, and I brought food of my own: oats to make oatmeal, fruits and veggies, juice machine to make him juices. By that time people from newspapers interviewed me and even on TV.
At nights they put a nurse in our room to watch us that we won't escape again. During the day 2 men with guns were watching us. It took them few days to allow us to take my son outside to the daily 2 hourly sunbathing.
We were moved to the oncology department.
My friends brought me lots of fruits and vegetables. I had to store them in boxes. The room looked like a grocery store. It annoyed the nurses. They complained the smells cause the other cancer patient in our room to be nauseous. I didn't understand why do they complain as the other patients had lots of cakes and candies in their room and they had strong smells of cakes and candies. And somehow they didn't make them nauseous. So I checked to see if their complaints were genuine or just because they disliked to see us eating unusual food . I put all of the fruits and the vegetables in the closet and left the doors open (to maintain freshness) and covered with drape. The nurses thought they were gone and didn't realize the fruits and the vegetables were actually hidden.
One of the doctors asked me to make her one of my healing juices. I made her and she loved it! (4 carrots, 2 apples, 2 celery stalks)
Every morning I made my son orange-apple juice with its peels and seeds, (1 orange + 1 apple)
I researched about other hospitals in Israel that treat cancer. I found an other hospital who had better statistics than the hospital we were at.
When we were in the court the judge said he needs to be treated in the standard treatment and didn't want to hear about any 'alternative unproven' medicine. I asked the judge to move to the other hospital I found out had better statistics. The judge agreed we can move to the other hospital.
We were prepared to move to the other hospital but last minute the hospital's lawyer got a quick court order to force us to stay at the hospital for the 6 week radiation treatments.
All of this even he has no visible cancer. The doctors claimed the cancer will 100% return if he doesn't get all of the radiation and chemo treatments.
Only after 6 weeks of radiation, we were allowed to leave the hospital. We were in the hospital for 4 straight months like in a jail. It was Hanukah party in the hospital. I couldn't allow my son to eat candy as cancer thrives on sugar. Its a crime they are giving all of the harmful sweets to the cancer patients. Everyone in labs knows that cancer needs sugar to survive and its what they use to have cancer cells in lab plates!
It would make such a big difference if they gave the children in the oncology department freshly made healing juices and smoothies, using plenty of greens.
To this day he wants to go to visit that hospital on a Hanukah party to be able to eat the candies there. I promised him when the opportunity will come I will take him there for the party so he will feel he finished his business, as he is cancer free I let him to eat some candy in these occasions. Hanukah party at other places don't count to him. He WANTS to go to THAT hospital to make up for the party I didn't let him to eat candy then.
In the other hospital he got chemotherapy treatments. At least they let him to go home all of the time. Eventually they agreed to give him much less aggressive treatment. They contacted a doctor from the US who told them to stop the treatments altogether. Actually he got just about 1/3 of the treatments he was supposed go get. Even these 'less' aggressive treatments were very harsh on him. He lost some hearing on his right ear from a severe ear infection as a reaction to chemotherapy.
My son couldn't walk. He was dependent on wheelchair. I found a holistic doctor who treated him to regain his ability to walk. He graduated to a walker and eventually to walk without assistance. I forced him to walk long distances. He would cry and scream and demand the wheelchair. I told him, I have to make you walk. you are growing up bigger and heavier. You need to get stronger. If you won't walk now, you might be on wheelchair years from now. You will be grateful you can walk and climb and not being handicapped on a wheelchair forever! I am glad he regained his ability to walk and jump a little. He still has long way to recover. He has difficulty to use his hands, and especially his right hand. He is right hand dominated and has to use his left instead.
Sara Kohn is currently caught in a custody battle against her own ultra-orthodox parents who've accused her wrongly for being a negligent mom partially due to her not wanting to follow all the medical procedures while her son moshe was battling cancer. mostly it is the religious differences between them that determines the grandparents to alienate the children from her. she thankfully is persevering and waiting to reunite with her older soon shalom who has been alienated by his grandparents.
If you do end up going to court to resolve a situation involving child custody and religion, you should keep in mind that you have the best interest of the child which is no war at all but peace love and acceptance .
How do courts decide which religion a child should follow when parents of different religions separate?
Deciding whose religion a child should follow after a divorce or separation can often be a difficult and contentious question to answer. Increasingly parents of different faiths marry and have children. When these parents get divorced, it is often up to the courts to decide which religion a child should follow. These types of questions are answered by many courts all across the country with the result that there is not a uniform standard that courts follow when answering this hard question.
Best Interests of the Child or the Rights of Parents?
When courts are asked to answer the question of what religion a child should follow after a separation or divorce, they often balance two competing interests, the best interests of the child, and the rights of the parents. On one side, courts routinely answer questions about what is in the best interests of a child and have become quite proficient with these types of issues. On the other hand, the First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects the parents' freedom of religion as well as their right to raise their child under the religion of their choosing.
Often, in a case where a court must make a decision about the child's religious upbringing, one parent will argue that raising the child under the other parent's religion will put the child's welfare in danger. When faced with this question, the court must weigh the benefits and costs of one parent's First Amendment rights versus the best interests of the child.
Child Custody and Religion Law in Custody Cases
In general, there is not a national standard for cases involving the religious upbringing of a child after a divorce. Because of this, the law varies from state to state. However, most state courts will generally apply one of the following standards when ruling in a child custody and religion case:
Actual or substantial harm standard. When a court follows this standard, the court will restrict a parent's First Amendment right to raise their child under the religion of their choosing only if that parent's religious practice causes actual or substantial harm to the child.
Risk of harm standard. When a court follows this standard, the court will only restrict a parent's First Amendment right to raise their child under the religion of their choosing if a parent's religious practice may cause harm to the child.
No harm standard. When a court follows this standard, the court does not consider any actual or potential harm to the child. Instead, the parent that has been granted custody of the child gets to choose which religion the child will follow. If the custodial parent objects to the non-custodial parent's wishes for the religion of the child, the court will side with the custodial parent.
Actual or Substantial Harm
Under this standard, a court will only restrict a parent's First Amendment right to raise their child under a religion of their choosing when the other parent can prove that those religious activities cause actual or substantial harm to the child. There are many states that follow this standard including California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, and Washington.
What follows are a list of cases that show how the actual or substantial harm standard was applied to a variety of situations. You should keep in mind that even if you find a case that you think may apply to your situation, if the case did not take place in your state, your state's courts may not apply the law in the same way. Indeed, courts in the same states do not always apply the same law in a uniform manner.
Munoz v. Munoz -- This case ruled that exposing children to two different religions does not, in itself, cause harm to the children.
In Munoz v. Munoz, Washington State's highest court had to decide whether exposing a child to two different religions in itself caused harm to the child. In this case, the divorce court awarded sole custody of the children to the mother, who was Mormon. After the custody award, the mother asked the court to prevent the father, who was Catholic, from exposing the children to his own faith. However, the mother did not provide any evidence or likely arguments that exposing the children to both the Mormon and Catholic faiths would harm the children, either physically or mentally. Because of this, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that exposing children to two different religions does not automatically harm the children and decided not to curtail the father's First Amendment rights to raise his children under his faith.
Pater v. Pater -- This case ruled that religious customs are not harmful unless proven otherwise.
In Pater v. Pater, the Ohio Supreme Court overruled a lower court decision that had switched the custody award from the mother to the father. The lower court had decided that way because the mother, who originally had sole custody, was a Jehovah's Witness and had the children practicing her faith. Under the mother's faith, the children could not celebrate any holidays, be friends with anyone outside of the religion, salute the American flag or sign the national anthem. The lower court decided that this was harmful to the children.
However, the Ohio Supreme Court reversed this decision and took sole custody away from the Catholic father. In doing so, the court ruled that religious customs that diminish a child's social activities are not harmful (even if the customs separate the child from his or her peers or preach against standards of the community), unless it can be proven that the customs directly cause physical or mental harm to the child. Here, the Ohio Supreme Court did not see any evidence of direct physical or mental harm.
Kendall v. Kendall -- This cased ruled that physical acts and verbal threats were enough to justify an intervention of a parent's First Amendment rights.
In Kendall v. Kendall, the Massachusetts Supreme Court was dealing with a case that involved an Orthodox Jewish mother and a Catholic father. When the couple was first married, they agreed to raise their children under the Jewish faith. After the mother filed for divorce, the father made threats to his son. These threats included the threat to cut off his son's religions clothing unless he tucked them into his pants as well as a threat to cut off his sons "payes" (the curls in the hair that are normally worn by Orthodox Jewish men). In addition, the father told his children that anyone outside of his Catholic faith was damned to go to hell.
The mother challenged the father's First Amendment rights based on testimony from a doctor that the father's threats caused mental and emotional harm to the children. Because of the evidence that was presented, the court prohibited the father from talking to his children about his faith and also banned him from shaving off his son's payes. In addition, the church barred him from studying the Bible with his children and praying with them if those activities would tend to get the children to reject the Orthodox Jewish faith or cause emotional distress.
Risk of Harm
There are a few states, including Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, which follow the risk of harm standard instead of applying the actual or substantial harm standard. Courts that follow the risk of harm standard only require that the parent challenging the other parent's First Amendment right show that there is a risk of harm instead of showing actual or substantial harm.
MacLagan v. Klein-- This case ruled on the risk of harm standard.
In MacLagan v. Klein¸ a North Carolina state court was faced with a case where the father of a child wanted to stop the mother from changing their daughter's faith. When the couple was first married, they agreed to raise their children under the father's Jewish faith. When the couple divorce, the mother began bringing their daughter to a Methodist church. The father did not agree with this decision and asked the court to allow him to have full control of his daughter's religious upbringing. Applying the risk of harm standard, the court found that the daughter had identified herself with the Jewish faith since the age of three and that exposing her to the Methodist faith may cause her emotional harm. Because of this, the court agreed with the father and granted him sole control over his daughter's religious education.
You may have noticed the big difference between the MacLagan case and the Munoz case. The two cases had very similar facts that the courts looked at, but came out with two very different outcomes. The difference in outcomes is based on the fact that the two courts applied very different standards to their decision making process.
There are a few states, including Arkasas and Wisconsin, which do not look at any harms, whether real or a risk, to children and instead defer to the parent with custody of the child. In general, in states that follow the no harm standard, the parent that has sole legal custody over the child has the sole right to decide on the religious education of the child. If a dispute arises between the custodial parent and the non-custodial parent, the court will generally decide to side with the custodial parent. In general, the courts that decide this way that the decision is in the best interests of the child and that any restrictions on the non-custodial parent's First Amendment rights is small because the only time the rights are curtailed is when the parent is with the child.
If both parents have been granted legal custody of the child, both parents are generally allowed to give the child their own religious education.
Johns v. Johns-- The court ruled that the parent with legal custody gets to decide.
In Johns v. Johns, an Arkansas state court agreed with the mother who had both legal and physical custody of the children. In this case, the court was faced with a problem where the mother of the children refused to allow the father his visitation time because he did not take the kids to church or Sunday school when he was supposed to. The father challenged this action, but the mother prevailed in court because she was the custodial parent and the court agreed with her and ordered that the father must take the children to church and Sunday school.
Zummo v. Zummo -- The court ruled that joint legal custody can mean two religions.
In Zummo v. Zummo, the court was faced with problem where both parents shared legal custody of the children but disagreed on which religious upbringing their children should take part in. To put a stop to the problem, the court ordered that the father needs to take his children to Jewish services (the mother's religion), but was also allowed to bring his children to Catholic services as well (his religion). The court rationalized that because both parents shared legal custody, they both had the right to provide their children with their own religions education.
Some States Can Use More than one Standard
You should be aware that in some states, like Montana and Pennsylvania, courts often use different standards. For instance, one court in Montana could use the actual or substantial harm standard while another court in the same building may decide to apply the risk of harm or no harm standard.
Child Custody and Religion -- Parenting Agreements
Courts will often take parenting agreements into account in their decisions if parents have made some sort of written or oral parenting agreement where they decide how to hand a child's religions upbringing. However, you should keep in mind that if you and your spouse have not followed the agreement, you should not expect the court to give it too much weight. As well, many courts will not give weight to any agreements that take into account which religion a child will follow in the event that the parents separate or divorce. Here are some of the reasons that courts give:
The agreement is not detailed enough. Generally speaking, many parents do not think a parenting agreement regarding children and religion is very important and because of this they are often informal and vague. As an example, most agreements do not take into account the degree of religious education that a child will receive (such as whether or not the child will attend Sunday school or how often the child will attend religious services) and merely specify which faith a child will follow.
The agreement was oral. Like oral contracts for almost anything else, parties to an oral parenting agreement will often have different accounts of just what exactly the agreement was. As well, just like almost all other oral contacts, a court will not enforce an oral parenting agreement if the court cannot determine exactly what was agreed.
The agreement is very old. Many young couples that get married often wait a while before having children. If the couple made a parenting agreement a long time before they had their first child, or the agreement is old for any other reasons, a court may not lend that much weight to it.
Courts do not like to diminish First Amendment or parenting rights. Because of their importance, courts do not generally like to stomp down on the parenting or First Amendment rights of parents. In addition, courts do not generally like to issue orders that enforce prior-made parenting agreements as this can lead to excessive governmental involvement in the private lives of parents.
It is important to realize that not all courts dislike parenting agreements that discuss the religious upbringing of children. For example, in Wilson v. Wilson, an Indiana court ruled that a divorce agreement that contained terms regarding the religious education of the children was binding on the parents.
To sum up, if you think that you would like to have a parenting agreement that involves the religious education of your children, you should make sure that the agreement is very detailed, in writing and not more than a few years old.
If you've learned anything from this article, it should be that the outcome of your case will depend greatly on the state that you are in. In addition, you should also realize that because there is no uniform national law that deals with this situation, the laws of your state could change at any time. Because of this, it is almost always better for you and the other parent to try to resolve any issues regarding child custody and religion outside of court.
If you fear that your child may be harmed, or is already being harmed by the religious activities of the other parent, you should try to take your child to a mental health professional. By bringing in experts, you may quiet your own fears by finding out that there are no risks of harm, or if there is harm, you will have evidence to support your case should you decide to go to court.
Save peninas children non profit organization successfully got another article into the NY post.Nina Yusupov is another dedicated mom who has lost complete custody and visitation of her child due to orthodox religious organizations and rabbis involved.
Justice will prevail!!!!
I'm willing to testify that OHEL of Brooklyn was involved in the" abduction" process of nina's son. They are and were aware of all that was happening behind the curtains.
A struggling single mom thought she was giving her young son a chance at a better life by entering into an open adoption with a wealthy Manhattan couple.
But Nina Yusupov, of Brooklyn, never imagined she would have to cut off all ties with the boy — and now she’s suing for the right to see him again.
“I feel like I’m lost,” the Borough Park woman told The Post Monday through tears.
“I imagine he’s thinking, ‘Why is my mother not coming to see me? She used to come see me before. What happened?’”
Yusupov, 32, met the couple, David and Jennifer Bergenfeld, through a big brother/big sister program in 2008, according to Manhattan Surrogate’s Court papers.
She says in her suit that she had just gotten a divorce and was broke and depressed at the time.
The Bergenfelds live in a luxury Upper East Side co-op.
David, 42, is an associate at the financial law firm D’Amato & Lynch. Jennifer, 45, is senior legal counsel for Global Bank.
Yusupov needed help raising then-6-year-old Eliyahu, and the Bergenfelds started taking the boy on weekends, the suit says.
Then they offered to adopt him, allowing her to remain in his life, which Yusupov agreed to after signing a document with the couple that guaranteed bi-monthly visitation, regular phone calls, photos and letters, according to court records.
Nina Yusupov’s children, Moshe and EliPhoto: Stefan Jeremiah
But Yusopov says the Bergenfelds never filed the agreement with the court and cut off the visits three years ago.
“The Bergenfelds convinced me with false promises, making me believe that they were my family and my friends at a most vulnerable time in my life,” Yusupov says in court papers.
Her lawyer, Steven Feinman, says in filings that his client is “not educated, nor financially self-sufficient,” while the Bergenfelds are professionals who suggested and paid for Yusupov’s lawyer in the adoption.
Court records show the Bergenfelds, who declined to comment for this article, won an order of protection in 2010 that barred Yusupov from seeing Eliyahu after she allegedly tried to kidnap him.
Another attorney for Yusupov, David Bellon, called the kidnapping allegation false.
The adoptive parents allege that “the biological mother and her boyfriend had gone to [their] home to forcibly take back the child” after claiming that he had been abused, and Manhattan Family Court Judge Gloria Sosa-Lintner wrote in 2013 that Yusupov’s visits were canceled because of her “aggressive behavior.”
Yusupov fears the Bergenfelds have alienated the boy from her, his grandma and his 8-year-old brother. She is suing to enforce the open-adoption agreement.
Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.
CHILD CUSTODY AND RELIGION.
When parents of different faiths separate, they don't always agree on whose religion the children will follow. With increasing numbers of interfaith marriages and high divorce rates, this topic has recently been argued in courtrooms across the country. The results? A hodgepodge of decisions using different standards to establish different rules.
The Rights of Parents vs. The Best Interests of the Child
When called upon to resolve disputes between separated or divorced parents who disagree about the religious upbringing of their children, courts attempt to balance competing concerns. On one hand, courts must protect an individual parent's First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion as well as the right to raise children as that parent sees fit, as long as the parenting choices do not endanger the welfare of the child. On the other hand, when making decisions about custody and visitation arrangements, courts must protect the best interests of the child.
When one parent complains that the other parent's religious activities are not in the best interests of the child, courts have the difficult task of deciding whether it is necessary to encroach upon the other parent's First Amendment and parenting rights by limiting religious activities.
In some cases, the courts will take the wishes of the child into account. In In re Marriage of Boldt, 344 Or. 1 (2008), the state supreme court sent a case back down to the trial court with instructions that the trial judge take evidence about the opinions of a twelve-year-old boy about whether he should be circumcised, an issue on which his parents disagreed for religious reasons. Generally, courts will consider the views of children over 12 on issues of religion as well as issues of custody or visitation generally.
The Law in Religion and Custody Cases
Because the U.S. Supreme Court has not yet decided a case involving religious upbringing and custody, there is no uniform national law. Instead, the law varies from state to state. Most state courts apply one of the following three legal standards when deciding these cases:
Actual or substantial harm. The court will restrict a parent's First Amendment or parenting rights only if that parent's religious practices cause actual or substantial harm to the child.
Risk of harm. The court may restrict a parent's First Amendment or parenting rights if that parent's religious practices might harm the child in the future.
No harm required. The custodial parent's right to influence the children's religious upbringing of her is considered exclusive. If the custodial parent objects to the noncustodial parent's religious activities, that's the end of it: The court will defer to the custodial parent's wishes.
The Actual or Substantial Harm Standard
Courts applying this standard will restrict a parent's religious activities only if the other parent proves that those activities cause substantial or actual harm to the child. This standard is used in many states.
The cases discussed in this section provide examples of how courts following the actual or substantial harm standard may rule in various situations. Keep in mind that these decisions do not have to be followed by courts in other states or, sometimes, in the same state that the decision came from.
Munoz v. Munoz: Exposure to two religions does not cause harm
In Munoz v. Munoz, 79 Wash. 2d 810, 489 P.2d 1133 (1971), the state of Washington's highest court ruled that exposing children to two different religions (Mormon and Catholic) is not harmful in and of itself and therefore does not justify restricting a parent's religious activities.
Pater v. Pater: Restrictive religious customs are not necessarily harmful
In Pater v. Pater, 63 Ohio St. 3d 393, 588 N.E. 2d 794 (1992), Ohio's Supreme Court ruled that religious customs (Jehovah's Witness in this case) that restrict a child's social activities -- even if they separate the child from peers or go against community standards -- are not enough to justify court intervention unless the practices harm the mental or physical health of the child.
Kendall v. Kendall: Physical acts and verbal threats justify religious restrictions
In Kendall v. Kendall, 426 Mass. 238, 687 N.E.2d 1228 (1997), the highest court in Massachusetts ruled that a father's verbal threats and physical acts toward his children, which were designed to interfere with their Orthodox Jewish religious practices, were enough to warrant restrictions on his First Amendment and parenting rights. (A court-appointed doctor found that the father's actions -- cutting off his son's payes (the curls customarily worn by Orthodox Jewish males) and telling his children that anyone outside the fundamentalist faith was "damned to go to hell" --caused mental and emotional harm to the children. The court barred the father from sharing his religious beliefs, praying, or studying the Bible with his children if those activities would cause the kids to reject their mother or their Jewish identity or cause them emotional distress.
The Risk of Harm Standard
In a handful of states, courts have used a different legal standard to decide cases where religion and custody collide. In these courts, a parent seeking to curtail the other parent's religious activities need not demonstrate actual or substantial harm to the child, but only that there is a risk that the child might be harmed in the future.
The No Harm Required Standard
In a few states, courts do not apply the actual or substantial harm standard or the risk of harm standard. Instead, these courts use a simple rule: The parent with sole legal custody has exclusive control over the child's religious education. If a dispute arises over religious upbringing, the court will curtail the noncustodial parent's religious activities and enforce the custodial parent's desires. These courts reason that interfering with the noncustodial parent's religious activities does not violate First Amendment rights, because the restrictions apply only to the time period in which the parent is with the children. At all other times, the parent is free to practice whatever religion the person chooses.
When parents have joint legal custody (which a majority of states now award unless it would harm the child), teachings from both religions may be allowed.
Johns v. Johns: Father forced to bring children to church during visitation
In Johns v. Johns, 53 Ark. App. 90, 918 S.W. 2d 728 (1996), an Arkansas court deferred to the custodial parent's wishes. In this case, the father complained that the mother, who had legal and physical custody of the children, was preventing him from visiting with his kids. The mother said she was refusing visits because he didn't take the kids to church and Sunday school. The trial court ordered Mr. Johns to bring the kids to church. The father appealed. The appellate court agreed with the trial court, holding that because the mother was the custodial parent, her desire that the kids attend church each week was paramount.
Zummo v. Zummo: Joint legal custody equals two religions
In Zummo v. Zummo, 394 Pa. Super. 30, 574 A.2d 1130 (1990), the divorcing couple's dispute about the religious upbringing of their children was resolved by ordering the father to take the children to Jewish services (the mother's religion) and also allowing him to bring the children to Catholic services (his religion). The court believed that, because the couple shared joint legal custody, they each had the right to instill religious beliefs in their kids.
A Monsey woman who left her Satmar Hasidic Jewish community was dealt a blow Wednesday of last week, when the New York Appellate Division ruled in favor of her husband in a legal battle over custody of their three children.
The court ruled in favor of father Guillermo “Moshe” Gribeluk over mother Kelly Myzner, in spite of Myzner’s accusations that Gribeluk had sexually abused the children and the children’s stated desire to be with their mother.
According to the Appellate ruling, religion was not the deciding factor in the decision. Myzner had contested to the court that Judge Sherri Eisenpress of Rockland Family Court had based her initial custody decision on a preference to maintain the children’s religious identity, for stability sake.
“Here, contrary to the mother’s contentions, the Family Court did not rely solely on religion and the mother’s decision to leave the Hasidic Jewish community in making the determination to award the father custody of the parties’ children,” The decision read.
The ruling in the Appellate Divison effectively affirmed a 2012 decision made by Judge Eisenpress, who concluded that though both the mother and her children wanted to stay together, taking the children from the community in which they were raised would be detrimental to their well-being. “The Family Court expressly stated that it passed no judgment on either parent’s religious beliefs and practices,” The Appellate Divison ruling said. “The children’s need for stability and the potential impact of uprooting them from the only lifestyle which they have known are important factors in making a custody determination.”
Myzner divorced her husband in 2011 after arguing Gribeluk had subjected the family to fits of rage, beat the children, and left then with marks and welts as a result of inappropriate touching. Though Eisenpress was presented with photo evidence of injuries inflicted upon the children and conceded that Gribeluk did appear prone to intense anger, she dismissed testimony from Myzner’s eyewitnesses and the children themselves and concluded the children had been coached to lie about the abuse.
Instead, Eisenpress concluded the decision by Myzner-who wished to leave the community to continue a relationship with Gribeluk’s nephew-would confuse the children by leaving them torn between two radically different value systems. Eisenpress also insisted the decision was based not on religion but on who would provide the children with the most stable home environment.
“If the mother were to ignore the rules and requirements that the children are forced to follow to remain in their current community and school while with the children, it could lead to catastrophic consequences for children who are already clearly struggling with a multitude of issues,” Eisenpress said in her initial Family Court decision.
The Appellate Court placed faith in the determinations, affirming Eisenpress’ decision that Gribeluk’s home was a better environment for the children and referring to allegations of sexual abuse as “unfounded.”
According to Save Penina’s Children’s Charity President Pearl Reich, who worked with Myzner early on in her case and on other similar custody cases, the accusation of fabricating sexual allegations against Gribeluk were used as further cause to demonstrate that Myzner was unfit to take care of her children. “Right now what they’re doing is refocusing and saying, ‘No, this is not because of religion. It is because she pressed wrong allegations against her husband,’” Reich said. “They’re very, very strict with parents whose allegations are proven unfounded.”
Reich also opined that though a parent leaving a religious community will often be characterized as unfit, the characterization is meant as a political smokescreen. She pointed out that Eisenpress had been financed for office by the very religious sect who benefitted from her custody decision.
“[Rockland County is] right now being exposed and they are very scared, so they are trying every avenue possible to cover up the real reasoning, which is religion,” Reich continued.
Eisenpress is no stranger to allegations of favoring the Hasidic community in exchange for electoral support. In April 2013 it was revealed that her firm, formerly known as Reiss Enterprises, was owed about $500,000 by Moses “Mark” Stern, a convicted fraudster and key informant in a statewide corruption probe which netted former Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin, among others.
Eisenpress was aided politically by Stern as well. During Eisenpress’ 2011 campaign for the Family Court bench from which she handed down the Myzner ruling, Stern campaigned within the Orthodox community to raise $125,000 for the judge, with contributors often donating thousands of dollars at a time