Activist judges, you say?

Activist judges, you say?

Here's a fun one for you.

http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050526/NEWS01/505260481

An Indianapolis father is appealing a Marion County judge's unusual order that prohibits him and his ex-wife from exposing their child to "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals."

The parents practice Wicca, a contemporary pagan religion that emphasizes a balance in nature and reverence for the earth.

Cale J. Bradford, chief judge of the Marion Superior Court, kept the unusual provision in the couple's divorce decree last year over their fierce objections, court records show. The order does not define a mainstream religion.

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.

Through a court spokeswoman, Bradford said Wednesday he could not discuss the pending legal dispute.

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. 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.

But Jones, 37, Indianapolis, disputes the bureau's findings, saying he attended Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis as a non-Christian.

Jones has brought the case before the Indiana Court of Appeals, with help from the Indiana Civil Liberties Union. They filed their request for the appeals court to strike the one-paragraph clause in January.

"This was done without either of us requesting it and at the judge's whim," said Jones, who has organized Pagan Pride Day events in Indianapolis. "It is upsetting to our son that he cannot celebrate holidays with us, including Yule, which is winter solstice, and Ostara, which is the spring equinox."

The ICLU and Jones assert the judge's order tramples on the parents' constitutional right to expose their son to a religion of their choice. Both say the court failed to explain how exposing the boy to Wicca's beliefs and practices would harm him.

Bristol is not involved in the appeal and could not be reached for comment. She and Jones have joint custody, and the boy lives with the father on the Northside.

Jones and the ICLU also argue the order is so vague that it could lead to Jones being found in contempt and losing custody of his son.

"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?"

Some people have preconceived notions about Wicca, which has some rituals involving nudity but mostly would be inoffensive to children, said Philip Goff, director of the Center for the Study of Religion & American Culture at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

"Wiccans use the language of witchcraft, but it has a different meaning to them," Goff said. "Their practices tend to be rather pacifistic. They tend to revolve around the old pagan holidays. There's not really a church of Wicca. Practices vary from region to region."

Even the U.S. military accommodates Wiccans and educates chaplains about their beliefs, said Lawrence W. Snyder, an associate professor of religious studies at Western Kentucky University.

"The federal government has given Wiccans protection under the First Amendment," Snyder said. "Unless this judge has some very specific information about activities involving the child that are harmful, the law is not on his side."

At times, divorcing parents might battle in the courts over the religion of their children. But Kenneth J. Falk, the ICLU's legal director, said he knows of no such order issued before by an Indiana court. He said his research also did not turn up such a case nationally.

"Religion comes up most frequently when there are disputes between the parents. There are lots of cases where a mom and dad are of different faiths, and they're having a tug of war over the kids," Falk said. "This is different: Their dispute is with the judge. When the government is attempting to tell people they're not allowed to engage in non-mainstream activities, that raises concerns."

Indiana law generally allows parents who are awarded physical custody of children to determine their religious training; courts step in only when the children's physical or emotional health would be endangered.

Getting the judge's religious restriction lifted should be a slam-dunk, said David Orentlicher, an Indiana University law professor and Democratic state representative from Indianapolis.

"That's blatantly unconstitutional," Orentlicher 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."

The couple married in February 1995, and their divorce was final in February 2004.

As Wiccans, the boy's parents believe in nature-based deities and engage in worship rituals that include guided meditation that Jones says improved his son's concentration. Wicca "is an understanding that we're all connected, and respecting that," said Jones, who is a computer Web designer.

Jones said he does not consider himself a witch or practice anything resembling witchcraft.

During the divorce, he told a court official that Wiccans are not devil worshippers. And he said he does not practice a form of Wicca that involves nudity.

"I celebrate life as a duality. There's a male and female force to everything," Jones said. "I feel the Earth is a living creature. I don't believe in Satan or any creature of infinite evil."
 

Garbad_the_Weak

Diabloii.Net Member
>the judge kept the unusual provision...

Key phrase, kept. Sounds like they made a strange prenuptual and the judge enforced it. Whats so activist about that?

Garbad
 

AeroJonesy

Diabloii.Net Member
I'm quite confused. The judge just up and stepped in for no good reason?

Garbad, it looks to me like when the judge drew up the divorce agreement he put the clause in, neither parent wanted it, and the judge left it in anyway. Now he's enforcing it.
 

Anakha1

Banned
What the crap? Can he even do that legally in the U.S.? I really can't see any judge up here believing that he can legally ban someone from participating in or being taught a religion.
 

Stevinator

Diabloii.Net Member
Anakha1 said:
What the crap? Can he even do that legally in the U.S.? I really can't see any judge up here believing that he can legally ban someone from participating in or being taught a religion.
That's exactly the point, in fact i think the couple should be able to sue this judge for gross misconduct, and make him pay their extra court costs. this judge is WAY out of line, and there is no reason they should be forced to take this to the next step.

If one parent was wiccan and the other was catholic then I could see a biased judge picking catholicism and getting away with it. that would be wrong, but harder to stop. this guy just didn't like the guy's religious beliefs and decided to force him out of them. totally unacceptable.

I'm wondering when we're going to see a backlash against all this christian involvement in politics. I know a lot of the time christians feel like their thoughts are being pushed around, but come on, you gotta give non-christians some peace too. We have to draw a firm line between religion and politics and we have to keep that line "sacred". Remember this country was first populated by those trying to escape religious persecution (not counting the indians).
 
Just curious to see when Fox News starts comparing them to the 9th circuit court of appeals--isn't that the liberal activist headquarters? So it's not just liberals that are "activist judges", eh?
 

cotton

Diabloii.Net Member
DrunkCajun said:
Just curious to see when Fox News starts comparing them to the 9th circuit court of appeals--isn't that the liberal activist headquarters? So it's not just liberals that are "activist judges", eh?
The ninth circuit, which has federal jurisdiction over California and most of the west coast, is generally considered to be very liberal.
 

maccool

Diabloii.Net Member
Seeing as how the judge's order supposedly doesn't define a mainstream religion, I can't see why people are freaking out. His order was so vague, it'll be overturned. Or is this one of those mountains from molehill moments?
 

DrunkPotHead

Diabloii.Net Member
maccool said:
Seeing as how the judge's order supposedly doesn't define a mainstream religion, I can't see why people are freaking out. His order was so vague, it'll be overturned. Or is this one of those mountains from molehill moments?
The gay marriage decision in california was also overturned, however there was still a huge fuss about it.
 
cotton said:
The ninth circuit, which has federal jurisdiction over California and most of the west coast, is generally considered to be very liberal.
So it's okay for conservatives to make poor judgements from the bench, but when liberals do it it's grounds for a march on the Capitol?

My point here isn't to make a mountain of a molehill, it's to point out to those people attempting to convey the idea that conservatives and conservative judges are somehow above legislating from the bench are full of horsehooey.
 

jmervyn

Diabloii.Net Member
Garbad_the_Weak said:
>the judge kept the unusual provision...

Key phrase, kept. Sounds like they made a strange prenuptual and the judge enforced it. Whats so activist about that?

Garbad
I'd agree; the rendition in the article doesn't sound kosher at all (Oy Vey!). And Drunk, whoever said only libbies were activist judges? Just because constitutional interpretations are claimed by the right doesn't mean it is so - after all, they claim patriotism as their ground as well.

Maybe what isn't clear is that the language was inserted by this 3rd-party quasi-Gov't Domestic Relations Counseling Bureau? If they're actually requesting the provision, going against the wishes of the parents' absolute hypocrisy because of the child's religious education, it makes a bit more sense. The parents outta just pull the kid from the school and put him in a different private school, therefore eradicating the supposed child-damaging conflict.
 

cotton

Diabloii.Net Member
DrunkCajun said:
So it's okay for conservatives to make poor judgements from the bench, but when liberals do it it's grounds for a march on the Capitol?
I do not think it is OK for judges to make ANY decisions based on political leanings or personal prejudices from the bench; I was simply responding to the "?" in your previous post.

It is the job of a judge to interpret and apply laws written by the legislature under the framework of the constitution, relying, when appropriate, on common law from equal or superior courts to do so. Unfortunately, this does not always occur, as judges are human and often apply personal viewpoints not based on the law as written by the legislature.

As often, judges become labeled as liberal or conservative based on decisions based on established law. For example, if a judge in Nebraska rules that parental notification is required before an abortion can be performed on a minor, he is labeled conservative. Another judge in New Hampshire rules that it is not, and he is labeled liberal. Both of these judges may have been applying laws correctly, and it is the law, or the interpretation of it by a higher court in their respective jurisdications, that differ.

In a perfect world, there would be no political labels for judges, because judges would not make decisions based, in the above example, on whether they think notification is "right" or "wrong," but rather how the law is written.
 

Darnoc

Diabloii.Net Member
The article seems to leave certain information lacking; I bet there's something else going on there. But, the way it reads it seems that the judge is overstepping his powers as a judge to control what religion the boy practices. If there is some kind of reason that the boy was put into the catholic school by other family members to protect him from the parents, or if the Wicca derivative(sp?) practiced involved lots of nude rituals or orgies or something then this might not be too unjustified of a ruling. It just seems like there's more going on than whats was reported.

As for the separation of politics/laws and religion, that will never happen since any elected official/judge of any religion or no religion will apply their personal morals to decisions that they have to make in their office/position. Since these personal morals will more than likely conflict with at least part of their represented area's population there will always be someone from one side or another who is upset with what they do.

Since there is freedom of religion written in our laws, it is engrained in our political system and the people who make the laws. Obviously they're to make decisions that will be fair and just, but when it comes to grey areas like abortion or gay marriage, there is no lawful way to represent the population as a whole. Politicians or judges must do what they feel is right, even if it upsets someone. It is a shame when they try to force their morals on others; that is not right.
 

KillerAim

Diabloii.Net Member
DrunkCajun
Just curious to see when Fox News starts comparing them to the 9th circuit court of appeals--isn't that the liberal activist headquarters? So it's not just liberals that are "activist judges", eh?
How are you sure that this was a decision made by a conservative judge?

It could be easily argued that the judge made this decision because he decided that the concerns of potential harm raised by a Government Agency should override parental control of a child. Governmental interference in our lives (always for our own good, it’s claimed) is more of a liberal stance then a conservative one.

My point here isn't to make a mountain of a molehill, it's to point out to those people attempting to convey the idea that conservatives and conservative judges are somehow above legislating from the bench are full of horsehooey.
Exactly who attempted to make that point? Most people that complain about judicial activism do not limit that complaint to just liberal decisions, we’re against judicial activism on either side of the political fence.

Since many decisions made recently have supported commonly held liberal beliefs by overturning written laws or by discovering “new†freedoms or protections in the Constitution, it is not surprising to hear more of the complaints about judicial activism coming from Republicans. It is also not surprising to see some Democratic leaders label a judge who is an “originalist†(defined as a judge who determines the law based solely on the letter of the law and a strict interpretation of the Constitution) as a “Conservativeâ€.

Damoc:
Obviously they're to make decisions that will be fair and just, but when it comes to grey areas like abortion or gay marriage, there is no lawful way to represent the population as a whole. Politicians or judges must do what they feel is right, even if it upsets someone.
Do not confuse the roles of a politician and a judge. A politician has a duty to consider what his constituency wants on every piece of legislation that crosses his desk. He knows that if they do not like enough of his decisions, the people will vote him out of office.

A judge, on the other hand, should be above the wants and desires of the people he represents. His job is to look at a situation and make his decision based on the written law. In certain cases where two laws conflict each other, he then decides which one should prevail. He should not consider how he personally feels about a situation or even how the rest of Society feels about a situation; that’s the role of the legislature.

- - -

By the way, Cotton did a fine job in explaining why we cannot just look at a judge's decisions by themself and use them to "label" him or her as a Liberal or Conservative. Kudos!! :clap:
 

jimmyboy

Diabloii.Net Member
cotton said:
The ninth circuit, which has federal jurisdiction over California and most of the west coast, is generally considered to be very liberal.

....uuuhhhhhummmm.... not liberal.... but progressive.
 

jimmyboy

Diabloii.Net Member
Darnoc said:
The article seems to leave certain information lacking; I bet there's something else going on there. But, the way it reads it seems that the judge is overstepping his powers as a judge to control what religion the boy practices. If there is some kind of reason that the boy was put into the catholic school by other family members to protect him from the parents, or if the Wicca derivative(sp?) practiced involved lots of nude rituals or orgies or something then this might not be too unjustified of a ruling. It just seems like there's more going on than whats was reported.

As for the separation of politics/laws and religion, that will never happen since any elected official/judge of any religion or no religion will apply their personal morals to decisions that they have to make in their office/position. Since these personal morals will more than likely conflict with at least part of their represented area's population there will always be someone from one side or another who is upset with what they do.

Since there is freedom of religion written in our laws, it is engrained in our political system and the people who make the laws. Obviously they're to make decisions that will be fair and just, but when it comes to grey areas like abortion or gay marriage, there is no lawful way to represent the population as a whole. Politicians or judges must do what they feel is right, even if it upsets someone. It is a shame when they try to force their morals on others; that is not right.
Agreed. The case probably turned on the "Wican" practice. As I understand it, nudity and orgies are involved. Considering the age of the minor, it may not be a good idea.

But it would appear that the term "activist judges" are used a bit too loose nowadays to demonize every unpopular judge. It is pretty lame to label liberal judges as activists. After all, our Chief Justice Vader is very much an activist justice.
 

DrunkPotHead

Diabloii.Net Member
KillerAim said:
How are you sure that this was a decision made by a conservative judge?

It could be easily argued that the judge made this decision because he decided that the concerns of potential harm raised by a Government Agency should override parental control of a child. Governmental interference in our lives (always for our own good, it’s claimed) is more of a liberal stance then a conservative one.
I wish the current "conservatives" were like that. Unfortunately, laws of government interference are coming from them since they are the ones in power.
 

jimmyboy

Diabloii.Net Member
DrunkPotHead said:
I wish the current "conservatives" were like that. Unfortunately, laws of government interference are coming from them since they are the ones in power.
This is so true. Power does funny things to ethics.
 

Puck Nutty

Diabloii.Net Member
jimmyboy said:
Agreed. The case probably turned on the "Wican" practice. As I understand it, nudity and orgies are involved. Considering the age of the minor, it may not be a good idea.
You have been misinformed. Many friends of mine practice Wicca (including some of my family members) and there are no orgies involved. It is common for some rituals to be performed sky-clad (nude), but that is optional.
 
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