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Preference for Public School Over Homeschooling -- and Maybe Private Schooling -- Because It Provides "Exposure to Different Points of View"?

That's what this New Hampshire trial court decision, in In re Kurowski & Voydatch seems to say. The 10-year-old daughter lives during the week with her mother, Ms. Voydatch, who homeschools her. The father, Mr. Kurowski, objected to the homeschooling, and the court adopted the father's proposal that the girl be sent to public school, apparently for largely these reasons:

[The daughter] appeared to reflect her mother's rigidity on questions of faith. [The daughter] challenged the counselor to say what the counselor believed, and she prepared some highlighted biblical text for the counselor to read over and discuss, and she was visibly upset when the counselor (purposely) did not complete the assignment....

The Guardian ad Litem ... concluded that the daughter would be best served by exposure to different points of view at a time in her life when she must begin to critically evaluate multiple systems of belief and behavior and cooperation in order to select, as a young adult, which of those systems will best suit her own needs....

[T]he Guardian ad Litem [also] echoed her previous concerns that Amanda's relationship with her father suffers to some degree by her belief that his refusal to adopt her religious beliefs and his choice instead to spend eternity away from her proves that he does not love her as much as he says he does....

[T]he Court is guided by the premise that education is by its nature an exploration and examination of new things, and by the premise that a child requires academic, social, cultural, and physical interaction with a variety of experiences, people, concepts, and surroundings in order to grow to an adult who can make intelligent decisions about how to achieve a productive and satisfying life.

The parties do not debate the relative academic merits of home schooling and public school: it is clear that the home schooling Ms. Voydatch has provided has more than kept up with the academic requirements of the [local] public school system. Instead, the debate centers on whether enrollment in public school will provide [the daughter] with an increased opportunity for group learning, group interaction, social problem solving, and exposure to a variety of points of view.... [T]he Court concludes that it would be in [the daughter's] best interests to attend public school....

In reaching this conclusion, the Court is mindful of its obligation not to consider the specific tenets of any religious system unless there is evidence that those tenets have been applied in such a way as to cause actual harm to the child. The evidence in this case does not rise to that level, and therefore the Court has not considered the merits of [the daughter's] religious beliefs, but considered only the impact of those beliefs on her interaction with others, both past and future. The Court declines to impose any restrictions on either party's ability to provide [the daughter] with religious training or to share with [the daughter] their own religious beliefs.

The decision is just about home schooling by one divorced parent, where the other parent wants the child sent to public school. But it would in principle also apply to similar disputes over private religious schooling (or private ideologically grounded schooling), since there too the other parent might complain that the schooling is too limited in the "points of view" to which the child is exposed. (Of course, some public schools might be quite limited in the points of view that they teach, and even in the points of view expressed by most students; but my guess is that few courts would be willing to say so.)

The broad principle might also apply beyond divorced families. To be sure, in practice American courts rarely intervene in the educational decisions of intact families, at least absent some evidence of significant abuse. Likewise, the legal standard for such intervention in intact families is much more demanding (requiring some showing that the parents' approach risks causing imminent harm to the child, and not just a judgment that departing from the custodial parent's approach would be in the child's best interests).

But if the legal system becomes genuinely concerned about the supposed lack of "different points of view" to which a child is exposed, that concern should if anything be greater when the child is in an intact family — where both parents are likely to be exposing the child to the same viewpoint — than when the child is in a divorced family in which the parents have different viewpoints. At least in this case, the father could expose the daughter to viewpoints other than the mother's (though that might be quite hard given the daughter's pushback, which in turn seems likely to stem in large part from the mother's greater time with the daughter). In an intact family that homeschools a child or sends the child to private school, the child might not get any "different points of view" from any trusted adult or even from other children. So the logic of this decision, if accepted, might well eventually carry over to decisions about intact families, too.

And the decision strikes me as constitutionally troublesome, whether implemented in broken families or in intact families. It may well be in the child's best interests to be exposed to more views in public school — or it may well be in the child's best interests to avoid the views that public school will expose her to. Those are not judgments that courts should generally make given the First Amendment.

That's especially so since it's hard to imagine courts actually adopting a facially supposedly viewpoint-neutral approach that "exposure to more viewpoints is better." I take it that if a racist parent was complaining that the other parent wasn't exposing their daughter to a wide range of viewpoints on the subject of racism, a judge wouldn't consider that; likewise for a wide range of other views. Likewise, the judge seems to have been moved by the conclusion that the daughter was "rigid[] on questions of faith"; presumably if the mother were teaching the child less "rigid" views about religion, the judge would not have been as troubled (though some other judge might have been more troubled). Judges' decisions that more viewpoints are better will almost always be based on an evaluation of what those viewpoints are likely to be, and what viewpoints the child is being taught.

This having been said, the court decision asserts that the parents — who do have "joint decision-making responsibility" — had never agreed on the public schooling vs. homeschooling question, and "reserved for the Court the issue whether Amanda would attend public school for the 2009-2010 school year, or continue to be home schooled by Ms. Voydatch." Nor is the case like a normal parental speech dispute, in which, absent court action, both parents would be free to say whatever they wanted to the child. Here, a choice must be made between home-schooling and public schooling; the child can't do both. (The child could of course go to public school and learn more at home, but that would obviously be different from a standard home-schooling approach.) Nor is there an obvious neutral principle that could be followed here, for instance the child's likely academic success in either approach — it looks like the daughter is doing very well with home-schooling, but there seems to be no evidence that she won't do roughly as well with public schooling in this district. Nor can one have a preference for continuing the child's pre-divorce education; the parents had been divorced for pretty much the daughter's whole life.

My inclination, though, is that a court should generally try to choose some neutral basis for the decision that would not require it to evaluate the merits of various viewpoints, or to evaluate whether the daughter needs exposure to more viewpoints of the sort she's likely to get in public school. Even a preference for the choice of the primary residential custodian, however imperfect this might be, would at least keep courts out of deciding when a child's religious views are too "rigid." Government decisions about which schools children should go to, or what they should be taught, shouldn't be based on judges' views about which views are unduly rigid, or atheistic, or racist, or pro-gay-rights, or anti-gay, or what have you.

The Alliance Defense Fund has more on this case, including pointers to its filings in the case; I would of course also be glad to include links to the other side's filings, when and if such links become available. Thanks to Duncan Frissell for the pointer.

einhverfr (mail) (www):
I am a big fan of the idea that parens patriae should be scaled WAY back in divorce proceedings.

There are times when the judge should tell both parents "No imminent harm. Go away and stop bugging me!" Unfortunately parens patriae doesn't really seem bound by individual rights guaranteed in the Constitution (the exception, though it proves the rule, is that procedural guarantees, such as due process and equal protection seem to be binding on this power).

As Eugene points out in his law review article on this topic, parental rights are despotic rights in our legal system. The problem though is that parens patriae, because it puts the court as parent, pushes the court into role of despot as well. Worse, because these rulings are then binding on parents, it makes the court's power despotic in scope not only over the children but also over the parents as well.
8.27.2009 4:49pm
CJColucci:
[The daughter] challenged the counselor to say what the counselor believed, and she prepared some highlighted biblical text for the counselor to read over and discuss, and she was visibly upset when the counselor (purposely) did not complete the assignment....

The kid does seem to be badly socialized. And since, as you point out, there is a disagreement, a decision does have to be made, and there's no obvious neutral principle to base it on, evidence that one parent's way of raising kids leads to kids who act like that, there's reason to go with the other parent.
8.27.2009 4:51pm
Phatty:
You do not get a "variety of viewpoints" in public school. All you get is the one viewpoint sanctioned by the governing body of the public school system in that state. So the "variety" really means the viewpoint of the public school, instead of the viewpoint of the parent. It's not surprising that the state judge decided that the state's viewpoint was preferred over the parent's viewpoint.
8.27.2009 4:52pm
Phatty:

The kid does seem to be badly socialized.

Yeah, how dare somebody challenge an authority figure. We should all blindly accept whatever we are told. At least the child was willing to debate her viewpoint.
8.27.2009 4:55pm
Recovering Law Grad:
Prof. Volokh -

Only having read your summary, not the entire decision itself, it seems that the Court was persuaded by the way in which the daughter's home schooling was affecting her relationship with her father and others. Their motivation doesn't appear to have been motivated by public schooling for public schooling's sake.
8.27.2009 5:03pm
troll_dc2 (mail):

But if the legal system becomes genuinely concerned about the supposed lack of "different points of view" to which a child is exposed, that concern should if anything be greater when the child is in an intact family -- where both parents are likely to be exposing the child to the same viewpoint -- than when the child is in a divorced family in which the parents have different viewpoints.

Assume that you are right. The question is how the legal system would ever get its hands on such a child. When there is a divorce and the parents cannot agree on an issue, the situation is highlighted and the legal system can step in to make the disposition. But we have no mechanism for government intervention in the educational decisions of an intact family without clear evidence of abuse or another unfortunate situation. Is the suggestion being made that there ought to be? If so, how can that square with the idea of a free socieety?
8.27.2009 5:06pm
Jason Arvak (mail) (www):
The "different points of view" justification would seem to depend on an underlying assumption that public schools actually do present different points of view. But in an age of politicized (and politically correct) mandatory curriculum, I'm not sure that underlying assumption is valid.
8.27.2009 5:11pm
Steve:
This is a case where the parties stipulated to joint-decisionmaking responsibility for their daughter's upbringing, including the involvement of a neutral decisionmaker to resolve any serious disputes. The court had to choose one way or the other, absent recourse to a more Solomonic method of compromise.

Just because a single court agreed to resolve a dispute in a context where the parents have stipulated to joint decisionmaking responsibility, that hardly means we ought to fear a new world order where the courts are going to start dictating to all parents where they ought to send their kids to school. Pierce v. Society of Sisters is still on the books, you know.
8.27.2009 5:14pm
stevesturm:
maybe someone (with more respect for the judiciary than I have) will attempt to show that 'exposure to different points of view' isn't just another example of a judge searching for a rationale - any rationale - to justify the decision he has already decided to make?
8.27.2009 5:15pm
Splunge:
It's a brain-dead and, worse, typically arrogant decision by the Court.

The controlling facts here should be: (1) the child is being well-educated at present, and (2) the decision is not between home-schooling or public school as a future choice, but between whether to keep the home-schooling situation in which the child already is, or whether to change it with unknown consequences.

Absent a clear need to interfere and changes things, the Court should just admit it doesn't know what the fuck it's doing -- which is usually the case -- and leave well enough alone.

Professor Kerr had a disingenuous post up the other day wondering why people hate lawyers. This is why. It's this arrogance in believing you can usefully interfere in a situation where there is no compelling need for interference (the father's wish to change the situation isn't sufficient) and you have no real solid measureable clue as to a better answer -- just a hundred or so pages of pure theoretical scholarly argument.
8.27.2009 5:15pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
In my very brief time working as an intern for a family law office, I am impressed by the vast power of the court over individuals when children are involved that would be unheard of were there no children. The court can tell you where to live, where to send children to school, require attendance at different events or classes without any charges being filed, etc.

This is all done in the name of the children. The court must look out for the interests of the children and their reach in pursuing that interest is virtually boundless.

It appears that we live in a free country so long as you never have children.
8.27.2009 5:22pm
DangerMouse:
In reaching this conclusion, the Court is mindful of its obligation not to consider the specific tenets of any religious system unless there is evidence that those tenets have been applied in such a way as to cause actual harm to the child.

Whenever some judge says crap like this, you know that they did, in fact, consider the specific tenets of the religious system. If the daughter was a proud and rigid adherent of, let's say Buddhism, would the court give a crap? Of course not. But those DAMN CHRISTIANS are such a problem!

The evidence in this case does not rise to that level, and therefore the Court has not considered the merits of [the daughter's] religious beliefs, but considered only the impact of those beliefs on her interaction with others, both past and future.

As we all know, actual, believing Christians are real prudes and won't be able to interact in our increasingly materialistic world. It's not the actual beliefs we consider, but there mere fact that she holds them AT ALL, which is the problem. Because holding those beliefs will make her into a social outcast. So we have to destroy those beliefs in order that she become one of us.

The Court declines to impose any restrictions on either party's ability to provide [the daughter] with religious training or to share with [the daughter] their own religious beliefs.

How awfully nice of the Court. Declining to impose restrictions on sharing their own religious beliefs with their daughter. For now. Until we decide otherwise. When you get out of line. Because you're a F'n Christian that we can't stand.

Tell me once again why we call Judges "your honor"? This decision is a deplorable, disgusting attempt to find the most minimal justification at all in order to destroy a girl's religious upbringing. Notably, it says that it's not the content of her beliefs (although, it really is the content, becasue this sort of sanction would never be imposed on an orthodox Jew, Buddhist, Muslim, or Pastafanarian), but the mere fact that they're held at all, which is cause for concern. Apparently, you can't socialize if you have sincere religious beliefs.

Time to move to a new state and get the hell away from those Black Robed Tryants. I would advise the mother to immediately pick up and get the hell outta Dodge. That judge is hell-bent on secularizing her daughter and nothing is going to stop him.
8.27.2009 5:23pm
Steve:
The "different points of view" justification would seem to depend on an underlying assumption that public schools actually do present different points of view.

I took that language as a statement that the child would benefit by exposure to more worldviews than just her mother's, as opposed to a claim that public schools typically offer multiple curricula to fifth-graders.
8.27.2009 5:25pm
ohwilleke:
There are neutral reasons to favor a school setting (not necessarily a public one) over a homeschooling arrangement.

Among them is that a school environment provides a strong check against abuse and neglect of children, by providing the children with a third party who is not a parent in whom they can confide, and by having a third party who is not a parent who is in a regular position to see how the child is doing. Abuse and neglect rates are much lower for children in school than for children who are not in school.

Home schooling also raises the problem of parental alienation when you have facts like those present in this case where the home schooling teachings are specifically used in a way that serves to alienate a parent. Favoring arrangements that are not designed to alienate a parent over those that have that strong and possibly intended effect is a reasonable and neutral principal. For example, while concerns about racism or opposition to gay rights may or may not be appropriate ideologies to foster as a general rule in divorce cases, when family members are of mixed race or gay, concern about these ideologies is entirely appropriate on the neutral basis of not alienating children from either of their parents.

More generally, it is appropriate to consider what approach is most likely to work well with a joint parenting arrangement in the case of parents who can't agree on a fundamental issue like education. Schooling takes a lot of parenting issues out of the hands of the home schooling parent and into the hands of a third party in a non-judicial setting where standards and rules are made without reference to this particular divorce situation (and hence are relatively neutral). Even if one parent wants to alienate a child from the other parent, that impact cannot be as pervasive if the child is in a school setting. Schools may be better arbiters of these issues than courts.

While "different points of view" might not be a univerally good value, the incident with the counselor suggests that the child is currently not capable of behaving appropriately with adults outsider the child's home, and that this is closely related to home schooling. An ability to develop appropriate social skills is a relevant matter to consider even in a relatively ideology neutral examination of a child's best interests. Notably, "the Court has not considered the merits of [the daughter's] religious beliefs, but considered only the impact of those beliefs on her interaction with others, both past and future."

It is also notable that the court is deferring to the guardian ad litem's report recommendations. Some GALs are appointed with the mutual consent of the parties. Most GALs have more nuananced and extensive information about the facts than the judge. GALs have a duty to the child and while that may be hard to enforce, experience shows that over vigilance in one's assigned role is more common than laxity (e.g. cops are more likely to use excessive force against a suspect than to refrain from responding to a crime scene because they don't care). Also, even if GALs are just as biased as the judge, a judge who defers to a GAL as a general rule will not have a monolithic impact on the entire domestic docket -- results will vary within the docket based on GAL assignments. This is a valueable thing when one judge is assigned to all family law cases for a certain time period (as is often the case). Defer to a GAL recommendation is certainly a neutral principle.

We don't know the full facts, but there may also be an economic component to a preference for schooling over homeschooling, and even of public schooling over private schooling. Home schooling dramatically reduces the ability of the schooling parent to earn income, and rules on maintenance and child support (e.g. imputed income rules) generally carry an expectation that divorced adults should support themselves.

Similarly, since public school is free, while private schooling is often costly. Since many families are in a period of economic stress after a divorce due to their legal fees and having two households rather than one to maintain, all other things being equal, public school is a reasonable thing to prefer when the parties disagree and there is no pre-separation precedent to uphold. This rule obviously shouldn't apply when the financial burden is immaterial due to the parties' means, a trust fund for the child that exists, a scholarship, or the like, or in cases where the child has atypical needs that a public school is ill suited to meet, but in those cases are probably less than 10% of all cases with children and a dispute over education choices.

Also, public schools are in the business of religious and ideological neutrality, while many private schools have an express agenda. When the parents disagree, choosing an educator with an expressly neutral agenda is a fair thing to prefer. Public schools may be secular, but they do not exist to promote a secular ideal -- the vast majority of public school students are themselves religious as are their parents.

Of course, if there is a pre-separation precedent to adhere to, or if the parties agree on this issue, that is a deferrent matter.

One thing that a court probably isn't to consider legally, due to the "best interest of the child" standard, put perhaps should consider in a better world, is the intensity of the party's preferences. If one parent vehemently disagrees with home schooling, while the home schooling parent has a mild objection to public schooling, that might be a reason to prefer a public school. While if one parent has only a mild objection to home schooling, while the other parent has a vehement objection to public schooling, that might be a reason to favor home schooling. But, consideration of parental preferences in the absence of an actual agreement of the parents, isn't a good fit with the best interest of the child standard.
8.27.2009 5:26pm
Phatty:
You can usually see through a judge's reasoning in cases like this if you tweak the facts and then predict how the judge would rule. So let's change the facts a bit:

Assume that the girl and her mother were strong athiests, and the father was a fundamentalist Christian. The father wants his daughter to go to a private, Christian school because he fears she is not getting any exposure to religion and is being brainwashed by her mother into believing there is no god. The daughter mocks the father for his beliefs and can't understand how anyone could be so naive to believe in such childish, rubbish. When the daughter is interviewed by a counselor, she challenged the counselor to tell her whether she believed in God and had prepared some quotes from The God Delusion.

Now, with that change in facts, are you prepared to tell me this judge would have ordered the girl to attend the Christian school so that she could be exposed to a variety of viewpoints and a more social setting at this critical stage of her development? No f'in way.
8.27.2009 5:30pm
stina (mail):
1 -- the "different points of view" assumption about public school is absolutely valid -- the differing views may not come from the curriculum, granted, but they will naturally flow from the range of people this child will come into contact with while in public school.

2 -- as far as the court having to decide whether exposure to many viewpoints or to a single viewpoint is in the best interests of the child, it is ludicrous to suggest that courts shouldn't make that call. The whole reason for the existence of the family court is to make specifically those types of calls. Every day in every family court room one parent's first amendment rights are pitted against the rights of the other parent. People turn to the courts precisely to find the balance. Because the other option is what exactly? Allow children to just get stuck between battling ex-spouses?

3 -- this case is limited to its facts like ALL family court decisions (the best interests of the child is a fact intensive study) so stressing over its future effect is sort of useless. And it is kinds of insane to even suggest that this decision could ever be used to dictate the schooling choices of "intact families." How exactly would such a case come before the court int he first place, hmmm?
8.27.2009 5:35pm
CJColucci:
The kid does seem to be badly socialized.

Yeah, how dare somebody challenge an authority figure. We should all blindly accept whatever we are told. At least the child was willing to debate her viewpoint.

--- Phatty


As someone who rarely accepts what I'm told, has challenged any number of authority figures, and eagerly debates my viewpoint, I still remember being "socialized" to accept the idea that there's a time and a place for everything. The kid was sent to a counselor because grown-ups needed to find things out about her. It wasn't the time or place for the kid to "assign" religious readings to the counselor. I suspect, though, that her doing that did tell the counselor many interesting things about her and how she was being raised.
8.27.2009 5:35pm
kumquat:
[T]he Guardian ad Litem [also] echoed her previous concerns that Amanda's relationship with her father suffers to some degree by her belief that his refusal to adopt her religious beliefs and his choice instead to spend eternity away from her proves that he does not love her as much as he says he does....

I don't know too much about divorce law, but how do family courts normally respond when one parent is telling the kids that the other parent doesn't love them?
8.27.2009 5:37pm
ohwilleke:
Not a great analogy.

The father wanted the judge to limit exposure to religion in this case, which the judge wouldn't do. The father in the anti-case you propose could still offer religious instruction, either way.

A private Xn school in the anti-case expressly favors the father's views. Homeschooling in the real case expressly favors the mother's views. A public school has a legally enforceable duty to be neutral between an atheist and a Christian.

Sending the girl to a public school in the anti-case is considerably more neutral than any other alternative.
8.27.2009 5:37pm
DangerMouse:
Now, with that change in facts, are you prepared to tell me this judge would have ordered the girl to attend the Christian school so that she could be exposed to a variety of viewpoints and a more social setting at this critical stage of her development? No f'in way.

Bingo. This case is all about advancing secular liberalism and destroying Christianity, in any way possible.

There is NO way that this would've been imposed on anyone other than a believing Christian. Nope.
8.27.2009 5:38pm
pete (mail) (www):

There are neutral reasons to favor a school setting (not necessarily a public one) over a homeschooling arrangement.


There are neutral reasons to favor a homeschool setting as well. Such as the physical safety of the child, wasted time at public school and in transportation of the child to the school, ability of parents to customize education to the indivual child's needs and skill level, and overall quality of education. The public schools in this country only graduate about 70% of their students on time and in many large urban areas the rate is below 50%. In cases like this where the court knows that the kid is already being educated well at home they should be very reluctant to force kids to attend public schools unless they are sure the kid is going to get a decent education there.
8.27.2009 5:39pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Dangermouse:

The reason the court avoids getting into religious beliefs of the parents is that the court is not a theological body and can't make theological determinations. I would think if it were the same facts with a Buddhist, the decision would come out the same.

In fact, when you read EV's law journal article on the subject, it looks like parents are still being denied custody because they won't take their kids to church often enough, so I think the opposite is true-- that atheists are discriminated against more often and more systematically than Christians are.
8.27.2009 5:40pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Pete:

That is about the core of the case. There are neutral reasons to prefer just about whatever outcome a judge wants. The current way divorce is handled means the judge's personal preference is usually a major guiding factor.

"The best interests of the child" usually means "Whatever the judge feels like" as long as they can, with a state face, provide a reason that it is within the best interests of the child without violating procedural rules, like getting into theological discussions, discussions of race, etc, and allowing both sides to be heard.
8.27.2009 5:43pm
erp:
Saying a child should go to public school in order to get diverse opinions is ridiculous. All public schools recite the same left wing clap trap on every issue. I feel very sorry for this child, but sending her to public school won't solve the issues that divide her parents.
8.27.2009 5:44pm
DAve (mail):
Imagine the court deciding that the child's mother was "too rigid" on a topic like racism-
...and that "multiple viewpoints" was the way children should be educated about it.
So the viewpoints of Skinheads and Black Panthers must be equally represented.
"This case is all about advancing secular liberalism and destroying Christianity, in any way possible.

There is NO way that this would've been imposed on anyone other than a believing Christian."

The court and the nation behind it are utterly clueless about their own bias. That's what happens when you've spent too long in public school.
8.27.2009 5:44pm
Phatty:

I still remember being "socialized" to accept the idea that there's a time and a place for everything.

Point taken. Reminds me of the episode in Dexter where Dexter recalls when he was a kid and just before he is evaluated by a counselor/psychologist his father tells him to think about every question before answering and say the exact opposite answer. That's how a sociopath passed a psych exam with flying colors.

The girl in this case could have used a similar bit of advice from her mother before the interview with the counselor. "Honey, how 'bout you lay off the Jesus stuff during your interview with the counselor today."
8.27.2009 5:46pm
DangerMouse:
I would think if it were the same facts with a Buddhist, the decision would come out the same.

Don't make me laugh The court has no need to consider the specific theology or brand of Christianity at issue. All it needs to know is that this is a Christian who apparently actually believes the doctrines, and must be destroyed. The reason why it wouldn't care about Buddhism is because secular libs are fine socializing with Buddhists, and hence, there's no question that Buddhists can socialize with others. But libs won't socialize with Christians, and so it's naturally concluded that Christians are incapable of socailization. I mean, no lib would be caught dead at a coctail party socializing with an ACTUAL, believing Christian!
8.27.2009 5:47pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Eugene,

I agree with you. But since the gov't itself prefers public schools to home schools and private schools--paying for and subsidizing only the former--wouldn't a neutral basis for the decision be that the judge is just following "public policy."
8.27.2009 5:52pm
Officious Intermeddler:
the incident with the counselor suggests that the child is currently not capable of behaving appropriately with adults outsider the child's home, and that this is closely related to home schooling.


I think you're assuming facts not in evidence, there. There is no information in the decision indicating what, precisely, occasioned the confrontation between child and counselor. Indeed, the decision leads one to imagine that the child challenged the counselor completely out of the blue. And while I have absolutely no doubt that's how the counselor represented the incident to the GAL, it's not unlikely that there's more to what happened.
8.27.2009 5:52pm
ohwilleke:
@ Pete:

The parties do not debate the relative academic merits of home schooling and public school: it is clear that the home schooling Ms. Voydatch has provided has more than kept up with the academic requirements of the [local] public school system. Instead, the debate centers on whether enrollment in public school will provide [the daughter] with an increased opportunity for group learning, group interaction, social problem solving, and exposure to a variety of points of view....


There are public schools that suck. This New Hampshire public school (which is almost by definition not in a large urban area) apparently is not one of them, as both parents appear to agree. The judge found, apparently without serious dispute from the parents, the home schooling and traditional education were academically equal in this particular case.

In the appropriate case it would be entirely fair to argue in a netural way that public schools are too far away, unsafe, or academically deficient. But, the parties in this case didn't make those arguments.

Mom wanted to homeschool for predominantly religious reasons. Dad thinks those reasons also include a desire of mom to alienate his child from him, and that this is turning his child into a socially maladjusted, albeit academically satisfactory child.
8.27.2009 5:54pm
troll_dc2 (mail):

But libs won't socialize with Christians, and so it's naturally concluded that Christians are incapable of socailization. I mean, no lib would be caught dead at a coctail party socializing with an ACTUAL, believing Christian!

What is your basis for your statements? Was it that you were at a cocktail party and no liberal would socialize with you?
8.27.2009 5:55pm
ohwilleke:
I think you're assuming facts not in evidence, there. There is no information in the decision indicating what, precisely, occasioned the confrontation between child and counselor. Indeed, the decision leads one to imagine that the child challenged the counselor completely out of the blue. And while I have absolutely no doubt that's how the counselor represented the incident to the GAL, it's not unlikely that there's more to what happened.


If the counselor represented the incident to the GAL that way, and no one told the court anything different, it would be assuming facts not in evidence for the court to second guess that testimony. There is no indication that this version of the facts was challenged by anyone, or that the court had reason to believe that the GAL or counselor were being dishonest.

Judges have a hard enough time resolving disputes of fact when there are actually disputes without trying to second guess every bit of undisputed testimony offered to them.
8.27.2009 6:00pm
DangerMouse:
What is your basis for your statements? Was it that you were at a cocktail party and no liberal would socialize with you?

Heh. I never divulge my religious background when in the presence of liberals. They're much more willing to openly discuss their hatrid of orthodox Christianity that way. I learned early in life that liberals despise Christians, and that's been reinforced thousands of times over.

But please, tell me how much you respect and get along with orthodox Christians. Why, I'll bet "some of your best friends" are actual, believing Christians. Right?

I also would note that, through casual observation, most social workers are big-time libs and, consequently, hate Christians also. They're naturally suspicious of Christianity as a system outside of government control and their hatrid of it would color any interaction they have with people, as it probably did in this case. Although, to be fair, there was one social workers that I knew while in law school that was an orthodox Catholic, who came from a family of 9 kids. But that was so rare as to be insignificant.
8.27.2009 6:04pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
The child's actions are unattractive, of course. But she's ten years old. Lots of ten-year-olds have unattractive habits. Most of them go to public school.

I think you have to look at the primary reason for kids to go to school, which should be to learn the three R's and related subjects. If the girl is benefitting academically from homeschooling, I don't see any reason to interfere with that.

Is the father asking that the kid be better socialized and not be so disrespectful in dealing with him, as to tell him he's going to hell? Those are reasonable things to ask. Surely there's some way to address these concerns other than to screw up her schooling.
8.27.2009 6:11pm
pete (mail) (www):
@ohwilleke


Mom wanted to homeschool for predominantly religious reasons. Dad thinks those reasons also include a desire of mom to alienate his child from him, and that this is turning his child into a socially maladjusted, albeit academically satisfactory child.


In this case I would agree that the public school sounds fine based on the court summary. I was responding to the claim that you can make a neutral case that public schools are preferable.

I am sympathetic to the court since both parents threw the ball in its lap and asked it to decide. I think that unless there is conclusive evidence that the child is being really messed up or that the current set up is not educating the child then leave it alone, whether it is a public, private, or homeschooling situation. In do not think there was enough evidence to change the situation, but then I never met the kid or interviewed her either and maybe the counselor saw enough to convince them that mom was trying to undermine dad through homeschooling.

I admit I am biased against public schools because I went to public schools that were not very safe (one shooting just off campus, multiple brawls involving dozens of students, and in my case one fist fight that I did not start) and where a I forced to waste much of my time with busy work and incompetent teachers when not in AP classes. Sadly the public high schools where I live now are significantly worse than the one I attended.
8.27.2009 6:15pm
troll_dc2 (mail):
DM, I grew up in a community in which we were the only Jewish family and I was the only Jewish kid in the whole school. I can assure you that I get along with orthodox Christians pretty well and not just because one summer my mother stuck me in a vacation bible school at a lutheran church.

In fact, I have learned how to communicate with people of all backgrounds and faiths in social situations. All you have to do is find a subject of interest, ask a few questions, and let them talk. When it works, the conversation takes on a life of its own.

I bet that I could have a decent conversation even with you.
8.27.2009 6:15pm
ShelbyC:

[The daughter] challenged the counselor to say what the counselor believed, and she prepared some highlighted biblical text for the counselor to read over and discuss, and she was visibly upset when the counselor (purposely) did not complete the assignment....



Folks, this just isn't a detailed enough description of what happened to draw any conclusions about the child.
8.27.2009 6:18pm
EMG:

I mean, no lib would be caught dead at a coctail party socializing with an ACTUAL, believing Christian!


No, it's the other way around. It's Christians (or at least the extremists among them) who often refuse to have anything to do with the rest of us. In the 1980's-90's, I had several school friends whose houses I wasn't welcome at because I wasn't Christian; just last year, my nephew's kindergarten class (and some of their parents) had a moral panic over the fact that he doesn't celebrate Christmas.

Indeed, this girl apparently has signficant difficulty "socializing with" her own father.

The anti-Christian persecution angle on this is horse scheiß. As noted above, EV's article reports many judgments that appear to have a bias in favor of the Christian parent. All the counterexamples you guys think are so clever fall flat; in reality, if the girl were behaving this way under the influence of any other belief system, its bizarreness would be all the more salient, and the judge would probably be even quicker to act. The mother only got as far as she did on her brainwashing program because our culture gives Christians much greater latitude on weird behavior like aggressively proselytizing when the situation calls for normal conversation. A non-Christian parent who warped their kid that badly would probably be facing loss of custody.
8.27.2009 6:37pm
Rich Rostrom (mail):
Government decisions about which school children should go, or what they should be taught, shouldn't be based on judges' views about which views are unduly rigid, or atheistic, or racist, or pro-gay-rights, or anti-gay, or what have you.

Unfortunately, I don't see any way to avoid such choices entirely. What is "the best interest of the child" when parents hold and teach views that are pretty clearly anti-social and destructive? Jihadist Islam, for instance. Or Communism. Or UFO cultism. Or White Purity. Religion in general is not especially dangerous, but more than almost any other aspect of culture, it can lead to extremist behavior. (Atheism can be pernicious, but it is difficult to get all fanatical about not believing, nor does it easily support claims of authority or elaborate rules systems.)

Furthermore, normally harmless ideologies and philosophies such as vegetarianism or feminism can be hypertrophied into madness. Should parents be allowed to teach children that all meat-eaters are sadistic murderers, or that all men are rapists?

There is no bright line.

Furthermore, there is no bright line between "teaching" and "brainwashing".

"The best interest of the child" is ultimately a subjective judgment. And yes, I am aware of the potential for mischief in that declaration. But I don't see how to avoid licensing some fairly obvious abuse without making such judgments.
8.27.2009 6:42pm
EMG:

not be so disrespectful in dealing with him


Laura, the problems with the child being taught that her father is "choosing" to burn for all eternity rather than going to heaven, and (as stated) that he's doing so because he doesn't love her enough, go way deeper than mere "disrespect."

Or is there a religious Christian exception to parental alienation?
8.27.2009 6:43pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
EMG, I don't think it's the court's job to worry about what the child thinks. The issue that the court needs to consider is her relationship with her father.

My daughter was brainwashed, in a mild way, in elementary school so that she was hyper-aware of anything that could be construed as racist. She called me to account for something I said one day. I told her that she'd misunderstood me; but further, that my racism, or lack thereof, was none of her dadgum business and that it was not her place to worry about it or to call me to account for what I said or thought. And that ended that.

Same thing, IMO. The father's disposition for eternity may be an appropriate subject for the kid's prayers, but ultimately it's his business and she needs to butt out.
8.27.2009 6:52pm
ShelbyC:

"The best interest of the child" is ultimately a subjective judgment. And yes, I am aware of the potential for mischief in that declaration. But I don't see how to avoid licensing some fairly obvious abuse without making such judgments.


So stop making the judgements. How 'bout the courts stop pretending to know what is in the best interest of the child and make judgements based on other criteria. A coin-toss would be better than having some judge try to figure out whether or not a strict Christian/Muslim/Vegitarian/Whatever upbringing is in the best interests of the child.
8.27.2009 6:53pm
DangerMouse:
No, it's the other way around. It's Christians (or at least the extremists among them) who often refuse to have anything to do with the rest of us.

Us? You mean the distinction between libs and believing Christians. Glad you admit it. Most libs obsessively hate orthodox Christianity and will do everything in their power to destroy it.

In the 1980's-90's, I had several school friends whose houses I wasn't welcome at because I wasn't Christian; just last year, my nephew's kindergarten class (and some of their parents) had a moral panic over the fact that he doesn't celebrate Christmas.

Meh, the parents were probably more concerned over maintaining the fiction of Santa Claus than anything else. Many parents want to make sure that their child believes in Santa for a while, as some kind of innocence thing. Even orthodox Christians are split on this.

The mother only got as far as she did on her brainwashing program because our culture gives Christians much greater latitude on weird behavior like aggressively proselytizing when the situation calls for normal conversation.

And now the real feelings about Christianity come out. Brainwashing. Weird behavior. Etc. And libs say they're the tolerant ones.
8.27.2009 6:54pm
Officious Intermeddler:
If the counselor represented the incident to the GAL that way, and no one told the court anything different, it would be assuming facts not in evidence for the court to second guess that testimony.


Treating a report that is, frankly, incredible with a healthy degree of skepticism is hardly assuming facts not in evidence.

A ten-year-old starts stridently challenging an adult's religious views completely out of the blue? Okay, maybe it really happened that way, and this is legitimately a very weird little girl. But simple common sense suggests other, likelier possibilities that a responsible fact-finder might have troubled himself to explore.

There is no indication that this version of the facts was challenged by anyone, or that the court had reason to believe that the GAL or counselor were being dishonest.


The GAL reported in general that the girl was likeable and well-liked, personable and intellectually capable, and yet the counselor's version of the incident appears to be that the child transformed into a bitter Bible-thumping JesusBot for no particular reason. Again, maybe it happened that way. Human experience would tend to suggest, though, that there may be more to it. If the court had "no reason" to think otherwise, then the court ought to come down from Olympus and dwell among us mortals for a while, to recover its bearings.

Judges have a hard enough time resolving disputes of fact when there are actually disputes without trying to second guess every bit of undisputed testimony offered to them.


No one is suggesting that a judge second-guess every bit of undisputed testimony offered to them, so let us have a moment of silence for the poor, defenseless straw man cut down in his prime.

The mere fact that testimony is undisputed doesn't conclusively establish its accuracy or veracity. Any fact-finder who accepts testimony as gospel for no other reason than it is undisputed isn't doing his job.
8.27.2009 7:10pm
Sarcastro (www):
I gotta say, it's a lot more fun assuming that everything bad that happens to you is because you're being oppressed for your religion!

All you need to do is pretend you're telepathic, and then fill in everyone else's thoughts with hate!

Hey, I heard that troll_dc2! That's only a violent subset of Unitarians, and I resent being lumped in with them do to your bigotry!
8.27.2009 7:10pm
Alan Gunn (mail):
I am a Court-Appointed Special Advocate, which is likely much the same sort of thing as the Guardian ad Litem in this case (the terminology varies from place to place; in Indiana, GALs have to be members of the bar, CASAs don't, but they're otherwise similar). I have occasionally taken religious practices into account in recommending placement of children, and based on the description here, I would have made the same recommendation as the GAL. It's not a matter of agreeing with the truth or untruth of the religious belief in question, it's a matter of how the parent (or other person) is using those religious beliefs and how that affects the child. I have viewed as a very positive thing a prospective adoptive parent's decision to send her foster child to a Christian school that taught the kid, among other things, that evolution is wrong, a belief I view as absurd. This was a considerable financial sacrifice for the foster parent, and the school offered a safe, supportive environment for a troubled child, which would not have been the case in the public school the child would have attended. So it reflected positively on the foster parent in my view, even though I considered her religious views nutty. On the other hand, I once made a negative placement recommendation in the case of parents who were so obsessed with starting their own church that they would have had little time left for the kid; this wasn't anywhere near the most important factor in my recommendation, but it counted for something. I had no good idea of the church's beliefs, and I didn't care. (The same sort of excessive enthusiasm over model trains or bird watching would have gotten the same weight.) I also once pointed out to a judge that a child's mother, whose parental rights I wanted terminated, believed herself to be a prophet; that belief upset the child and I thought the court should know about it.

I trust that it's plain to all of us that a court shouldn't decide a custody dispute on the basis that a religion is true or false. But when a parent's religious beliefs or practices can be shown to harm a child, as in this case with the harm to the child's relationship with her father and her apparent distress about having to deal with a counselor who doesn't share her faith, the reasons we don't want government-endorsed religions don't seem to me to come into play. This isn't a case of the court's having to "evaluate the merits of various viewpoints" in the sense of deciding which of those "viewpoints" was true; it's a case of evaluating the effects of the parent's practices on the kid. It's the court's job to do that.
8.27.2009 7:11pm
SuperSkeptic (mail):
The court's "diversity of opinion" rationale for coercively compelling the child to attend public school seems weak. The obvious inference is that it is a cover for the court's bias against homeschooling (which is widely known to be associated with actually practicing Christians - as opposed those who are merely cultural christians by birth or who have fallen out of practice) or christianity itself. If the court felt that the mother was actually harming the child with her beliefs, it should have had the integrity to be honest about it as well as sure enough about it to put it in writing in his/her opinion - if in fact that was the case. Otherwise, the decision is dishonest and unwise.
8.27.2009 7:17pm
ohwilleke:
"The best interest of the child" is ultimately a subjective judgment.


Indeed. I suspect that EV's argument, which is a respectible one, has a logical conclusion that the "best interest of the child" standard may not be the optimal rule of law in a society that values personal autonomy, even for parents that have to resort to the courts (something that an increasing share must do).

In practice, the "best interest of the child" standard is vacuuous, particularly in a society with a declining consensus on how to raise children. The vague standard obscures an ongoing debate over how one figures out what those best interests really are, and what boundary limitations exist to govern it.

A vague standard was a pretty good idea when judicial divorce was invented and policy makers had no real idea how it would play out, and the cases were rare and ideosyncratic. A vague standard is less desirable in an era where a large percentage of all children will experience a divorce or other court orders custody determination and we've had many decades of experience with tens of millions of custody disputes to inform policymakers.

A vague standard also has serious process problems. Under "best interest of the child" almost every argument and every fact is potentially relevant. This makes custody fights expensive and unpredictable, despite the fact that unlike a lot of other litigation there is no right to counsel or widespread provision of it, even for indigent parents, in custody fights, despite the fact that there is no monetary prize to financing the litigation, and despite the fact that the child has an independent interest in the outcome apart from the litigants.

The problem is that there isn't a consensus around an alternative. Crafting a new consensus is a mighty, but worthwhile job.
8.27.2009 7:19pm
SuperSkeptic (mail):
ohwilleke:, very much agreed. Clarity and less judicial obfuscation would aid that exploration greatly.
8.27.2009 7:25pm
EMG:

Us? You mean the distinction between libs and believing Christians. Glad you admit it. Most libs obsessively hate orthodox Christianity and will do everything in their power to destroy it.


No, I mean the distinction between Christians and non-Christians, not all of whom are liberals (see, e.g., most Eugene Volokh and most of his co-bloggers). Or more precisely, between the type of Christians who loudly proclaim that they are the "actual/believing/Orthodox/etc" ones one on hand; and on the other hand not only non-Christians, but also the majority of non-Christians who know how to act around people.

As for bizarre behavior, anyone who's encountered it knows exactly what I'm talking about (and that includes many Christians who have run into other Christians, such as Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, anti-Catholics etc., who get pushy about denominational differences) - people who can't have a normal everyday conversation without turning it into a one-sided religious lecture or interrogation, complete with proof-texts. This is exactly the behavior reported by the counselor. That the child has been taught to substitute such solipsistic ranting for whatever a given conversation is supposed to actually be about, regardless of circumstances, is quite harmful.

Public school is actually a pretty light intervention. The mother will still be free to indoctrinate her after school. But the girl will have a chance to learn how to get along in the wider society, which is a necessity of life. And it's what the father wants - so you never have more than half an argument, if that, about judicial tyranny over the family.
8.27.2009 7:25pm
SuperSkeptic (mail):
Or, the rationale was simply an attempt not to offend the Christians, but that's dishonest, too.
8.27.2009 7:29pm
ohwilleke:
"The mere fact that testimony is undisputed doesn't conclusively establish its accuracy or veracity. Any fact-finder who accepts testimony as gospel for no other reason than it is undisputed isn't doing his job."

Even a court sitting in equity, in a divorce case, does not have inquistorial powers. The court can't subpeona the counselor. The court is generally not allowed to consider argument that aren't made by the parties (including the GAL).

Maybe a system where the judge had the power to go out and gather evidence when facts offers seem odd would be better. Some countries do very well with that kind of system. But, we don't have that system (although we are moving in that direction with the GAL or equivalent as an inquisitorial finder of fact, and the judge as an appellate figure).

Also: "A ten-year-old starts stridently challenging an adult's religious views completely out of the blue? Okay, maybe it really happened that way, and this is legitimately a very weird little girl."

Given the larger context of the case, including her views about her father, and that she is homeschooled, makes the argument that she is "legitimately a very weird little girl" seem very plausible to me. I've met ten year olds like that, so it doesn't seem so contrary to "human experience" to me.

The GAL reported in general that the girl was likeable and well-liked, personable and intellectually capable, and yet the counselor's version of the incident appears to be that the child transformed into a bitter Bible-thumping JesusBot for no particular reason


To connect some dots, I suspect that the girl suspected that the counselor was a threat to the power of her mother in her life, had lost contact with (and hence loyalty to) her dad with her mom's encouragement, and felt very defensive about that, so may have decided that strident defense of her mom's approach would be the best way to show loyalty to mom and maintain the status quo. But, the girl, being ten, didn't realize how that approach would play to the counselor, the GAL and the judge.
8.27.2009 7:33pm
SuperSkeptic (mail):
If there is anyone who should not like this decision, it should be any people who want to teach their children one particular thing very strongly. Maybe one of OhWilleke's standards or criteria of an appropriate parent would be one that teaches their child to be open minded, rational, and throughtful. A decision ruling that the mother was harming her child by teaching her not to be those things, would have gone a long way toward identifying the kinds of thing we want parents to be doing.

Instead we get: public school for diversity of opinion.
8.27.2009 7:36pm
EMG:
Officious Intermeddler, the counselor's report isn't incredible at all - it describes a kind of behavior which is very typical among deeply invested fundamentalists. As for it not matching other descriptions of the girl's behavior, the mother may well be far enough out of touch to have put her up to it.

In fact, if you read the whole opinion, it turns out to be the mother who's making outrageous claims about the girl's mental health (and her father's effect on it). Classic parental alienation.
8.27.2009 7:36pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
DangerMouse:

Don't make me laugh The court has no need to consider the specific theology or brand of Christianity at issue. All it needs to know is that this is a Christian who apparently actually believes the doctrines, and must be destroyed. The reason why it wouldn't care about Buddhism is because secular libs are fine socializing with Buddhists, and hence, there's no question that Buddhists can socialize with others. But libs won't socialize with Christians, and so it's naturally concluded that Christians are incapable of socailization. I mean, no lib would be caught dead at a coctail party socializing with an ACTUAL, believing Christian!


In his law review paper, EV documents religious preferences towards mainstream religions by judges. Vacuous speculation on your part IMO must lose out to careful review of cases on his.

However, this disagreement brings up an interesting point:

You evidently believe that Christians are better people than atheists. Right?

You would probably think it is in the best interest of a child to be raised by the Christian parent than the atheist (or for that matter Buddhist) one, right?

So wouldn't you agree that a major part of the problem is allowing courts to conduct such an open-ended inquiry in the first place and that the "best interest of the child" standard is really the problem here?
8.27.2009 7:42pm
DangerMouse:
This is exactly the behavior reported by the counselor. That the child has been taught to substitute such solipsistic ranting for whatever a given conversation is supposed to actually be about, regardless of circumstances, is quite harmful.

The kid is 10, so I don't think you know whether ranting was involved or not. Frankly, I don't trust the social worker at all, given the way their biases usually run. In fact, I suspect that the social worker highlighted this interaction in an attempt to move the kid to public school. Government workers are always in favor of more government control, and are highly suspicious of alternative power centers. Meddling is their job, after all.

However, I'd agree with you that the kid shouldn't have even TALKED about religion with the social worker. It is extremely dangerous to even identify yourself as a Christian to a liberal with power over you, because you then immediately become a target. There's no telling what this judge might do to this poor mother now. She could face loss of custody, jail time, or God knows what, based on the half-baked "testimony" of a liberal social worker and a compliant father willing to invent any lie necessary to "rescue" her daughter from religion. As I said before, she should immediately get the hell out of dodge. It is much, much too dangerous for her and her daughter to stick around.
8.27.2009 7:44pm
EMG:

My daughter was brainwashed, in a mild way, in elementary school so that she was hyper-aware of anything that could be construed as racist.


Yeah, that's just having your primary caregiver tell you the other parent is going to hell, and what's more, that he's deliberately choosing so because he'd rather burn than spend eternity with you.

C'mon, now.
8.27.2009 7:44pm
EMG:
DangerMouse, you're providing a perfect example of the paranoid style familiarity with which makes the counselor's account ring so unfortunately true.
8.27.2009 7:46pm
troll_dc2 (mail):

DangerMouse, you're providing a perfect example of the paranoid style familiarity with which makes the counselor's account ring so unfortunately true.



I would not go so far as to use the adjective "paranoid" to characterize DM, but I really would like to know whether his statements are based on actual knowledge or just on assumptions.
8.27.2009 7:51pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
EMG, are you advocating taking the child away from the mother?

I'm not seeing anything here that public school can fix.

What I am seeing is that somebody needs to explain to the kid that her father's salvation is between him and God and it's not her place to pass judgment on it. Nor is it her place to quiz her adult counselor. This is the objectionable behavior we're seeing, right?
8.27.2009 7:56pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Rick Rostrum:


Unfortunately, I don't see any way to avoid such choices entirely. What is "the best interest of the child" when parents hold and teach views that are pretty clearly anti-social and destructive? Jihadist Islam, for instance. Or Communism. Or UFO cultism. Or White Purity. Religion in general is not especially dangerous, but more than almost any other aspect of culture, it can lead to extremist behavior. (Atheism can be pernicious, but it is difficult to get all fanatical about not believing, nor does it easily support claims of authority or elaborate rules systems.)

Furthermore, normally harmless ideologies and philosophies such as vegetarianism or feminism can be hypertrophied into madness. Should parents be allowed to teach children that all meat-eaters are sadistic murderers, or that all men are rapists?


Ok. Let me give you a very different example.

My wife is a Christian, while I am a Norse Pagan. I also am a strong advocate within some segments of the Norse pagan community for the revival of animal sacrifice within our religion and in particular horse sacrifice (the horse would be roasted and eaten in the resulting feast).

Suppose at some point, we get a divorce. Should the judge take into account the fact that I advocate publically slaughtering and eating horses into custody decisions? Should I curtail such advocacy if it looks like divorce is likely? Does this create a chilling effect?

Fortunately in my state, the bar is imminent and substantial harm before religious elements can be considered, but my state is unusual in that regard. Most states allow the consideration of religious beliefs and practices even where no harm is expected or where the harm is merely speculative. This leads parents who are facing custody battles to be VERY CAREFUL about how they are seen religiously and otherwise. In fact in some cases a woman who claimed to be Baptist had custody denied to her because the judge thought she was probably Wiccan, and the appellate panel refused to see this as an abuse of discretion. And in my opinion, this is entirely opposed to the spirit of the first amendment.

Parents have first amendment rights too and when considering ideology of parents in deciding child custody decisions, those rights are trampled on by the state.

While EV has in the past argued steering clear from ALL protected speech, I would be comfortable with a bar which states that only imminent and substantial harm can be considered in such areas.

In another thread I asked a similar hypothetical. Suppose one parent:
1) Admits to using drugs in the past but claims to have stopped 15 years ago.
2) Belongs to a non-mainstream religious group, like Anton LeVey's Church of Satan (a religious group nonetheless documented in the Army Chaplain's Manual)
3) Advocates drug legalization.

Which of these elements should a court use to decide custody? I maintain that none of them rise to the level of a harm that should be sufficient to use state parens patriae power against a parent doing nothing more than exercising legitimate first amendment rights.
8.27.2009 8:05pm
Barbara Skolaut (mail):
"a variety of viewpoints" in public school.

On what planet?

Hint: Not this one.
8.27.2009 8:06pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
One other thing that occurs to me, connecting this with EV's article:

[T]he Guardian ad Litem [also] echoed her previous concerns that Amanda's relationship with her father suffers to some degree by her belief that his refusal to adopt her religious beliefs and his choice instead to spend eternity away from her proves that he does not love her as much as he says he does....


This is one area where EV has advocated speech restrictions in divorce cases. I would conclude though that the issue here has to do with the breadth of the ruling and order rather than ordering adult conversations between the parents and kid to clear up the issue of one parent undermining the other.
8.27.2009 8:11pm
EMG:

I'm not seeing anything here that public school can fix.


It can fix her apparent difficulties getting along with people who don't share her beliefs.

It can ameliorate her mother's hold on her mind, presently so tenacious and excessive that she's managing to alienate her from the other parent.

And it's what the father wants, showing that he's fully her parent too, regardless of whatever tales the mother may choose to spin about the state of his soul.


somebody needs to explain to the kid that her father's salvation is between him and God and it's not her place to pass judgment on it.


The father can't do it, by the nature of the case; she's been primed to dismiss him as an unregenerate. The court can't order a third party to do it, because that's no longer viewpoint-neutral (remember, the mother's religious viewpoint says that it is her business). The father's only real option is to get her into more frequent contact with mainstream society through the school, which evens out the balance of influence between himself and the mom, hopefully loosening her up. Only with those maturing influences can she start to consider whether there are other metrics of human worth and love besides "how closely your theology matches what I've been taught," and hopefully grow closer to her father.

Parent-child relationships go deeper than words and outward courtesy - don't say that! it's disrespectful! know your place! nunya business! The father is rightly concerned with how his child actually feels toward him, and there is abundant evidence that her feelings have been unfairly manipulated by the mother.

Or do you really believe that "respect" is the sum of the parent-child relationship, like the father in The Sound of Music?
8.27.2009 8:15pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
I guess my issue is that it is always in the "best interests of the child" for the court to be as uninvolved in the kid's life as possible. We want the kids to be raised by their parents, not by the court.

Deep, divisive decisions like this ensure that the parents will be back in court next month to argue about something different. There are problems here but the court has more minimalist remedies such as ordering the parents to discuss with their daughter that both parents love her.
8.27.2009 8:16pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
EMG, the court could order the mother to stop undermining the child's relationship with her father. EV's article has a large section on how such orders are currently used, but also how he thinks they should be used (which seems uniquely applicable to this case).
8.27.2009 8:18pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Also, IIRC, New Hampshire precedent precludes the court from looking at religious affiliation or belief in divorce proceedings.
8.27.2009 8:20pm
DangerMouse:
einhverfr,

No, I don't think Christians are necessarily better people than atheists. But I do think that Christian theology is better than secular ideologies.

I also would agree that "best interest of the child" is a B.S. scam that merely allocates unreasonable power to unelected, elitist judges to meddle in the affairs of families. I think that a standard of imminent and substantial harm should be necessary before religious factors should be considered, if at all.

In general, as a policy matter it is much more important to strengthen the rights of families to raise their kids over the ability of the state to meddle. I don't care if it's a Satanist or a Norse Pagan, the state should have an incredibly high bar to even consider the question. The reality is, the oppression will come from secular Bill Mahar-type liberals who want to destroy Christianity.

EMG and troll,

You think I'm paranoid? Really? I thought it was basic common sense not to expose one's Christian affiliation to liberals. Their hatred of Christianity is well known, and their love of wielding state power is also well known.

As einhverfr says, many people are EXTREMELY careful about how their religion is perceived by people in power. Christians have every reason to be extremely wary of a judicial system stuffed with elitist liberals from law schools that preach nothing but Judicial Realism, relativism, and the proper allocation of social power for the oppressed verses the oppressors (aka: white male Christians). Why in hell a person would gamble that a Northeastern Judge in New Hampshire would be sympathetic towards Christianity is beyond me. It seems like incredible stupidity. This outcome was sadly predictable.
8.27.2009 8:25pm
Crunchy Frog:
Several thoughts come to mind, none of which has immediate bearing on this particular case:

Interfaith marriages only work as long as there are no kids in the picture. Once you add children into the mix, the parents better decide which faith (if any) the kids are to be raised in, and be consistent. Someone has to convert if necessary.

Divorce sucks, and for the kids is sucks three times as bad. Don't be such a selfish bastard (of either gender) that you put your own desires ahead of the needs of the children. If that requires looking the other way at a dalliance or four, then do so. However, if there is violence involved, get the hell out, with the kids.

If you do end up divorced, your kid's relationship with the other parent is more important than your hatred of your ex, no matter how much of a douchebag (s)he is to you. Remember, that goes both ways.

Some decisions still have to be made jointly, and respected by both parents. Don't screw it up just because of hurt feelings.

Lastly, don't bother telling the kids that your ex is a worthless a-hole. They'll figure it out on their own, and respect you more for trying to be polite.
8.27.2009 8:27pm
Officious Intermeddler:
Even a court sitting in equity, in a divorce case, does not have inquistorial powers. The court can't subpeona the counselor. The court is generally not allowed to consider argument that aren't made by the parties (including the GAL).


One need not possess inquisitorial powers to be able to discern the faint whiff of bullshit surrounding a piece of evidence, even undisputed evidence. Juries manage this task routinely.

Given the larger context of the case, including her views about her father, and that she is homeschooled, makes the argument that she is "legitimately a very weird little girl" seem very plausible to me. I've met ten year olds like that, so it doesn't seem so contrary to "human experience" to me.


The fact that you consider homeschooling indicative of a "very weird little girl" speaks volumes.

I've never in my life met a ten-year-old who uncorked a religious rant on me, completely unprovoked and out of the blue. And I lived in Salt Lake City for six years. When I have witnessed children uncork religious rants at adults, it has invariably been as a result of the adult being, for want of a better term, a dick: mocking the child's beliefs, or questioning the child's sincerity.

To connect some dots, I suspect that the girl suspected that the counselor was a threat to the power of her mother in her life, had lost contact with (and hence loyalty to) her dad with her mom's encouragement, and felt very defensive about that, so may have decided that strident defense of her mom's approach would be the best way to show loyalty to mom and maintain the status quo.


Here's an equally-plausible scenario: the counselor failed to adequately conceal his or her contempt for the mother's and daughter's religious beliefs; the child, being no idiot, understandably reacted badly; and the counselor omitted this, as a CYA move, from his or her report to the GLA.
8.27.2009 8:31pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):

Or do you really believe that "respect" is the sum of the parent-child relationship, like the father in The Sound of Music?


Of course not. But I think it is the issue here, and also with her behavior with the counselor if that is reported accurately.

you say:


whatever tales the mother may choose to spin about the state of his soul.



But the OP says:


[T]he Guardian ad Litem [also] echoed her previous concerns that Amanda's relationship with her father suffers to some degree by her belief that his refusal to adopt her religious beliefs and his choice instead to spend eternity away from her proves that he does not love her as much as he says he does....


Did the guardian say that Amanda's mother told her this, or is this something Amanda came up with on her own?

I went to the attached pdf to find out. Look here:


Despite Ms. Voydatch's insistence that Amanda's choice to share her mother's religious beliefs is a free choice, it would be remarkable if a ten year old child who spends her school time with her mother and the vast majority of all of her other time with her mother would seriously consider adopting any other religious point of view. Amanda's vigorous defense of her religious beliefs to the counselor suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view.


So the court needs to concern itself with the exposure of children to religious points of view that are inconsistent with their parents'. By age 10, Amanda should have seriously considered adopting other religious points of view, or there is a problem. I am very uncomfortable with this.

Finally, Amanda was already attending some classes and having interaction with kids her age. She was sociable and had friends. Once again, I don't see stopping the homeschooling and making her go to public school solving anything.
8.27.2009 8:33pm
Oren:

I also would note that, through casual observation, most social workers are big-time libs and, consequently, hate Christians also.

All those Church-based social workers must be self-hating Christians, huh?
8.27.2009 8:38pm
Officious Intermeddler:
Officious Intermeddler, the counselor's report isn't incredible at all - it describes a kind of behavior which is very typical among deeply invested fundamentalists.


EMG, I will repeat to you what I said to ohwilleke: I lived in Salt Lake City for six years, among "deeply invested fundamentalists". Never in my life have I seen a ten-year-old uncork a religious rant at an adult, unprovoked and out of the blue.

The idea that this sort of behavior is "very typical among deeply invested fundamentalists" is fantasy. The only demographic among whom it is very typical is utter crackpots, who are decidedly rare among the general population notwithstanding the category errors of urban liberals.
8.27.2009 8:39pm
some dude:
[T]he Court is guided by the premise that education is by its nature an exploration and examination of new things,


That's total bullcrap. Anyone here think the premise that education is all about exploring and examining new things? Show of hands. What does that even mean?

Education is about the exploration and examination of old things like algebra and history and grammar and...
8.27.2009 8:39pm
DangerMouse:
Oren, I meant government social workers. I've known plenty of social workers that are affiliated with Churches. But government social workers are a different breed entirely.
8.27.2009 8:41pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):

[T]he Court is guided by the premise that education is by its nature an exploration and examination of new things


Further, the pdf says that Amanda's academic progress had not been in any way impeded by her being homeschooled. So whatever education "by its nature" really is, according to her test scores she was getting it.
8.27.2009 8:41pm
Oren:

In practice, the "best interest of the child" standard is vacuuous, particularly in a society with a declining consensus on how to raise children. The vague standard obscures an ongoing debate over how one figures out what those best interests really are, and what boundary limitations exist to govern it.

Agreed, but this is the peril of engaging in a marriage with even parity -- it is a situation rife with deadlock. Much better to form a bond with an odd number of people such that a majority of the caregivers can dictate what should happen to the child without government interference.


In general, as a policy matter it is much more important to strengthen the rights of families to raise their kids over the ability of the state to meddle. I don't care if it's a Satanist or a Norse Pagan, the state should have an incredibly high bar to even consider the question.

Actually have to agree with DM here -- families should raise their children more or less as they see fit.

That, of course, is entirely not the issue here. If the family could make a decision, it would be respected. Instead, the parents have opted whining to an authority figure over the adult course of action: working out their differences.

The State should lock them up in adjacent cells until they can put their petty bullshit behind them and make a binding agreement on how to raise their child.
8.27.2009 8:44pm
DangerMouse:
The idea that this sort of behavior is "very typical among deeply invested fundamentalists" is fantasy. The only demographic among whom it is very typical is utter crackpots, who are decidedly rare among the general population notwithstanding the category errors of urban liberals.

This is why it is dangerous to reveal that you're a Christian to a liberal. It's just too risky. They leap to assumptions and conclude that only normal, rational, sane people wouldn't be Christian at all, and therefore that only irrational, weird people are Christians, who of course have to be corrected, protected from themselves, "cured" of their behavior and beliefs, or what have you.
8.27.2009 8:44pm
DNJ:
Some dude,

I think the court means that the things are new to the child. Interpreted in this way, I think it accurately describes what education is (or at least should be) about.
8.27.2009 8:47pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
To an child raised by atheists, profound religious belief would be a new thing. Is it public schools' function to expose that child to profound religious belief?
8.27.2009 8:49pm
DNJ:
I don't see why parents have any greater moral claim on their children than anyone else. The whole notion of "parents' rights" lacks justification. Why should parents get to do what they want with their children? Parents' authority over their children should be significantly curtailed. They should not be allowed to inculcate their religion (or disbelief therein) into their children, or force them to engage in religious practice. I view parental authority as a trust; parents should act impartially in the child's best interests, not to advance their personal beliefs. The state delegates some coercive authority over children to parents, and it should withdraw it if they fail this trust and try to impose their religious beliefs on their children.
8.27.2009 8:55pm
Officious Intermeddler:
I don't see why parents have any greater moral claim on their children than anyone else.


The mind reels.
8.27.2009 8:58pm
Oren:

To an child raised by atheists, profound religious belief would be a new thing. Is it public schools' function to expose that child to profound religious belief?

Absolutely. The school would be remiss not to expose a child to the wide array of religious beliefs.

For starters, at least a basic knowledge of the Old Testament, New Testament, Koran, Bhaghavad-Vita ought to be an absolute requirement for graduating high school.
8.27.2009 9:00pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Dangermouse:

Thanks for your reply. I think we are in substantive agreement as to how courts ought to work on this issue. I think we both have a strong conviction that freedom of religion MATTERS in this country and that it is often in danger by the state.

I also think that parental autonomy is an important check against undue encroachment by the state. I don't think this gets enough attention in divorce proceedings.
8.27.2009 9:03pm
DangerMouse:
The state delegates some coercive authority over children to parents, and it should withdraw it if they fail this trust and try to impose their religious beliefs on their children.

Once again, we see that secular, statist libs (but I repeat myself) have no problem with an ass-backwards view of not only the family, but the state and its limits in the American system.

And people call me paranoid?
8.27.2009 9:04pm
Oren:

I view parental authority as a trust; parents should act impartially in the child's best interests, not to advance their personal beliefs.

The child's best interests according to who?

Last I checked, society cannot come to anything resembling a consensus on how a child ought to be raised or even what the goals or targets are. We are divided on both means and ends and so "impartially" here means basically nothing.

Moreover, your understanding of trusts is severely cramped. Trustees are empowered to act in any way they reasonably believe will advance the interests of the beneficiary. That is, trustees have enormous latitude in deciding how to go about discharging their duty.
8.27.2009 9:06pm
Oren:

And people call me paranoid?

The paranoia comes not from identifying the loony left, it's from thinking they have more clout then they really do. Fringe positions exist (quite readily on both sides), but there are strong incentives for the government to moderate its behavior.
8.27.2009 9:08pm
Oren:

Never in my life have I seen a ten-year-old uncork a religious rant at an adult, unprovoked and out of the blue.

Actually, my 10 year old nephew just did that while on vacation (complete with childish name calling and everything). With some effort, I've managed not to take personal offense and figure that some time will mellow him out.
8.27.2009 9:09pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
Oren, learning about religion is not the same as being exposed to profound religious belief.
8.27.2009 9:13pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
DangerMouse:

But please, tell me how much you respect and get along with orthodox Christians. Why, I'll bet "some of your best friends" are actual, believing Christians. Right?

My lifelong best friend in fact. Coincidentally he's a social worker, and he's as conservative as you are. (I just watched the last Glen Beck clip he sent me to shatter my fantasy that Barack Obama isn't a crypto-racist Stalinist. It didn't work -- quelle surprise.) Despite that, I doubt he'd have a second of patience for your delusions of persecution.

It is extremely dangerous to even identify yourself as a Christian to a liberal with power over you, because you then immediately become a target. There's no telling what this judge might do to this poor mother now. She could face loss of custody, jail time, or God knows what, based on the half-baked "testimony" of a liberal social worker and a compliant father willing to invent any lie necessary to "rescue" her daughter from religion. As I said before, she should immediately get the hell out of dodge. It is much, much too dangerous for her and her daughter to stick around.

Every time I see a Christian, wearing one of those mandatory yellow arm bands, drinking out of a "Christians only" water fountain, I'm positively moved by the look I see in their eyes. It says, "I'm a person too." What dignity. What courage.

Get help. Really.
8.27.2009 9:15pm
EMG:
Hey, could we not throw the kid's actual name around? It's bad enough IMO that it wasn't redacted in the original.
8.27.2009 9:20pm
DNJ:
Oren,

I wasn't using the word "trust" in its legal sense. As to your criticism of the

DangerMouse,

You seems to regard the family as part of a "private sphere" that the state should not intrude into (in general). This view has been persuasively critiques by feminists and Marxists. It merely provides a shield for oppression. The unequal distribution of power in the family and the lack of scrutiny of what goes on their gives great scope for this.

Many people regard children as essentially the property of their parents, who have plenary control over them. Similarly, the wife used to be regarded as essentially the property of her husband. I reject both these views.
8.27.2009 9:24pm
some dude:

DNJ:
Some dude,

I think the court means that the things are new to the child. Interpreted in this way, I think it accurately describes what education is (or at least should be) about.


I'm not sure that's what is meant. The opinion also talks about "exposure to a variety of points of view." Why is that important in education? Exposure to a variety of points of view on algebra? Grammar?
8.27.2009 9:31pm
r gould-saltman (mail):
This one seems to have brought out a bunch of folks who haven't ever read the posting guidelines, and the vehemence of whose opinions seems to be in inverse proportion to their actual day-to-day, feet-in-the-courtroom knowledge of family law. The folks who actually KNOW some stuff seem much more measured.

Prize goes to troll_dc2 for the subtle suggestion that maybe those vast numbers of "secular, statist libs" don't want to talk to DM not because of ANYTHING they know about his theological views, or because they CARE anything about his theological views but instead just because he's the kinda guy he apparently is...
8.27.2009 9:33pm
DNJ:
Oren,

Sorry, I didn't finish my sentence in the previous post. I was saying: As to your criticism of my use of the notion of impartiality, I probably did not express myself well. Essentially what I am saying is that parents should inculcate or impose neither religion nor irreligion on their children. I was using the word "impartiality" in a Rawlsian sense. Of course, you might deny that Rawlsian impartiality is possible. That position is a reasonable one, one that many of Rawls's critics have taken, although I tend to agree with Rawls and his defenders on this issue. I was suggesting that a standpoint of Rawlsian impartiality would produce the rule that parents should inculcate or impose neither religion nor irreligion upon their children.
8.27.2009 9:35pm
EMG:

By age 10, [the girl] should have seriously considered adopting other religious points of view, or there is a problem.


That's not what the paragraph you quoted was saying at all.
it would be remarkable if a ten year old child who spends her school time with her mother and the vast majority of all of her other time with her mother would seriously consider adopting any other religious point of view.


All the judge is saying here is that it's perfectly understandable that the child believes as she does - it would be "remarkable" if the situation were otherwise. And by implication that the mother, her claims to the contrary notwithstanding, is ultimately responsible for the religious problems the girl is having with her father.

It's just not plausible that the girl independently came up with the idea that the father will burn in hell, which just *happens* to perfectly coincide with the mother's own beliefs.

It's supposed to be incredible that a ten year old went on a religious rant with a stranger, but then she supposedly decided on her own to believe that her dad will be tortured for eternity?

It's just not a healthy lens for a child to be looking at her father through, and the solution runs deeper than teaching her to "respectfully" keep it to herself. (How is a kid supposed to keep mum about the idea that her dad will be tortured eternally with undying fire, anyway?) That's the problem with ideological beliefs in family law - too many people have beliefs that amount to wholesale condemnations of this or that of people. And when other members of the child's family belong to the class in question (by sheer coincidence, of course!), those tasked with protecting the child can't turn a blind eye.
8.27.2009 9:42pm
DNJ:
Some dude,

Well, I don't think the court is saying that the education is only about things that are new to everyone i.e. things that no-one has discovered or thought about before. I agree that would be a pretty strange conception of education.

I think the reference to the importance of exposure to a diversity of views actually supports my interpretation.
If something is new to everyone, then its less likely that there will be a diversity of opinions on it, since people won't have strongly-held preexisting opinions on it and probably won't form them immediately.
8.27.2009 9:49pm
DNJ:
Some dude,

Well, I don't think the court is saying that the education is only about things that are new to everyone i.e. things that no-one has discovered or thought about before. I agree that would be a pretty strange conception of education.

I think the reference to the importance of exposure to a diversity of views actually supports my interpretation.
If something is new to everyone, then its less likely that there will be a diversity of opinions on it, since people won't have strongly-held preexisting opinions on it and probably won't form them immediately.
8.27.2009 9:49pm
MarkField (mail):

I'm not sure that's what is meant. The opinion also talks about "exposure to a variety of points of view." Why is that important in education? Exposure to a variety of points of view on algebra? Grammar?


As several people have already pointed out, this undoubtedly means exposure to viewpoints other than those of her mother.
8.27.2009 9:56pm
Danny (mail):

To an child raised by atheists, profound religious belief would be a new thing. Is it public schools' function to expose that child to profound religious belief?


That was what happened to me!! :) Even going to public school I was probably in middle school already before I understood that many people believed in God. When I was in elementary school I went to Saturday sleepovers at my friends' houses and then to church with their families the next day, which I interpreted as a social club or a long boring music concert where we got to sing also. It was years before I figured out that there was something supernatural associated with it and that "Christian" wasn't a social club or a hobby based on a commonly loved storybook.

I think homeschooled people must be socially handicapped not for any ideological reason but just because they probably never had to learn social skills on the playground without the protection of mommy and daddy. I wonder how they adapt to the workplace where you need to know about social intelligence, cameraderie and finding your way in a social hierarchy of strangers. Are they all creepy recluses or do they turn out OK?
8.27.2009 10:03pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
EMG, the paragraph I quoted was part of the reasoning for why the kid needed to go to public school.

"It's supposed to be incredible that a ten year old went on a religious rant with a stranger..."

I never said it was incredible. I said that her actions were unattractive and disrespectful.

I don't think it's the court's place to decide that the child's mother's teaching needs to be tempered by making the kid go to public school instead of continuing homeschooling, which evidently is successful.

"(How is a kid supposed to keep mum about the idea that her dad will be tortured eternally with undying fire, anyway?)"

Is it the court's place to explain to the child what her views about heaven and hell and salvation are supposed to be?
8.27.2009 10:04pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
Danny, if you'll read the attached PDF, you'll see that the child in question had interaction with her peers, and that she was described as appropriately sociable and having friends.

I can think back to a great deal of socializing I had in public school that I would have been much, much better off skipping.
8.27.2009 10:06pm
Danny (mail):
That's true, too.. I went to elementary school in the 1980s and apparently in just 20 years it's all changed. When I was 8, 9, 10 we all walked or biked to school by ourselves every day and there was never any violence in school. A bit of teasing and the occasional fight in middle school and high school. But I have a couple of friends who are substitute teachers now. They tell me that in 2009 in middle school and high school the kids will actually punch teachers in the face sometimes, and each other every day... so maybe kids now are learning something closer to prison survival skills than just socializing
8.27.2009 10:23pm
Toby:
Danny

Those are just diverse views about social interaction. It is important that those kids be so exposed.
8.27.2009 11:01pm
Oren:

Oren, learning about religion is not the same as being exposed to profound religious belief.

I don't know about that, I found more spirituality in the works of Augustine and Gibran than anyone I met. YMMV.
8.27.2009 11:31pm
Oren:

Essentially what I am saying is that parents should inculcate or impose neither religion nor irreligion on their children.

Why is agnosticism to be preferred over faith?

Rawlians impartiality breaks down if you insist that Rawlsian impartiality ought to be accorded a privileged position with respect to other epistemological theories.


Of course, you might deny that Rawlsian impartiality is possible.

I have no need of such an assertion.
8.27.2009 11:36pm
Oren:


I don't think it's the court's place to decide that the child's mother's teaching needs to be tempered by making the kid go to public school instead of continuing homeschooling, which evidently is successful.

No, it's not the court's place, it's the father's place, who is entitled (unless otherwise disqualified) to an equal say in the education of his child.

If the father and mother cannot agree, they must either appoint an arbiter or one will be appointed for them by the State.
8.27.2009 11:39pm
EMG:

I don't think it's the court's place to decide that the child's mother's teaching needs to be tempered by making the kid go to public school instead of continuing homeschooling


People keep pretending this is a straight government-interference problem, ignoring the fact that the kid has another parent and that sending the kid to public school is what he wants. Presumably, the secularism and diversity of the public school line up with his own point of view. Why should mom's viewpoint trump? Because she's Christian?


Is it the court's place to explain to the child what her views about heaven and hell and salvation are supposed to be?


It's the court's place to give the father an equal chance at getting through to her, which purpose - given the dynamic that mom has created via homeschooling - it judged best and most easily served by putting the kid in public school. I mean, you may have the right to teach your kid that her father will burn for eternity. But you don't have the right to make him sit and take it. If she didn't want him to go to court about her approach to religious education, she should have thought of that before using it to undermine his relationship with his child. She could have glossed over the whole "heaven and hell and salvation" bit, particularly with respect to specific individuals, as the majority of parents with religious conflicts in the family manage to do. But to hope for such a basic level of prudence and compassion is "chilling" to her free speech, apparently. Puh-leeze.

Incidentally, I am religiously observant, and I homeschool my child.
8.28.2009 12:00am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
I don't know if DangerMouse feels as odd as I do about arguing between us on almost every other thing but being on the exact same side of this issue. Anyway let me give my perspective on being outside the mainstream in religious belief. This might help put some of his posts in context.

When we look at religious belief in this US there are wide varieties of such belief. The majority of Americans go to church at least occasionally, believe in God in some way, and consider themselves at least marginally religious. There is a mainstream religious sentiment in our country which has grown more broad and inclusive, recognizing not just the more mild Protestant sects (like Lutheranism) but also Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism.

Mainstream American religious belief is nominally Christian but only nominally so. A surprising number of "Christian" Americans now believe in reincarnation and other elements more or less imported (in a distorted form) from other religions. However, to most Americans, religion is what you believe.

Most folks are not aware of the potential consequences of stepping outside the mainstream on this. The consequences are often overblown by many but they exist. I don't think there are organized persecutions though many on all sides here are AFRAID of such occurring. Stepping outside might include everything from becoming an atheist to deciding that Christianity is a lifestyle, not just a belief system. Being a pagan too puts one outside that mainstream (and yes, I approach my religion as a lifestyle).

Most of the time, these consequences are not particularly major. However when you start looking at interactions with the state, and in particular interactions with groups with a great deal of power, like Child Protective Services, one has to tread a bit more carefully. The reason is that individuals can become prejudices relatively easily, and this is especially true when state agents are looking at folks outside that mainstream.

For example, as a Norse Pagan occasionally I end up in association with individuals whose views I see as unacceptably and untraditionally racist (we're talking KKK/Aryan Nations/Neo-Nazi types, not folk who fail the PC-test). However, this doesn't mean I hold these views. In fact one element my wife and I have in common is an ability to value the deeper strata of eachothers' cultures and we come from very different backgrounds. However, even if we did hold these views, I don't think it should be for the state to take kids away on that basis.

Similarly someone trying to live a Christian religion as a lifestyle might trigger concerns about medical negligence (BTW, this is an EXCELLENT reason that states should have religious exceptions for medical duty requirements in parenting-- it reduces the basis for state involvement in folks who are trying to live and bring up kids according to their values).

Many individuals are scared, and rightly so, of state power used against them because the state might speculate that deviations from the mainstream might be harmful.

However, in divorce proceedings, this goes from a fear to, all too often, a reality. The cases where individuals are stripped of custody due to being outside that mainstream are not isolated incidents. In some states, there are whole patterns of such incidents as EV documents in his law review article.

The problem is that when the "best interests of the child" go so far as to consider what elements of the parents' ideologies are in the best interest of the child, the parents, and subsequently the child, lose important benefits from the First Amendment. The judge, who is usually mainstream or close to it, has a strong tendency to see the dispute as an ink-blot test and make something out of it according to his own views on parenting and ideology. I also think that telling judges not to look at this, as open as the rest of the inquiry is, might not work. However it would be a much better situation than we have today.
8.28.2009 12:33am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
EMG:

People keep pretending this is a straight government-interference problem, ignoring the fact that the kid has another parent and that sending the kid to public school is what he wants. Presumably, the secularism and diversity of the public school line up with his own point of view. Why should mom's viewpoint trump? Because she's Christian?


My problem is that there are alternate remedies available to the court here which would be less intrusive. This just continues the fight between the parents through the kid.

A better approach would be to issue an order to the mother telling her not to say anything derogatory about the father. So for example if the daughter asks if daddy is going to Hell for eternity, mom can say "He loves you very much and I am sure he'll come around eventually."

The problem here is that the coercive power of the court IS the power of the state. There are many things that must be given strong deference to unless you want the parents micromanaging eachother through court which most certainly is NOT in the child's best interest.
8.28.2009 12:37am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
DNJ:

Essentially what I am saying is that parents should inculcate or impose neither religion nor irreligion on their children.


While this is intellectually attractive, I think the court has no business considering it.
8.28.2009 12:41am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Also I am going to side with a few other posters and suggest that there is absolutely nothing here that public school is going to fix.

Let's get to the root of the problem. Mommy probably in some ways continues her divorce fight by saying some things to the kid which causes her to distance herself from her father.

None of this is going to change with public school. The simple fact of the matter is that kids bring their values and beliefs from home to the public school and unless the public school directly challenges those beliefs (for example that black folk are intellectually inferior, and going to school and meeting black folk who are smart), those beliefs aren't going to change. A school is not a second family.

THe issue here is between the parents. This is the wrong remedy and the courts shouldn't grant it. Other remedies should be explored. If the court can't do this, then it should dismiss and allow it to be refiled with better remedies proposed.
8.28.2009 12:49am
Oren:

My problem is that there are alternate remedies available to the court here which would be less intrusive. This just continues the fight between the parents through the kid.

Call me a cynic, I don't think there is anything the court can do that will stop the parents' nasty bickering.


The issue here is between the parents. This is the wrong remedy and the courts shouldn't grant it. Other remedies should be explored. If the court can't do this, then it should dismiss and allow it to be refiled with better remedies proposed.

This presupposes that a better remedy exists. I find your suggestions somewhat unpersuasive on that score.

At any rate, the court does not need to exhaustively consider every possible remedy before granting one. If the remedy proposed cures the wrong, it can be granted even if it is not optimal.
8.28.2009 1:05am
Suzy (mail):
Reading the opinion very quickly, one sees that there's a lot more to this story. Most important thing that flashes out at you from the text: Mom was lie-telling about things the GAL said, and the Judge had not only the GAL but other people's testimony to the contrary, and that little tidbit seriously undermines her credibility in other respects.

So mom is not credible, and there's a good reason to suspect that she's teaching daughter that dad's different religious beliefs are direct evidence that he does not love or care for the daughter. There's also evidence that she's not taking the girl to school for supplemental activities required by the district (i.e. music lessons or something like that), as she's had many absences. So this has nothing to do with what religion the mom is, and everything to do with the fact that she's manipulating the child's opinion of the other parent and not being honest with the Judge.

Then we come to the question at hand: there's no reason to weight the mother's desire to homeschool any more heavily than the father's desire not to, because this is something they've disagreed about from day one. I'm surprised that people are so reluctant to defend the father's rights in this scenario. If it weren't for the whole question of homeschooling and religion, I think the fact that his preferences have been pushed aside throughout his child's life would be gaining more traction on this site.
8.28.2009 1:07am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Suzy:

Why not allow for substantial changes in who has custody then? If the mother cant be trusted, why let her have custody at all?

Oren:

Are the child's needs best served by having the parents back in court every few months until she graduates from college?

I think the court should provide substantial deference to whatever the parent who is with the child does and this should be the same level of deference the court would provide in a dispute between the state agents and an intact family. However, if the mother is abusing her position and the court is powerless to stop it, then make sure the kid is spending (a lot) more time with her father.
8.28.2009 1:18am
Danny (mail):

When we look at religious belief in this US there are wide varieties of such belief. The majority of Americans go to church at least occasionally, believe in God in some way, and consider themselves at least marginally religious.


This is probably true, but I think the media and pop culture exaggerate the role of religion and Christianity in American society. Just anecdotally, I would say that growing up a clear minority of my friends and classmates ever went to church or were visibly religious (people who are just under 30 now). Maybe a third of them would say they don't believe in God at all or would say they don't know. And I grew up in a small Midwestern town, not in a blue state or big city. My feeling is that there is a silent majority or more likely a silent plurality (about 40%) of Americans who are agnostic. They might say they believe in 'God' or a 'life force' or even 'Christianity' or that 'everything happens for a reason', but they never go to church or pray or read the Bible. They never think about religion. They care about working and having fun at the weekend, or getting a new car. On Sunday they get up late, mow the lawn, have sex with their girlfriends / boyfriends. THAT'S the typical American Sunday morning for probably half the population don't you think?

What if America is half agnostic?
8.28.2009 1:22am
EMG:

So for example if the daughter asks if daddy is going to Hell for eternity, mom can say "He loves you very much and I am sure he'll come around eventually."


You think that's less intrusive than having her drop the kid off at the neighborhood school? As I said, I'm a homeschooler myself - but you'd have to be pretty paranoid about the schools to think of sending your kid to one as a maximally-invasive, worst case scenario, worse even than having the court tell you how to discuss religion with your child. And how would you enforce it? I think you're down to special pleading if you're really going to maintain that that's less of an infringement than a change of schooling arrangements. I get the feeling that the argument is being endlessly modified to keep the homeschooling at any price - even injury to the values that presumably motivated the homeschooling.

Besides, I don't think it's constitutional for the court to order the mother to say (or refrain from saying) any statements of a religious nature. The most it can do is to empower the father to exercise his own First Amendment rights from a more equitable level of influence. Legal solutions are often kludgy like that. You don't like it, keep out of the courts. I agree that it would have been best for the mom to be diplomatic about the dad's religious status. But she had her chance to do so voluntarily, and she blew it.

I just don't see where people think they can mess up their intimate affairs to the point where they're bringing basic parenting decisions before a court of law, then turn around and start crying tyranny. And I don't buy that it's any threat to the majority of us who manage not to get to that point. "Keep the government out of my court-ordered custody arrangement!"
8.28.2009 1:23am
Brian K (mail):
No, it's not the court's place, it's the father's place, who is entitled (unless otherwise disqualified) to an equal say in the education of his child.

If the father and mother cannot agree, they must either appoint an arbiter or one will be appointed for them by the State.


I think a lot of the discussion above seems to forget this fact. it is not about which type of education is better in the absolute. it is about what type of education the parents think is better. the father (not surprisingly) disagrees with the mother on this and the court is forced to decide. the court (not surprisingly) picked the method of education that does not lead to alienation of the father.


and for the record, i have no problem with parents using homeschooling to indoctrinate their children in fundamentalist religious beliefs (as the mother appears to be doing here). it decreases the competition for my (future) normal well adjusted intelligent non-crazy children.
8.28.2009 1:33am
Brian K (mail):
A better approach would be to issue an order to the mother telling her not to say anything derogatory about the father.

I honestly cannot think of an acceptable way to enforce this provision.* what is stopping the mother from saying "of course your father is going to hell. just like the government people who you talk to...so let's just pretend i didn't tell you that your father is going to hell (although he will *wink wink*)". and of course this doesn't really stop any of the fighting either as it would be very hard to prove to the father that the mother has stopped teaching that stuff to the child.

*the only i can think of would be to have a guardian around the child at all times when she is with the mother...although i hardly think this is acceptable or even desirable.
8.28.2009 1:39am
EMG:

I think the court should provide substantial deference to whatever the parent who is with the child does and this should be the same level of deference the court would provide in a dispute between the state agents and an intact family.


But it's not a dispute between "the state agents" and anybody!!! It's a dispute between one parent and another. The state is only there as referee, and only because they couldn't work this stuff out on their own.
8.28.2009 1:41am
Oren:

Are the child's needs best served by having the parents back in court every few months until she graduates from college?

More time in court means less time malparenting.


I think the court should provide substantial deference to whatever the parent who is with the child does and this should be the same level of deference the court would provide in a dispute between the state agents and an intact family.

Why is physical proximity a rational criterion?


However, if the mother is abusing her position and the court is powerless to stop it, then make sure the kid is spending (a lot) more time with her father.

The court is not powerless to stop it!
8.28.2009 1:58am
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):

A better approach would be to issue an order to the mother telling her not to say anything derogatory about the father. So for example if the daughter asks if daddy is going to Hell for eternity, mom can say "He loves you very much and I am sure he'll come around eventually."


What I'd prefer the mother to say is that it's for her daddy to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" and it's not for his kid to do it for him. What she is commanded to do is to honor him, period. Honoring doesn't mean to tell him that he doesn't love her when he says he does. Further, God says "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy," not "I will have mercy on whom Amanda says I will have mercy," so a little humility is in order here. This is theologically sound but it's not for the court to tell her what she has to tell her kid about their religious beliefs. It would be great if her pastor or someone she respects would, though.

I'm not saying there aren't problems with the parent/child thing here. I am saying that I don't think public schools' function is to make sure all children are balanced in their religious views. The function that we charge public schools with is being taken care of by homeschooling so I really fail to see why the homeschooling needs to stop.
8.28.2009 7:29am
egd:
Oren:

Call me a cynic, I don't think there is anything the court can do that will stop the parents' nasty bickering.

No, but there are actions the court can take that will stop the parents from using the court to fight their battles.

Consider:

Father is concerned with parental alienation and wants the child to attend public school to be exposed to more religious beliefs.

Mother wants to homeschool her child.

Both have an interest in keeping the child nearby to receive the affections of the child.

Instead of the court granting one side or the other, the court rules that unless the parents come to a mutual agreement, the child will be sent to live with a foster family &boarding school for 9 months out of the year, with the summer months split between the parents.

Such a result would benefit neither party, and encourage them to settle the issue themselves.

As an aside, this situation explains (although not necessarily argues persuasively) why marriages might be limited to only those who have the same religious beliefs. It also explains why apostasy is punished so harshly. If religious differences tend to destroy the family or result in more government (therefore less freedoms), then inter-family religious differences should be discouraged.

Which would be worse, not being able to marry that nice Jewish girl down the street, or giving a court the authority to decide your child's religious beliefs?
8.28.2009 10:06am
Ken Arromdee:
Yeah, that's just having your primary caregiver tell you the other parent is going to hell, and what's more, that he's deliberately choosing so because he'd rather burn than spend eternity with you.

The troublesome part of the decision is that it said that the child needed to go to public school because that provides exposure to diverse opinions.

The part about being taught that the father doesn't love her was only part of the decision. Fixing that wouldn't require sending the child to public school at all.

You're justifying the less objectionable part of the decision and ignoring the more objectionable part.
8.28.2009 10:43am
ReaderY:
It's quite possible a state can ban homeschooling outright for pretty much the reasons the judge gave -- it can require some exposure to other children.

If it can ban it outright, why not make it a preference criterion in a divorce?

Again, the difficulty here is that both parents have an equal constitutional right to the child. It's not like the state is taking the child away from its parents against their will, it's making what's essentially an invited division. The parents, not the state, initiated the action, and they did so voluntarily. There have to be some criteria for decision. What makes decisions based on values worse than flipping a coin?
8.28.2009 11:08am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Laura:

How she puts it is her decision. I am thinking of a more general principle of not undermining the relationship with the other parent. On the other hand, ordering sensitivity might be ineffectual. For all we know, the conversation might have gone like this:

Girl, "Mommy, daddy doesn't believe the same thing we do, right?"

Mommy, "Yes."

Girl, "That means he will go to Hell, right?"

Mommy, "I suppose so"

Girl, "That means I won't see him after I die right?"

Mommy, "I suppose so, but you will see me."

Girl, "Daddy doesn't love me..."
8.28.2009 11:14am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
DNJ:

You seems to regard the family as part of a "private sphere" that the state should not intrude into (in general). This view has been persuasively critiques by feminists and Marxists.


Yet, oppressive regimes tend to try to weaken the family. I think that strong families are an important check against oppression by the state. I think this interest persists even after divorce.

Heck, I would be more comfortable with pater familias powers in the family than I am in some cases with parens patriae as it currently exists in common law though perhaps a better balance could be struck between these extremes.

The fundamental question is whether you want the family to have oppressive potential or you want the state to have oppressive potential. Given that the state is far more powerful, I would choose having that power reside with the family.
8.28.2009 11:20am
ReaderY:
That said, I agree that it was improper for the judge here to essentially indicate he didn't like the mother's religion.

But if the judge had phrased things differently and focused on the resources each proposed school could provide the children as distinct from religious views, it's not at all clear to me that preferring the parent who will send the children to a school with other children over the parent who will homeschool is improper.

One could argue states shouldn't accredit schools, or state schools shouldn't give grades -- one could claim that any governmental preference for one academic environment or outcome is improper. But states make judgement calls about what kind of academic environment they think is better all the time. If a state can prefer a school with a foreign language or math teacher over a school without, if it can prefer a term paper with footnotes (or on an assigned topic, or with a particular style of spelling) to anything else a student cares to express, what makes this preferene any more improper?
8.28.2009 11:20am
einhverfr (mail) (www):

Oren:

I think having kids raised by court-micromanaged parents is a bad thing. One might as well just take the kids and put them in the judge's custody.... If as you say, more time in court means less time malparenting, then foster care is the solution. Refer the case to CPS, have them do a thorough investigation, and see if the state can intervene.

You ask why physical proximity should be the factor in providing deference. There are two major reasons here. The first is that, as long as the court isn't physically supervising both parents, some level of trust is required of the court to the parents. This trust should manifest as substantial deference. The second is that many decision are easier in hindsight or from a distance, but this doesn't address what the parent has to go through in making the decision itself. I think whoever does the work should have substantial control in how it's done.

As an additional factor, these things don't happen in intact families as often simply because courts recognize that strong families are in the interest of the state. While divorce changes this equation, I don't think it removes that interest. Therefore I don't think courts should be involved in micromanaging parenting in separated parents any more than they are with intact couples.
8.28.2009 11:24am
Misty (mail) (www):
I am opposed by the decision. It is not the court's place to tell a custodial parent how to educate their child. The child is evidently well educated and in accordance with the compulsive education law. She is subjected to socialization by her attendance in public classes. This decision threatens both the right to homeschool and freedom of religion.
8.28.2009 11:24am
Suzy (mail):
The only objectionable thing about the opinion is that they inserted some mealy-mouthed language about being exposed to different viewpoints in public school. I think that's not even close to the real issue that was decided, so it was rather silly to put it into the opinion.

However, it's helpful to read what is in that opinion: the reason the child went to a counselor at all is because the Mother was trying to argue that she shouldn't see the Father so much! Seeing the father was causing her to be extremely emotionally distressed, mom claimed, and was damaging her well being. The GAL recommended a visit to a counselor to see if there was evidence for the mother's claims. There wasn't. But there was reason to think the mother misrepresented what was said in these meetings with the GAL, according to the opinion. Far from showing that the father was emotionally damaging the child, counseling revealed strange behavior that had nothing to do with dad. I don't care whether you're Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist, whatever: it is very rude and unusual for a ten year old child to insist upon assigning homework to a counselor, and become agitated when it is not completed. And the child has several absences from school programs she's supposed to attend, beyond homeschooling.

Normally I'd agree that there's an inclination to go with the wishes of the primary custodial parent, other things being equal in a dispute between parents over type of schooling. In this case, though, mom was clearly the troublemaker, so it makes sense to go with the dad's wishes about school for a change. In answer to the question above: there's no reason to think mom can't have custody of the child, or should lose some of that custody. However, there's reason to reject her claims that DAD should lose some of his rights, and to automatically follow her wishes about homeschooling against the dad's wishes. The dad deserves some consideration here: he's never wanted the homeschooling and lost that fight before, and now mom was going to court to cut him further out of his child's life. I think the court did absolutely the right thing, except that they should have refrained from couching it in dumb language about diversity of viewpoints.
8.28.2009 11:24am
ReaderY:
My approach assumes that all the judge is doing is making a decision between one parent and the other. If that's all the judge is doing, I believe judges should have some flexibility, any we shouldn't be too quick to believe we can divine an answer by reading between the lines of the Constitution. There's simply no obvious "right" outcome. Any claim that one outcome is better than another necessarily involves a value judgment. And most of the time any two people with different values and personal parenting styles could reasonably disagree on what the "right" outcome should be.

Ordering parents how to parent is a different matter.
8.28.2009 11:33am
Smallholder (mail) (www):
DangerMouse is right.

White Christian Heterosexual males are the most oppressed group in America today.

Other readers, please do not interpret DangerMouse as being a spokesman for all Christians. Many/most of us get along perfectly fine with the rest of the world. Many/most of us don't feel that we are under constant attack. Many/most of us are liberals or are least socialize with liberals. Many/most of us can consider contrary evidence without dismissing it as liberal mainstream media or crazy social workers or Godless teachers.

Speaking of teachers and social workers and judges - do some of the folks on this blog think that those people come from bizarro liberal planet? Dude: We, the America people, are teachers, social workers and judges. Teachers have a wide range of opinions. School boards are usually elected and have to avoid alienating their constituents. There isn't some monolithic liberal leviathan running every public school and courthouse and social services agency in the country.

I suspect the impression that there a vast lib'rul plot against all God-Fearin' Christians tells us more about DangerMouse than it does about society in general.
8.28.2009 11:58am
Largo (mail):
Oh boy - oh - boy...

Late to the party here.

If the child is especially precocious, she could get herself in a whole mess of trouble just for being herself.

"She appears to reflect her mother's rigidity of faith." Is she "rigidly" believing X? How is this to be tested? Is it that she is unwilling to believe Y? Is it that in believing X she is unwilling to accept Y as something another might reasonably believe? That seems perhaps a good test. How to test? Shall the counselor try to persuade her that Y might - just might - be the case, by pointing out an objection to X? That could be a good way. So let the councilor do this. How bright/dogmatic is the child?

Case I. The child is unsophisticated, and stubbornly dogmatic in her belief. She refuses to consider the objection at all. Conclusion: she is too rigid.

Case II. The child is at most moderately sophisticated, and never spent much time reflecting on X. The objection has an effect. Although she still insists on X, she acknowledges that the objection is troublesome, and understands how someone might (albeit mistakenly) conclude Y instead. Conclusion: she is not too rigid.

Case III. The child is very sophisticated, and sees a way past the objection. She even recognizes the objection as a kind of strawman. It is understandable. To frame the objection in a more rigorous way would go over the head of most ten year olds. The purpose of the objection is not to persuade, but to test whether the child is open to seeing how things -could- be otherwise. The strawman form of the objection is appropriate to this purpose. The counselor may have used it appropriately and successfully in the past.

Case III (ctd). But the sophisticated child argues against the strawman. She may be more theologically astute than the counselor. Perhaps the counselor is not even aware of the weakness on the objection. He does not understand what he is saying. He never made it clear to the girl that his purpose is to find our whether she is sympathetic to other viewpoints. Perhaps she believes that one could reasonably believe Y, but considers the objection actually raised as little more than a joke. She might think the counselor is stupid. Or tricky. Or she really may be trying to have a discussion with the counselor on this topic (since the counselor brought it up). They are at cross purposes. The counselor still does not get why the objection makes no sense. She says 'look: read this and this'. She is not trying to get the councilor to accept X, but she is trying to get the councilor to see why the so-called objection in no way detracts from X.

Case III (ctd). Conclusion: she is too rigid.

I am in no way suggesting that this is what happened. But I suggest that it is quite plausible in circumstances with a bright home-schooled kid. And this is not to lay blame on the counselor. Hopefully an experienced counselor will be able to distinguish between cases I and III. But for kids that fall well outside of the profile, it might require experience.
8.28.2009 12:02pm
Smallholder (mail) (www):
Looking at the court case, it seems pretty straightforward. The Dad wanted public school because he wanted his child exposed to a range of ideas. The custodial mother wanted the child to be insulated against other ideas. Parents have a right to decide what ideas their children should be exposed to. In this case, the parents disagreed.

If the judge accepted the mother's case, the broadening sought by the father would not happen. As the non-custodial parent who was already being alienated by his child (because Mom taught that his failure to share the mother's belief was an abandonment of the child for eternity), he did not have the ability to adequately balance the child's world experience.

If the judge accepted the father's case, it would work against the mother's wish to shield her child from the larger world.

However:

Because the mother was custodial, she could still teach her worldview to the child.

This is a hard case. But it strikes me that the judge made the best call in a tough situation.
8.28.2009 12:08pm
guy in a veal calf office (mail) (www):
Tim Tebow was kept from "exploration and examination of new things, and ... , social, cultural, and physical interaction with a variety of experiences, people, concepts, and surroundings".

Does that mean he hasn't grown "to an adult who can make intelligent decisions about how to achieve a productive and satisfying life"?

Journalist will tell you that the best way to hide an anonymous source is to name him in teh same article with an attributed quote; I smell a rat when I read this: "In reaching this conclusion, the Court is mindful of its obligation not to consider the specific tenets of any religious system..."
8.28.2009 12:11pm
Largo (mail):
A PS to that...

Here in Hong Kong, testing is the big thing in schools. My son is bright, and I am trying to teach him well. Many of the tests have ambiguous questions -- not by design. Most people will check off 'a', 'b', 'c' or 'd' without being bothered by them.

The ability to recognize ambiguity correlates with intelligence. What's more, I am training him to look for ambiguity. It is a game for us, and I think I would be remiss in not teaching him how to do this.

Unfortunately, he may have real problems in higher grades because of this. (The issues are similar to the ones above.)
8.28.2009 12:12pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):

(because Mom taught that his failure to share the mother's belief was an abandonment of the child for eternity),


It is not clear that Mom taught this. I think that is an assumption we cannot make.
8.28.2009 12:23pm
Curious George:
Shielding a child from social contact through home schooling typically makes that child a kook. Being a kook is one's right, of course, but it sure doesn't help one interact with non-kooks in the real world. This girl will probably only associate with her fellow kooks and shun the rest of us. Is she the better for that?
8.28.2009 12:26pm
Largo (mail):
From the pdf: """[It] would be remarkable if a ten year old child who spends her school time with her mother and the vast majority of all of her other time with her mother would seriously consider adopting any other religious point of view. Amanda's vigorous defense of her religious beliefs to the counselor [heh] suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view.""" [My emphasis]

1) The opinion here seems muddy. There is a world of difference between "seriously consider[ing] adopting" another set of beliefs, and "seriously consider[ing]" another set of beliefs. Is it that the court wants to have Amanda seriously consider adopting other religious beliefs? Or does it merely wish her to consider other beliefs? I certainly hope it is the latter, if either.

2) If Amanda's defence of her religious beliefs truly was rigorous, that speaks for, not against, having considered other points of view. Is "vigorous defense" a euphemism here?

I find this paragraph of the opinion odoriferous.
8.28.2009 12:33pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
Largo: Me too.


Shielding a child from social contact through home schooling typically makes that child a kook. Being a kook is one's right, of course, but it sure doesn't help one interact with non-kooks in the real world. This girl will probably only associate with her fellow kooks and shun the rest of us. Is she the better for that?


Maybe. Who's to say?
8.28.2009 12:37pm
Suzy (mail):
Who's to say? Her Father, who still has rights in this situation. And when mom fabricates things to the court, trying to push dad out of the kid's life, I think it's perfectly reasonable for dad's wishes about school to be granted. Making this about homeschooling in general or their religion in particular is a red herring.
8.28.2009 12:45pm
Oren:

As an additional factor, these things don't happen in intact families as often simply because courts recognize that strong families are in the interest of the state. While divorce changes this equation, I don't think it removes that interest. Therefore I don't think courts should be involved in micromanaging parenting in separated parents any more than they are with intact couples.

This is putting the cart way up before the horse. The way i see it:

(1) Strong parental rights are key to the interest of the State and the proper upbringing of the children.
(2) The mother's actions undermine the father's rights, both to his detriment and to that of the child.
(3) Parental rights are important enough to be protected against the fiat of the parents that happens to be physically closer to the child at any given time.

I don't see any reason to say that this decision weakens families (the family is already irreparably broken) or disrespects parent's right (which parent?).


Because the mother was custodial, she could still teach her worldview to the child.

Not insofar as that teaching undermines the equal parental rights of the father.

Custody does not mean greater right, just physical placement.
8.28.2009 12:46pm
Largo (mail):
Laura,

The degree of precision and explication to be desired in any context is that degree which is sufficient for the purposes in that context.

One can be more precise that is necessary, and there is a cost to that. When communicating something not expected to be contentious, one can speak vaguely at first, and then tighten the language if required.

In the context of this thread, the term 'kook' as used by Curious George is unhelpful. It is sufficiently vague that I could choose to say either I agree with him or disagree with him, without perjury.

The term 'sheilding' is also vague. I would not want to say I shield my son from social contact, but I am active in moderating is contact. The term 'sheild' can stretch to cover that (though it is a stretch).

And using home-schooling to 'shield' a child from school does not in the least imply that 'shielding' is inherent in home-schooling. It is possible to home-school in a cloistered way to achieve that end. It is hardly necessary.

Are you listening, George?
8.28.2009 1:01pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Reading the decision a few times, I see a few things that are objectionable here that were not in the summary.

It seems to me that the core of the court's decision rested on two elements both of which strike me as suspect.

The first is the question of whether increased socialization and interaction with other children is important given the various attempts to live one's life in a religious way. It seems to me that a court in another state with a similar standard ruled (in Pater v. Pater) that it is insufficient to argue that more socialization is better. One has to show instead that a lack of socialization is harming that particular child. While New Hampshire is not Ohio, I am surprised that the decision didn't address this.

Pater v. Pater addressed similar issues, such as whether a child should be placed with a Jehovah's Witness parent if that parent was likely to restrict close friendships of the child to other members of the same religion, restrict extra-curricular activities in school, etc. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that these issues could not be taken into account unless there was substantial harm to that particular child. I didn't see sufficient discussion of this here.

The second is a separation of academic curriculum from "exposing the child to new ideas." The parties don't dispute that Amanda's education is academically adequate. Rather the idea is that exposing Amanda to more kids is simply better and in her interest. This seems dangerously close to my mind to the same view that was overturned in Pater by a state with ostensibly the same standard in considering religious practices.

To those who talk about reducing the stranglehold of her mother on the girl, consider this: The ruling also reduced the father's time with the child, by arguing he has to bring her back on Sunday instead of Monday. In terms of weekend visits, this reduces his influence as well, and this, to my mind, would likely increase the child's emotional dependence on her mother.
8.28.2009 1:04pm
mischief:

This view has been persuasively critiques by feminists and Marxists.


Appeal to authority!

Except, of course, it's appeal to non-authority. Why on earth should the views of feminists and Marxists matter at all?

Marxists, of course, should matter no more than those of Flat-Earthers. Marxism has been falsified in every possible way. Every prediction it made proved to be wrong -- even when they tinker with it to fit the facts, they can't make it predict.
8.28.2009 1:07pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Mischief:

As I pointed out, the first thing oppressive Marxist regimes to is substitute state for family.

Though one has to look at a definition of "Marxist." Wilhelm Reich, for example, considered himself a "Marxist" and made a similar but different critique (one which I happen to agree with), but he was not considered "Marxist" by other "Marxists" so I don't think he counts.

(Reich's critique btw is that authoritarian families pave the way for authoritarian states, and Reich didn't seem to want either. He spent a lot of space in his books deriding Communists.)
8.28.2009 1:17pm
Just a thought:

Shielding a child from social contact through home schooling typically makes that child a kook.


Not in my experience. I've met very stable people who were homeschooled. On the other hand, I know people who got into plenty of trouble and pain because of "social contact" at public school.
8.28.2009 1:29pm
Dan Weber (www):
Many/most of us get along perfectly fine with the rest of the world

Most people of all faith choices in the United States, including atheists, get along just fine with people who make different faith choices.

Although sometimes you run into a group of assholes who try to condemn you for your faith choice, whatever it is. That's fine, they are assholes, you can get on with your own life.

But if you always run seem to run into people who are assholes to you, maybe it's time to consider that the problem is you.
8.28.2009 1:34pm
Oren:

The first is the question of whether increased socialization and interaction with other children is important given the various attempts to live one's life in a religious way.

No, it's whether the father thinks so.
8.28.2009 1:44pm
CJColucci:
Does anyone here really think the judge actually wanted this steaming pile of manure dumped on his docket? Does anyone doubt that he would have been dancing in the streets if the parents could have worked this out without him? There are, to be sure, things one might object to in the opinion -- though some of it may just be loose language rather than a real issue of substance -- but it wasn't his idea to get involved in this dispute, and there was no ducking it once the wheel turned and his name popped up.
8.28.2009 1:45pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
CJColucci:

Maybe I have been misunderstood. I admit the judges are just applying the law and doing their jobs.

The fact is, though, the current state of the law on this issue is really messed up and at odds with basic Constitutional interests.
8.28.2009 2:05pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Oren:

Does the liberty interest of the parents go away just because they have kids?

Just because they get divorced?

Just because they don't agree about stuff after getting divorced?

Do free speech rights go away? Should a court be able to deny custody to a parent because that parent is a vocal advocate of drug legalization and therefore is, in the judge's opinion, likely to be less strict with the kid about drug use?

The state gets involved in this because, according to common law, the state is essentially a second father to the child. However, this largely suggest that liberty interests DO go away when people have kids despite our deep-seated sense that they shouldn't.
8.28.2009 2:08pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):

In the context of this thread, the term 'kook' as used by Curious George is unhelpful. It is sufficiently vague that I could choose to say either I agree with him or disagree with him, without perjury.



Yes, which is why I said "who's to say". One person's kook is another person's eccentric, another's interesting person, and another's soul mate. My (grown) daughter has discovered an interest in going to anime cons, in costume. Some people probably think that sort of thing makes her a kook, while those who like that sort of thing might think she's the cat's meow. For me, as long as she's happy and having fun, not hurting herself or anybody else or breaking the law, I'm pleased that she has something to do.
8.28.2009 2:41pm
ArthurKirkland:
Liberty interests do not include an entitlement to abuse, sell, neglect or kill children, because children are not property and possess independent interests -- a point some parents, particularly lesser parents, tend to ignore.

This mother appeared to be abusing her child (probably,in part, because she hated the father; probably, in part, because she was nutty). Fortunately for the child (and society), it appears, the father and the judge were willing and able to improve the child's circumstances.
8.28.2009 2:42pm
DangerMouse:
This mother appeared to be abusing her child...

Abuse = teaching religious ideas I don't agree with.

Are you going to Janet Reno all homes of religious people, coming in with guns blazing to steal their kids away from them?

Smallholder can complain, but Arthur keeps demonstrating why it is dangerous to expose one's Christian background to a liberal. Teaching religion become abuse, which then makes it a matter for child protective services, which means potential jail time, etc....
8.28.2009 2:52pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
Does anyone here really think the judge actually wanted this steaming pile of manure dumped on his docket?
Yes. I think that the kind of people who become family court judges are the ones who enjoy meddling in people's lives.
it wasn't his idea to get involved in this dispute, and there was no ducking it once the wheel turned and his name popped up.
The judge is under no obligation to try to make a decision about which school is better. He certainly could have ducked the issue.
8.28.2009 2:52pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
ArthurKirkand:

This mother appeared to be abusing her child (probably,in part, because she hated the father; probably, in part, because she was nutty).


Child abuse and neglect have very specific definitions in law. I wasn't able to find any evidence that the court reached an opinion stating neglect much less abuse.
8.28.2009 3:00pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
ArthurKirland:

Liberty interests do not include an entitlement to abuse, sell, neglect or kill children, because children are not property and possess independent interests -- a point some parents, particularly lesser parents, tend to ignore.


Sure, but there is still a broad liberty interest (which ends where neglect or abuse are defined in law) towards parenting children according to one's own methods and ideology. Do you disagree?

Or do you think that goes away when parents divorce?
8.28.2009 3:05pm
Oren:

Does the liberty interest of the parents go away just because they have kids?

No.


Just because they get divorced?

Still no.


Just because they don't agree about stuff after getting divorced?

Even still no.

On the other hand, it is fairly well accepted that it is not a proper exercise of one's liberty to infringe on the rights of others. I can punch the air all I like, but I can't punch you in the nose.


Do free speech rights go away? Should a court be able to deny custody to a parent because that parent is a vocal advocate of drug legalization and therefore is, in the judge's opinion, likely to be less strict with the kid about drug use?

The court can't do anything except hear the pleas of the the petitioners that come before it.

If a drug legalization advocate taught his child that the war on drugs is a deliberate plot to inflict cruelty on people for the sadistic pleasure, I would look kindly on a plea by the DEA-agent-mother to force him to knock it off.


The state gets involved in this because, according to common law, the state is essentially a second father to the child. However, this largely suggest that liberty interests DO go away when people have kids despite our deep-seated sense that they shouldn't.

No, the father is essentially a second parent, whose rights are just as worthy of circumscribing the liberty interests of the mother as your right not to be punched in the face limits my ability to punch the volume that your face occupies.
8.28.2009 3:53pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Dangermouse and ArthurKirkland:

A few other clarifying observations.

The parents divorced in 1999. The child is 10 this year. The parents have no other kids together. The opinion didn't mention how long they were married for but my guess is it wasn't for very long (certainly only a few years or less).

This seems to me to be a case of a couple getting married for whatever reason, but never really figuring out how to work with eachother or make space for eachother in the marriage. Now they separate, and continue their arguments through the kid. This is a tragic situation and nothing the courts do will help the child heal from the damage both parents are heaping on her.

I think strong deference to the wishes of the custodial parent should occur but that if this is a strong issue, custody arrangements might be subject to change. As it is, the courts are using the schools as a sort of quasi-foster-home and reducing the time the child spends with both parents.
8.28.2009 3:53pm
Oren:

Sure, but there is still a broad liberty interest (which ends where neglect or abuse are defined in law) towards parenting children according to one's own methods and ideology. Do you disagree?

Or do you think that goes away when parents divorce?

To be exactly clear -- it gives way when the exercise of that liberty is detrimental to the parental rights of the other spouse.
8.28.2009 3:54pm
R Gould-Saltman (mail):
Goin' away from the core topic, but not any further than most of the thread:

Sez Mischief: "Marxism has been falsified in every possible way. Every prediction it made proved to be wrong -- even when they tinker with it to fit the facts, they can't make it predict."

This assumes that:

(a) Marxism* claims or claimed to have "predictive" power, or someone with some generally recognized authority claimed that it did;

and
(b) that Marxism* is "falsifiable", if one is using "falsification" in the Popperian sense.

Neither assumption is correct.


R. Gould-Saltman



*i.e., the view of politcal philosophical criticism espoused by Karl Marx, as contrasted with "Marxism" (and its ugly offspring "Marxism/Leninism", etc....),no more necessarily connected to Marxism that the "German Democratic Republic" was democratic.
8.28.2009 3:56pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Oren:


The court can't do anything except hear the pleas of the the petitioners that come before it.

If a drug legalization advocate taught his child that the war on drugs is a deliberate plot to inflict cruelty on people for the sadistic pleasure, I would look kindly on a plea by the DEA-agent-mother to force him to knock it off.


Ok... but here you are arguing impending and substantial harm, something the court avoided in this case by ostensibly leaving religion out of it. I have no problem with such a standard. However, if the DEA-agent mother is simply afraid that exposing the child to the idea that drug legislation is misguided, shouldn't be on the books, and that states should not cooperate in its enforcement simply because "it might send the message that drugs are OK."

Once again, if I get divorced, if the judge finds my views on animal sacrifice objectionable and feels that merely exposing children to the idea that animal sacrifice is OK is harmful, should that be held against me?
8.28.2009 4:02pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Oren:

What common law power grants the state the right to interfere with parenting? (I know the answer, do you?)

How does this function differently in intact and separated couples?
8.28.2009 4:04pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Oren:

Agreed with this, narrowly read:

To be exactly clear -- it gives way when the exercise of that liberty is detrimental to the parental rights of the other spouse.


Also if this were the guiding principles behind how such rulings were made, I wouldn't have a big issue with it provided that ideological elements were left out.

However, it isn't.
8.28.2009 4:07pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Dangermouse:

Smallholder can complain, but Arthur keeps demonstrating why it is dangerous to expose one's Christian background to a liberal. Teaching religion become abuse, which then makes it a matter for child protective services, which means potential jail time, etc....


Many Neopagans say the same thing about the right-wing. Just change "liberal" to "religious right" and "Christian" to "Pagan" and there you have it.

More seriously, Arthur keeps demonstrating why it is dangerous to expose one's background to folks in power (right or left) when one is outside the mainstream in any way.

The idea that parental rights are grants from the state, for example, is a very dangerous one. It suggests that the state can take one's kids away for teaching them things that the state finds to be objectionable, and this is exactly what happens all to often in divorce cases (Texas is perhaps one of the worst states in this regard).

As long as parens patriae is not fettered with the individual liberty interests enshrined in our Constitutions (both generally and more specifically), then those of us who are outside the mainstream in any direction will worry about the impact of our IDEAS on child custody decisions.
8.28.2009 4:15pm
ArthurKirkland:
An "adult" who teaches a child that her father's expressions of love are compromised by failure to espouse certain religious beliefs (and will spend eternity in a flaming hell consequent to that choice), and compounds that outrage by teaching the child that the father's ostensible willingness to be separated from the child for eternity evinces the father's lack of love for the child, is nuts (as well as an exceedingly low-quality person in several respects) and is abusing the child.

If two parents agree to indoctrinate a 10-year-old with religious fundamentalism of the type exhibited by Amanda Kurowski, our society's principles may require acceptance of that circumstance, even at the cost to the child. But if the child is fortunate enough to have at least one parent who prefers to avoid that path, the child is to be spared.

The result would be the same if one parent wanted the child to memorize volumes of fairy tales, or demanded daily 10-hour shifts stacking paper clips, or insisted that the child associate solely with left-handers. The sensible parent is, in my judgment, entitled to rescue the child.
8.28.2009 5:19pm
yankee (mail):
But libs won't socialize with Christians, and so it's naturally concluded that Christians are incapable of socailization. I mean, no lib would be caught dead at a coctail party socializing with an ACTUAL, believing Christian!

Of course! Because there are no liberal Christians. The United Church of Christ doesn't exist. The ELCA doesn't exist. The Society of Friends doesn't exist. The Presbyterian Church USA doesn't exist.

Nope, no such thing as a liberal Christian.
8.28.2009 5:49pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):

ArthurKirkland:
An "adult" who teaches a child that her father's expressions of love are compromised by failure to espouse certain religious beliefs (and will spend eternity in a flaming hell consequent to that choice), and compounds that outrage by teaching the child that the father's ostensible willingness to be separated from the child for eternity evinces the father's lack of love for the child, is nuts (as well as an exceedingly low-quality person in several respects) and is abusing the child.


Arthur, please share your proof that this came from the mother, not from some outside party or something the kid herself dreamed up.
8.28.2009 5:54pm
Ken Arromdee:

If two parents agree to indoctrinate a 10-year-old with religious fundamentalism of the type exhibited by Amanda Kurowski, our society's principles may require acceptance of that circumstance, even at the cost to the child. But if the child is fortunate enough to have at least one parent who prefers to avoid that path, the child is to be spared.


If the child is being abused, we don't say that our principles require us to accept it; we say that the child has to be taken away, even if the parents aren't divorced. Real abuse is unacceptable whether the parents are divorced or not; I've never heard of anyone saying "yeah, that's child abuse, but we have to accept it since society's principles keep us from interfering with married parents". No, they don't.

It sounds like you're treating it as abuse selectively; it's abuse if you want to know how to treat divorced couples, but it's not abuse if you're dealing with married ones.
8.28.2009 5:55pm
ArthurKirkland:
The child possesses these warped beliefs because of the mother.

You could arrange for one million children to live one million lives apiece and not have a single child develop a thought process that dysfunctional. The mother dislikes the father -- for reasons that could range from mistreatment during the marriage to bitterness over the divorce, from marginalizing religious beliefs to natural meanness -- and is described as a religous fundamentalist. Her 10-year-old child expresses a bizarre, religion-rooted (same religion as the mother) dislike of her father. The reasonable inference ties these points into a single strange knot large enough to involve a 10-year-old assigning Bible studies to a court-arranged counselor, and becoming "visibly upset" because the counselor did not comply.

The court's finding that the mother had been disingenuous was enough, in these circumstances, to warrant a change in primary custody. The mother is fortunate the court didn't take advantage of the opportunity. I feel sorry for the father and for the child.
8.28.2009 6:05pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
ArthurKirkland:

An "adult" who teaches a child that her father's expressions of love are compromised by failure to espouse certain religious beliefs (and will spend eternity in a flaming hell consequent to that choice), and compounds that outrage by teaching the child that the father's ostensible willingness to be separated from the child for eternity evinces the father's lack of love for the child, is nuts (as well as an exceedingly low-quality person in several respects) and is abusing the child.


I don't think we know the specific role the mother played in this. Certainly the court did not enter a finding of abuse. I suspect that the mother played SOME role in this. I don't think we know if that role amounts to abuse or neglect. If the court had found abuse or neglect, the dad would have sole custody.

However, I DO think the child is suffering from the issues of having her parents back in court every year arguing about parenting plans. This could be a big factor in the child's sense of how much her parents love her.

If two parents agree to indoctrinate a 10-year-old with religious fundamentalism of the type exhibited by Amanda Kurowski, our society's principles may require acceptance of that circumstance, even at the cost to the child. But if the child is fortunate enough to have at least one parent who prefers to avoid that path, the child is to be spared.


Who decides what ideas are dangerous? If both parents teach that homosexuality is wrong, that is OK, but if one objects, the court should intervene? Similarly in other parts of the country might that same decision regarding teaching whether homosexuality is wrong be reversed?

The court should not make such decisions EVER. I would note that the court in this case neatly ducked the issue because if they raised it they would have to meet a bar regarding evidence they couldn't meat otherwise.


The result would be the same if one parent wanted the child to memorize volumes of fairy tales, or demanded daily 10-hour shifts stacking paper clips, or insisted that the child associate solely with left-handers. The sensible parent is, in my judgment, entitled to rescue the child.


Speaking of fairy tales, suppose I am divorced and I want to read my young children the following tales. My ex-wife objects. You think the court should get involved?

The Goose Girl
Cinderella
8.28.2009 6:06pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
Arthur - you speak with great confidence, as though you know the family. Do you? Or are you engaging in long-distance mind reading?
8.28.2009 6:08pm
Oren:

Once again, if I get divorced, if the judge finds my views on animal sacrifice objectionable and feels that merely exposing children to the idea that animal sacrifice is OK is harmful, should that be held against me?

Why do you keep imputing motive to the judge when he rules on a request from the other parent?!! This is maddening. The judge has 2 choices: (a) grant the motion of the moving party or (b) deny it.

You should instead write:

Once again, if I get divorced, if the judge my ex wife finds my views on animal sacrifice objectionable ...

Merely finding them objectionable is clearly not enough for a plea for relief.

On the other hand, if an element of your animal sacrifice involved mocking or denigrating people that worship "froofy prayer-only gods" and your ex was such a person, it becomes more


Also if this were the guiding principles behind how such rulings were made, I wouldn't have a big issue with it provided that ideological elements were left out.

I think in the instant case, the mother's continuing and intentional denigration of the father was manifestly detrimental to his rights as a parent.

I respect that you draw the line elsewhere.
8.28.2009 6:18pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Oren:


Merely finding them objectionable is clearly not enough for a plea for relief.

On the other hand, if an element of your animal sacrifice involved mocking or denigrating people that worship "froofy prayer-only gods" and your ex was such a person, it becomes more


Suppose the ex-wife says "I do my best to teach my child to be kind to all animals. The child is horribly upset at the idea that animals should still be sacrificed today. She has even been having nightmares."

Remedy?
8.28.2009 6:21pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Oren:


I think in the instant case, the mother's continuing and intentional denigration of the father was manifestly detrimental to his rights as a parent.


I would tend to agree, though we don't know the form that this took.

However, reducing the time with the father so that the child can be home to prepare for public school on Sunday strikes me as hardly a helpful remedy, right?
8.28.2009 6:22pm
Oren:

However, reducing the time with the father so that the child can be home to prepare for public school on Sunday strikes me as hardly a helpful remedy, right?

He was the one that asked for the remedy -- the court ought to assume that he judges it favorable to his rights.


Suppose the ex-wife says "I do my best to teach my child to be kind to all animals. The child is horribly upset at the idea that animals should still be sacrificed today. She has even been having nightmares."

Again, the parties do not go to the court and say "this is a problem, fix it", they go to the court and say "X is wrong, I propose remedy R". It is incumbent on your ex-wife to propose a remedy.

Moreover, the father's right to intentionally involve his child in a religious ritual that is so detrimental to her mental health[1] is dubious at best. If he knows it will cause extreme emotional distress, he ought to man up.

[1] Presuming here that the wife's claim of the daughter's nightmares are factually true.
8.28.2009 7:01pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Oren:


Moreover, the father's right to intentionally involve his child in a religious ritual that is so detrimental to her mental health[1] is dubious at best. If he knows it will cause extreme emotional distress, he ought to man up.


So my response is that the mother's ideology is what is causing the nightmares, not the idea that animal sacrifice is somehow bad. After all, one would eat the animals sacrificed and neither mother nor child are vegetarian.

They just prefer to be insulated from the realities of life. We can expect distress when elements of that insulation are peeled away.

Then I move for full custody on the basis that "being kind to animals" is a good idea but taken to a bad extreme. Still side against me?
8.28.2009 7:04pm
Rich Rostrom (mail):
Officious Intermeddler: I lived in Salt Lake City for six years, among "deeply invested fundamentalists".

Very unlikely. There are almost no fundamentalists in Utah. There are Mormons, but Mormons are not fundamentalists.

Fundamentalists believe in the "inerrancy of scripture": the historical and spiritual truth of the Bible.

Mormons believe in the truth of an entire additional body of scripture that everyone else thinks is phony as a three dollar bill.

Most evangelicals and nearly all fundamentalists don't consider Mormons to be actual Christians.
8.28.2009 7:05pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
einhverfr,

I think strong deference to the wishes of the custodial parent should occur but that if this is a strong issue, custody arrangements might be subject to change. As it is, the courts are using the schools as a sort of quasi-foster-home and reducing the time the child spends with both parents.

So you'd prefer the Court give custody to the father, who will then put the kid into public school himself? What the father requested and the Court granted was just one component of what you would have it do. You're arguing it should be more activist and intrusive, not less.
8.28.2009 7:23pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Rich Rostrom,

Fundamentalism has both the specific meaning you're using and the more generic one Officious Intermeddler used. That one can apply to any religion. This is from the Encyclopædia Britannica:

type of militantly conservative religious movement characterized by the advocacy of strict conformity to sacred texts. Once used exclusively to refer to American Protestants who insisted on the inerrancy of the Bible, the term fundamentalism was applied more broadly beginning in the late 20th century to a wide variety of religious movements. Indeed, in the broad sense of the term, many of the major religions of the world may be said to have fundamentalist movements. For a discussion of fundamentalism in American Protestantism, see fundamentalism, Christian.
8.28.2009 7:34pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Leo:

such a result is way down my list of ideal results. But let's look at this.

Parents have been divorced for most of the child's life. They have never agreed on homeschooling which has now been going on for five years. The court hasn't seen it fit to grant such motions in the past.

Ideally, the simple solution is to say find for the father on the mother's motion to amend the parenting plan and find for the mother on the father's motion regarding education. It wouldn't be a bad thing to voice concerns about alienating relationships with the other parent but suggest that this is not sufficient to warrant these specific changes.

When you read the PDF and pay attention to the details, what is happening here is that the mother is trying to keep the kid away from the father by trying to get evidence that his admitted questioning of her beliefs amounts to "constantly bombarding her" and he is retaliating by bringing long-standing arguments into court.

Further the initial question asked isn't public school forever or homeschool forever, but just one year. From the PDF:

The parties reserved for the court the issue whether Amanda would attend public school in the 2009-2010 school year, or continue to be homeschooled by Ms. Voydatch.


However, they then order:

1. Beginning with the 2009-2010 school year, Amanda shall attend public school....


This strikes me as outside the bounds of the original question. If this is a temporary order for one year that is one thing. However it seems that it might be well beyond what was actually reserved in the parenting plan.

If you want to see how petty some of the disagreements are in this case, see the bit about chiropractic care.
8.28.2009 7:47pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
There are some alternatives too.

For example, the court could have found for the father in the motions to amend the parenting plans for the summer and refused to find for the mother in any of her plans. This is discussed in exactly one place in the opinion (in the order) and given no space.
8.28.2009 7:51pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
(also see the argument over life insurance)
8.28.2009 7:55pm
Oren:

Fundamentalists believe in the "inerrancy of scripture": the historical and spiritual truth of the Bible.

For different values of the term "scripture". There are fundamentalist Jews, fundamentalist Muslims, fundamentalist protestants .....


Mormons believe in the truth of an entire additional body of scripture that everyone else thinks is phony as a three dollar bill.

I don't see how anyone else's opinion of their faith is relevant.
8.28.2009 8:05pm
ArthurKirkland:

Arthur - you speak with great confidence, as though you know the family. Do you? Or are you engaging in long-distance mind reading?


One need not have personal exposure to this family to recognize that the parents' relationship is dysfunctional and threatens the child's wellbeing; that the mother is indoctrinating the child with extreme religious beliefs over the father's objections (and perhaps for the purpose of antagonizing him); that the mother is attempting to alienate the father from the daughter with religion-based arguments; and that this 10-year-old exhibits strange behavior and thinking.

Perhaps the father is completely or partially at fault for the dysfunctional relationship of the parents. Perhaps the mother's undesirable conduct is understandable, to at least some degree. But the overriding issue is the development of a 10-year-old girl who didn't get to choose her parents, their relationship, her religious indoctrination, or the other factors that threaten her opportunity to develop. Until she is capable of making her own, mature decisions, I hope the three adults governing her upbringing -- the mother, the father, the judge -- recognize that their job is to allow her to develop rather than to use her as a pawn.
8.28.2009 8:14pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Arthur Kirkland:

I asked a question before that I would like you to answer: Whether I as a Norse pagan who advocates reviving animal sacrifice/sacrificial feasts should expect to have such beliefs and advocacy held against me if I were going through a divorce. I also asked whether if I were going through a divorce, my ex should be able to get an order preventing me from reading gorey fairy tales to my young children on the theory that these are speculated to be psychologically harmful.

Getting back to the current case, let's ask a few points:

1) What precisely is the mother's role in the child's alleged distance with her father? (Note this distance is alleged by the mother, and disputed by the father.) Everything in the case suggests the child might be telling her mother what she thinks her mother wants to hear, since the GAL and father both suggest Amanda enjoys her time with him and his other daughter.

2) Would you state that open-mindedness is a neutral rule? Should a court be equally open to arguments that a child should be exposed to racist thought by one parent?
8.28.2009 8:25pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
(The more I read this case, the more I conclude this is a divorce where parents endlessly bicker in court over minute details which shouldn't matter, like the chiropractic care dispute.)
8.28.2009 8:26pm
mischief (mail):

Sez Mischief: "Marxism has been falsified in every possible way. Every prediction it made proved to be wrong -- even when they tinker with it to fit the facts, they can't make it predict."

This assumes that:

(a) Marxism* claims or claimed to have "predictive" power, or someone with some generally recognized authority claimed that it did;

and
(b) that Marxism* is "falsifiable", if one is using "falsification" in the Popperian sense.

Neither assumption is correct.


ROFLOL.

This is denial, plain and simple. Marxism certainly claimed predictive power, and made many, many, many predictions. Such as the Revolution would begin in industrialized countries such as, say, Germany or England.

And it explicitly claimed to be scientific, and is therefore entitled to be treated as a science -- and thereby debunked.
8.28.2009 9:07pm
theobromophile (www):
[The daughter] appeared to reflect her mother's rigidity on questions of faith. [The daughter] challenged the counselor to say what the counselor believed, and she prepared some highlighted biblical text for the counselor to read over and discuss, and she was visibly upset when the counselor (purposely) did not complete the assignment....
While I don't know what went on during that counseling session, I would put money (or a beer) on the fact that the counselor screwed up, not the kid. The counselor probably asked Amanda why she thought her father would burn in hell (or other "extreme" religious beliefs); Amanda probably quoted the Bible back at her. The counselor may have replied either that the Bible doesn't say that, or Christians don't believe that, or some other nonsense, to which Amanda told her to go home and read the Bible.

Next session: counselor is still totally ignorant about the Christian religion and justifies that ignorance on the idea that, as the older person, she shouldn't have to take orders from this little girl. Amanda gets upset because, well, she is a kid and most kids have excellent b.s. detectors.

Then again, I'm the person who thinks that the Bible ought to be mandatory reading for atheists and Dennett, Pinker, et al. for Christians.
8.28.2009 9:11pm
ArthurKirkland:
einhverfr

I wouldn't hold it against you with respect to child support, alimony or similar issues. It strikes me as a legitimate factor -- and not a positive one -- if you were determined to indoctrinate a child, particularly over the objection of another parent. I would want to hear more about the motivation to read gory stories to young children, and would likely be sympathetic to arguments from a parent who objected. I also would frown upon the other parent's strident disparagement of you for espousing (in a reasonable manner) unorthodox causes.

With respect to poor Amanda, she expressed the belief that her father's failure to adopt the mother's religious beliefs was a sign his expressions of love for her were not trustworthy, and that his ostensible willingness to spend eternity apart from her was another sign of insufficient regard for her.

If a child's development were being distorted in any direction by bad parenting, in a manner to which another parent objected, I hope the law would help the objecting parent to avert the distortion.
8.28.2009 10:10pm
ArthurKirkland:
A 10-year-old stridently regurgitating dogma is no sign of effective parenting or successful child development.

One way to solve this would be to have the child spend 12 hours each day with one parent attempting to indoctrinate religious fundamentalism, and the other 12 hours with the other parent attempting to indoctrinate a different faith or attempting to unravel the indoctrination. That strikes me as imprudent. Another way would be for the adults to abandon their childish ways. That strikes me as unlikely. Helping the father shield the child from the excessive edges of the mother's misconduct and extremism seems like a reasonable approach to a sad situation.
8.28.2009 10:21pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Mischeif:


This is denial, plain and simple. Marxism certainly claimed predictive power, and made many, many, many predictions. Such as the Revolution would begin in industrialized countries such as, say, Germany or England.


You don't think that England and Germany have undergone socialist revolutions? Might not involve governmental changes, but I look at them and say they are far more socialist than they were a hundred years ago.
8.28.2009 10:23pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
ArthurKirkland:

Helping the father shield the child from the excessive edges of the mother's misconduct and extremism seems like a reasonable approach to a sad situation.


Assuming for the moment that we don't wade into questions of regurgitated doctrine (religious or otherwise) which I know I did a lot of when I was 10 (I was raised by parents from a fairly radical Christian sect called "Friends" or "Quakers"--- among other things we were taught strict nonviolence, that war was always and invariably wrong and in conflict with our religion, and that if a law contravened our religion or conscience we had a fundamental obligation to break the law--- oh, and saluting the flag was a form of worship and hence in conflict with the First Commandment*).

Wouldn't it have been better just to accept the father's proposal for modifying the summer visitation schedule and be done with it? As it was, this was declined without comment.

* In case you are wondering why Quakers were banned from Boston on pain of death prior to the American Revolution, this should give you an idea. Quakers are seditious troublemakers, and proud of it. And I say this approvingly.
8.28.2009 10:29pm
ArthurKirkland:
I doubt that the father's proposal for modifying the summer visitation schedule would have constituted sufficient antidote to the mother. It appears the father and the judge shared that perception.
8.28.2009 10:41pm
John Moore (www):

A 10-year-old stridently regurgitating dogma is no sign of effective parenting or successful child development.

Hmmm... so the many school kids who stridently spout environmental dogma should be taken from their parents and sent to, err, public school, which is where they were firmly indoctrinated in this crap in the first place?

Fail.
8.28.2009 10:50pm
theobromophile (www):
A 10-year-old stridently regurgitating dogma is no sign of effective parenting or successful child development.

If all she is doing is regurgitating dogma, which has never been explained with human reason, then it should be easy to convince her of the error of her ways, no? At the very least, she should not be able to take down an educated, rational adult merely by throwing a few Bible passages around.
8.29.2009 12:15am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
ArthurKirkland:

I doubt that the father's proposal for modifying the summer visitation schedule would have constituted sufficient antidote to the mother. It appears the father and the judge shared that perception.


given that it wasn't given any discussion, what makes you so sure?
8.29.2009 1:11am
Largo (mail):
A Guinness for theobromophile!

Well said.
8.29.2009 2:07am
ArthurKirkland:
"If" all the 10-year-old is doing is regurgitating dogma?

Is her analysis of her father's eternal destination is based on anything other than reason-free dogma?

Is her conclusion regarding the issue of the genuineness of her father's expressions of love within two orbits of rational thought?

I missed the takedown. The parent who cultivated the irrational conduct and thoughts did not get what she wanted. The child's apparent desires concerning the counselor's homework were unfulfilled; her reaction was to become "visibly upset." The counselor performed her duties; her views appear to have been vindicated. And the regurgitated dogma is still nothing more than regurgitated dogma. Takedown? Sounds more like beating the other guy's fist with your chin.

A 10-year-old child is merely regurgitating. If the mother were a Muslim/Jewish/Hindu nut rather than a Christian nut, the child would be reciting Muslim/Jewish/Hindu dogma. If the mother were a virulent skinhead, the dogma would be skinhead dogma.

I suspect the decision concerning public school had as much to do with reducing the child's exposure to the mother as about exposing the child to others (or any other factor). And, on the evidence available (and, if the counselor's report or any other document were favorable to the mother, her allies would have published it by now), the reasoning seems sound to me.
8.29.2009 12:18pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
ArthurKirkland:

Is her analysis of her father's eternal destination is based on anything other than reason-free dogma?


The only thing that's clear here is that the mother hasn't defended the father in appropriate ways regarding her dogma. That's a problem, but reducing visitation with the father isn't going to make that better.


A 10-year-old child is merely regurgitating. If the mother were a Muslim/Jewish/Hindu nut rather than a Christian nut, the child would be reciting Muslim/Jewish/Hindu dogma. If the mother were a virulent skinhead, the dogma would be skinhead dogma.


But there is a fundamental question of whether being open-minded is universally better or whether this is viewpoint discrimination on the part of the court (as you seem to be advocating). Suppose instead the father were a KKK member and the mother was telling her that all racists were bad people and should be avoided. Would you still be advocating that the child should be given a chance to be open-minded about KKK views?


I suspect the decision concerning public school had as much to do with reducing the child's exposure to the mother as about exposing the child to others (or any other factor).


In my experience though this will make the problem worse rather than fix it.

When a child is raised to be non-mainstream, they don't leave that at home when they go to school. Being out among the rest of the kids often INCREASES this pattern because the child's identity is caught in being what the child was taught at home. Certainly that was my experience growing up as a Quaker kid in central Utah.

To give you an idea of the conflict, the teachers stopped saying "Let's play Quaker" to get the kids to stay quiet when we moved into town.

By the time I got into High School I was well know as the kid who chose controversial topics for papers, who threatened to bring a flag onto campus and burn it after school to protest the Iraq War in 1991 (I was the only one in my high school to protest that war in any way-- not a popular cause in central Utah, but my siblings staged other protests in the Middle School), etc.

Sure, in grade school I was bullied every day (and my attention deficit disorder probably was the main factor there, not my religion).

You might approve of the Quakers' historical activities in terms of breaking the law as mandated by conscience, such as in the Underground Railroad. What you may be less aware of is that these things continue today and that this "indoctrination" you speak of is a key element in getting folks to be willing to spend time in prison or even die for their beliefs. Growing up, I knew a number of Quakers who did spend time in jail for crimes of conscience. We were always taught to admire them and to distrust state and federal law in terms of a guiding moral code.
8.29.2009 12:52pm
theobromophile (www):
The child's apparent desires concerning the counselor's homework were unfulfilled; her reaction was to become "visibly upset." The counselor performed her duties; her views appear to have been vindicated. And the regurgitated dogma is still nothing more than regurgitated dogma. Takedown? Sounds more like beating the other guy's fist with your chin.

You're proving my point. Until someone has addressed this child, on the merits and with reasoned discourse, about certain Biblical beliefs, then Amanda remains justified in her beliefs. If it's "regurgitated dogma," as per above, it should be very easy to disabuse Amanda of any "extreme" religious notions she may harbour. If the counselor refuses to do her homework - i.e. educate herself on the Christian religion which has, for some reason, become a central aspect of this dispute - then Amanda remains in the right for refusing to acknowledge the contrary viewpoint.

Amanda has made her prima facie case. What remains to happen is for a caring, compassionate, knowledgeable adult to refute any of her "regurgitated dogma." That adults refuse to do so does not make them right; it means that they've set up a contest which they've decided to forfeit. Silly, especially since they are the ones who should be the adults in this situation.

Maybe it's just me, but if my child thought that I were going to burn in hell for my lack of belief about any religion, I would learn that religion inside and out and be able to discuss with her why I don't believe in it and, if applicable, why that particular tenet is inapplicable/incorrect/debatable even among hard-core adherents. For fun, I would probably point out that all major world religions have their correctness, and the wrongness of the others, as a central tenet, and non-belief is usually punished in some pretty amazing ways.

Regardless of who may go to Hell for violating what religious beliefs, we can all agree that it will freeze over long before a public school engages in the type of religious apologetics and philosophy that would help a confused little girl.
8.29.2009 2:37pm
ArthurKirkland:
It is likely to be difficult to disabuse an aggressively indoctrinated 10-year-old so long as the mother, who has primary custody, continues the indoctrination. A 10-year-old's reasoning capabilities are understandably immature. The mother's reasoning capabilities are (less understandably) immature. The dogma and the dogmatic are impervious to reason.

Reducing the mother's influence on this child appears (again, on limited evidence) to be the best way to promote a chance for this young person to avoid serious warping and choose her own path. Thank goodness this girl has one parent who appears to be interested in giving her a chance to develop with a reasonable opportunity for independence and well-adjustedness, and lives in a country in which that laudable parental concern can be vindicated.
8.29.2009 3:26pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
ArthurKirkland:

When I was 10 or even 14, if you tried to justify the War in Iraq with any necessity defence, my response would have been "But war is wrong. We should find some other way."

So, if you were a family court judge, and you had a dispute over how to raise kids in front of you and one individual was agnostic, but the other was a devout Quaker, would you hold the Quaker's belief about their place in society against them?

Would you hold it against them if the 10 year old said "We shouldn't be involved in Afghanistan because killing is wrong. It says right there in the 10 commandments. Jesus said turn the other cheek." Suppose the 10 year old maintained that "even if they are out there to kill US, it is better that we die according to our principles than that we kill them."
8.29.2009 3:39pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
(Or even if she maintains "Even if they want to come and kill ME, I won't try to kill them. My religion is more important than my life." Do you maintain that is evidence of abuse on the parent's part?)
8.29.2009 3:41pm
R Gould-Saltman (mail):
Sez Mischief, who clearly didn't read my post carefully:

And it explicitly claimed to be scientific, and is therefore entitled to be treated as a science -- and thereby debunked.


I said that classical Marxism ISN'T subject to falsification in a Popperian sense; that means, (depending on your view of philosophy of science) that it's, by definition, NOT "scientific", in the sense we now use the word, but essentially philosophical or critical.

Did you mean "falsified" in some other sense? Did you mean "Marxism" in some other sense? Both?
8.29.2009 3:57pm
Ken Arromdee:
Until someone has addressed this child, on the merits and with reasoned discourse, about certain Biblical beliefs, then Amanda remains justified in her beliefs. If it's "regurgitated dogma," as per above, it should be very easy to disabuse Amanda of any "extreme" religious notions she may harbour.

Two problems with this reasoning:

First, she's a kid. It may very well be that there's a refutation for her view, but she can't understand it. Kids are like that.

Second, given the nature of kids, it's pretty certain that (assuming this report is accurate), the kid was, in fact, just regurgitating dogma. The chance that we accidentally caught a kid that could logically analyze her beliefs about Hell and only seemed dogmatic because nobody refuted it are negligible. Kids aren't like that. You could just as well say "let's check to see that the kid isn't from outer space".

I think a better avenue to question this decision has already been pointed out: we really don't know that the report is accurate after all. It's possible the kid's views were attacked by the counselor and she's just defending herself. It's possible that the kid tried to impress the counselor and didn't understand that she just made things look worse. Those are the possibilities we have to rule out, not the chance of their being some super-smart 10 year old.
8.29.2009 4:53pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Not only would trying to talk this kid out of her religious views be fruitless, it would be wrong. She's entitled to her religious beliefs, however she came by them.

Assuming the problem here is a dogmatic, indoctrinating mother, you don't cure that by indoctrinating the kid into a new set of beliefs that contradict her religion. You put her someplace (like a public school) where kids naturally learn how to balance what they're taught at home with what they need to survive socially and materially.

She'll learn there's a social cost to being indiscriminately in your face with people who haven't asked her to save their souls. She'll decide whether, and if so how much, to modify her behavior and beliefs when she has enough context to understand the consequences of her choices. And she'll either adopt a more generous view of her dad or she won't. It's called growing up.
8.29.2009 7:09pm
ArthurKirkland:

It's called growing up.

Except where it is called backsliding.
8.29.2009 7:18pm
ReaderY:
I tend to agree that the opinion appears infected by the judge's dislike of the mother's religious beliefs and conveys an impression that the judge would like the daughter to be raised in a different religion and hence is imposing the judge's own religious beliefs on the family. This would be an improper bias or even a personal interest in the case impeding impartial judgement. Perhaps the case should be transferred to an unbiased judge.

That said, an unbiased judge could reach a similar result on somewhat different grounds, because a judge could find a school with other children and additional teaching resources to be a better educational environment for the child then homeschooling, without taking into account religious viees.
8.30.2009 1:24am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
ArthurKirkland:

My questions still remain: why should religious viewpoints be weighed at all by the court? Especially in a state, like New Hampshire, which ostensibly places a high bar on considering such issues in divorce cases?
8.30.2009 1:58pm
ArthurKirkland:
The issue is not religion so much as any bizarre element that seems to be warping a child. I mentioned stacking paper clips, memorizing volume after volume of fairy tales (or Hunter Thompson output), or associating exclusively with left-handers. Steering the child toward round-the-clock assumption of the persona of Sandy Koufax or the Green Day bunny would constitute a similar problem. In this case, the particular point of dysfunction/indoctrination pushed by a poor parent is a particular interpretation of the Bible, but it could have been the Beatles catalog, another religion or Klingon-centric Star Trek immersion.

Teaching a child to regurgitate dogma (rather than to reason), using that dogma as a weapon to alienate the child from her father, and reinforcing those problems by isolating the child through homeschooling is the parental dysfunction apparent in this case. If another parent objects to such a situation, the indoctrinating parent should be curbed, regardless of whether the lesser parent's problem revolves around a religion, intense anthropomorphism or a fine television-film franchise.
8.30.2009 3:19pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
ArthurKirkland:

Based on my past comments, do you consider me to have been warped as a child? I.e. a high school freshman threatening to bring a flag to school to burn after class gets out in protest of the first Iraq war, wearing black armbands to school to protest the same extremely popular war, etc.?

FWIW I do agree that the alienation from the father is an issue, but I don't think the court should get into merits of ideas whether religious or otherwise. In short, I don;t think the court should decide whether the child is "warped" or not. I think the analysis should be limited to Amanda's academic performance, and her relationship with her father and with her half-sister.
8.30.2009 3:29pm
ArthurKirkland:
In general, I believe the journey, rather than the destination, would influence the issue of whether parenting warped a child. Did you reach those positions by independent and thoughtful analysis, or were they dogmatically driven?

If one learned that a mother caused her child -- who tested above grade level -- to dress and act like a bunny most of the time, or to memorize every word published by Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, or to associate solely with left-handers, would not one peek to see whether another parent might provide an alternative? Aggressive religious fundamentalism is a problem in this context -- and one the father seems entitled to combat -- not because it involves religion, but because it is extreme and interferes with reason.
8.30.2009 5:10pm
Ken Arromdee:
Did you reach those positions by independent and thoughtful analysis, or were they dogmatically driven?

Almost any position a child can have, on almost any subject, is by adult standards dogmatically driven. Suppose the kid believes in evolution. The counselor asks her why she believes in evolution and she's unable to come up with more than "Scientists say so".

The judge doesn't particularly like evolution and says "the child didn't come to her belief on evolution by thoughtful analysis. She's just dogmatically repeating it. This is no better than asking her to memorize Hunter S. Thompson."

Later, the counselor asks her why she thinks that World War I happened in the 20th century. "I don't know. But that's what I was told."

Because that's how kids learn things, you know.

And even a kid who did reach some positions by thinking probably hasn't analyzed them well by adult standards. "Killing people is wrong, so the Afghanistan war is wrong." "See? The kid didn't analyze his position! He's being dogmatic!". No, he's is analyzing it, but using the limited analytical ability of a kid.
8.30.2009 6:13pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
ArthurKirkland:

Did you reach those positions by independent and thoughtful analysis, or were they dogmatically driven?


Based on Quaker religious dogma. BTW I didn't abandon the idea of absolute nonviolence until the year after I graduated college. Only then because my girlfriend at the time was horrendously physically abusive and at some point I felt that fighting back was preferable to getting stabbed in the back with a knife. It didn't seem compassionate to let her suffer a life long guilt over such a thing.

BTW, the Quaker dogma probably saved my life at one point. I was being intimidated by a street gang and more or less confronted them on the issue of pacifism until they left me alone.

Once again, do you think that if there was a dispute, the state should try to shield me from an upbringing that was religiously dogmatic in this way?

You can read more about my upbringing here.
8.30.2009 7:03pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
einhverfr:

FWIW I do agree that the alienation from the father is an issue, but I don't think the court should get into merits of ideas whether religious or otherwise.

It's not getting into the merits of the ideas. It's getting into their utility as weapons against the father. It's bad enough when a parent says "your dad's a loser and he doesn't love you," but when she attributes those views to God, something's gotta give.
8.30.2009 7:29pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Leo Marvin


It's not getting into the merits of the ideas. It's getting into their utility as weapons against the father. It's bad enough when a parent says "your dad's a loser and he doesn't love you," but when she attributes those views to God, something's gotta give.


Then let the decision be solely about this. Leave out the whole bit about exposure to new ideas and leave out the father's wish to see her religious rigidity lessened.
8.30.2009 7:39pm
ArthurKirkland:
The father's wish to safeguard his child against extreme religious indoctrination and isolation effected by a "rigid" parent deserves vindication. If the father wanted to prevent the mother from requiring the child to spend eight hours each day studying Mozart (or Jagger-Richard lyrics), I also would hope a court would side with the father. The more sensible parent should prevail in a standoff; that standard disfavors Amanda's mother.
8.30.2009 8:58pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
ArthurKirkland:

Do you think Pater v. Pater in Ohio wrongly decided?
8.30.2009 9:26pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
(Pater v. Pater held that the fact that the Jehovah's Witness parent would not let the child participate in extracurricular activities or form close friendships with non-JW members was irrelevant to custody analysis.)
8.30.2009 9:43pm
ArthurKirkland:
Sounds like a bad decision. What argument disinclines consideration of every strange aspect of parenting, particularly one that unnaturally isolates a child?
8.30.2009 10:45pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
ArtherKirkland:

The argument was that the child would still have close friendships even if those were limited, and that the religious beliefs and practices could not be considered (in Ohio) unless causing actual and substantial harm to the child.

BTW what do you think of Wisconsin v. Yoder which held that the Amish could withdraw their kids from the school system at age 14 even when state law required the kids be educated through age 16?
8.30.2009 11:20pm
Leo Marvin (mail):

Leave out the whole bit about exposure to new ideas

That's the cure for the environment of indoctrination. It's neutral as to the validity of the beliefs indoctrinated.

and leave out the father's wish to see her religious rigidity lessened.

The father is entitled to his preference, and the mother to hers, so the court had to address the impasse. But again, the issue it addressed was the conflict, not the validity of the ideas in dispute.
8.31.2009 5:01am
Leo Marvin (mail):
And now I see that by neglecting to refresh the page for about 8 hours, I needlessly repeated what AK said, more or less.
8.31.2009 5:07am
Largo (mail):
einhverfr,

Unfortunately the words "dogma" and (especially) "indoctrinate" have gotten bum raps. In the physical sciences, one's competence to question doctrine advances with one's education. Until that competence comes, part of one's education involves being properly indoctrinated into the dogmas of the discipline (e.g. the standard model in physics; the "central dogma of molecular biology" in biology). This begins before, and extends deep into, graduate school.

Indoctrination as a mode of learning occurs naturally as well. Most young children know that the earth is round, and that it travels around the son, before being deliberately taught this. This is informal, social indoctrination, and I have no doubt that ArthurKirkland would agree that this is good and normal. "Dogma" and "Docrine" pertain to modes of learning, and have nothing to do (as such) with what is being learned. It has nothing to do with whether what is taught is scientifically verifiable.

Unfortunately, the use of these terms in polemics taints the discussion. When "dogma" is used to refer to religious opinion that the polemicist disagrees with, discussion of the opinion is eclipsed by discussion of the method by which it is taught. This allows the polemicist to shirk his responsibility of -establishing- that the opinion is wrong. It is easier to say "the girl was indoctrinated into a bigoted religious dogma" than it is to demonstrate that the dogma really is bigoted or wrong. For those inclined to believe that the dogma is bigoted or wrong, taught a religious her mother's beliefs dogmatically", it is sufficient to show indoctrination. And I will say, "of course it is indoctrination!"

But to conclude any malfeasence demands that a case be made that the dogma is bigoted or wrong.

To the extent that they fail to do this, they are begging the question. To the extent that they use snark or scorn as a substitue for doing this, they show themselves to be asses.

CAVEAT: it is easy to fool one's self by the bad connotations associated with good words. A polemicist may have not realized the error, and so good faith should be presumed, at least until the error is pointed out.
8.31.2009 7:44am
Largo (mail):
ArthurKirkland,

Suppose the child believed that the Earth was round. Surely she could make a defense of that believe. She might point out that when ships sail beyond the horizon, the last thing one sees is the masts of the ships. She might have other defenses.

A skilled questioner might ask whether the child actually witnessed such phenomenon herself. More significantly, the questioner might suggest that light is pulled down by gravity, such that at sufficient distance, only the mast is visible. (This is consistent with a flat earth 'theory'.)

I put this to you: that the child is sufficiently indoctrinated to persist believing that the earth is round (and to even insist that it is) -- and rightly so -- even though a skilled questioner might be able to pick holes in every argument she can muster for that fact. I suggest most ten year old children -would- in fact continue to insist, -and- be unable to refute skilled objections. And the child would be right to do so.

The child trusts what has been taught to her by people in authority in her life, and which are mutually held by many folk in the communities she lives in.

By holding fast to her belief in the roundness of the earth, in the face of sophisticated (even if sophistical) argument to the contrary, shows her belief to be dogmatic. Even if the beliefs of her parents and science teacher are not dogmatic on this point, her beliefs are. It is a matter of maintaining a view of the world that makes internal sense to her, with beliefs that are held because others believe them. At ten, she may argue and debate, but she lacks the competence to yet form a judgment that can stand on its own, either with or against her teachers.

Now all this may also be true of you consider her religious (or theological) beliefs. No ten year old theist is going to be able to prevail in argument against a Daniel Dennet, and no ten year old athiest is going to be able to prevail in argument against an Alvin Plantinga.

To say that there is anything pernicious about a child of Alvin Plantinga (say) believing something dogmatically because of the indoctrination she received from her father, you have to demonstrate something wrong with what is being taught. Simply saying along the lines of "she's too rigid in her beliefs", this simply will not do. After all, a child being "rigid" in her beliefs that the world is round is a good thing. If there is a problem in rigidly holding a belief, the problem lies beyond its mere rigidity. And this, I think, the court thinking failed.
8.31.2009 8:19am
ArthurKirkland:
It will always be difficult to persuade anyone who believes "just because" to be a persuasive or even legitimate argument. Dogma is marked by reliance on "just because."

The mother is a poor parent. She is brainwashing the child with extremism, which she might well be entitled to do (regardless of the harm it inflicts on the child) if the father consented (people are entitled to do some stupid and even harmful things in a free society). She is using that indoctrination to attempt to alienate the child from the father; that factor alone makes it difficult to believe she is not the lesser parent. She is lucky the court did not award custody to the father (unless there is unreported evidence indicating the father is even worse, in which case we can only hope this child overcomes her back luck in the parental draw).

Both parents are entitled to instruct the child with respect to religion. The mother seems to take it too far, in several directions, including trampling on the father's parental role. The mother doesn't have the judgment that would enable her to back off, take her child's welfare into account in a mature manner, and give her child a reasonable chance to develop a healthy relationship with her father and her world. The father appears to prefer that the child, if she is to become a religious nut, reach that point independently. I'm with him. The alternative would be for the mother to spend most of the week warping the child, and for the father to spend the rest of each week attempting to counteract the mother's influence, which would probably, almost necessarily, be warped as well.

Merriam-Webster:
Main Entry: dogma
1 a : something held as an established opinion; especially : a definite authoritative tenet b : a code of such tenets (pedagogical dogma) c : a point of view or tenet put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds
2 : a doctrine or body of doctrines concerning faith or morals formally stated and authoritatively proclaimed by a church
8.31.2009 10:29am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
ArthurKirkland:

It will always be difficult to persuade anyone who believes "just because" to be a persuasive or even legitimate argument. Dogma is marked by reliance on "just because."


But here we are still back to picking on religious beliefs, which is my whole objection here.

As for not dealing with the merits of ideas, would you agree that the same should apply to every other area as well. If a child of two parents (the father is a KKK member) says "Racism is wrong. Mommy said so." Should that child be encouraged to be more flexible and be open minded to his father's beliefs as well?
8.31.2009 11:03am
Largo (mail):
ArthurKirkland,

Did the girls mom say believe it "just because", or did the mom give a theological argument?(*)

I notice that Webster does not indicate adequate to whom, and adequate for what purpose, when speaking of "adequate grounds".

My guess is that Webster is taking a descriptive rather than a prescriptive approach in 1(c): a reflection of how common it is for person to use the term "dogma" to refer to someone putting forth a tenet as authoritative which in their view is without "adequate grounds". Is this a reasonable reading of the definition?(*)

(If so, it remains unclear to be whether 'adequate grounds' refers here to the tenet itself, or to the way the tenet is being put forth.)

It is most important for people (like you an be) if we are arguing via terms like "dogma", to be clear to each other what we mean my the term, lest we talk at cross purposes. If we are judging the use of "dogma" in a court opinion, it behooves us to know what the judge delivering the opinion meant. Dictionaries have a greater degree of usefulness there.

Do you agree that used in the sense of 1(c), that "dogma" is a pejorative?(*) But then, if you want to argue, say, that the girl was mistreated by making her believe certain things without adequate grounds (i.e. dogmatically), you need to make a case that what she was made to believe was dogmatic, in the sense 1(c).

I grant that her belief was "dogmatic", but I use "dogma" here in the sense perhaps of 1(a) or 1(b) -- not 1(c). I might even grant that dogma in the sense of 1(c) can count as a form of "mild" (less than unactionable) abuse. So we can "agree" that her belief was dogmatic. You might conclude that there was "mild" abuse; I would not. Our agreement was merely verbal. We were using "dogma" in distinct senses.

Arthur, I don't know if you are getting what I am saying. If not, it is my fault (I am not the clearest of writers). Your comment with the Websters definition seems to have been made with me in mind. If you reply to this, may I ask that you address the three questions I marked with a star (*) above? They were not rhetorical, but meant to help me (in my fuzzy-headedness) to get a grip on what you are saying. Any comments beyond that will be icing on the cake :)
8.31.2009 12:13pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
einhverfr,

If a child of two parents (the father is a KKK member) says "Racism is wrong. Mommy said so, and she said your defense of racism proves you're a selfish bastard who doesn't love me." Should that child be encouraged to be more flexible and be open minded to his father's beliefs as well views other than Mommy's?

Yes.
8.31.2009 3:02pm
ArthurKirkland:
(1) Any argument based on the supernatural, including a history and complex set of rules said to derive from a supernatural authority, is a "just because" argument. People are entitled to believe in them. They are not entitled to have them regarded as reason-based arguments.

(2) The first meaning of dogma that comes to my mind is a blend of the Merriam-Webster definitions.

(3) Dogma is a perjorative if someone is trying to argue that a supernatural argument is based on reason. To those who believe one should rely on faith rather than, or in addition to, reason, dogma seems to be anything other than a perjorative in at least some contexts.

I see no case that needs to be made. Religious fundamentalist is intensely dogmatic -- it not only relies on the supernatural but rejects a great deal of reason; when stretched to turn a child against a father, it becomes obscene.

The issue is whether the mother should be entitled to cram extreme positions down a 19-year-old's throat (and then twist them to try to alienate the child from the father, with an added layer of isolation from home-schooling to promote the indoctrination) over the objections of a father who seems more sensible. As I said, it would be no different if the extreme views derived from Star Trek fanaticism, skinhead dogma or a fixation on Jagger-Richards lyrics.
8.31.2009 5:19pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Arthur:

But wouldn't New Hampshire's aggressive stand on freedom of religion in court cases (cannot be considered unless the cause of clear and actual harm) suggest they shouldn't have ruled on this basis?
8.31.2009 5:37pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
EV:

It strikes me that given New Hampshire's aggressive stand on freedom of religion in divorce/custody cases, there might be ample grounds to appeal this decision.

The basis of the appeal might be that New Hampshire requires actual harm to the child and that although there is a great deal of benefits speculated about regarding putting the child in public school, there isn't a whole lot that suggests that the specific child in question is being harmed by the religious homeschooling.

I am not at all certain this decision meets the standards of New Hampshire family law from what I have read of the subject but IANAL.
8.31.2009 5:41pm
Largo (mail):
Thank you for replying to these questions in order. It really does help me trying to sort through online discussions.

Regarding (1): I am not claiming here that most of the conclusions reached in departments of theology (or philosophy for that matter) are true, nor that their arguments are, in the final analysis, sound.

But to say that the best and brightest of these are saying "just because" -- (forgive me, I am imagining a PhD. candidate defending her thesis by adding "... and anyone who believes otherwise is a poopy-head!"): well, if that is an implication of what you are saying (you will correct me if it is not?(*)), then a case certainly does need to be made, unless you are content preaching to the choir (which might be all you are trying to do; if so, well alright then.)

Regarding (2): be careful with the blend, for these definitions are distinct in denotation and connotation, and fallacies of equivocation are treacherous.

Regarding (3): if I am parsing you correctly, I might be formally in some agreement with you. I suspect we might have some disagreement over "contexts". But that is where one might naturally wish to make a case if one seeks to talk with, rather than to, a person in conversation, yes?
8.31.2009 5:49pm
ArthurKirkland:
If the mother is twisting supernatural beliefs to turn a child against her father, that strikes me as (a) clear and actual harm and (b) an indication the mother is a poor parent. If the mother is disingenuous with the court, there's another indication she is substandard. If her child is inappropriately close-minded and antagonistic to others based on religious dogma, that's another strike.

At root, it seems diminishing the mother's influence on this child would be beneficial.

The father's freedom of religion -- entitling him to have his child instructed with respect to his religious views, and entitling him to avoid having his child brainwashed --seems as important as the mother's freedom of religion. She is entitled to believe as she wishes. Indoctrination of her child is another matter, particularly where her extreme and twisted views are disfavored by the father.

When a child questions her father's love based on religious dogma, that is obscene. The interaction with the counselor, the mother's conduct and the isolation aspect associated with homeschooling (and the spotty attendance with respect to limited educational opportunities outside the home) are corroborating factors. Plus, the mother exhibits poor judgment in general.

She is lucky primary custody hasn't been awarded to the father already, but instead of backing off she is suing in a context in which it might not take much rope to get her to hang herself if the father presses even slightly.
8.31.2009 5:59pm
Largo (mail):
Leo:

If a child of two parents (the father is a KKK member) says "Racism is wrong. Mommy said so, and she said your defense of racism proves you're a selfish bastard who doesn't love me." Should that child be encouraged to be more flexible and be open minded to his father's beliefs as well views other than Mommy's?


Is there any evidence in the decision linked to by EV of the mother saying such things?

The daughter perhaps believes:
(1) There is no salvation outside of a particular, voluntary, relationship with God.
(2) The unsaved will spend eternity apart from the saved.
(3) The daughter is safe.[1]

The argument in her mind may then continue:
(4) The father is choosing not to be in such a relationship with God. (premise)
(5) The father is choosing to spend eternity apart from the daughter. (By (1),(2),(3), and (4)
(6) Choosing to spend eternity away from the daughter is probative evidence of diminishment love. (premise)
(7) Therefore, the father has diminished love for the daughter. (By (5) and (6))

There are problems with this argument. In particular, (5) follows from (1)-(4) in a significant way only if the father's choice is informed. (He may he theologically ignorant). But it is not hard to see the daughter reasoning herself into this conclusion, with the only input from her mother being (1), (2) and (3).

The decision does not claim that the daughter says her father hates, nor that she indicated such to the father.[2] It says the GAL "echoed her previous concerns that [the daughter's] relationship with her father suffers to some degree belief that his refusal to adopt her religious beliefs ... proves that he does not love her as much as he says he does" (page 4).

Nowhere does it say that the daughter told him "you do not love me", much less that the mother told the daughter any such thing.[2]

To be sure, nobody is expected to answer a question posed by any commentor. However, having mocked einhverfr's question, are you willing to be called to answer it?


---

[1] I hate "are you saved?" -- No, I was saved. Now I am safe.

[2] If I overlooked evidence from another page of the decision (quite possible), please correct me.
8.31.2009 6:41pm
Largo (mail):
Arthur,

"If the mother is twisting supernatural beliefs to turn a child against her father..."

If indeed she is, then yes indeed.

The impression I get from the decision is of a home situation I would not approve of, but no more than that -- i.e., no more than an impression. And I am willing to entertain some of the ugly scenarios described in some of the above comments as plausible.

What I am not willing to do, on such a basis, is to make accusations and to assassinate character.

It seems to be, Arthur, that many here are quite eager to do this, and to characterize the evidence in order to do so.

It is not to you in particular that I say this Arthur, but to the community: J'Accuse!

May that indictment fall on appropriate ears.
8.31.2009 7:05pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Those interested in Pater v. Pater can read the decision here.

Quite an interesting read. Seems to have parallels to the current case, in particular because the two states have similar standards in considering religious practices.
8.31.2009 7:11pm
Largo (mail):
I meant mischaracterize the evidence.
8.31.2009 7:12pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Largo:

One of the problems in this case is that the court, in focusing on religious views, essentially avoids looking into any of the possibly nasty scenarios. If these are big issues, then the court should have looked into them instead.

One interesting element here though is the section on chiropractic care. Apparently the parents were still arguing whether Amanda should get chiropractic care, and whether the father should have to use his time with her taking her to such appointments.

The couple in this case needs help which unfortunately the court cannot provide.
8.31.2009 7:15pm
ArthurKirkland:
A 10-year-old wouldn't come up with any element of (1)-(7) unless an adult were indoctrinating that child.

Anyone who would teach (1) to a 10-year-old child in a way that excludes the father is an unhinged goober.

Anyone who would teach (2) to a 10-year-old child, in a manner that causes the child to believe her father is destined to burn in a hell, is an unhinged goober.

It is possible that the mother did not incline the child to hold such dysfunctional views; it is even possible the mother strives daily to steer the child from the dysfunctional views -- but neither is close to probable. The doubt concerning her father's love, the inappropriate interaction with the counselor, the "rigidity" of thought --none seems natural, and all seem most likely traced to indoctrination by a strangely driven adult.

The mother is essentially setting up a brutal tug-of-war in which she brainwashes the child (including in a manner that promotes alienation of the father), and the father responds by trying to steer the child away from the the mother's lessons at every available opportunity. What kind of parent would precipitate those childhood memories?

Oh, I forgot -- unhinged goober. The kind of extremist (whether the extremism is associated with a particular religion, a Michael Jackson fixation, anthropomorphism, Star Trek immersion or anything similar) who is not the more sensible parent in most situations.

The more I think about this case, the more convinced I am that the father should attempt to obtain primary custody. This little girl deserves better.
8.31.2009 7:29pm
Largo (mail):
You may be right. The case itself does not interest me a great deal -- in part because where the decision is asinine, all we can do is ... discuss the asinine decision. We are not in a position to question the writers of the decision.

In contrast to this however, when the discussion becones asinine, ...
8.31.2009 7:30pm
Largo (mail):
Arthur:


A 10-year-old wouldn't come up with any element of (1)-(7) unless an adult were indoctrinating that child.



I would have.

(Bonus question: Would I have been a goober for indoctrinating myself?)
8.31.2009 7:32pm
Largo (mail):
Arthur,

Are you really saying that a 10-year-old could not come up with element (6) on his or her own?


(6) Choosing to spend eternity away from the daughter is probative evidence of diminishment love. (premise)


Note that this premise does not presume that eternity in fact exists, simply that choosing it of it did exist (or choosing it in the belief that it exists) would count as evidence in the 10-year-old mind.

Do you really want to maintain that?
8.31.2009 7:42pm
Largo (mail):
... choosing it if it did exist ...

I need sleep.
8.31.2009 8:13pm
ArthurKirkland:
I believe the likelihood a 10-year-old would have independently developed belief (6) resembles the likelihood that everyone reading this sentence will be struck by lightning by the time they reach the period that concludes it, largely because the probability a child would have independently constructed the underlying (1) - (2) - (3) - (4) - (5) string is similar to the chance those lightning bolts will arrive by midnight instead.
8.31.2009 9:16pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Largo,

I essentially agree with Arthur's answer.

(Bonus question: Would I have been a goober for indoctrinating myself?)

If you were your own parent, and you were divorced from your other parent, yes you would be. A divorced parent has an obligation to the child and to the other parent not to indoctrinate the child with beliefs that demonize the other parent. But if you were just you, and not your own parent, you'd have no such obligation. You can indoctrinate yourself to your heart's content. Obviously, all parents should be concerned about their kids becoming obsessed with anything dangerous or unhealthy, but I don't include religious fundamentalism in that category.

By the way, how is it you think I mocked einhverfr's question?
8.31.2009 9:25pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Leo:

A divorced parent has an obligation to the child and to the other parent not to indoctrinate the child with beliefs that demonize the other parent.


While I agree with this as far as you take it, how do you conclude that the mother is demonizing the father here? The closest you get is that the daughter feels that the lack of acceptance of her views by the father means he doesn't love her as much as he says he does. Not that he doesn't love her at all or anything like that.

IMO, the perpetual bickering over minutae like chiropractic appointments and what forms of life insurance are acceptable in court does more to demonize the father (since the girl is with her mother most of the time) than the religious element.
8.31.2009 9:32pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
einhverfr,

While I agree with this as far as you take it, how do you conclude that the mother is demonizing the father here?

By inference. Where would Amanda get the idea that her father's "refusal to adopt her religious beliefs and his choice instead to spend eternity away from her proves that he does not love her as much as he says he does"? One possibility is she got it intact from her mother. Another is that her mother taught her the religious stuff and Amanda "reasoned" her way to the conclusion. Assume the latter, since the former requires no further explanation. If the mother didn't want Amanda believing what she believed, she'd have explained where the religious teachings ended and the logical leap to her father's love deficiency began. And if she did correct that misunderstanding, the judge would have mentioned it in the opinion.

So I think it's a reasonable inference from what is and what isn't mentioned that the mother either demonized the father explicitly, or she conveniently allowed Amanda's religious teachings to lead her to the disparaging conclusion. Either way it shows a desire for Amanda to think poorly of her father, and a willingness to use the religious instruction for that purpose.
9.1.2009 4:04am
Largo (mail):
Arthur,

Shall we assume as a first approximation that the chances of the girl independently coming up with any these beliefs are probabilistically independent? Then, I see how P(1,2,3,4,5) [the probability of believing 1 through 5] is the product of the probabilities P(1) through P(5), and could be quite small ("we all get hit by lightening tonight"). I see how P(1,2,3,4,5,6) would then be even smaller ("we all get hit by lightening right now").

But I was not speaking of P(1,2,3,4,5,6). Rather, I was speaking of P(6). It is possible both for P(1,2,3,4,5,6) to be low, and for P(6) to be high -- unless forming believe (6) requires forming the prior beliefs. But then we cannot presume probabilistic independance. Quoting myself:
(6) Choosing to spend eternity away from the daughter is probative evidence of diminishment love. (premise) [*] Note that this premise does not presume that eternity in fact exists [emphasis added this time].
How would this at all depend on her assuming (1)-(5)? An atheist child might see her father immigrate to another country in circumstances that make their future reunion unlikely. It might be a good choice that secures her future, but it is not "lightning bolt" implausible for her to see such a choice as diminishing his claim of love for her. An atheist child may have a kooky father who believes the daughter had eternal life, and who believes that he can share in her eternal life if he does X, and yet chooses to do Y instead. The daughter might think eternal life is hokum. Still, it is not LB-implausible for her to conclude that her father, while perhaps yet loving her, does not love her to the degree he professes. (He could profess that he loves her enough to do anything to be with her forever, yet his acts belie that profession.)

Perhaps I should add: I am going into this in detail not because I particular care for the case, and not because it is of much importance what we conclusions we share or don't share in this particular matter. It is mainly because I am interested in dialog, and I have not much experience with this sort of dialog online. I have some friends with whom I have interesting discussions face-to-face, but when conversing by email we seem to talk past one another. Perhaps it is the same with comment threads? I don't know: but I would like to learn how to practice the art of online engagement as well as I practice it face-to-face.

So if you are still willing to continue, perhaps you would like to make a comment on that addendum :) -- and as to avoid our perhaps talking past each other, allow me to ask you to address the issue of the independance of (6) in light of what I said above?
9.1.2009 6:03am
Largo (mail):
Leo, [cc einhverfr, Arthur, et al]

Thanks for the final query about having "I mocked einhverfr's question". It was intended to cause a light pique to persuade you to answer :) Let me provide an apoligia with somewhat of an apology. (If further apologies should be made by me, let me know).

First an apology. There are connotations to "mock" that can cause offense. Hence its use to pique :). But by "mock" I mean something that is a false substitute to the thing that is mocked. A "mock exam" for example. The word "mockery" has even stronger offensive connotations. You might find me to use words that work well in their denotative function, connotations be damned. So if I were to use the term "mock" in the context of mock exams, I might well use the term "mocking" if it yielded a more direct expression.

Einhverfr's [1] "parallel" case, of a father pressing a point of view that we all here abhor, was parallel with respect to her father having a viewpoint other than her mother's. If the analysis of the case turned merely on his views being different from hers, the parallel is quite apt I think. If the court case turns (at least in part) on the mother's adding "[he's] a selfish bastard" in her communication with her daughter, then that einhverfr's case is not so parallel after all. I think you believe that the court case does, and that einhverfr's case does not.

I believe that the court case does not turn on this. I suspect that there is much we don't know about the case. I don't see enough to infer that the mother likely did this, though I might infer as much should more of the facts been revealed. Even then, inference is much less than deduction, and I would not be inclined to claim disparaging things about the mother without qualifying it by an "I suspect" or an "it seems to me". But in speaking of the case, I don't find such remarks particularly troublesome.

By putting forth his "parallel", einhverfr seems either /1 to be asking the academic question of whether the element of the difference opinion is sufficient to warrant the conclusions independent of the element of mother's disparaging comments, or /2 to suggest the the issue on this point in fact involves only the first element -- that the second does not exist. If the former, it may or may not be an interesting legal side discussion. If the latter, we might have a discussion on the existence and pertinence of the second element. For example, whether it is an element sufficiently manifest in the evidence to warrant a legal opinion; or whether it is sufficiently infer-able from the released decision to warrant a social condemnation. All interesting question, or potentially interesting at least.

By responding to einhverfr's "parallel" by changing the parallel, you introduce the element that einvherr seems to reject. If he failed to notice the second element, this might be a good way to bring it to his intention. However, I think he omitted that element by choice. Even if he suspected that the second element was there, much of the discussion seems to have rested on the first element. He may have been trying to establish that (or learn from other's responses whether) this first element is, on its own, insufficient. If it is established both that the first element was met, and that the first element on its own is insufficient, conversation could turn to the existence and significance of the second element, without being distracted by the first. Since the second seems to be especially contentious, it would benefit to identify what would distract from it.

I find that often in conversation, people will end up confusing elements such that the conversation shifts between points of contention and points of agreement (at least points that would be points of agreement if looked at briefly on their own), with the result of arguers arguing past each other. I am guilty of this as much as others. It gives the impression sometimes that one is trying to be shifty in one's argument. Sometimes this impression is accurate. Often it is not. I choose never to presume that it is.

Your modification of einhverfr's "parallel", it seems to me, denies the point he was trying to make -- or the removal of the distraction he was trying to achieve. I suggest that whatever the purpose of your modification, its effect was dismissive. I suggest that einhverfr was well aware of the contentious second element, and his efforts to isolate the first from the second was met not by an argument for the second element, nor by an initial indication of the second element (which he was acutely aware of), but by a mere repetition of the claim for the contentious.

At least you did not say "I corrected that for you" (a despicable meme when used in a non-playful way), but you did present his case back to him in a way (if my suggestions are accurate) that is dismissive rather than constructive.

And I believe you were dismissive, whether or not that was highly intended. I hope you don't take offense at my saying so, for I don't think your divisiveness rose to any level of culpability (and if you think you were not at all, I will recant that belief on your very word). But without speaking for einhverfr, your reply was not helpful to the effort see him as quite likely trying to achieve.

By presenting a "false substitute" for his case -- false at least in failing to reflect its intended function of distinguishing elements -- you presented a mock of his case. At worst unhelpful, but no great sin as I said. Which brings me to my tone and sorta-apology..

I was contemplating putting a wink smiley after my last line: However, having mocked einhverfr's question, are you willing to be called to answer it? I hope that the parallelism substituted for it in tone. Despite lurking, I don't know you well on the thread. Without presuming the worst, I feared you might not reply (not all are keen to reply to those with my tendency to go on and on...), and so I hoped by the "connotative pique" I would get you to stay, and so I did not want to diminish that too much with a smiley :).

If I had gone and remain beyond the bounds, I do apologize. And if that kind of "conditional apology" constitutes a pseudo-apology, tell this socially awkward fellow what remains, and I will make it an unconditional apology.

If you do wish to continue this conversation, it is really more of the "meta-conversation" that interests me. E.g. the case does not interest me, but how we think about it and successfully (or not) talk about it interests me. It is a conversation I hinted at a couple of times before in Conspiracy comment threads, but the last thing I want to do is hijack a conversation. But this thread is rather old now. If EV is happy for this conversation, or its meta, to continue, I would be happy to continue it.

(Technical meta-point: when you say that you essentially agree with the answer Arthur gave, were you referring to a question raised be einhverfr, or by me? (That's why I often number my questions. I find without it, conversations become hella confusing to me.)

---
[1] As with ee cummings, I am troubled by how to refer to you at the start of a sentence, einhverfr my friend!
9.1.2009 7:52am
Largo (mail):
And they all said together: Get to the bloody point!
Dear All (esp Arthur, Leo and einhverfr):
This short comment to inform you that the long one to Leo above is where I "put my cards on the table" as it were, wrt what I am trying to do as a novice blog-commenter. I don't want to burden of writing (or burden anyone with reading) such lengthy comments. Hopefully, if "well begun is half done," my replies hereafter may be a bit shorter :-p
9.1.2009 8:02am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Leo:


Where would Amanda get the idea that her father's "refusal to adopt her religious beliefs and his choice instead to spend eternity away from her proves that he does not love her as much as he says he does"?


Consider the possible hypothetical dialog. Does this count as demonizing the father?

Amanda: "Mom? I have a question. Only people who believe what we believe go to heaven, right?"

Mom: "Yes, that's right."

Amanda: "But dad doesn't believe what we believe right?"

Mom: "Yes, that's right."

Amanda: "But that means dad won't be in heaven with me, right?"

Mom: "Well, I can guarantee you, I will be."
9.1.2009 11:24am

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