Monday, May 31, 2010

US court: Catholic woman must live as Orthodox Jew

Catholic couple ordered to live Hasidic lifestyle in order to be able to see husband's son, who was born to ultra-Orthodox Jewish mother

Rebecca Bitton

Published: 05.30.10, 15:33 / Israel Jewish Scene

It has been centuries since the divide between church and state has been in place but recently it seems that religion has been taking center stage in divorce courts across the United States. This time, the state has ruled that ultra-Orthodox Judaism must be followed by a pair of Catholics.

Laura Derbigney, a Hispanic Catholic woman, has been placed under court order to keep Shabbat, keep kosher and live as a Hasidic Jew. This court order was carried out in Chicago and the woman is now being told she must live an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle due to her new husband’s ex-wife who is a Hasidic Jew.

Derbigney’s husband Nelson, also a Catholic, has a son by his first wife, a seven-year old who must carry out ultra-Orthodox restrictions with his Catholic father as he has with his biological mother, and this is the reasoning behind the court’s order to have the boy’s father and new step-mother live in the ways of a Hasidic Jew.

"I truly feel it's an intrusion on my home life," Derbigney said from her attorney's office Monday, according to NBC reports. "That I have to now obey certain aspects of being kosher and following Shabbat in order for my husband and I to see his son, is wrong."

These restrictions include dietary restrictions. Despite Derbigney reportedly liking to cook Hispanic foods from her childhood, she will not be able to feed the child pork. Furthermore, the court has ordered that she is not allowed to shop at her regular supermarket and must shop from a kosher supermarket, henceforth – a supermarket, according to her interview with NBC, that is located in a different neighborhood far from her home.

Along with this, she will definitely not be able to take the boy from her new husband’s first marriage in a car on Saturdays, and for the same reason no sports will be played, no electronics will be used, as she has to follow all the laws of Shabbat.

The court order was enacted under the demands of the Hasidic Jewish ex-wife who complained to court that the last time her son visited his father he was fed non-kosher hot dogs.

Attorney Joel Brodsky, who is defending the Derbigneys and has won a similar case where religion proved to be the main concern in a custody battle, told NBC that the court’s ruling ignores the First Amendment which describes a citizen’s right to live by their own religious beliefs. Brodsky said, “Just because you're divorced, the court can't say how to live your lives or what grocery store you can go to."

Brodsky’s similar case that he won in mid February of this year coincidentally involves a Jewish ex-wife and a Hispanic Catholic father. The father, by the name of Joseph Reyes, converted to Judaism when he married his ex-wife Rebecca Reyes and returned to Catholicism when they divorced. Later, he brought their daughter Ela to a church and was afterwards sued, facing prison and fines for the church visit due to allegations that the pair decided to raise the daughter Jewish; though the father denies this.

This particular case was judged by Judge Edward Jordan, member of the Decalogue Society of Lawyers (Jewish bar association) but with the request of Brodsky, the judge was changed to Cook County Judge Goldfarb who ruled in favour of the father’s right to send their daughter to church during his visitations if he so chooses.

Does divorce court have the right to determine a child’s religious affiliation based on how a child was raised prior to the divorce? Or should the divide between state and religion be firmly upholding in divorce courts today? The age-old controversy between state and religion is presenting itself repeatedly in custody battles in 21st Century divorce courts.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

As soon as you allow divorce at all, injustices like this are almost inevitable. You're pitting the birth mom's right to raise her son as an Orthodox Jew against the Catholic dad's right not to be Orthodox. This is just not something for a court to decide!

It adds to the irony and sadness of your other post about a court in Egypt trying to force to Coptic Church to allow divorce. So many people are victimized by it. You can get married in good faith, do nothing seriously wrong, then find yourself divorced by your spouse and your children taken away from you and maybe even forced to pay alimony to the ex-spouse who's dating someone else-- all because of no-fault divorce.