Religion and Child Custody Cases
What are the limits of free expression in the United States today? Are we still living under what many would consider a theocratic state? Although the “Protestant Ethic” as defined by Weber is often thought of in terms of the realm of work, it includes other moral dimensions. The U.S. has often been mired in controversies about what role religion should play in the formation of law. Abortion, school prayer, displaying religious symbols like the 10 Commandments on government property, and the inclusion of the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance are all contentious issues that have been present in the national dialogue for decades now. In fact, there are few openly atheist lawmakers in the U.S., the highest ranking being Rep. Pete Stark of California.
Yet despite all this, it still comes as a bit of a surprise when one hears about women having their children taken away from them for being non-Christian in 21st century America. There have been cases where, in the course of a child custody battle, Wiccan women have had their children removed by superstitious judges. But perhaps no case stands out more than that of Rachel Bevilacqua, who was called a “pervert” in open court and had her child removed for little other than appearing in a skit mocking the pro-Catholic movie “The Passion of the Christ.” Over the course of nearly three years, and after tens of thousands in legal fees, Mrs. Bevilacqua regained custody of her son over an ex-boyfriend who had no job or income, and whose legal representation was paid for by the taxpayers. The main reason custody was awarded to the birth father was because Mrs. Bevilacqua had the unfortunate luck to get a Catholic family court judge who didn’t take too kindly to her satirical artistic pursuits.