Judge protects child from religious conflict
A pair of devout Jehovah’s Witnesses have been ordered by a British Columbia judge not to involve their four-year-old granddaughter in the activities of their silly cult.
The couple, according to this report, lost their bid for unsupervised access to the girl because they insisted on taking her to worship at a Kingdom Hall despite the repeated objections of the child’s mother.
The girl is identified only as AW and the grandparents as AR and BR in Judge Edna Ritchie’s 12-page provincial court decision.
The judge said:
There are many people with strongly held religious views that do not discuss those views in front of others, and specifically not in front of children.
Unless the grandparents can satisfy the court that they can comply with the mother’s wishes, Ritchie said:
Their time with AW must be supervised and limited.
The case pitted the Family Law Act against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Family Law Act states that only a guardian has parental responsibilities, including decisions about religious upbringing, and the mother, MW, is sole guardian. The father was a cult member who had reportedly been excommunicated, or to use JW terminology, “disfellowshipped“.
But the grandparents argued that forbidding them from expressing their faith to their grandchild would violate a charter right to practice their religion.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled a custodial parent can’t limit another parent’s ability to discuss religion unless the child’s best interests are threatened.
The grandparents want the child to experience their religion, while the mother insists her daughter:
Can decide when she is older whether or not to participate in any religious practices.
AR and BR were determined to have contact with their granddaughter, and the child’s mother felt it important for them to be part of their lives. She previously allowed them unsupervised access.
But according to the decision, the relationship between the “well-meaning, determined grandmother” and MW had been strained from the outset.
The mother also objected to the couple insisting the girl call them Poppa and Momma instead of Grandpa and Grandma. But by far the biggest disagreement arose over visits to the Kingdom Hall.
From the time AW was a baby, the grandparents hauled her off to services. MW said she wasn’t happy, but didn’t object until December 2013.
She switched the timing of their visits, but then learned from her daughter that the grandparents had taken AW to services the following spring; AR insisted the child “had begged to go to Kingdom Hall”.
Visits were then limited to supervised access at the mum’s home, but the mother then found her daughter watching a Jehovah’s Witness video on AR’s laptop. The grandmother insisted the child had pushed the play icon before she could stop her.
Ritchie found it wasn’t fair to place the child in “a holy war” between her mother and grandparents.
I am concerned that the applicants’ demonstrated inability to respect and comply with MW’s decisions on religion will continue to cause conflict. It is not in AW’s best interests to be exposed to that conflict.