Pagan Child Custody vs. The Laws of Man
Rev. Morgana RedSkye Black
The decision to dissolve one’s marriage is often a difficult step, and becomes even more difficult when children are involved. Especially if the parents are at each other’s throats and use the children as weapons in an attempt to gain control over the other.
What should be in the best interest of the child becomes a fight over who should get custody and what’s in the best interest of the child becomes left in the hands of strangers who have no idea what Witchcraft, Paganism and/or Wicca is all about. Everyone will have their own ideas and agendas on the subject when religion and/or spirituality comes to the forefront in a child custody dispute.
I think the first step in this kind of dispute is not to panic. Hollywood has unfortunately done a fine job of discrediting Witchcraft, Paganism and Wicca to begin with. I think the only time this subject comes into play (all earth-based religions in general) is when a pissed off parent seeks revenge on the parent the child already has a good relationship with, out of spite and jealously (usually because of the bad break up and not necessarily over the child).
I believe its safe to say that one should arm themselves with a brief description of what our philosophy of life is (belief in Nature, Harm none, etc), and reminding them of the First Amendment (“Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”) Wicca, Paganism, and Witchcraft applies here too within that Amendment.
In 1985 there was a case (Dettmer v. Landon) in which a Wiccan prison inmate brought a civil rights claim alleging that his First Amendment rights had been violated by prison officials who refused him access to religious objects and worship materials. The district court in that case ruled that adherents of the path of Wicca had been established. Lets not forget the Witchcraft Laws that had been repealed (the last ones in England were repealed in the 1950’s). In Yoder v. Wisconsin, the free exercise of religious beliefs includes the right to direct the religious upbringing of one’s children. This would include Witchcraft, Wicca, and Paganism.
A person’s religion should have nothing to do with a person’s ability to raise a child any more than sexual preference. Love and understanding raise a child, not religion.
I can understand if CPS and other authorities were called because the child was indeed in harm’s way (there are a lot of sickos out there), then there would be no question of the child being removed from a parent’s custody. However, many authorities of such a nature are not willing to take the time to really delve into their cases, and read the fine print as it were. If there is no evidence of ritual abuse, then how can these same authorities remove a child from a parent? Whom then will custody of the child in question go to? There is a line between a Wiccan/Pagan parent teaching their child the significance of Nature, and worshipping a Goddess, and a parent actually abusing a child during ritual. A social worker and their ilk should be looking into the truth of the matter and not the misconceptions set forth by Hollywood and society. Their own religious beliefs should not take precedence but what is in the best interest of the child.
Some social workers have about as much compassion (not too mention the ones that actually do their job and do it well) as a stink bomb. Instead of actually taking the time to research the subject, and perhaps talking to people who are of an earth-based religion so they may get a clearer understanding of it they just assume the worst (based on their own beliefs which are usually Christian), and go from there. Hardly in the best interest of any child. Perhaps if they did, we would never hear of these cases at all. Unfortunately, they do happen.
What would we do if it were us? The simple matter of having an Athame and having to explain its significance to me seems daunting, especially when faced with some hotshot lawyer who thinks he knows it all (this scene was actually an episode of “Picket Fences”). The whole thing just seems to be intimidating. How would we explain that an Athame is not a weapon but a tool we use to direct energy? Just like that? Perhaps, but that does not mean they would understand the concept. This is why I feel educating the public about Witchcraft, Paganism, and Wicca, is so important. To dispel the myths and misconceptions about earth-based religions as a whole. A few hundred years of evolution has not changed the way we are viewed by society (and all these lawyers, judges, cps workers etc are a part of society). People will think and believe, as they will; the information is out there they just refuse to accept it. In the case of a custody dispute or any case brought to trial for the enforcement of the First Amendment, that First Amendment is supposed to protect us, and not allow us to lose custody of our children. That is where free will comes in, we cannot change how people think or feel about us, but we can change ourselves to be better people. I believe people are known by their actions not by their words.
The point is, do not panic. When faced with opposition it becomes quite clear that our children are the most important things in our lives. If we chose the dissolution of marriage and things get so bad that our religions become what is on trial and not the best interest of our children then something is terribly wrong with the whole court system. We must seek to correct that. One thing I have learned over the years is that the Goddess and Gods will not give us anything we cannot handle, and that is where we have the upper hand.
The First Amendment is to protect us, not to allow our religious preferences to be put on trial. Isn’t that why we also have those anti-discrimination laws? As I said, one’s religion should have no bearing on someone’s ability to raise a child. Take away that right and we do not have any rights at all, and we loose what is dear and precious to us because our beliefs differed from someone else’s, and there is nothing more devastating than the loss of a child due to someone else’s ignorance. Blessed Be.