An Indianapolis father is appealing a Marion County judge's unusual order that prohibits him and his ex-wife from exposing their child to "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals."
The parents practice Wicca, a contemporary pagan religion that emphasizes a balance in nature and reverence for the earth.
Cale J. Bradford, chief judge of the Marion Superior Court, kept the unusual provision in the couple's divorce decree last year over their fierce objections, court records show. The order does not define a mainstream religion.
Bradford refused to remove the provision after the 9-year-old boy's outraged parents, Thomas E. Jones Jr. and his ex-wife, Tammie U. Bristol, protested last fall.
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Jones has brought the case before the Indiana Court of Appeals, with help from the Indiana Civil Liberties Union. They filed their request for the appeals court to strike the one-paragraph clause in January.
"This was done without either of us requesting it and at the judge's whim," said Jones, who has organized Pagan Pride Day events in Indianapolis. "It is upsetting to our son that he cannot celebrate holidays with us, including Yule, which is winter solstice, and Ostara, which is the spring equinox."
The ICLU and Jones assert the judge's order tramples on the parents' constitutional right to expose their son to a religion of their choice. Both say the court failed to explain how exposing the boy to Wicca's beliefs and practices would harm him.
Bristol is not involved in the appeal and could not be reached for comment. She and Jones have joint custody, and the boy lives with the father on the Northside.
Jones and the ICLU also argue the order is so vague that it could lead to Jones being found in contempt and losing custody of his son.
"When they read the order to me, I said, 'You've got to be kidding,' " said Alisa G. Cohen, an Indianapolis attorney representing Jones. "Didn't the judge get the memo that it's not up to him what constitutes a valid religion?"
I think I'm going to want to keep an eye out for this Cale Bradford character, and be ready to raise a stink if / when some "family values" theocon decides to push him for a Federal bench.
And do, please, note that Judge Bradford put the order in place over both the parents' objections.
(Thanks to starcat_jewel for the pointer.)