Judge Orders Atheist to Take His Kids to Church as Part of Settlement

Judge Orders Atheist to Take His Kids to Church

A judge in England recently ordered an atheist father to take his kids to Roman Catholic mass as part of his divorce settlement. The man, who can be identified only as Steve due to legal restrictions, is likely to face contempt of court as well as a jail sentence in case he refuses or fails to attend mass when he has custody of his kids. This church attendance requirement was imposed by Judge James Orrell, who decided to discuss his own Catholic faith during Steve’s hearing that concerned the custody of Steve’s two sons. While Steve, despite being an atheist, was ordered to attend mass, his former wife, despite being Catholic, was not ordered to do the same.

“If the children are with their father at Christmas he will undertake that they will attend the Christmas mass,” read the statement.

Steve, 51, who is a psychologist by profession, said the order was bizarre because religion was not brought up by either side in the case.

“The judge decided that I would commit to taking the children to mass and he put it in the court order. What I think is really concerning is that it does not allow me or my children any freedom of religious expression. I am definitely not Catholic. The last time I went to church was some time ago and it was a Unitarian church that I attended. My oldest son, who is now 10, has already expressed a clear lack of belief but legally I am required to take him to Roman Catholic mass at Christmas. Because my contact arrangements now give me the children on some weekends, I am concerned that I will now also be required to take them to mass on Sundays when they are with me, even though that is not part of the original order,” said Steve.

Steve runs a company that provides rehabilitation services to the criminal justice system. This company has suffered a loss because of stress stemming from this church attendance requirement, Steve explained. The ruling was subject to several legal challenges ever since it was first imposed in 2009. Yet, the church attendance requirement continues to stand.

Steve had gone to the Court of Appeal, saying Orrell’s order breaches his own rights under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights that protects freedom of conscience, thought and religion. However, his appeal failed to go through the appeal judges as well as a judicial review at the High Court. Steve then took his complaint to the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office, which upheld the other aspects of his appeal but refused to comment on his Article 9 contentions.

Photo Credits: Imgur

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