A British judge rules that mother can’t indoctrinate son with religion

Perhaps the statement from a New Atheist that most angers believers (or faitheists) is Richard Dawkins’s characterization of religious indoctrination of children as “child abuse.”  Yes, them’s strong words, but there’s something to be said for their truth. Of course it depends on the religion, but nearly all forms of parental teaching about religion abuse the intellectual curiosity of kids by taking advantage of their natural credulity. If you’re a Christian, you teach your kids stuff that is regarded by Muslims as not only false, but worthy of death. If you’re a Christian Scientist, you teach them to reject scientific medicine, a decision that can ultimately harm or even kill them. Further, religions can instill in children horrible feelings of guilt (ask an ex-Catholic), fear of hell, and a moral code that is bigoted, irrational, and hateful.

I don’t know how to remedy this problem, because clearly the state doesn’t want to interfere with what parents tell their children. But it did in one case, and rightly so.

A comment by reader Matthew Jenkins called my attention to an article in Saturday’s Telegraph about a Jehovah’s Witness (JW) mother who was filling her 7-year-old kid with hatred of his father, who was separated from mom but shared custody of the child.  Apparently the mother’s indoctrination was so strong that the child simply didn’t want to have anything to do with his father:

The child, who teachers described as “troubled, angry and confused”, rejected his own father because he said he “could not be with people who didn’t believe in Jehovah”.

He appeared fixated with the idea that his father, who is separated from his mother but had shared parental responsibilities, would not be “going to Paradise” and told adults he “did not want to go to Daddy’s because he was not a Jehovah”.

Staff at his school became alarmed when he cut up teaching materials in RE class because he could not bear learning about mainstream Christianity.

One child psychologist who spoke to him for the proceedings reported how he would react physically even at mentions of the idea that Jesus died on a cross or references to the Bible.

Teachers said he also rejected other children, had only a small friendship circle and described him as “one of the most worrying children in our school”.

Well, this is an extreme case, of course, but it’s the first one I’ve heard of in which a mother’s “right” to brainwash her child was abrogated. Initially the judge made the mother sign a legal promise that she wouldn’t “talk to her son about her religion, take him to church or even say grace at meals”, all in an attempt to prevent her from alienating the son from his father.

It didn’t work. Though the mother signed the document, she began wheedling the judge to allow her to take the kid to the JW church and to let him pray at mealtimes. The judge, fed up, placed the children in foster care. Now I’m not sure this is the right decision (couldn’t the kid be placed with the father?), but at least it recognizes the invidious results that can come from child brainwashing.

Truly enlightened parents either tell kids to investigate different religions on their own, or help them do so without promoting one over the others. But such parents are rare.  Except in cases like the above, where the insidious consequences of brainwashing become clear, I suppose there’s nothing we can do.


  1. Posted May 25, 2015 at 11:06 am | Permalink


  2. Posted May 25, 2015 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Interested in readers’ opinions.


  3. Posted May 25, 2015 at 11:24 am | Permalink


    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted May 25, 2015 at 11:33 am | Permalink


  4. Posted May 25, 2015 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    If the kid hates his father, I can understand the judge not giving him custody. Interesting story.

  5. Posted May 25, 2015 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    It’s quite a dilemma. From the perspective of the parent…failing to raise the child in the faith is, quite literally, even more evil than physical torture. And I have a really serious problem with the State controlling the speech of anybody, let alone private speech between family members.

    In all, I think the right approach is for secularists to use Richard’s rhetoric but to keep the State out of the picture. So long as the child isn’t being physically harmed and is receiving a State-approved education, the only recourse the rest of us have is good speech to counter the bad.

    And it’s not like that good speech is going to be ineffective. Just think of all the parents who don’t themselves believe but who send their children to Sunday School for some mushbrained reason; hearing us describe that as abusive indoctrination is going to cause many of them to stop and reconsider…and, with luck, instead get an age-appropriate book on comparative religious studies.

    Yes, many children of fundamentalists will grow up to be fundamentalists themselves. But it’s no more possible for atheists to save every person for reason than it is for Christians to save every soul for Christ…and invoking the State to do the dirty work in either direction is a cure at least as bad as the disease.


    • Les
      Posted May 25, 2015 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      A very thoughful reply.

    • Gamall
      Posted May 25, 2015 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      The problem I have with that is that speech from a parent to a child is not a discussion of equals. Only one can influence the other at this stage.

      I see a parent as being entrusted with the responsibility of a child, not “owning” the child. It is the state (what else?) that brokers such responsibilities, and thus it is the state’s duty to revoke them when the parents are unfit.

      The prevailing view (even if not stated explicitly) seems to be that the parents own the child, which I find very disturbing. I think this view — the traditional one — will have to be abandoned eventually if humanity is to progress. The ability to copulate does not qualify one to become an educator.

      That said the “state” solution has its drawbacks as well (single point of failure), but the idea that you belong *in* the wider human community rather than *to* the specific individuals who happened to spawn you is the endpoint, I think (especially factoring in present and future advancements in reproductive technology, which increasingly blur the notion of “parents”).

      • Posted May 25, 2015 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

        I think you both give children too little credit to recover from such childhood indoctrination and underestimate the destructive power of a state-imposed monoculture of ideas.

        As to the former, the comment section here is replete with stories of people who grew up in similar indoctrination and yet managed to come to their senses. Yes, it was a miserable experience for these people and we should do what we can to ameliorate such situations, but not at the expense of civil liberties.

        Your proposed solution is excessively heavy-handed. As statistics consistently demonstrate, religion is on the wane, rapidly in fact, with each new generation subjected to substantially less indoctrination than their parents were. And we see what happens when states step in and forcibly assume parenting responsibilities; that’s the very caricature of totalitarianism.

        The fundamental problem is that children will be indoctrinated by whoever is responsible for their care; it is an inevitable fact of the physiology of human development. The only thing we can do to combat the effects of childhood indoctrination is to ensure that all children receive a broad education with emphasis on critical reasoning. It won’t “save” all children of wackos, but having the state take the children away from the wackos not only won’t save them, either, it’ll cause even more damage to society than the wackos and their children will.


        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted May 26, 2015 at 2:35 am | Permalink

          Ben, I think you’re letting your distrust of ‘the state’ cloud your thinking. The ‘state’ (i.e. the court) is removing the child from JW indoctrination, not attempting to brainwash the child (I assume the foster parents are screened to be ‘mainstream’).

          Because the ones who recover from this are attracted to this site and comment here, doesn’t mean that all or even very many children recover from it. It doesn’t make the indoctrination OK, any more than paedophile survivors make paedophilia OK.

      • Diane G.
        Posted May 26, 2015 at 5:01 am | Permalink

        Gamall, your thoughts are very close to mine on this issue.

    • GBJames
      Posted May 25, 2015 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      I want to agree with you, Ben. But I also must acknoledge the comments from the ex-JWs who are more supportive of the judge’s action.

      I’d like to know more about the detailed circumstances of this case.

      • Posted May 25, 2015 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

        Yes, their stories are heart-rending and compelling…but we must remember two facts.

        First, these people have themselves demonstrated that recovery from such indoctrination is possible by the very fact that they themselves have recovered from it.

        And, second, letting the victims influence judicial proceedings inevitably taints them with vigilantism. There’s a reason why criminal cases are always “The State v so-and-so,” and not “The victim v so-and-so.”


        • Posted May 26, 2015 at 4:27 am | Permalink

          People can recover from rape, mutilation, torture..anything but death. That’s not a reason to tolerate such things. And just how would you expect to hear from those who don’t recover?

          • Diane G.
            Posted May 26, 2015 at 5:02 am | Permalink

            + 1

          • Posted May 26, 2015 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

            I must not be explaining myself properly.

            The state should intervene in cases of abuse, regardless of the nature of the abuse.

            The state should not automatically assume that a religious environment in the home is abusive.

            At the same time, Richard Dawkins and others should continue to describe religious indoctrination as abusive.

            And when a child, such as the one in this case, is being abused, the fact that the abuse has a strong religious component to it should be irrelevant to the court’s deliberations.

            Does that help clear things up?


            • GBJames
              Posted May 26, 2015 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

              “The state should not automatically assume that a religious environment in the home is abusive.”

              I don’t think anyone here is advocating that. But the question remains… at what point is the psychological abuse of extreme religiosity on children sufficient to make a call like this judge made. It isn’t an easy question to answer.

              • Posted May 26, 2015 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

                “The state should not automatically assume that a religious environment in the home is abusive.”

                I don’t think anyone here is advocating that.

                No, but if Richard were to twit something on the subject, that’s how it would be deliberately misinterpreted.

                But the question remains… at what point is the psychological abuse of extreme religiosity on children sufficient to make a call like this judge made. It isn’t an easy question to answer.

                Exactly. No, it’s not an easy question.

                Richard would be absolutely right in observing that telling children that they’ll go to Hell if they masturbate is abuse.

                And, at the same time, at least in this day and age, the State has no business treating such as a case of abuse.

                It’s easy to construct examples clearly on the other side of the line: whipping a child caught masturbating, for example. But it’s the whipping that’s the cause for State action, not the justification for the whipping.


      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted May 25, 2015 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

        I’d like to know more about the detailed circumstances of this case.

        Given that the case appears to have been in an English court, there is precious little chance of that.

    • Posted May 25, 2015 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      It is quite a dilemma. On one hand, it’s quite easy for the state to go overboard if it starts legislating such things. On the other hand, an extremely indoctrinated child may be so sheltered that they aren’t exposed to free speech (see the comment from Jonathon Houser in post 10). I think we’re all generally fine with the state stepping in when there is serious physical abuse, but to harken back on one of Richard Dawkins’ most controversial comments, is it possible that some mild physical abuse, which draws state attention, is actually far better than a full childhood of mental brainwashing? I’d say in the extreme cases of indoctrination, the answer is unquestionably yes. By the time the thoroughly brainwashed child develops and reaches adulthood, they will be impervious to outside reason.

      There is still much valid concern about the state interfering in the exchange of ideas, even if the “exchange” is one way. I think the only approach is to have a case-by-case analysis and I’d definitely not want to have a specific law on the books regarding indoctrination, instead leaving it to the system to decide when such situations clearly are preventing the child from functioning in society.

      • Posted May 25, 2015 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

        On the other hand, an extremely indoctrinated child may be so sheltered that they aren’t exposed to free speech

        The solution to this is to require all children receive an accredited education. The parents don’t necessarily have to send their students to a state-run school; they should be free to send them to a privately-operated institution…but that institution must be subjected to the same standards as the state-run ones and the students expected to meet similar minimum requirements. And same thing with home schooling; if you can get a grade-appropriate teaching certificate for all the subjects you teach and your children can demonstrate at least average competence in the various subjects, go for it…but that’s no low bar to clear.

        And if those non-state schools want to teach subjects such as biology in a manner of, “What I’m about to tell you is all bullshit, but it’s bullshit that you’ll have to be able to regurgitate on the test in order to advance to the next grade,” I’d be perfectly fine with that. A student who can correctly explain isochron dating but still pretends that the Earth is 6,000 years old because Satan plays games with radioisotopes? Bring it on. Please! Chances are damned slim that child’s own children are going to get taught the Satan version, and basically nonexistent that that child’s own grandchildren will, save in an anthropology class in college.


      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted May 25, 2015 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

        On one hand, it’s quite easy for the state to go overboard if it starts legislating such things.

        The legislation is, if I understand it correctly, quite simple, unambiguous, and fraught with potential for conflict. In the opinion of the state (of Britain), people entrusted with the care of a child by the state have to act in that child’s best interests. What those best interests are, are not defined in law, and do change with time. But that’s case law and precedent, not legislation.
        That a judge has come out with a judgement like this is absolutely excellent news because it means that every (every!) divorce, custody battle, temporary foster parent and applicant to adopt a child is going to have to deal with the fact that religious indoctrination has got to be argued whether a specific set of practices is “in the best interests” of the specific child.
        We all know how successful that effort is going to be.
        It is still going to take generations to purge ourselves of the poison of religion. but I think this is a significant step forward.

    • Hayden Scott
      Posted May 25, 2015 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

      Every custody dispute however decided involves the State’s intrusion into personal lives and impacts the communication between parent and child (in terms of regulating the opportunities for communication). No doubt different judgement calls are open on the ethical and legal question on where State intrusion should start and stop. In extreme cases, like pedophilia, for example, I think State intrusion is appropriate, even if it could be argued that a child can recover in their adulthood.

      • Posted May 25, 2015 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

        I absolutely agree that children should not be left in abusive environments, be the abuse physical or sexual or psychological or whatever.

        I would only urge that we leave the “religious indoctrination is child abuse” concept outside the courtroom and keep it only in the public rhetorical sphere.

        We often make the parallel between religion and political party affiliation or economic theory or what-not, and rightly so. But that cuts both ways. Just as we would be horrified to see a child removed from an home because the parents take the child with them to political rallies and extol the virtues of their party at the dinner table and what-not, we should be equally horrified to see a child removed because the parents take the child with them to church and extol the virtues of their religion.

        Or even sports teams. A Mets fan raising a child to think of the Yankees as spawn of the devil is just fine — so long, of course, as the child would still shake the hands of the Yankees players and fans at the end of the game.

        When that sort of indoctrination crosses the line into abuse — when, for example, the child is beaten for having a friend of a disfavored party / religion / team / whatever — that’s when the state begins to have an interest.

        Now, granted: religions have some damned disturbing and outright nasty principles to them, such as eternal torture for teens who masturbate and fail to recount the details to their priests. But so do political parties, such as the common Republican trope that Welfare is just the poor stealing from the deserving rich, and those on Welfare deserve to starve if they can’t be arsed to get proper jobs in, say, payroll accounting or asset management.

        …which is why we should always be reluctant to remove children from their parents unless the situation really is unambiguously abusive.

        Being a bad parent isn’t a crime, and it shouldn’t be. Can’t be, if we want to maintain even the slightest pretense of remaining a free people. Being an abusive parent is a crime, and properly so.


        • Anonymous
          Posted May 25, 2015 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

          I agree with your suggested principle for the reasons you provide. No doubt there will be matters of fact and degree that have to be answered when deciding whether something is unambiguously abusive. And even then, those questions will seldom arise where two parents are united in theit marginal behavior, simply because the relevant situation is unlikely to be detected and even if it were the State is unlikely to intervene except in the most extreme situations. It’s the custody cases that really bring this issue to the fore because one parent, at least, seeks the State’s intervention.

        • Diane G.
          Posted May 26, 2015 at 5:12 am | Permalink

          A child has only one childhood. It’s a period of enormous growth and development and an incredibly vulnerable time. Studies show that some children never recover from abusive childhoods (and I concur with Richard that some religious upbringings are tantamount to child abuse).

          The child in this case is demonstrating severe psychological harm; I think it’s just as proper for the state to step in here as it would be for a child exhibiting excessive bruising, lash marks, etc. My only worries would be about the trauma of separation and that there’s no guarantee a foster home is going to be ideal.

  6. Alan Feuerbacher
    Posted May 25, 2015 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    It’s certainly unusual for a judge to do what was done here, but it’s extremely common for a Jehovah’s Witness parent to prejudice children against the non-JW parent. The extent of inducing negative feelings varies with the individual JW parent, but the tendency to do so is built into the cult.

    I grew up as a JW so I know how they work. Non-JWs in general are branded as basically evil because they’re not part of “Jehovah’s organization” but of “Satans world”, and as such are actively or passively in league with the Devil. Such sentiments are toned down at meetings oriented toward the public, but become clearly evident when JWs are by themselves.

    I gradually left the JWs after I violated church advice and went to college. Eventually I had one daughter, and about that time my wife understood that I had quit the JW cult for good. Her attitude was that even though I didn’t oppose her religious choice, she couldn’t view me as a proper husband but as her spiritual enemy. Needless to say, that attitude eventually ruined the marriage. Towards the end, she was teaching our daughter, by then aged about eight, to pay no attention to anything I said of a religious nature. After our divorce and remarriages, my daughter listened to me, quit the JWs and went on to get degrees in biology and zoology. But I think her listening to me was more a product of her mother’s nasty treatment of her new stepsisters than of anything I actually said. The cult brainwashing is extremely strong.

    My brother’s two kids went the opposite way. After his divorce from his fanatical JW wife, she was completely successful in turning both kids away from him via the JW religion. They refused custodial visits during their teenage years and continued that shunning afterwards. Today he has seen one grandchild twice and one not at all. His daughter will no speak to him at all anymore; his son perhaps once a year.

    I’ve heard of hundreds of similar instances. Ex-JW online forums are full of them.

    I applaud the judge’s decision in this case.

    • Alan Feuerbacher
      Posted May 25, 2015 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      Here’s one reason I applaud the judge’s decision:

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted May 25, 2015 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

      I gradually left the JWs after I violated church advice and went to college.

      I’m surprised they didn’t shun you as soon as you proposed going outside the religion for anything. Dealing with the outside world is lethal to the thought control necessary to cults. At least the Amish have a coherent position on dealing with the modern world.
      I take it that JWs include their own plumbers, electricians, tax accountants, etc. To minimise the contact most of the cult have with the dangers of the Outside World (shouldn’t that be a & TRADE ; ™ , along with Sofistikaterd Feology?)
      Incidentally, I think you need to make the videos a text link like this , for ProfCC’s preferences (that’s like this, but with fewer spaces : like this ) .

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted May 25, 2015 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

        Or even ” LANGLE a href = “https:// http://www.youtube.com/ watch? feature= player_embedded& v=RDvT_gYq-ls ” RANGLE like this LANGLE /a RANGLE” with the angle brackets written as text.

        • Posted May 25, 2015 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

          I think this might be what you’re aiming for:

          <a href=”



          …assuming I didn’t fuck that up.

          If you wish to type the angle brackets, they look like this:

          &lt; is < &gt; is >


          &amp; is &

          And, yes. It’s quite confusing to have to add all the extra line noise to posts such as these explaining the line noise…and I’ll leave the rest of the recursive application to the imagination….


          • Posted May 25, 2015 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

            Looks like that was fuckup free. I’m impressed with myself!


    • Diane G.
      Posted May 26, 2015 at 5:23 am | Permalink

      Thank you for the report from the trenches. I’m so glad you prevailed with your daughter, and so sad for your brother and his kids.

  7. Dave
    Posted May 25, 2015 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    I find it hard to imagine how a JW could possibly come to marry a non-JW in the first place, given the aversion of Witnesses to social contact with unbelievers. Did the mother only convert to JW-ism after she’d married?

    • Gordon
      Posted May 25, 2015 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

      It happens and did who a close friend of mine (lifelong atheist) whose wife became a JW some time into the marriage. Unusually they seemed to manage to remain married until he died in his early 50s (the funeral was ‘interesting’). Maybe there are ‘soft’ congregations or maybe some just play a longer game.

  8. Posted May 25, 2015 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Good, but we’ll have to remain vigilant here.

  9. rickflick
    Posted May 25, 2015 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    I know a father in a similar situation. The mother is a bit mental and loathes her X to the point of indoctrinating the 3 kids against him. In spite of rulings that they should have joint custody, the mother vetoes any contact with the father. Apparently the legal process is so expensive and slow moving that he has given up and is waiting ’till the kids have reached 18, at which point they will have there own legal rights. No, this woman is not a religious fanatic, but I can imagine if she was the court is this country (U.S.) would have no greater leverage. Maybe even less.

    • Diane G.
      Posted May 26, 2015 at 5:20 am | Permalink

      So, so sad.

  10. Jonathan Houser
    Posted May 25, 2015 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    As an Ex-Jehovah’s witness I can say that this isn’t extreme, but par for the course. I find it incredibly satisfying that a court labeled this what it is, child abuse.

    Children are taught that if one is “disfellowshipped” (that is to say either they were forced out of the religion for ‘gross sin’, or they voluntarily left which is also a ‘gross sin’) then there can be no contact with that person, even if they are family. Also God is going to kill that person and they deserve to be killed. If you continue to associate with the person, then you yourself will be disfellowshipped and god will kill you too.

    People I have known all my life won’t even make eye contact with me in the grocery store because I left, and my family hasn’t spoken to me in almost a decade. I remember as a child (and an adult) doing the same thing to people who were disfellowshipped. I had two sisters that I never talked to or had a relationship with because they left the religion was I was too young to remember them.

    We are taught to never ever ever read or accept material that teaches about other religions unless it was printed by the Watchtower society. I could hand people tracts about our religion, but if somebody gave me one in return I was to throw it in the trash right away without reading it.

    It is a disgusting cult that ruins people’s lives. The religion manages to stay alive largely off of preaching in poor third world countries, and the indoctrination of children born into the religion. I’m glad somebody stood up for that poor child. He is going to have a rough road ahead of him.

    • John
      Posted May 25, 2015 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      Good comment. I struggle with those that seek to protect the rights of parents to indoctrinate, under the heading of ‘Free speech’. Kids need to be protected from such extreme indoctrination. Doesn’t society have a duty to protect ‘free thought’ not just free speech? Dawkins doesn’t seek popularity when he says the hard words..

    • Diane G.
      Posted May 26, 2015 at 5:26 am | Permalink

      Every comment from a former JW here is heartbreaking!

      Have you reconnected with your sisters?

  11. Posted May 25, 2015 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    [R]eligions can instill in children horrible feelings of guilt (ask an ex-Catholic)…

    One of my most ridiculous memories of guilt during childhood came from a mere thought crime. I was about 11 years old, sitting through a rosary and thought to myself in passing, “When will this fucking decade be over?”

    I proceeded to torment myself for several months, even after confessing it, thinking that perhaps I’d committed the unforgivable sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Yes folks, this God is “all about love.”

    • Posted May 25, 2015 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      “One child psychologist who spoke to him for the proceedings reported how he would react physically even at mentions of the idea that Jesus died on a cross”

      Strange, I find teaching six-year old children all the details of a sadistic method of execution used by the Romans 2000 years ago as much child abuse as the JW nonsense. I recently went to a funeral and had to listen to a Catholic mass. The nonsense that, I think, is repeated every Sunday to the faithful is nothing else than brainwashing. And brainwashing 6-year old kids with this nonsense is child abuse.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted May 26, 2015 at 2:45 am | Permalink

        I agree with the sadism of the crucifixion idea (much as the noble Romans loved it), BUT Google tells me the JW’s believe Big J was killed on a stake, not a cross. So there’s no big essential difference, one is as sadistic as the other.

        So the point is, I think, the kid’s violent reaction at this pretty trivial difference is an indication of some sort of obsession. Tell a normal kid about the crucifixion and they’ll probably go “Oh, yuck” and change the subject, not have a physical reaction.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted May 26, 2015 at 2:51 am | Permalink

          P.S. For the curious, the Wikipedia illustration shows Big J tied to a pole. How they stopped him sliding down it I don’t know. This was not, as I thought from the word ‘stake’, a Vlad the Impaler sort of thing.

          • Doug
            Posted May 26, 2015 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

            I read a Jehovah’s Witness tract that said that “cross” is a mistranslation–apparently in the original Greek Jesus was nailed to a “tree.” The tract said that the cross was a pagan symbol that was later adopted by Christians; for this reason, JWs don’t use the cross in their iconography.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted May 27, 2015 at 4:51 am | Permalink

              Considering how fond the Romans were of crosses, I suspect the JW’s are wrong in their supposition. Would have been wrong had Jesus existed, that is.

              But wrong or right, having a physical reaction to that point suggests something ‘wrong’ with the kid.

  12. muffy
    Posted May 25, 2015 at 1:06 pm | Permalink


  13. Randy Schenck
    Posted May 25, 2015 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    I think the religious part of this story is just because it happens to be one of the crazy ones and the mother, knowing little else, uses it to demonize the other parent. But this kind of thing happens a great deal in marriage break ups even with no religion involved.

    One parent uses the kids as the battle ground against the other. It’s sickening and very damaging to the kids and the only recourse is usually to get the kids out of there and into the lousy foster care system. Marriage is such a wonderful institution.

    • Doug
      Posted May 25, 2015 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      “Marriage is a wonderful institution. But who wants to live in an institution?”–Groucho Marx

    • GBJames
      Posted May 25, 2015 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      Randy, you should read the comments from former JW’s on this page. This is something far more insidious than what happens in general when marriages fail.

      • Randy Schenck
        Posted May 25, 2015 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I understand what you are saying – JW, SDA, mormons and more can do a great deal of damage to the kids, even without a break up. My mother-in-law has been with the SDA for many years and my wife has mostly had to stay away from her. But I also, unfortunately have two sisters who have gone through 5 marriages between them and those kids will always have problems due to what happened during the divorces and after. It’s too bad they don’t have a test people have to pass before having kids. I know both of these gals would have flunked.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted May 25, 2015 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      One parent uses the kids as the battle ground against the other. It’s sickening and very damaging to the kids

      … as the teachers are recognising and testifying. They come out of this well. Probably better than any of the other adults involved.

  14. Posted May 25, 2015 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    “Teaching children one religion is indoctrination. Teaching them all religions is inoculation.”
    – Matt Dillahunty

    • Diane G.
      Posted May 26, 2015 at 5:29 am | Permalink


  15. Posted May 25, 2015 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    In a related situation, the judge’s sentiment is echoed in the Norwegian prohibition against homeschooling. I don’t know how many other countries disallow homeschooling, but Norway does for the protection of the child from insular parental teachings.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted May 25, 2015 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      Germany forbids it too. An ultra-religious German family claimed asylum in the US a couple of years ago because of this. I don’t know if it was covered on this site because I didn’t follow it then, but it probably was and maybe someone remembers enough to find the story.

      They weren’t granted asylum, but the government hasn’t enforced deportation. Of course, Fox News thought not deporting this family was okay, but for every other illegal immigrant it’s not okay.

  16. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 25, 2015 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    So the kid “cut up teaching materials in RE class because he could not bear learning about” a particular subject?

    Sounds like he’s completed his college-prep work.

    • Diane G.
      Posted May 26, 2015 at 5:30 am | Permalink


  17. muffy
    Posted May 25, 2015 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    The depravity of JW’s just kills me.


    Jehovah’s Witnesses Are Low on Funds… So They’re Asking for Kids’ Ice Cream Money

    How low can you go?

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted May 25, 2015 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      Give the repellent lowlife scum bags of the JWs credit where it is due : this is probably to the child’s longer-term benefit. The removal of ice cream money, not what the JWs do with it.

  18. tinwoman
    Posted May 25, 2015 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    This has less to do with free speech or religion than with the fact that courts are increasingly coming down hard on the act of “parental alienation” in which one parent tries to demonize the other one to destroy the child’s relationship with them. Generally this is a good thing, but there may be some overreach. I don’t think so in this case at all.

  19. Posted May 25, 2015 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    @tinwoman: After reading through the post and the comments here, I agree. As far as I know, courts in the US are far less likely to intervene when there are clear acts of parental alienation than this UK court was.

  20. George
    Posted May 25, 2015 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Not sure why you singled out Catholics for guilt. In college, we would often argue who dealt with more guilt – Catholics or Jews. I think Jews inevitably won. I was raised Catholic and have pretty much purged guilt from my life. One difference is that guilt is inherent in Catholicism while for Jews it emanates more from Jewish mothers.

    • GBJames
      Posted May 25, 2015 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

      I think this is one of those differences that lack a distinction.

      • Doug
        Posted May 26, 2015 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

        You have to say this joke out loud for it to work, but I’ll post it anyway:

        What’s the difference between Catholic and Episcopal churches/

        The Episcopal churches are just as ornate, but with less gilt.

  21. Gareth Price
    Posted May 25, 2015 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Jerry – seeing as you posted on Ian McEwan and Jehovah’s Witnesses, have you read McEwan’s latest novel, The Children Act? He might almost have written the novel after reading your posts!!

  22. Ray Moody
    Posted May 25, 2015 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    The kind of child, human abuse described here is not limited to JWs. My x’s father was a baptist preacher, (good guy). Her mother (brimming over with Jesus, always eager to tell me how to live) was also the daughter of a baptist preacher. Her uncle was a preacher too (and sometimes traveling revival con artist).

    I haven’t heard from my daughter in more than 30 years. Apparently she has taken Matt 10:34-35 and Luke 12:53 to heart.

    My son is a different kind of believer, easy contact, and his wife is a gem.

    It looks like the British court got this one right.

    • Diane G.
      Posted May 26, 2015 at 5:34 am | Permalink

      That’s tragic, about your daughter. I’m so sorry.

  23. Posted May 25, 2015 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    “Further, religions can instill in children horrible feelings of guilt (ask an ex-Catholic), fear of hell, and a moral code that is bigoted, irrational, and hateful.”

    When asked when I became an atheist the answer is 15, or sometime in my early 20’s. At 15 I was intellectually convinced that there was no good reason to believe a God existed, but the Catholic guild over things like masterbation lasted far longer. I didn’t lose my virginity until I was 22, though I had many opportunities early. Even when it happened it was only because the woman was considerably older than I, and very aggressive.

    • Posted May 25, 2015 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

      I forgot to make the point that YES I think that upbringing qualified as child abuse. I can think of a number of things that might classically be considered abuse that would have caused me much less harm.

  24. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted May 26, 2015 at 2:20 am | Permalink

    ” Now I’m not sure this is the right decision (couldn’t the kid be placed with the father?)”

    If the kid was convinced the father was going straight to hell (and probably dragging the kid with him), then I expect trying to place the kid with the father would generate a violent reaction. Probably safer with a ‘neutral’ foster environment.

  25. Posted May 26, 2015 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    I can only assume that the nasty people who made up stuff like shunning knew how important sociality is to humans.

    Certainly the Inuit who knew that sometimes to kill someone for a crime is more merciful than casting them out on their own.

  26. Posted June 1, 2015 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Stepping Toes and commented:
    A problem may arise when civil courts come to intrude with the upbringing of children about what to believe or what not to believe. But in the case of the JW mother judged about the upbringing of her son it has more to do with bringing up the child with discriminative ideas. Discrimination does not suits our civil society. All children should have the right to have contact with both parents whatever faith they may have.

    All children also should not only learn about learning about mainstream Christianity or Christendom, but also about all other sorts of believes (atheism, Buddhism, Hinduism , shamanism, etc.) all children should learn that in this world there are different opinions and that every one should have respect for the different beliefs of others.

    Though our society should also allow parents to bring their children into those communities they like to bring their children in, as long as they are not damaging the child. Kingdom halls are not a damaging environment. They are even less damaging than what can often be seen on television.

    Taking a child away from the mother and the father is not at all a good idea and is not at all helping the child plus giving wrong signals to society in general.

    As the writer of the article rightly says:
    “Truly enlightened parents either tell kids to investigate different religions on their own, or help them do so without promoting one over the others. ”

    In several countries, like in Belgium ethical and religious education is part of the education program, giving all children the opportunity to learn about all sorts of religions, humanitarian and atheist visions. States should help the weaker ones, children, to receive an unbiased education, free from brainwashing and making the pupils strong enough to detect such forms which limit the right to think freely and to detect discriminating thoughts even by their own parents.

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] A British judge rules that mother can’t indoctrinate son with religion […]

%d bloggers like this: