Child custody and religion


Less than two weeks before Easter, a judge in Illinois has ruled that a father involved in a contentious divorce and custody dispute cannot take his 3-year-old daughter to church on the most holy day of the Christian calendar.

Judge Renee Goldfarb’s ruling maintains an injunction imposed against Joseph Reyes last year after he had his daughter baptized in the Roman Catholic Church without the consent of her mother, who is raising their daughter Jewish.

The prohibition came after Reyes sent photos of his daughter’s baptism to his estranged wife.

Reyes, who called the injunction unconstitutional, already faces a contempt charge for allegedly defying the order and taking his daughter to Mass -- with a television news crew in tow.

The judge now presiding over the couple’s divorce trial refused to modify the injunction, saying it stands until the trial ends.

Joseph and Rebecca Reyes of Chicago were married in October 2004, but they broke up four years later. Rebecca Reyes was granted full custody of their daughter.

But the divorce battle continues.

Rebecca Reyes said her husband, raised Roman Catholic, had converted to Judaism after their marriage and agreed to raise their daughter in the Jewish faith. He said they agreed to raise her in a secular home, expose her to both faiths and let her decide.

On Wednesday, Joseph Reyes’ attorney, Joel Brodsky, implored Goldfarb to avoid any religious restrictions in the custody decision. He also questioned Rebecca Reyes’ commitment to Judaism, saying she does not date Jewish men or keep kosher in “her so-called Jewish home.”

“She has a strong Jewish identity in Rebeccaland, but not in the real world,” he said.

Attorneys for Rebecca Reyes called Brodsky’s argument offensive. They said that religion did not become central to the case until more than a year after the couple filed for divorce, and that the issue was raised to deflect attention from the father’s lack of financial support and parenting skills.

“This case is not about religion. It’s about parenting,” attorney Laura Ashmore said. “I doubt this will be a landmark case. It’s about Joseph Reyes and Rebecca Reyes and their daughter.”