Dispatches from the Creation Wars

I reported a few months ago about Judge Cale Bradford, of the Marion Superior Court in Indiana, placing a restriction in a divorce decree that said that neither parent could expose a child to their Wiccan beliefs. Both parents were Wiccan, but they send their son to a private Catholic school. The judge decided that because there are potential conflicts between what the parents teach him at home about Wicca and what he is learning in school about Catholicism, the parents should be prevented from speaking to the child about their beliefs. At the time, I called this one of the most disturbing and blatant violations of the free exercise clause I’d ever seen. The Indiana Appeals Court, it seems, has agreed with me and overturned the decision, saying that the judge overstepped his authority. Bravo to the appeals court.


  1. #1 Oolong
    August 18, 2005

    I’m not even sure what the theoretical foundation of such a decision would be. Why is it a motivating concern of the court that a kid is being exposed to different belief systems? Is there something special about one of those systems being a school? I’m very confused here. If a Christian sends their kid to public school and is exposed to secular beliefs, does that mean that they can’t talk to the kid about Christianity? Heck, make it even bigger and more inclusive. I live in a very fundamentalist Christian area. My child, when she gets bigger, will likely be exposed to this on a routine basis (in school and in society). Since I am not a fundamentalist, I will likely teach her at home the importance of a variety of world views, including, say, Confucianism or Taoism. Would this be wrong, according to this judge? I really am baffled on this one, and would like to know what the theoretical assumptions were that this judge was holding to.

  2. #2 Oolong
    August 18, 2005

    I meant “one of the parties” not “one of the systems.” A school system is not a belief. LOL.

  3. #3 John
    August 18, 2005


    I think you’re trying to hard. The judge considers Wicca to be dangerous. God said so, you know.

  4. #4 KeithB
    August 18, 2005

    Yep, this was one of those evil activist judges. They don’t have to justify their decisions, they just make them based on their own prejudices.

  5. #5 Raging Bee
    August 18, 2005

    So…let’s see which judge gets slammed by the far right for “overstepping”…

  6. #6 raj
    August 18, 2005

    Ed, you were correct, of course, but, as far as I’m concerned, it was primarily a “free speech” issue. Speech, that is, between parent and child.

  7. #7 ruidh
    August 18, 2005

    The appeals court ruled on narrow statutory grounds, not constitutional grounds. In Indiana, a custodial parent can only have their decisions about the raising of a child restricted by a petition of the other parent and based on a finding of the best interests of the child.

    The narrow grounds of the ruling leaves open the possibility that the courts could restrict a Wiccan with custody if the non-custodial parent filed a petition and the court agreed.

  8. #8 Sotek
    August 20, 2005

    ruidh: What you say is true and all …

    … but courts *prefer* to be narrow in their findings.

    Most of the time, a court isn’t GOING to make the broader ruling, even if the broader ruling is slap-you-in-the-face obvious, simply because they don’t *like* ‘making law’.

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