Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Losing Custody Due to Agnosticism?

An Indianapolis man claims he lost joint custody and most of his visitation time with his children because he is an agnostic.

For the past four years, Craig Scarberry lived his life like many divorced dads; sharing 50/50 custody of his three children. Last week, Craig Scarberry got news that his time with his kids would be cut to just four hours a week and every other weekend…

Searching to find out why, he found Judge George Pancol wrote, “the father did not participate in the same religious training as the mother, and noted that the father was agnostic. It goes on to say that when the father considered himself a Christian, the parties were able to communicate relatively effectively.

Another article suggests that there’s a bit more to it than that:

Pancol’s order included other evidence presented in court. It said there was evidence that Scarberry had used profanity in front of the children and at times “failed to control or manage his anger. … In addition, (Scarberry) was sending a great number of text messages to (Porcaro).”

The order does not say that Scarberry was abusive or negligent toward the children.

Earlier, Percaro had obtained a protective order against Scarberry, which he objected to. She alleged that Scarberry “attempts to harrass and intimidate me at my place of employment with abusive language and profanity” and accused him of “randomly and unexpectedly stopping by my house at different hours of the day and night.”

A protective order against Scarberry was issued in April, and Scarberry said evidence was presented later in court to refute the allegations. A month later, both parties renewed an agreement that extended joint custody.

But then Scarberry also got a restraining order against Percaro’s boyfriend. Sounds like a pretty screwed up situation. But religion really shouldn’t even be mentioned by the judge, even if it was only one of many factors in this case.

It isn’t unusual for judges in custody cases to impose religious orthodoxy and consider whether someone is religious or not in deciding whether to give them custody. In my view, that should be legally forbidden (and is, by the First Amendment, though the courts have not ruled so as far as I know).