Court Cases & Orders

Father’s Hate-filled Fundamentalist Beliefs Concern the Court; Mother Awarded Decision-Making Power Over Kids’ Religion

Written by Russell Alexander ria@russellalexander.com / (905) 655-6335

Father’s Hate-filled Fundamentalist Beliefs Concern the Court; Mother Awarded Decision-Making Power Over Kids’ Religion

It is not unheard-of for parents to have different views on certain issues – especially the contentious ones.  These include politics and religion.

What happens when those same parents separate and divorce?  And if both parents hold their distinct views with equal fervor, who gets to decide what’s best for their children?

This was the issue in a recent B.C. case involving separated parents.  They had joint custody, but the children were living primarily with the mother.

The parents were both of the Christian faith; however, the father held Fundamentalist Baptist beliefs which included extreme views and a highly-literal interpretation of the Bible. The court described the mother’s evidence on this point:

[The mother] testified she is a practicing Christian. During the first part of the marriage, [the father] and she shared similar religious views and interpretations of scripture. They attended the same church. In or around 2015, [the father] began to watch online videos of Reverend Steven Anderson and Pastor Roger Jimenez who are American Fundamentalist Baptists and have extreme views on such issues as abortion, homosexuality, and the Holocaust. [The mother] states [the father] asked her to view the videos. She watched one of Reverend Anderson’s sermons and she found his teachings to be hateful.

 [The Father] began to attend a different church than [the mother]. She states she and [the father] began to argue about religion and they ultimately separated.

The mother went on to describe that the father’s beliefs – which he admitted were hateful – included the principle that a wife has a duty to obey her husband, and that women should not speak or teach in church.  He also believed there is a link between homosexuality and pedophilia, and that in all cases homosexuals should be put to death.

Since their separation, the mother took issue especially with the father indoctrinating the children with these extreme views, and this developed into friction between them. She told the court that the father frequently chose to use his parenting time to instruct the children on the Bible.

The father, who positioned the dispute as an attack on his fundamental right to freedom of religion,  ultimately applied to the court.  He asked for an order granting him the right to have sole decision-making authority over the children on the topic of their religious instruction and upbringing.

While the court made a point to state that the father had a right to practice the religion of his choice, it noted that the best interests of the children were the guiding factor in its decision.   It refused to grant the father’s request, and prefaced the order with these words:

[The father] believes it is his duty to teach his children scripture in the bible. He testified he will not compromise on this point and is very candid when he states he will not comply with a court order to prohibit him from teaching the bible to his children during his parenting time.

I accept [the father] takes this position based on his view of his obligations as a father as set out by God and not because of a desire to wilfully disobey a court order. [The father] has chosen to live his life based on his interpretation of the bible.

With that in mind, the court concluded that the father’s fundamentalist religion engendered many anti-social and hate-filled teachings, and they would be harmful to the children if they were exposed to or indoctrinated into it.  It was also likely to confuse them at their young stage of development.   The court added that it would be concerned for the children’s physical, psychological, and emotional safety and security if the father were allowed to continue instructing them on his religious beliefs.

As such, the court granted sole decision-making authority over the children’s religious and spiritual upbringing to the mother.

For the full text of the decision, see:

A.J.H. v. J.K.H., 2020 BCPC 74

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About the author

Russell Alexander

Russell Alexander is the founder of Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers and is the firm’s senior partner. At Russell Alexander, our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues, including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. We have locations in Toronto, Markham, Whitby (Brooklin), Lindsay, and Peterborough.

For more information, visit our website, or you can call us at: 905-655-6335.