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Using Mock Religion as a Shield

Posted on April 11, 2006 in Crosstalk Justice Morals & Ethics Strange

square332A New York judge went ballistic when a member of the Church of the Subgenius was shown wearing a risque goat’s head costume. Calling her “mentally ill”, a “pervert” and a participant in “sex orgies”, the honorable James P. Punch granted custody to the boy’s father.

We should not conclude that the photos and the woman’s involvement in the rather juvenile church are the main reason why she was denied custody. The court record and Rachel Bevilacqua’s own blog indicate that the main issue was the allegation that Bevilacqua removed her son from Georgia to Alabama without notifying her ex-husband. He considered this to be a violation of a court order.

The transcript also shows that the father alledges that the child came home from his mother in extreme agitation. If the child goes into episodes because of the mother’s care, a court has every right to remove custody. Stupidly, this court did the cause of truth and dispassionate fact-finding a disservice by allowing the puerile (I won’t call them pornographic) pictures from the Church of the Subgenius into evidence. The judge turned this into a Freedom of Religion case by his inane, off the record remarks.

It is my hope that when this case comes back to trial, a decision will be made on simple findings of fact: did Bevilacqua move without proper notice, is she a kidnapping risk, and are there conditions in her home which upset her son? A more competent bench is needed here. Unlike some disbelievers who are rallying around Bevilacqua, I am waiting to see what a new hearing reveals. In the final analysis, this is no religious freedom case*. I won’t say whether Bevilacqua is a competent mother or not. I will mark that she is working very hard in public places to skew this story as much as she can.

On another count: I resent that Judge Punch and Bevilacqua’s supporters are using “mental illness” as a stick. I see this as likely the product of unafflicted folks doing their same old “I’m well, so whatever I do is right” routine while lading a heavy helping of stigma on my plate.

*We’re in a very odd place here: does a parody of religion count as religion? It’s not worth anybody’s time for a court to decide if it is or if it isn’t. I would call it a free speech issue which is also covered by the First Amendment. God, some people give me headaches!

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