24 Jan 2011

Judge reduces father's equally shared custody of kids to 4 hours a week because he is agnostic on religion

AlterNet - December 1, 2010

Shocking: Agnostic Dad Loses Custody of Kids

By Cenk Uygur

Editor's note: The following is a transcript of an MSNBC segment in which Cenk Uygu, host of Young Turks, interviews a father who claims he lost custody of his kids because he's agnostic.

Religion is, apparently, not "in" anymore, at least not the way it used to be, according to a new poll. Results show that in a single generation the Christian Church drop-rate has increased five-fold. That's a huge number. Goes on to show that "80% of people raised in a church will disengage before they are 30." On the other hand, there are some people who take religious devotion so seriously that they punish others for not sharing the same beliefs. That's exactly what seems to have happened in an Indiana courtroom recently.

A father is fighting back after losing custody of his children in Indiana. Craig Scarberry has shared 50/50 custody of his three kids with his ex-wife for 4 years. But when that time was just recently reduced to 4 hours per week, he started digging to find out why, and he had a shocker. The Judge wrote, "The father did not participate in the same religious training as the mother ... father was agnostic." The ruling also stated, "... when the father considered himself a Christian, the parties were able to communicate relatively effectively."

Craig Scarberry is now joining me from Indianapolis.

Cenk Uygur: Craig, first, how sure are you that this was the basis for the decision to reduce time with your kids?

CS: Well, I don't see any other verifiable explanation. There are a few other things that were listed on the order. However, we were able to refute all those things with our own evidence while we were in court.

CU: So, did the judge write in the ruling ... we showed it of course .. but I'm just so stunned by it. He really took the fact that you were agnostic into account? How does anyone even justify that? Did you get to contest the idea? Did you get to fight back on that?

CS: They did address my religion with me on several different occasions during the hearings. However, I never posed a situation for my children or ever forced my beliefs onto the kids. Matter of fact, they continue to go to a christian daycare. When I had joint legal I agreed to take them to Church functions such as the Mother's Day Choir. As well as allow them to go to church with my mother who attends on a regular basis, in addition to Church camp, those kinds of things. We were able to show that in no way, shape, or form do my personal beleifs and decisions reflect onto the children at all.

CU: But I don't get it. What if they did? I'm agnostic and I'm going to teach my kids to be agnostic. What business is that of the courts? I don't even understand why you have to justify it in court.

CS: Right. And I would agree with you there, but the point is, in order to establish or keep joint legal custody with my ex, we have to be able to relatively communicate about things like education and religion, which is obviously important to her. So I in no way, shape or form wanted to interrupt that, or deny my children the opportunity or their freedom to explore what truths they feel are best for their lives.

CU: Craig, you're a lot more understanding of this than I am. If I was you I'd demand, in return, "Hey, are you going to bring them to agnostic camp?" Have you made any demands for your beliefs? This is a giant constitutional issue! Don't you have the same rights as your wife?

CS: Yes, and I have put together and received a permit in order to protest outside the government office here on December 16th in order to stand up for equal rights and religious freedom that we all have here in this nation. It's not just a matter of agnostics versus Christianity or religion in general. If we allow them to be able to dictate what's preferred over another, who knows where this country will go?

CU: Are you appealing this? Saying, "Hey, this Judge can't decide this based on things that are clearly unconstitutional?

CS: We're going to the courts tomorrow to fight a notice of appeal. We're also requesting that the state cover that filing fee as well as the transcript for the appeal. I'm still searching for reasonable council, I have an Indiana custodial rights group that's helping me with making sure that my paperwork is filed on time and legit, as far as wording and that kind of thing. But yes, we are working on that.

CU: Craig Scarberry, thank you very much. We asked Craig's ex-wife or her lawyer at least to come on and speak with us, but they said they'd get back to us tomorrow.


Cenk Uygur is co-host of The Young Turks, the first liberal radio show to air nationwide.

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