Theological Tug of War

Issue of the week #3 Theological Tug of War with Kids

Divorced parents of different faiths can be prohibited from teaching their religious beliefs to their children if it would harm them, the Massachusetts state Supreme Judicial Court has ruled. The father, Jeffrey P. Kendall, is a member of the fundamentalist Boston Church of Christ. The mother, Barbara Kendall, is an Orthodox Jew. The children, aged 4, 6 and 9, are being raised by the mother as Orthodox Jews and she argued they would be forced to learn teachings that contradict her religion. The high court justices called it a ``close question'' but said the state and U.S. constitutions permit limitations on individual liberties if there is a compelling interest. ``Promoting the best interests of the children is an interest sufficiently compelling to impose a burden on the (father's) right to practice religion and his parental rights to determine the religious upbringing of his children,'' wrote Justice Neil Lynch.

The mother's lawyer, David Cherny, wrote that the children ``are experiencing emotional distress because of the exposure to Jeff's religion, which teaches them that in order to be 'saved' they must accept Jesus Christ. ``These teachings contradict their Jewish ethnicity, force them to regard their mother as someone doomed to hell and place them in the unenviable position of having to regard choosing between religions as choosing between parents.''-Kendall V. Kendall, SJC-07427 (1997) Do you agree with the decision of the Massachusetts State Supreme Court? What should the couple do, as they share custody of these children, to alleviate the confusion and distress that the mother alleges that they are going through?