Catholic Judge Orders Atheist Dad To Attend Mass With His Kids As Part Of Divorce Settlement

So much for an unbiased judiciary system. British Roman Catholic Judge James Orrell has ruled that a divorced atheist father must take his two sons to Catholic mass – and sit through the service – when he has custody. During the case, Judge Orrell openly stated that he himself was a Catholic – making it hard to believe that the judge’s personal beliefs did not have an effect on his ruling.

The British atheist is a 51-year-old psychologist named Steve –  who is also known as Anonymous Steve from the Skepticule podcast. It seems that Ornell singled Steve out, because although Steve’s ex-wife is Catholic, she is not required to take the children to mass. Part of the court transcript reads:

“If the children are with their father at Christmas he will undertake that they will attend the Christmas mass.”

Steve has tried to appeal this ruling, but the higher courts won’t hear it. If Steve doesn’t obey Orrell’s orders, he could be facing contempt of court and even a jail sentence! Steve said:

“It’s all very bizarre. This aspect of the contact order was not requested by the other side in the case. The judge decided that I would commit to taking the children to mass and he put it in the court order.

What I think is really concerning is that it does not allow me or my children any freedom of religious expression. I am definitely not Catholic. The last time I went to church was some time ago and it was a Unitarian church that I attended.”

Photo Credit: Issagm / Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Issagm / Wikipedia

This ruling will be enforced until the children are 18 years old, even if the kids decide they are atheists – which sounds like it could be a possibility. Steve explains:

“My oldest son, who is now 10, has already expressed a clear lack of belief but legally I am required to take him to Roman Catholic mass at Christmas.

Because my contact arrangements now give me the children on some weekends, I am concerned that I will now also be required to take them to mass on Sundays when they are with me, even though that is not part of the original order.”

Although Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights protects freedom of thought, conscience and religion, the courts refuse to overturn the ruling. The British Humanist Association is disgusted with Orrell’s decision. In a Facebook status, the association wrote:

“This strange judgment deserves to be overturn [sic], and shows some seriously wrongheaded thinking on the part of the judge about how the religious views of a parent, or a judge for that matter, should weigh against a young person’s own inalienable right to determine for themselves what they believe.”

This ruling was first imposed in 2009, and has had several legal revisions made to it since. Unfortunately, the unfair church attendance requirement continues to endure through those changes. Fortunately, Steve’s divorce settlement has recently become a more well-known case thanks to various news sources picking up the story.

Featured image courtesy of Issagm / Wikipedia.