September 8, 1999
Can a court limit church choices?
___WICHITA FALLS (RNS)--A coalition of Protestant and Jewish religious groups has asked the Texas Court of Appeals to overturn a lower court ruling requiring that a child of a marriage ending in divorce could attend only a "mainline" church with her mother.
___In a friend-of-the-court brief, the religious groups said that "a loosely worded divorce agreement has led to an improper judicial intrusion into the sacred domain of religious belief."
___At issue is the divorce agreement between a Christian mother and Jewish father under which each party promised to provide religious training to their daughter.
___The mother took her daughter to Metropolitan Community Church in Wichita Falls, a church whose ministry focuses on gays and lesbians.
___When the father objected to the mother's choice of church, the lower court found that only "mainline churches would be utilized by the parties."
___It said "mainline churches" include Methodist, Baptist, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic and a "Jewish synagogue" but not the Metropolitan Community Church.
___The religious groups challenging the court's ruling included the American Jewish Congress, the National Council of Churches, the American Friends Service Committee and the Universal Fellowship of the Metropolitan Community Churches.
___In their brief, the religious groups told the appeals court that the constitutional defect in the lower court's ruling was not that "it enforced an agreement dealing with the religious upbringing of the child, but rather that the trial court usurped to itself the right to decide which religions are mainline, or orthodox, enough to be acceptable. This the Constitution barred it from doing."
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