If there was ever a case for parents discussing and deciding a child’s religious upbringing BEFORE the child is born, this is it: A Tennessee mother, Lauren Jarrell, faces criminal contempt-of-court charges and possible jail time for baptizing her two children, ages 4 and 6, without the knowledge or consent of her ex-husband, Emmett Blake Jarrell.
The mother knew that the father did not want the children baptized until they were old enough to fully appreciate the significance of baptism, but she blatantly disobeyed a court order and did it anyway. Apparently, this was an issue with the couple from the start, as they had consulted a minister about it before they were even married. Is it any wonder the father did not sit back and take this lightly?
If parents cannot come to an unanimous agreement, a contingency plan should be made with give and take on both sides. The bottom line is that both parents have the best intentions for their child. It's a parent’s right to have a say in their child’s religious upbringing, if that parent is involved in the child’s life.
I am not divorced but I imagine this makes the entire situation more complex, and there are more things to consider: for example, are both parents still actively parenting the child? If both parents are present in the parenting, then I say absolutely it needs to be a joint decision, unless one parent has relinquished parental rights.
Mr. Jarrell is mad and hurt and I don’t blame him one bit. Obviously, I don’t know these parents, but I am hoping they both had good intentions. Though it’s easy to see how Mrs. Jarrell’s actions could be conceived as actively trying to hurt her ex-husband.
Bottom line is that a legal agreement has been nullified by her actions and now we must ask ourselves, should religious decision-making be a private matter or should it be something that the court orders? I think it should be a private matter between parents and that making religion a legal matter is inviting the government to make decisions that should only be made by parents.
Do you think that Mrs. Jarrell should be held in criminal contempt? Or should Mr. Jarrell just get over it?
Image via Divine in the Daily/Flickr