Divorced Mom Who Baptized Her Kids Committed a Terrible Parenting Sin



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

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MomoJL MomoJL

Generally, a court order parenting plan or divorce will state that the parents share decision making - and that's as far as the court gets to make a "decision".  Now, when mom goes and does something without dad's input, yes, she is in violation of that court order by not having dad's consent.  That doesn't mean the court is involved in the details of making the decision, more specifically, in making religous choices.   You're turning this into something it's not.

Maevelyn Maevelyn

Me ___________________10 foot pole______________________court ruling on religious upbrining 

orang... orangetree

I refused to have my daughter baptized while I was with her father because I couldn't stand his choice his choice of godfather. After I left him I went to my church (on the reservation, out of reach of family court) and had her baptised. Underhanded and sneaky? Yes, but I was not going to have a man who has 4 children and doesn't support any of them be her godfather. At thar point I honestly didn't care about my ex's feelings anyway.

Mrs.T... Mrs.Tirado

I think this a matter that should be dealt with between both parents. The law and religion shouldn't be in the same category but in some cases like this one I totally agree with the exhusband. Thats my opinion

nonmember avatar Cee

The disrespectful things people do in the name of god...

MomaL... MomaLlama

Hmm..I wonder what Mrs. Tirado thinks?

While I am not personally so inclined, people of some religious traditions believe that if the child is not baptised they may not go to heaven.  I don't know about you, but if I thought that my child was going to hell because I neglected to do something I would ignore anyone who tried to stop me.  Again, while I don't feel that way about infant baptism, I do know that if  there is something that I feel is best for my child, I would do everything in my power to ensure it.  If that is how she feels about baptism, then I could see why she would act the way she did.  Not saying it is right, but perhaps that is her motivation and it has nothing to do with "getting back" at the father. 

Caera Caera

First, the court should absolutely stay out of it. A decision over whether or not to baptize a child is not a court's business. Ever.

Second, if mom isn't baptizing the kid into a religion at a polar opposite from the dad's beliefs (ie. Dad is some form of Protestant and mom is a Satanist) why should the dad care all that much? Getting baptized as an infant does not preclude you from doing it again as a ten year old.

Third, I happen to believe babies should be Baptized, and then children should be Confirmed into the religion - I know not all religions work that way. I'm using myself as an example. I believe it matters to a person's soul. What right does a court have to say my beliefs (or this mom's) don't matter enough to take action? None. If I believe a baptism is important to the spiritual well-being of my child, I am going to baptize my child. I don't blame this mother for that.

Fourth, even if she did it to spite dad, who cares? It's Baptism, not a permanent surgical alteration. Again, as long as the parents' religions are not diametrically opposed, I don't understand why it's a big deal. Dad needs to grow up.

nonmember avatar blh

She could've just avoided the while issue and not told him. Not that I'm saying shes right.

MamaD... MamaDee83

Ok, so they are baptized, so what? They can choose to stay in that faith with their confirmation when they are older, if they want.

kebates kebates

If it wasn't in the court agreement, then I would say the court should have no say in what she did... but it sounds like it was such a big disagreement for them that it was added to their divorce agreement, so the fact she disregarded it should have consequences.  That said, its not like she did something awful that can never be undone.  Like the previous poster said, when the child gets older, they can choose what they want to believe or not believe. 

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