A Colorado mother is appealing a child custody decision in which a court barred her from teaching homosexuality is wrong.
Cheryl Clark, who says she is a Christian, has been ordered by Denver County Circuit Judge John W. Coughlin to “make sure that there is nothing in the religious upbringing or teaching that the minor child is exposed to that can be considered homophobic.”
The directive arose from the decision to award joint parenting responsibilities for her daughter to a practicing homosexual.
“Forbidding the raising of children in the parent’s Christian beliefs is an anathema to parental rights and religious freedom,” said Mathew D. Staver, president and general counsel of Florida-based Liberty Counsel. “Must the mother rip out pages of the Bible that say homosexuality is against nature, or must she cover her child’s ears if her pastor preaches about sexual purity?”
Staver explained to WorldNetDaily Clark and Elsey McLeod were in a lesbian relationship that broke up after Clark became a Christian and concluded homosexual behavior was wrong.
The Denver court gave McLeod joint custody of Clark’s adopted daughter, Emma, even though McLeod had no legal relationship to the girl. It also, in conjunction with the ruling in favor of McLeod, said Clark cannot raise her child with any religious teaching or upbringing that is “homophobic.”
Staver said courts cannot “give parents a no-win decision of either abandoning their Christian beliefs or abandoning their children.”
The definition of “homophobic,” Staver noted, is “all across the board,” from being fearful of homosexuals to disagreeing with their lifestyle.
“It takes no stretch of the imagination to envision a judge finding the mother in contempt of court for merely teaching her daughter about the Biblical truths on homosexuality,” he said.
Liberty Counsel filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the mother in her case before the Colorado Court of Appeals.
Staver notes the U.S. Supreme Court has long held that the Constitution guarantees the freedom to “worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience.” Similarly, he said, the high court has acknowledged “the values of parental direction of the religious upbringing and education of our children in their early and formative years have a high place in our society.”
Another troubling aspect of this case, he said, is the award of visitation and joint parenting responsibilities to a third-party who has no legal relationship to the daughter or the mother.
The decision, according to Staver, stands in direct conflict with precedent throughout the country that denies visitation to a third party based solely on that person’s prior sexual relationship with the legal parent.
Staver told WND he is not aware of any similar cases in the U.S., although there have been some in which a judge has told a parent not to say anything degrading about the other parent’s lifestyle.
None, to his knowledge, however, have gone to the extent of Coughlin, issuing a directive that restricts a parent’s religious practice.