baptism at issue in custody dispute
MANYA A. BRACHEAR
In yet another case of the courts being asked to determine a child's
religious upbringing, a father petitioned a Cook County, Ill., judge on
Tuesday to permit the baptism of his 3-year-old son in the Roman
Victor Sarmiento, 30, wants to baptize his son before custody is
determined in the divorce proceeding between him and his estranged wife,
According to court documents, Perez objects to the baptism because
she was raised Pentecostal. Pentecostal Christians traditionally don't
ask children to make a profession of faith until they are old enough to
understand its significance.
The wife's lawyer, Carmen Quinones, said in an interview that
custody must be determined before a decision can be made. Sarmiento's
lawyer, Jeffery Leving, and his colleagues contend the divorce has
dragged on for two years and their client shouldn't have to wait.
"The child has attended Mass with the father," Leving
said. "If the mother really truly was offended with the Catholic
faith and truly offended with the child being baptized, in my opinion
she never would have consented to the child being allowed to attend
Mass. The basis of this interfaith dispute is the mother is angry, and
she could very well be using the child as a tool to express her
Quinones and Leving said the case is one of a growing number of
custody disputes that involve religious conflict.
Leving also represents a Greek Orthodox father whose ex-wife wants
to amend their custody agreement to raise their 9-year-old son Jewish.
In addition, he represents a father who now wants to raise his daughter
Lutheran, the faith of his new wife. Quinones said she represents a
couple who never married but now can't settle on which faith to raise
Though Leving said he is Sarmiento's third lawyer and the only one
willing to take up the baptism issue, he doesn't believe interfaith
disputes belong in the courtroom. In collaboration with another lawyer
and a psychotherapist, he has launched an initiative to support families
locked in interfaith custody battles. Clergy from both sides will be
invited to participate on a case-by-case basis, he said.
"We can mediate disputes and try to keep families from tearing
each other apart in the courtroom," Leving said. "Too many
children have been used as pawns in bitter custody and divorce and
paternity disputes. ... It's really blown out of proportion."
Sarmiento and Perez got married in March 2006, two days before he
shipped out to train for a tour of duty in
Sarmiento said he attended a Pentecostal church with Perez several
times after he returned. When he filed for divorce in September 2008, he
said he was embarrassed to seek counsel from a priest.
"I felt discouraged from going to clergy with
this," Sarmiento said. "I couldn't do anything to keep the
Read more: http://www.kansascity.com/2010/05/18/1955561/boys-baptism-at-issue-in-custody.html#ixzz0oMTCjMly