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Legal Proceedings concerning baptism of boy

Boy's baptism at issue in custody dispute

By MANYA A. BRACHEAR

Chicago Tribune                                  

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 Catholic Church.

Victor Sarmiento, 30, wants to baptize his son before custody is determined in the divorce proceeding between him and his estranged wife, Lizette Perez.

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 anger."

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 their child.

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 Afghanistan .

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 marriage together."

Read more: http://www.kansascity.com/2010/05/18/1955561/boys-baptism-at-issue-in-custody.html#ixzz0oMTCjMly

 

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