Indiana Judge Limits Wiccan Parents’ Rights

An Indiana judge’s order that a recently divorced couple must keep their son away from their practice of Wicca has spurred a lawsuit and national press attention.

The Indianapolis Star reported in late May that Marion County Superior Court Chief Judge Cale J. Bradford had refused to lift an order from the divorce decree of Thomas E. Jones Jr. and his ex-wife Tammie U. Bristol barring them from exposing their 9-year-old son to “non-mainstream” religious beliefs and rituals. Jones is an observant Wiccan. According to the Associated Press, neither Jones nor Bristol have taken their son to any Wiccan rituals since they learned of the decree.

Both parents were furious with the judge’s order, and the Indiana Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit on their behalf urging the Indiana Court of Appeals to nullify Bradford’s order.

In 1925, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Pierce v. Society of Sisters that a state law barring parents from sending their children to private religious schools violated the parents’ right to worship God and to raise their children without unreasonable interference from the state.

Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn told the Associated Press that Bradford’s order is clearly in error.

“This is an absurd result because in the eyes of the law being a pagan should be no different from being a Presbyterian,” Lynn said.