B e f o r e :
In the Matter of C child
Crown Copyright ©
The father's case
The mother's case
"Can I suggest that you speak to C thoroughly before you write your statement to the court and consider how you (and your parents) actions will sit with her before you continue with this. I re-spoke with her a few times and she is absolutely adamant that she wants to be baptised. If she wasn't I would not have continued, but she is absolutely dead set. Don't damage your relationship with her any further by being the mother who didn't talk and listen to her.
I'm asking you to consider this for C's sake and also for your sake (by which I mean for the sake of your relationship with her). I have made a promise to C that I will fight for the right for her to practise and grow in her faith, and so can't back down. ..."
Her case is that this text shows that it is the father's wish to ensure that C becomes a Christian rather than her own free will.
The Cafcass report
" In my role as a family support worker I am unable to make any recommendations to the court (my emphasis). However in consultation with my Service Manager I would recommend.
a. C's current feelings are noted, acknowledged and respected by the court and both her parents.
b. The parents to ensure C has access to information and teaching of both her parents' faith to enable her to fully understand her choices and the implications of this.
c. the matter be reviewed in two years time, when C may have acquired the maturity and information to be able to make a fully informed decision.
d. there should be a contact activity order for the parents to attend a Parenting Information Programme and work to avoid the children being placed in an impossible position by the conflict between them."
The supporting evidence
"It was extremely disturbing to hear last night of the proposed baptism of the two young children named above [A and C] in clear contradiction to the wishes of their biological mother and all four grandparents – all of whom are proudly Jewish."
The letter continues:
"In Judaism we don't encourage conversion either way as it is unnatural for a person to change the religion they are born into and which thus is ingrained in their soul in a deep way. Although conversions are performed they must be worked at over a number of years when a real change can realistically take place. It is unfair to any child to put them under this pressure and to do something unnatural to their soul.
What was even more disturbing in this case was the fact that the children have been enrolled in a baptism program without the knowledge or consent of their mother…
.A formal change of religion must be agreed by both parents. To me this does not stand well for the integrity, trustworthiness or responsibility of the father."
Findings of fact
34. I am also satisfied on the evidence that C understands that in order to be baptised she must declare her belief in God, which she has done to both her father and her mother, and having made that declaration she can then be welcomed into the fellowship of her church through the ceremony of baptism.
(a) the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child in the light of her age and understanding.
C has clearly and consistently made her wishes and feelings known. She has given reasons for her decision to the Cafcass officer who spoke to her. She gave a reason to her mother as set out at paragraph 21 above which however much the mother feels is inadequate or immature, I consider to be entirely age appropriate. Both parents accept that she is a very bright and intelligent child a year ahead of her biological age in terms of academic achievement. I am at one with the Cafcass officer in concluding that she has genuinely expressed her own wishes and feelings and that they are entitled to proper respect.
No point arises on her physical and educational needs which are clearly being properly met by here parents. In terms of her emotional needs clearly her upbringing for the first eight years of her life lacked any significant religious teaching upon which her own moral compass could be based. Her exposure to Christian teaching and her positive reaction to that clearly indicates that she has an emotional need which is being met by this experience.
Clearly, given her background and heritage, taking the first step along the road to full commitment to the Christian faith is a significant change of circumstances for C. However there is nothing to suggest that she will be any less loved by her mother in consequence nor to their credit is their any suggestion by either grandparents that she will not continue to be welcomed by them as a much loved granddaughter. There is no suggestion that she will not be able to attend the synagogue or to lean more about the Jewish faith if she wishes. There are no irrevocable consequences which will flow from her baptism.
There are no issues under this paragraph which do not arise under the other paragraphs
C has clearly suffered emotional harm from the conflict between her parents which flows from the mother's unwise decision to initiate that conflict by her without notice application which was undoubtedly premature. If this issue remains unresolved now without any certainty when it will be resolved, then there is serious risk that it will remain as a source of continued conflict between the parents which in turn will cause the child further emotional harm.
Based on the findings of fact I have made, it is clear that the father is more capable of meeting his daughter's needs in terms of her religious education at this time. He has shown much greater sensitivity to her emotional needs in his handling of a difficult situation.
I have made it clear to the parties that I have no power to order C to be baptised. That is as decision for the Minister of her church to take in the light of his evaluation of her understanding and commitment, so far as he judges those criteria to be relevant. My powers are limited to considering whether the father should be prohibited from taking any positive steps towards his daughter's baptism and in terms of any specific issues order directing that such steps may be taken without the consent of the mother.
"In twenty years time it will not matter a row of beans whether or not L spent x or y hours more with one parent rather than the other: what will matter is the relationship which L has with her parents, and her capacity to understand and engage in mutually satisfying adult relationships. If she is given a distorted view of adult relationships by her parents, her own view of them will be distorted, and her own relationships with others – particularly with members of the opposite sex – will be damaged."
Case No: RM11 P 02263
IN THE ROMFORD COUNTY COURT
Date: 11th May 2012
In the Matter of C a child
Before His Honour Judge Platt sitting at Romford
Upon hearing Counsel for the Applicant and the Respondent in person
IT IS ORDERED THAT
1. The Applicant's application for a prohibited steps order in relation to the proposed baptism of the child C is dismissed.
2. The Respondent is forbidden to arrange for the confirmation of the said child without the written consent of the Applicant before she attains the age of sixteen.
3. The Respondent is permitted to make arrangements for the said child to attend baptism classes in the Christian faith and to present the child for baptism as soon as practicable subject to the decision of the appropriate Minister that she is ready to be baptised. If the Applicant does not consent to this the child may be instructed and presented for baptism without her consent.
4. Both parties are directed to attend a parenting information programme to be arranged by Cafcass
5. The Applicant must make the child C available to attend church each Sunday upon which the child is living with her and for any attendance at "Behold the Man" preparation for baptism classes which fall during the time the child is living with her
6. The Respondent is to notify the Applicant of the dates and times of any such classes as soon as such information is available to him.
7. The Respondent is to be responsible for collecting the child from and returning the child to the Applicant's home for the purposes set out in paragraphs 5 and 6 of this order. .
11th May 2012.
20th April 2012
It must seem rather strange for me to write to you when we have never met but I have heard a lot about you from your parents and it has been my job to make an important decision about your future.
Sometimes parents simply cannot agree on what is best for their child but they can't both be right. Your father thinks it is right for you to be baptised as a Christian now. Your mother wants you to wait until you are older so they have asked me to decide for them. That is my job.
I have listened to everything your mother and father have wanted to say to me about this and also to what you wanted to tell me. You have done that by speaking to the Cafcass lady and she has passed on to me what you said to her. That has made my job much easier and I want to thank you for telling me so clearly why you want to be baptised now. It is important for me to know how you feel.
My job is to decide simply what is best for you and I have decided that the best thing for you is that you are allowed to start your baptism classes as soon as they can be arranged and that you are baptised as a Christian as soon as your Minister feels you are ready.
Being baptised does not mean that you give up your Jewish heritage. That will always be part of you and I hope that you will continue to learn more about that heritage and about you mother's faith. Even after you are baptised you are still free to change your mind about your faith later when you are older. Finally, and this is the most important thing, both your mother and father will carry on loving you just as much whatever happens about your baptism.
I understand that the past few months have been a difficult time for you but that is over now and the decision is made. I send you my very best wishes for the future.
Judge John Platt