Welcome to another week as we take a look at a fascinating 2011 case in which a judge ruled that religious practices may be deemed harmful to a child’s welfare.

In the case of Re N, a judge has ruled that certain forms of religious practice may be harmful to children. Judge Bellamy concludes in a judgment published in August 2011, that practices by Jehovah’s witnesses, including social isolation from individuals who are not of the faith, immersion in the faith itself and a commitment to ensuring the conversion of a child as required by the faith could potentially be harmful to the well-being of that child.

Here are some key phrases from passages within the judgment:

“Though the mother’s right to choose and practice her religion is not in doubt, the extent to which she is entitled to allow or encourage N to share in her religious beliefs and practices is less straightforward.” – Judge Bellamy

“The relevance of the religious difference relates to the impact in all the circumstances of the case on [S’s] welfare of the respective beliefs of the parents and thus of their respective lifestyles and attitudes based thereon. This is an exercise that can only be carried out in all the circumstances of a given case…’ – Quote from relevant case mentioned in the judgment

“I have greater concern with the proposed recital set out in the mother’s draft order that she ‘may teach the child her Christian beliefs as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses’. I note that on this issue, too, the mother’s draft does not include a like provision that the father should be entitled to ‘teach’ N his Christian beliefs.” – Judge Bellamy

“In terms of the living out of one’s faith in daily life I accept that it could be said that one teaches by example. I see nothing inappropriate in that. However, another meaning of ‘to teach’ is to instruct or to give lessons in. That is what one would expect to happen in a classroom. So far as concerns these parents, given the potential for conflict, I have profound reservations about the appropriateness of either parent ‘teaching’ their Christian beliefs to N in any formal sense, by ‘instructing’ or ‘giving lessons’. In my judgment it is both proportionate and in N’s best interests to restrict the parents’ right to ‘instruct’ or ‘give lessons’ concerning their Christian beliefs.” – Judge Bellamy

Our question to you, is simple: do you agree with Judge Bellamy?

Thank you to Dana for sharing this case with us.

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