MONTPELIER (AP) — The Vermont Supreme Court will decide whether a former Vermont woman can avoid paying child support because of her religious beliefs.
The Vermont Office of Child Support in 2003 received a court order allowing it to suspend the driver’s license of Joyce Stanzione, a former Vermont resident who has not paid child support since she separated from her husband in 1991. Stanzione is a long-time member of the Twelve Tribes Messianic Community in Florida and is not allowed under church law to have an income, said Jean Swantko, her attorney.
Suspending her license because she has no income violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects religious freedom, said Swantko, who is also a member of the Twelve Tribes Community. The Supreme Court will hear arguments today.
Twelve Tribes has some 25 settlements worldwide, including Island Pond, which was the site of a raid by the state of Vermont in 1984. State officials alleged the community was abusing its children, but a judge dismissed all charges for a lack of evidence.