Court: Custody ruling not based on mom’s religion
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A Chicot County judge did not base his decision granting custody of a 2-year-old boy to his father on the mother’s statements that she practiced Wicca, a sharply divided court of appeals ruled Wednesday.
The Arkansas Court of Appeals upheld Judge Robert Vittitow’s ruling awarding custody of the boy to his father, Joshua Cook, and rejected Andrea Hicks’ claims that the decision was based on religious preference.
Wiccans consider themselves witches, pagans or neo-pagans, and say their religion is based on respect for the earth, nature and the cycle of the seasons. Hicks testified in court that she only told Cook that she was Wiccan, but she is actually Baptist.
The appeals court ruled that Vittitow didn’t base his decision on Hicks’ religion.
Judge Robert J. Gladwin wrote that Vittitow was simply pointing out Hicks’ “lack of credibility on the issue” of her religion.
LITTLE ROCK – A Southeast Arkansas woman who argued she lost custody of her son because of a judge’s perception of her alleged practice of Wicca lost her appeal Wednesday before a divided state Court of Appeals Wednesday.
In a 4-2 ruling, the appeals court affirmed a decision granting custody to the child’s father, though the judges disagreed on whether the lower court considered the mother’s religious beliefs.
In her appeal of Chicot County Circuit Judge Robert Vittitow’s decision, the mother noted Vittitow described Wicca in his opinion letter as “a religion, movement, cult or whatever it that may be.”
The judge also wrote that while the mother testified she was only joking when she told the boy’s father that she was involved with Wicca, the “court believes she is much more involved than she would lead us to believe.”
In the appeals court ruling Wednesday, Judge Robert J. Gladwin wrote that religious beliefs and practices are material only as they affect children’s best interests, and in this case “no party explored connections between religious belief and upbringing.”