Court asked to give up control of student’s religion

By Bob Unruh
© 2011 WorldNetDaily

The Supreme Court in New Hampshire today was asked to reverse a lower court decision that ordered a homeschooled student who was “well liked, social and interactive with her peers, academically promising and intellectually at or superior to grade level” into a public school because she was too “vigorous” in defense of her Christian faith.

“Parents have a fundamental right to make educational choices for their children,” said John Anthony Simmons, an attorney allied with the Alliance Defense Fund.

“Courts can settle disputes, but they cannot legitimately order a child into a government-run school on the basis that her religious views need to be mixed with other views. That’s precisely what the lower court admitted it is doing in this case, and that’s where our concern lies,” Simmons said.

The dispute arose as part of a modification of a parenting plan for the girl, who was 10 in 2009 when the court intervened in her schooling program. The parents divorced in 1999 when she was a newborn, and the mother had homeschooled her daughter since first grade with texts that meet all state standards.

In addition to homeschooling, the girl attended supplemental public school classes and had also been involved in a variety of extra-curricular sports activities, the ADF reported.

But during the process of renegotiating the terms of the plan, a guardian ad litem appointed to participate concluded the girl “appeared to reflect her mother’s rigidity on questions of faith” and that the girl’s interests “would be best served by exposure to a public school setting” and “different points of view at a time when she must begin to critically evaluate multiple systems of belief … in order to select, as a young adult, which of those systems will best suit her own needs.”

The decision from Marital Master Michael Garner reasoned that the girl’s “vigorous defense of her religious beliefs to [her] counselor suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view.”

According to court documents, the guardian ad litem earlier had told the mother, “If I want her in public school, she’ll be in public school.”

The marital master hearing the case proposed the Christian girl be ordered into public school after considering “the impact of [her religious] beliefs on her interaction with others.”

Simmons told WND today after arguments before the state’s high court that that’s where the court went wrong, because if a judge can order a child into a public school for having a “vigorous” Christian faith, a judge also could order a child into a training program for having no faith, or a specific faith, or anything.

“I view that as a dangerous precedent,” he said.

The case actually involved two questions, he explained. The first is whether the education review was a modification of a previous order, as it appears, since that requires a “heightened burden” to demand any changes.

The next question would be the child’s best interests.

“We maintain the [court] allowed itself to get into a religious debate between the parents. And they punished my client, the mother and her daughter,” he said.

“No court can do that,” he warned.

At the time the court issued its controversial order, Simmons sought a reconsideration, in August 2009, but Judge Lucinda V. Sadler of the Family Division of the Judicial Court for the Belknap County in Laconia, wrote the girl, “is at an age when it can be expected that she would benefit from the social interaction and problem solving she will find in public school, and granting a stay would result in a lost opportunity for her.”

“The lower court effectively determined that it’s a ‘lost opportunity’ if a child’s strongly held Christian views are not sifted and challenged in a public school setting. We appealed because that’s a dangerous precedent,” Simmons said.

The case, handled in the Family Division of the Judicial Court for Belknap County in Laconia, involves Martin Kurowski and Brenda Kurowski (Voydatch), and their daughter.

The ADF earlier argued that it was not the proper role for a court “to insist that [the daughter] be ‘exposed to different points of view'” and noted “the court is not permitted to demonstrate hostility toward religion, and particularly the faith of [the daughter] and mother, by removing [the daughter] from the home and thrusting her into an environment that the custodial parent deems detrimental.”

Read more: Court asked to give up control of student’s religion

Read more: Court asked to give up control of student’s religion

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