A father has been told by a judge that he could face contempt of court charges if he does not take his two children to Catholic mass at Christmas.
Despite the fact that the father, only identified as ‘Steve’ due to reporting restrictions, is “definitely not” a Catholic, he was warned by Judge James Orrell in a county court ruling that he could be sent to jail if he does not comply with the terms of the contact order.
The judge talked about his own Catholic faith during the hearing, The Telegraph reports.
Steve described this as “very bizarre” considering that his Catholic ex-wife did not even request that such a rule be included as part of the contact order. He claimed that the order infringes upon his and his children’s “freedom of religious expression”.
Although Steve’s oldest son “has already expressed a clear lack of belief”, he will still have to attend a Catholic service at Christmas. The contact order also allowed the children to stay with Steve on some weekends but, following this decision, he is concerned that he will “also be required to take them to mass on Sundays … even though that is not part of the original order”.
Later, Steve took his objections to the Court of Appeal, claiming an infringement of his Article 9 rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. This states that all people have “the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”.
In 2013, President of the Family Division Sir James Munby said the courts take a “neutral stance” on religion. Despite this neutrality, Steve’s objections were not supported by the Court of Appeal or by the High Court in a later judicial review.
Photo by Alwyn Ladell via Flickr