A court ordered a Utah mom to refrain from discussing religion on supervised visits with her children, which she claims violates her constitutional rights.
Imagine suffering through the breakup of your marriage as a result of forming a new understanding of God and faith, only to have your hands tied when it comes to passing on that understanding to your children. This scenario happened to a Utah mom last week in the wake of her divorce.
This fundamentalist Mormon mom, whose name has been withheld from media to protect her children, had been attending the Apostolic United Brethren Church, an ultra-conservative sect of LDS that practices polygamy. She has not yet joined the church but says she is considering such a move. In fact, her divorce from an upstanding member of the traditional Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints mostly stems from changes in her personal faith that led her to consider this church.
The restraining decision, issued in October, included discussions of politics and any other religion besides that of the traditional LDS already practiced in the home. According to Divorce Commissioner Kim Luhn, the ruling was made with the kids’ best interests at heart. They were experiencing chaos as a result of some inflammatory speech on the part of the mom, and this restraint was meant to ease their confusion through what is already a difficult transition. The Commissioner likened the situation to protection from emotional abuse more than an infringement on the mother’s religious rights.
If the goal of the ruling is really to prevent the children from being exposed to polygamist teachings, it could be overturned as unconstitutional based on a similar case from Pennsylvania in 2002. However, if the Mormon mom is just using whatever tools she has at hand to disparage the father in front of the children, then it could have the effect of psychologically damaging the kids – and that is what the Divorce Commissioner may have been trying to protect against.
While the actual statements that inspired this restraining order have not been made public, closer examination of the order really steers the topic away from religion and toward child protection. The Utah mom’s exploration of the polygamist sect is an ancillary event that she could potentially be using to drive a wedge between the children and their father.
Commissioner Luhn later revised her ruling. Through the holidays, the Utah mom is now allowed to engage in “age-appropriate” religious discussions with her children during visitation. The decision will be revisited January 8. Meanwhile, the children may continue to attend LDS church with their father.