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Divorced Father Might Go to Jail for Taking his Daughter to Church
Divorced Father Might Go to Jail for Taking his Daughter to Church

This past Friday night, ABC’s 20/20 covered the story of Joseph and Rebecca Reyes, a couple caught in a bitter divorce battle over their daughter’s religious upbringing.  The couple was originally married in 2004 after Joseph returned from duty in Afghanistan.  Rebecca came from a strict Jewish family, while Joseph was raised Catholic.   They had one daughter, Ela, who is currently three years old.

Rebecca claimed that when they were married, Joseph agreed to raise their kids Jewish and had even converted to Judaism himself.  Joseph agreed that he had adapted to Rebecca’s religious practices to appease her parents and reduce any conflict in the family.  He did, however, deny that he had ever agreed to raise his kids Jewish, stating that religion was never a significant part of their life together.

As the marriage dissolved, Joseph said he was beat up in divorce court.  He felt the court was rigged against men because Rebecca got the car, the house, and custody of Ela.  After the divorce, Joseph baptized his daughter in a Catholic Church.  Rebecca went to court after she found out about the baptism, and the Chicago judge agreed that Joseph should be barred from exposing Ela to other religions during his visitations.

When the judge ruled, Joseph was shocked.  He felt there was no proof he had harmed his daughter by taking her to church or having her baptized, so he protested by taking a television crew with him and his daughter to a Catholic mass.  Rebecca is now charging Joseph with indirect criminal contempt that could lead to a jail sentence of up to six months.  Joseph’s attorney claims his client did not take his daughter to church out of spite, but that he did it because he believed in a fundamental principle.  “There are dads all over this country whose rights to be a parent are being infringed upon.  Noncustodial parents, overwhelmingly dads, get the short end of the stick.” Joseph explained.

Despite all of the media attention and controversy, both parents hope the case ends amicably.  They have said they are willing to expose Ela to both religions, but they want to reach a fair agreement.  Joseph is open to raising Ela Jewish as long as he can take her to church with him on Sundays and other holiday observances that fall during his visitation times.

Click here to read 20/20’s full story.