A divorced Indiana father says he lost custody of his kids because he’s agnostic.
Craig Scarberry had joint 50-50 custody of his three children with his ex-wife for four years, until a judge ruled last month that he was to be limited to four hours’ visitation time per week and custody once every second weekend.
Scarberry says the only thing he can find in the ruling to justify the change is a superior court commissioner’s comment that “the father did not participate in the same religious training as the mother … father was agnostic.” The ruling also stated that “when the father considered himself a Christian, the parties were able to communicate relatively effectively.”
“I had never imposed my religious beliefs on my children. Matter of fact, our kids go to a Christian daycare, that when we had joint legal, I had to agree to it for the last three, four years,” he told Fox 59 in Indianapolis.
The ruling has drawn the attention of Jennifer Drobac, an Indiana University family law professor, who told the Anderson, Indiana, Herald-Bulletin that the ruling may be a violation of Scarberry’s First Amendment right to freedom of religion.
“I have read the order and am really concerned about why [the presiding court commissioner] twice mentioned [Scarberry’s] religious beliefs,” Drobac wrote to the Herald-Bulletin. “Such discretion would be clearly unconstitutional unless the parent’s religious practices were actually harming or posed a substantial threat of harm to the children.”
In an interview with MSNBC’s Cenk Uygur, Scarberry explained that his agnosticism may have played a part in the ruling because the joint custody agreement had been based on the divorced couple’s ability to “communicate effectively” about religion and other issues.
“In order to establish or keep joint legal custody with my ex, we have to be able to relatively communicate about things like education and religion, which is obviously important to her,” Scarberry said.
Uygur seemed less than receptive to that argument. “I’m agnostic and I’m going to teach my kids to be agnostic. What business is that of the courts? I don’t even understand why you have to justify it in court,” he said.
“Craig, you’re a lot more understanding of this than I am,” Uygur said later in the interview. “If I was you I’d demand, in return, ‘Hey, are you going to bring them to agnostic camp?’ Have you made any demands for your beliefs? Isn’t this is a giant constitutional issue? Don’t you have the same rights as your wife?”
Scarberry said he plans to fight the order in court. He also said he is planning to protest in favor of religious rights outside his local government office on December 16.
The following video was broadcast on MSNBC.