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Judge rules with father in interfaith custody dispute

Joseph Reyes will be allowed to take his daughter, who is being raised Jewish, to Roman Catholic Mass and to have her on Christian holidays.

April 14, 2010|By Manya A. Brachear

Reporting from Chicago — A judge has ruled that a father may take his 3-year-old daughter to Mass even though her mother is raising her Jewish.

Cook County Judge Renee Goldfarb said this week that Joseph Reyes may take his daughter to "church services during his visita- tion time if he so chooses" and that he have visitation rights every Christmas and Easter.

Likewise, the order stipulated that Rebecca Reyes always have their daughter on Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Passover.

Goldfarb refused to bar Reyes from taking his daughter to church as long as no evidence exists that it would harm the child. Although Rebecca Reyes said that contrary religious teachings could confuse the preschooler, Goldfarb avoided doctrinal questions, saying it was not the court's place "to focus on or attempt to interpret or judge official religious doctrines."

"She is 3 years old and, according to Joseph, while at church, she waves at the other children, looks around and giggles," Goldfarb wrote. "This court found that testimony credible."

Rebecca Reyes said her husband, raised Roman Catholic, converted to Judaism after their marriage and agreed to raise their daughter in the Jewish faith. He said they agreed to raise her in a secular home, expose her to both faiths and let her decide.

Tuesday's ruling in the divorce proceeding between Joseph and Rebecca Reyes lifts restrictions placed on Joseph Reyes last year that barred him from exposing his daughter to any non-Jewish religious activity.

The injunction was imposed after Reyes sent photos of their daughter being baptized to his estranged wife, who had not known about the baptism.

A judge will rule later this month whether Reyes should stand trial for contempt after allegedly defying the injunction and, in December, asking television news crews to film him taking his daughter to Mass.

Reyes, a law student, said he defied the order because it was unconstitutional.

"Joseph compared himself to Rosa Parks," Goldfarb said. "Joseph Reyes is no Rosa Parks."

Joseph and Rebecca Reyes were married in October 2004, and split four years later. Rebecca Reyes was granted sole custody of their daughter last year.

mbrachear@tribune.com

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