In the midst of making a parenting agreement, the thought of religion can often fall to the wayside while parenting time and holidays take precedent. However, religion can be incredibly important. But who gets to make the religious decisions for your child?
What is the difference between religious activity and religious indoctrination?
When discussing religious decisions, it is important to make the distinction between religious activities and religious indoctrination. Indoctrination is the introduction of religion. This includes events like Bar or Bat Mitzvahs, First Communions, Baptisms, and Confirmations. Religious activities, on the other hand, are any activities that include religion, like church services, temple services, prayers, or bible study.
That being said, an act to indoctrinate a child into a religion would require the agreement of both parents IF both parents have joint decision-making responsibility. However, if only one parent has decision-making responsibility, there is an argument that the parent with decision-making responsibility can make the decision to indoctrinate their child into whichever religion they choose.
However, when it comes to religious activities, the rules are a little different. If both parents have joint decision-making authority, then either parent may allow the child to engage in religious activities. Parents also do have a fundamental right to raise their children based on their respective religion, as long as those religious beliefs or practices do not put the child in danger. This means that whether or not a parent has decision-making authority, they can have their child participate in whichever religious activities they so choose.
What happens if we cannot agree on what religious tradition to raise our child in?
Because there has to be an agreement on religious indoctrination if there is joint decision-making authority, there can be a conflict between parents on what is and is not allowed for their child. Conflict can also occur if each parent is having their child engage in conflicting religious activities, regardless of decision-making authority. In the event that there is a dispute concerning the religious upbringing of the child, the court will consider the harm to the child from conflicting religious instructions or practices. If there is harm caused to the child from such conflict, the judge may enforce a limitation on either parent’s ability to indoctrinate the child into a specific practice.