But Joseph claimed that the baptism was not meant to taunt Rebecca, it was "an insurance policy on the soul. That's not indoctrination." Catholicism is important to him, he said. Besides, he asserted, "if Rebecca is as solid in her beliefs as she's purporting to be ... then the baptism is nothing more than some harmless sprinkling of water on a child's head."
Desperate to stop Joseph from changing Ela's religion, Rebecca took her case to court, and won.
In December 2009, Rebecca filed court papers asking that Joseph be forbidden "from taking Ela to church or taking other actions counter to Ela's Jewish education and upbringing."
She argued that the baptism represented "inappropriate behavior" and that going to church could cause "irreparable injury" and "harm" to her daughter.
The harm, Rebecca said, was from "the constant undermining of who [Ela] is, who she was born as, and who we agreed she would be in our home." "There will be confusion; there will be an abrogation of her identity," she said.
Chicago family law Judge Edward R. Jordan agreed with Rebecca, issuing what some legal experts called an extraordinary court order that temporarily barred Joseph from "exposing Ela Reyes to any other religion other than the Jewish religion, during his visitation."
This ruling confounded Joseph, who said that "the court system that took my wife's side has a legal obligation to prove harm. There's no harm to Ela that I took her to church, there's no harm that I had her baptized."
Angry and defiant over what he said was an outrageous and unconstitutional court order, Joseph marched his toddler into a Catholic Church, with cameras in tow.
"I was willing to die fighting for these rights in Afghanistan. There's not a whole lot worse they can do to me than that," he told a local TV station filming him leaving the church.
After Joseph's media stunt, Rebecca rushed back to court, saying Joseph clearly violated the order and endangered Ela by putting her in the public eye.
As punishment, she asked that he be charged with indirect criminal contempt, a crime that carries up to six months in jail.
"Rebecca is trying to have me jailed for six months," Joseph told Cuomo. "I can't even think of any situation where I would want Rebecca removed from Ela's life for six months, regardless of the ill feelings that we have, regardless of what I think of Rebecca's parenting."
"I understood in that moment that I no longer had any semblance of a partner on the other side. This is about parenting. This is not about religion," Rebecca told Cuomo.
"He decided to violate a court order," Rebecca said. "And he got Ela embroiled in a media nightmare."
"At this stage, it's about Mr. Reyes taking the law into his own hands," Rebecca's lawyer Steven Lake from Lake Toback told ABC News.
But Joseph said she is missing the point: "This is an issue about constitutional rights. This is an issue about a court system that has run amuck," he asserted.
"He's not doing this out of spite, he's taking actions because he believes in a in a very fundamental principal," said Joseph's attorney Joel Brodsky. Joseph maintained his innocence and at arraignment pled not guilty to the contempt charge.