Judge Rules That Father Cannot Bring His Daughter to Church on Easter

There'll be no Easter for a toddler caught in bitter religious divorce dispute.

ByABC News
March 25, 2010, 2:01 PM

March 25, 2010— -- Joseph Reyes, the Catholic father in the middle of a contentious custody dispute over religion, was told Wednesday by a Chicago family court judge that he cannot bring his 3-year-old daughter Ela to church on Easter.

Reyes is under a temporary court order that prevents him from "exposing Ela to any religion other than the Jewish religion" during his visitations with her.

His estranged wife Rebecca Reyes, who is Jewish, asked for that order after Reyes baptized Ela behind her back despite their agreement to raise their daughter Jewish, according to Rebecca.

In the latest battle over the toddler's religion, Judge Renee Goldfarb denied Reyes' request to suspend the order for an important occasion: Easter.

Taking Ela to church on Easter Sunday or any other day would violate the law, the judge ruled.

The temporary order stays in place until the judge rules on the couple's remaining custody issues, including how they handle religion. The ruling is expected in 2 to 3 weeks.

In a separate proceeding, Reyes already faces jail time on criminal contempt of court charges for bringing Ela to church – with TV cameras in tow – in violation of the court's order not to do so.

"Sadly, at this point in time, I'm not shocked, because the court has emphasized its willingness to infringe on my right to be a parent to my daughter," Reyes told ABC News.

"If you're a divorced father in this country, you lose your constitutional rights," said Reyes' attorney Joel Brodsky. "When we go to a judge for a divorce, we want to end the marriage and divide up resources. The court shouldn't micromanage people's lives like this."

But Rebecca Reyes said this is about parenting, not religion. "Rebecca has no problem exposing Ela to other religions, including Catholicism," her attorney Steven Lake from the Lake Toback law firm told ABC News. "Her problem is Joseph's attempt to indoctrinate Ela. There's a difference between indoctrination, such as having the child baptized, and exposure.