Exclusive: Mother Talks About Whether Estranged Dad Should Go to Jail For Taking Daughter to Church

The Chicago mom: "This is about parenting, this is not about religion."

ByABC News
February 26, 2010, 4:31 PM

Feb. 26, 2010— -- The Chicago mother who took legal action to keep her estranged husband from taking their 3-year-old daughter to church speaks out in an exclusive "20/20" interview with ABC News' Chris Cuomo airing Friday.

Last week, ABC News spoke exclusively with Joseph Reyes, the husband in a bitter divorce battle who faces up to six months in jail for marching his toddler into a Catholic Church, cameras in tow, in defiance of a temporary court order that forbade him from exposing his daughter to "any other religion other than the Jewish religion."

Joseph said that neither his Jewish wife nor a judge should dictate how he worships with his child and that he disobeyed the order "out of civic duty and out of a sense of justice."

Days after the media firestorm that followed Joseph's public appeal, Rebecca Reyes breaks her silence to explain why she is asking a Chicago family law judge to throw her husband in jail for taking daughter Ela to Sunday mass.

"This is about parenting, this is not about religion," Rebecca told Cuomo.

Rebecca said that Joseph is entitled to be Catholic and Ela can choose Catholicism when she is older, but they "had pledged in the marriage contract to raise Jewish children, and so we had a Jewish home." Joseph had converted to Judaism, complete with a ritualized circumcision.

"The constant undermining of who [Ela] is, who she was born as, and who we agreed she would be in our home, is really harmful," Rebecca told Cuomo. "There will be confusion; there will be an abrogation of her identity."

Watch the full story on "20/20" at 10 p.m. ET

This is also about Joseph's violation of a direct court order, Rebecca said.

"If this was so important to him, he has relief available to him. The court system," according to Rebecca.

"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.

Above all, Rebecca adamantly maintained that Joseph put Ela at risk when he called a local television station to document his defiant church visit and that it was him, not her, who thrust their story into the media.

"Good parents do not exploit their children for their own financial or personal gain," she said.

This storybook romance, which began when the couple met in a boxing ring, has turned into a sort of holy war with a little girl caught in the middle.

Tune in Friday to "20/20" for an in-depth look at the custody battle that is threatening to put a father in jail and draw new boundaries in divorce cases.