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Children allowed to choose their religion in a marital breakup

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A Melbourne Magistrates’ Court has awarded a father the right to prevent his children from participating in Jewish coming of age ceremonies.

Mr Macri, a Catholic, who does not regularly attend church, felt the children should be enabled to make their own choices when it comes to religion.  He wanted their decisions to be “voluntary and informed”.

Mrs Macri, the mother, a practising Jew, wanted her children to participate in the Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah ceremony, which signifies the coming of age and the induction into the Jewish faith.  She argued by reason of her own religious practice the children have been “considered Jewish since birth”.

The children, a ten year-old and eight year-old twins, participate in a Jewish youth group.  Mr Macri made a request to the court that his children cease to attend the youth group.  He argued it involved religious instruction and that the children are confronted with political propaganda.  Mrs Macri agrees that there is some education in Jewish tradition, culture and religion, but for the most part, the activities the children take part in are non-religious and provide a positive social outlet for the kids.

Mr Macri made an application for an injunction to prevent Mrs Macri from committing the children to the Jewish faith by allowing them to participate in the Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah ceremonies.  These ceremonies occur when a boy is thirteen and a girl is twelve.

Mr Macri is not saying one religion is superior to the other, his intentions are that he wants the children to benefit from participating in the culture and traditions of both religions. He did not want the children to commit to either faith at this stage in their life.

Federal Magistrate Terry McGuire found the children’s attendance at youth group was not inconsistent with the father’s position in regards to religious choice.  Mr Macri wants the children to experience both religions and cultures.  He also wants them to make an informed decision when they are mature enough to do so.  This can only be achieved through the children’s participation in youth group.  “Australia is a multicultural and secular society.  The children are fortunate in that they have the opportunity to directly experience the culture and traditions of the religions practised by each of their parents.”

Mr Macri’s application for the injunction was approved and a decision in regards to the children’s religion should not be made at this time.  The Federal Magistrate made it clear that deferring the decision would not prevent the children from choosing to enter the Jewish religion when they were mature enough to make that choice for themselves.

For confidential advice on children’s issues or any other family law or defacto law matters, please contact one of our experienced Family Law lawyers.

Author: Elisa Garzarella