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Florida parents lose custody based on religious beliefs?

In most child custody matters, parents can be certain that their religious beliefs and practices will not come into play. However, there are cases in Florida and elsewhere in which concerns over religious practice do play a role. An example is found in what may be the first child custody case in which one parent is accusing the other of indoctrinating a child into extremist Muslim beliefs.

The mother claims that, during the course of her marriage, her husband began embracing an extreme interpretation of their Muslim faith. He allegedly demanded that she wear traditional clothing and also planned to bring a second wife into their home. They divorced, and the man began spending time with his children during visitation periods.

According to the mother, her young son began expressing extremist views after spending time with his father. A school report outlines an interaction with schoolmates in which the child claimed that he was willing to die for his God. He has also allegedly expressed interest in collecting a stockpile of weapons when he grows up.

The father denies any claim of radicalization. Furthermore, his attorney asserts that the mother is simply taking advantage of current anti-Islamic sentiment to build a strong case against her husband. As the case plays out, the court will be tasked with weighing the arguments of both parties, and balancing the best interests of the child with the right of his parents to pursue their religious beliefs as they please. The outcome of this case could shape similar matters in Florida and across the nation.

Source: CNN, "Muslim father accused in custody battle of radicalizing son, court docs say", Athena Jones, Nov. 29, 2017

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