Court Affirms Custody Case Involving Allegations of Wicca

October 2, 2008

Author: Staff Writer

Source: Arkansas News Bureau

A Southeast Arkansas woman who argued she lost custody of her son because of a judge's perception of her alleged practice of Wicca lost her appeal Wednesday before a divided state Court of Appeals Wednesday.

In a 4-2 ruling, the appeals court affirmed a decision granting custody to the child's father, though the judges disagreed on whether the lower court considered the mother's religious beliefs.

In her appeal of Chicot County Circuit Judge Robert Vittitow's decision, the mother noted Vittitow described Wicca in his opinion letter as "a religion, movement, cult or whatever it that may be."

The judge also wrote that while the mother testified she was only joking when she told the boy's father that she was involved with Wicca, the "court believes she is much more involved than she would lead us to believe."

In the appeals court ruling Wednesday, Judge Robert J. Gladwin wrote that religious beliefs and practices are material only as they affect children's best interests, and in this case "no party explored connections between religious belief and upbringing."

"There is no basis to hold that the trial court resolved this initial custody determination on (the mother's) interest or involvement with Wicca, but simply pointed out (her) lack of credibility on the issue," Gladwin wrote.