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Christian Girls, Interrupted – Children’s Faith no longer Free

I reported Friday on the New Hampshire girl forced to attend public school because the court found her religious belief (and that of her mother) “too rigid.”  Here, McGurn points out how interesting it would be if we’d take public school children out and force them into parochial education to widen their horizons…  He also speaks of Judge Dawson’s decision to do right by Rifka Bary in Florida.  Her case has been covered extensively by Pamela Geller at Atlas Shrugs.

 

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Christian Girls, Interrupted

How much say should parents have over their children’s faith?

by William McGurn
Two Christian girls. Two sets of distraught parents. And two state courts smack in the middle of it.

One of these courts is in New Hampshire, where a judge recently ordered that home-schooled Amanda Kurowski be sent to public school. The order signed by Family Court Justice Lucinda V. Sandler says the 10-year-old’s Christian faith could use some shaking up—and that the local public school is just the place to do it. So while the child’s lawyers at the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal outfit, filed a motion asking the judge to reconsider, last week Amanda started fifth grade at a local public school.

At about the same time Miss Kurowski was starting school in New Hampshire, a state court in Florida was considering what to do with 17-year-old Rifqa Bary. Miss Bary fled to Florida from Ohio a few weeks back, where she sought refuge with a Christian couple whose church she had learned about on Facebook. She says she ran away from home because her father discovered she’d become a Christian—and then threatened to kill her. On Thursday, Circuit Judge Daniel Dawson ordered the girl and her family to try mediation and set a pretrial hearing for the end of the month.

McGurn  Associated Press

{Rifqa Bary gets a hug from her DCF case worker Maxine Kisimbi
during a hearing before circuit Judge Daniel Dawson at the
Thomas S. Kirk Juvenile Justice Center.}

Miss Bary’s case doesn’t fit neatly into the standard categories. On the one hand, Mr. and Mrs. Bary are flying the parental-rights flag typically associated with conservatives. They say that whatever fears their daughter has of them have been put in her head by evangelical Christians hostile to Islam.

If what has spilled out into the press is true, moreover, law-enforcement findings in both Ohio and Florida support the parents. The Barys say they are willing to let their daughter practice whatever religion she wishes; they just want her home. Would Islamic fundamentalists, they ask, allow their daughter to be a cheerleader?

On the other hand, the fear of an honor killing—even in the United States—is not irrational. In Texas last year, an Egyptian-born father (still sought by authorities) is thought to have murdered his two daughters because they dated non-Muslim men. A few months later in Georgia, a Pakistani man told cops he strangled his daughter because she wanted out of an arranged marriage.

Miss Bary’s case is different in that it involves a conversion, and has become entangled in a heated public debate about how Islam deals with apostates. According to Miss Bary and her supporters, those who say she’s in no danger from her family or other Muslims are being naive. Is it worth taking the risk, they ask, given that she is less than a year away from turning 18, when she would be free to decide for herself?

In the end, Rifqa Bary’s case comes down to this: Will the Florida court find credible her statement that her father “said he would kill me. Or he’d have me sent back to Sri Lanka where they’d put me in the asylum”?

[…]

Amanda’s mother has had primary custody over her daughter since she and Amanda’s father divorced 10 years ago. The father has had long-standing complaints about the effect of home-schooling on his daughter’s “socialization,” even though Amanda has already taken classes at the school and participated in extracurricular activities. But the order appears to be based on the guardian ad litem’s worry about Amanda’s “rigidity on faith.” The order also accepts the same guardian’s conclusion that Amanda belongs in a public school because she “would be best served by exposure to different points of view at a time in her life when she must begin to critically evaluate multiple systems of belief and behavior and cooperation in order to select, as a young adult, which of those systems will best suit her own needs.”

In a state whose motto is “Live Free or Die,” this is an extraordinary line of reasoning. Just how extraordinary might best be appreciated by contemplating the opposite scenario: the reaction that would ensue were a court to order a young girl out of a public school and into an evangelical one so she might gain “exposure” to other “systems of belief.”

In the next few weeks, courts will settle the fates of Amanda Kurowski and Rifqa Bary. In New Hampshire, Miss Kurowski’s case can still be put right. With the price for getting it wrong in Miss Bary’s case potentially so much higher, surely Florida’s Judge Dawson is right not to let himself be rushed into a decision.

And more from the WSJ (hat tip Pamela):

Sharia-Sanctioned Death Vs. Western Toleration
Five thousand honor killings testify to the danger
Nidra Poller, Wall Street Journal 

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September 8, 2009 - Posted by | 1st Amendment, Agenda of the Left, Christian, Culture, Family, Islam, Leftists Criticize Conservatives, Political Correctness, Wake Up, WordPress Political Blogs | , , , , ,

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