Get thee to a church

Judicial theocracy in the UK – a judge orders a father to take his children to Catholic mass.

A judge has ordered a father to take his children to Roman Catholic mass as part of a divorce settlement, even though he is not Catholic.

The man, who can only be identified as “Steve” because of reporting restrictions on the case, faces possible contempt of court and a jail sentence if he fails to go to church when he has custody of the children.

The church attendance requirement was imposed by Judge James Orrell during a hearing at an undisclosed county court in the Midlands.

County court, be it noted – not ecclesiastical court.

Court transcripts seen by The Telegraph show that Judge Orrell discussed his own Catholic faith during the course of the hearing into contact arrangements for Steve’s two sons.

The legal requirement to attend mass at Christmas applies only to Steve, who is not a Roman Catholic.

His ex-wife is Catholic but is not subject to the same conditions in the residence and contact order.

It reads: “If the children are with their father at Christmas he will undertake that they will attend the Christmas mass.”

Well that makes sense – no need to order the wife, because she’s already a Catholic. It’s the non-Catholic who has to be forced to go.

Steve, a 51-year-old psychologist, said: “It’s all very bizarre. This aspect of the contact order was not requested by the other side in the case.

“The judge decided that I would commit to taking the children to mass and he put it in the court order.

“What I think is really concerning is that it does not allow me or my children any freedom of religious expression.”

His oldest kid, who is ten, has already talked about being a non-believer – well no wonder the judge is trying to force them all to be Catholics!

The ruling has been subjected to a series of legal challenges since it was imposed in 2009 but the church attendance requirement remains in force.

Steve went to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that the order was a breach of his human rights under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

However, a ruling by appeal judges and a later judicial review in the High Court did not support his application.

Steve also complained to the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office which, he said, upheld other aspects of his application but declined to give a decision on the Article 9 points, claiming they were a matter for the legal appeal process.

That is bizarre. Horrible, and bizarre.


  1. dshetty says

    His oldest kid, who is ten, has already talked about being a non-believer – well no wonder the judge is trying to force them all to be Catholics!
    The judge has ensured that the oldest kid will be a gnu atheist.

  2. moarscienceplz says

    Huh? This happened in the UK, where it is illegal for the monarch to marry a Catholic? I could sorta believe a ruling to go to Anglican church services, but not Catholic.

  3. RossR says

    What happens if the children simply refuse to go? Is the father compelled to drag them kicking and screaming into the church? And if they continue to scream and are asked to leave? Or if they take books or handheld games and pay no attention to the service?
    I can’t see any legal basis for the children to be under a compulsion – in particular, they don’t have to do even what their father tells them.

  4. says

    I wonder the same thing. It seems likely the older boy doesn’t want to go. How it can possibly be the business of a judge to force him is beyond me.

    I could maybe see a role for a family court judge if the kids desperately wanted to go and their father refused to take them, and conversely if they desperately wanted not to and their father dragged them. Maybe. But it’s tricky.

  5. carlie says

    If I were him, I would be sorely tempted to take the kids to the Christmas mass, but give them noise-canceling headphones and have a handheld gaming device for each of them to play during the ceremony. I assume nothing in the ruling specifies that they have to be paying attention.

  6. says

    If one spouse were demanding the other take kids to a UKIP rally, would a judge have enforced that? Of course not. But religion gets special privilege.

    You’ve really got to hope there’s someone in the British judiciary who has a clue and overturns this.

  7. shadow says

    They could sing ‘different’ interpretations of the hymns, especially on xmass.

    Christians roasting on an open fire
    Lions nipping at their toes.

    Angels we have heard on high
    Telling us go out and buy.

    I’m sure they could get dis-invited if they tried.

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