Craig Scarberry, 29, of Indiana maintains he lost joint custody of his 3 children because of his agnosticism. As evidence, he cites statements alluding to his irreligious views written by presiding Judge George Pancol which state Scarberry “did not participate in the same religious training as the mother…the father was agnostic…when the father considered himself a Christian, the parties were able to communicate relatively effectively.” Following Scarberry, liberals, atheists and agnostics have quote mined Pancol’s comments, spinning them for their political and what can be seen as nothing short of a fear mongering agenda, insisting not only this man lost custody due to his agnosticism but that this represents religion encroaching upon the fundamental rights and freedoms as established by the First Amendment. These people have used Pancol’s words, in a sense, as a call to arms for all irreligious to unite to fight this supposed encroachment before we become a full-blown theocracy. This is perfectly exemplified by the reaction of the The Young Turks.
Pancol’s statements, however, merely relay the fact of how the couple’s relationship operated cohesively when both shared the same religious perspective. Scarberry claims he and his lawyer have gone through the decision, concluding it was based on religious considerations. Of course his irreligious brethren agree. No where in Pancol’s comments does it state, or even imply, religious considerations are a part of the court’s ruling, and Pancol maintains his decision is based on the children’s best interests. Unless irrefutable contrary evidence surfaces, it is irrational and illogical to assume otherwise.
What those who are assume otherwise, and the irresponsible media which is refusing to clarify the matter, are ignoring is the evidence presented in court pointing to the more probable reason his joint custody has been revoked. As reported by the Herald Bulletin, this evidence, which was used by Judge Pancol in his decision, shows Scarberry to have anger management issues, used “profanity in front of the children” and harassed his ex wife with excessive amounts of text messages. Further, in April, 2010, his ex wife had gotten a restraining order against Scarberry for trying to beset and frighten her at her workplace “with abusive language and profanity” and random and unexpected stops by her home “at different hours of the day and night.” Scarberry claims that evidence has been presented in court which purport to refute these latter allegations; as far as I know, as of now, no evidence of such refutation is available to the public and thus I do not know if his claims are true.
Theoretically, though, even if religious considerations had played a part in this decision, it must be determined whether or not they were the sole or dominant criteria on which the decision is based. So long as they do not dominate the decision making process, religious considerations are allowed in custody cases where contesting parties have competing religious interests, and are a normal part of such cases. If Scarberry had been denied custody due to his agnosticism, the judge would have certainly further denied him the right to teach or expose his children to other religious or irreligious perspectives, as happened in MacLagan v. Klein in North Carolina in 1996. In that case, the father, Klein, a Jew, was awarded full religious authority over the couple’s daughter. The court reasoned that since the child had been raised Jewish from the time she was born, it would cause her harm if she was to be introduced into another religion, that being her mother’s Methodism. Scarberry, though, has no such limitations and is free to teach and expose his children to other religions or philosophies, like agnosticism.
Thus, there is more to the court’s decision than these atheists, agnostics, liberals and the media are admitting, considering, investigating or of which they are even aware; it seems these people are motivated by demagoguery and/or paranoid delusions of encroaching theocracy and thus are solely able to focus on the judge’s comments about Scarberry’s irreligious views, spinning them to fit these motivations by ignoring or rewriting the reality and wider context behind the court’s decision. They are further side stepping the reality of custody battles in America where, for perfectly legitimate reasons, it is normal for religious considerations to be a part of a court’s decision.