Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Court May Not Automatically Defer To Religious Objections Of One Parent In Deciding Child's Best Interest

In Arcella v. Arcella, (NV Sup. Ct., Dec. 26, 2017), the Nevada Supreme Court held that a trial court was wrong in the manner it resolved a dispute between divorced parents over the middle school their child should attend. the father wanted the child to attend a private Lutheran school, but the mother objected to the child's receiving a religious education.  The court, relying solely on the mother's religious objections, decided that the child should attend a public school.  In reversing, the state Supreme Court said in part:
When a district court decides a child's best interest, "[t]he First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion." ... The district court violates this principle of neutrality when it treats one parent's religious objection as dispositive when deciding between a religious school and a nonreligious school....
In sum, a district court does not violate the First or Fourteenth Amendments by ordering a child to attend a religious school over a parent's religious objection. Indeed, the district court must order a child to attend the religious school if attendance at that school accords with the child's best interests.
Las Vegas Review Journal reports on the decision.