(Investigator 16, 1991 January)

Diane LeDoux gained custody of her two children in November 1987 after her Jehovah's Witness husband divorced her.

The judge ruled that the husband should not expose the children to his JW religion due to damaging effects.

Investigator published a lettter by Diane LeDoux in January 1989 to supplement an article about JW kids. LeDoux wrote: "My ex-husband has challenged the order."

Now, two years down the track Investigator received an undated, unreferenced press clipping:

Court Affirms Religious Curbs To Shield Child
Lincoln (AP) — When children are threatened by a religious practice, the courts can restrict the religious activity in order to protect them, the Nebraska Supreme Court said Friday.

In a 6-1 opinion, the high court upheld a Douglas County District Court ruling that barred a divorced father, whose children were being raised as Catholics, from exposing them to religious practices or teachings inconsistent with the Catholic faith.

Judge Thomas Shanahan dissented, saying the majority decision went too far in restricting the father's religious freedom.

The case centered on a child custody dispute involving the divorce of Diane LeDoux and Edward LeDoux.

Diane LeDoux was the custodial parent of the couple's two minor sons. She and Edward LeDoux were married in the Catholic church. He became a Jehovah's Witness and the two later were divorced.

Citing testimony concerning the troubled behavior of one of the children, having specifically to do with reactions to Edward LeDoux's effort to involve him in discussions and activities related to the Jehovah's Witnesses faith, District Court Judge Robert Burkhard concluded that exposing the children to two religions would be injurious to them.

Burkhard issued an order directing Edward LeDoux not to "expose or permit himself or any other person to expose the minor children ... to any religious practices or teachings that are inconsistent with the religious teachings espoused by...the Catholic religion by which the children are being raised."

"When a court finds that particu1ar religious practices pose an immediate and substantial threat to a child's temporal well-being, a court may fashion an order aimed at protecting the child from that threat," the Supreme Court majority said. "In so doing, a court must narrowly tailor its order so as to result in the least possible intrusion upon the constitutionally protected interests of the parents."

The majority said that Burkhard's order "is narrowly tailored in that it imposes the least possible intrusion on Edward LeDoux's right of free exercise of religion and the custodial mother's right to control the religious training of a child."

Shanahan disagreed.

"What the majority has characterized as a 'narrowly tailored' visitation order is, in reality, a judicial straitjacket, constricting Edward LeDoux and preventing him from discussing with his children any religious belief or practice which may contradict or conflict with Catholic doctrine," Shanahan wrote.

"Thus, the ... order prohibits Edward LeDoux's free exercise of his religion in reference to his children and, consequently, constitutes a denial of religious freedom protected by the slate and federal constitutions," Shanahan wrote.

Diane LeDoux seems to have won for the present. But the result may not be final.

This can be inferred from the tenacity with which the JW lawyers are fighting many other custody battles. In one instance in British Columbia (in January 1990) the Supreme Court judge ordered the JWs to pay $70,000 costs for extending what should have been a 2-day trial into an "oppressive" 12-day court battle.

After winning the case the lawyer for Irene Young said: "Jehovah's Witnesses specialize in tying up the non-believing parent in endless litigation over custody." (The Globe and Mail, January 12, 1990, p. A9)

Dictionary of Jehovah's Witnesses at: