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A family court has told a Jehovah’s Witness that he cannot take his six-year-old son to conventions run by his religion because it could cause him “emotional damage”.
It barred the man, who is currently embroiled in a family court dispute with his estranged wife, from taking his son to Jehovah’s Witness assemblies, annual conventions, and memorials.
The man also agreed not to show his son “Jehovah’s Witness cartoons”.
District Judge Malcolm Dodds suggested that the cartoon “Obey Jehovah” could impact on the boy’s wellbeing and was at risk of “emotional damage”.
“While making sense to a child if both parents were Jehovah’s Witnesses, such a cartoon would send a very confusing message to a child like [the boy] who has one foot in his mother’s world and a wider world (in which magical characters are everywhere in books, television, DVDs, on the internet and in films) and his other foot in his father’s world where such magical characters are sinful.
“The mother asserts that in her submissions that the objective of the cartoons and Bible stories is to condition and indoctrinate children into Jehovah’s Witness beliefs through a mixture of fear, manipulation and a strict boundary between behaviour which is acceptable and pleasing and that which is not.
“The father accepts that [the boy] should not be exposed to such religious based media until [he] is at least 12.”
Judge Dodds said the boy was “impressionable” and might suffer as a result of getting “confused messages”. The boy currently lives with his mother, who does not practice any religion.
However, he said the boy could spend time with his father and attend Sunday services.
“I do not wish to restrict him from taking [the boy] to the Kingdom Hall each Sunday for up to two hours,” said Judge Dodds.
“I do not see that this practice of the father’s faith for a limited period within a group service with child-friendly activities poses a risk of jeopardy to [the boy’s] relationship with his mother.”
“I take a different view of assemblies, annual conventions and memorials. These are much longer events.
“There is a far greater risk that [the boy] will be influenced … given his age and how impressionable he is and the risk of emotional damage due to confusing messages.
“As a result I find it necessary and proportionate to prohibit the father from taking [the boy] to Jehovah’s Witness assemblies, annual conventions and memorials.”
The family involved have not been identified.
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