Foundation Protests Court’s Catholic Bias (October 2000)

Divorcing parents in Washington County, Wisconsin, are being ordered by the Court Commissioner to take a seminar conducted by Catholic Charities, and to pay a $25 fee to the Catholic organization. The court describes the program as “nationally licensed” and in use in Milwaukee and other counties.

“Divorcing parents should not be compelled by our courts to go to a Catholic organization and pay them for a seminar,” said Anne Nicol Gaylor, Foundation president. “This program should be conducted by a neutral facilitator with payment, if necessary, to the county or the state.

“This particular state/church entanglement is especially troubling for parents who regard the Catholic Church as destructive in its attitudes toward women’s equality, reproductive rights and divorce,” Gaylor said.

On Oct. 4, the Foundation, on behalf of a local complainant, wrote the Honorable Jeffrey Jeager, Assistant Family Court Commissioner, State of Wisconsin Circuit Court, Branch II, Washington County, asking that he halt this “illegal, unconstitutional abuse.”

“The Wisconsin Constitution (Art. I, Sect. 18) says that no person shall be compelled to support religion. Yet this is what is what is happening as your court is now administering the program,” Gaylor wrote.

The Washington County complainant who contacted the Foundation was given no comparable secular counseling alternative. Parents must attend the seminar under penalty of contempt of court.

Freedom From Religion Foundation