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Wisconsin Court Orders Divorcing Parents to Write Checks to Catholic Charities

Foundation Protests Troubling Violation

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.

This abuse of state/church separation is being protested by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, which works in defense of the First Amendment to separate religion and government.

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 wrote the Honorable Jeffrey Jeager, Assistant Family Court Commissioner, State of Wisconsin Circuit Court, Branch II, Washington County, asking that it 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."

The Washington County complainant who contacted the Foundation was ordered to attend the Catholic seminar for divorcing parents, and was given no secular alternative. The divorcing parent was afraid to complain directly, because the judge who ordered the religious counseling will determine the level of child support.

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