Responding To Restraining Order and the Charges It Contains

by Corvin 32 Replies latest jw friends

  • Corvin

    I was served a restraining order by the local sheriff from my Jw x -wife. I know without a doubt this is a small maneuver to block me from picketing at the Kingdom Hall and exposing her lies and bullcrap. While Nancy is in the hospital recovering, the other two girls are now completely indignant and ready to help take this thing head on. They are so pissed right now they could eat glass. I cannot post the actual restraining order, but I am posting my 15 page plus reply to the restraining order, for it tells a good portion of the story and this is what the judge will be reading before I stand before him to contest the restraining order.

    I am a bit tired and will try to disguise last names, and if I miss one, mods feel free to edit.

    Btw, the following is about have of what I will be writing in my petition to the court to gain soul custody of the girls.



    Response To Accusation of Most Recent Abuse

    On the morning of Monday, August 30, 2004, I drove my daughter, Nancy , age 15 years, to school. She had, for days, been manifesting signs of depression. A documented pattern that comes about after coming back home from a visit to her mother?s (Sara M) and stepfather?s (Mark M)home. An hour or so later, I received a call from the high school nurse?s office telling me that my daughter had attempted suicide. I immediately picked her up from school and took her to the hospital to receive medical and psychiatric care.

    The day before, 8-29-04, I inquired of Nancy as to the degree of her depression, and if she felt suicidal. She told me she was not feeling suicidal. That night, after Nancy had gone to bed, around 9:45p.m., Sara telephoned with a tone of agitation and urgency, demanding to talk to Nancy. I told Sara that Nancy had gone to bed already and asked her to tell me what was so urgent. Sara would not disclose to me her reasons for the call and for the demand to wake Nancy up to come to the phone. I deemed Sara?s behavior to be irrational and told her I would not get Nancy up out of bed to come to the phone unless she gave me an explanation. She refused once again, but only demanded that I rouse Nancy and bring her to the phone. I again, declined unless she disclosed to me the urgency of the matter. She then began accusing me of abusing and damaging my daughters and said that she would call the police.

    I was not aware at this point that Nancy had earlier in the day left a tearful, apparently distressed, message on her mother?s answering machine. Sara did not disclose to me that she was concerned about the tearful message, neither did she tell me of the tearful message. She only made unfounded accusations and absurd threats, therefore, I hung up the phone. Sara called once again and told me that Nancy had left a distressed message on her answering machine. I ended the phone conversation abruptly to go and confirm this with Nancy. I awakened her and asked her if she had called her mother while upset and crying, and Nancy said that she had only called to ask about some laundry she had left at her mother?s house during her last visit. She said she had not been upset, maybe just sounded sad or something.

    The police arrived later that evening to check on the welfare of my daughter, Nancy. After waking her from sleep and talking to her, the police were satisfied that she was safe and not in any kind of danger.

    The next morning, I took Nancy to school and later got the call.

    My eldest daughter, Elese, accompanied Nancy and I to the hospital. While they were tending to Nancy, Sara called Elese on her cell phone. Elese was upset and guarded with her mother?s call do to an upsetting incident that took place at Sara?s and Mark?s home on Friday, August 27, 2004, in which the girls (Nancy Corvin and Elizabeth Corvin, age 12) had unwisely been left alone with Mark, their stepfather, who started an incident with them while Sara was absent.

    When Sara called, she asked Elese how she and Nancy were doing. Elese said in an irritable tone that they were fine. Sara wanted to know what was going on. Elese then informed Sara of the suicide attempt. Sara?s response was, "What? Why?", as if she had not a clue that Nancy might have done such a thing to herself. Elese felt disgusted at her mother?s feigned ignorance of the situation, and hung up on her.

    Mark has a documented history of alcoholism, domestic violence, verbal, mental and emotional abuse with my daughters and Sara. He is consistently antagonistic with them and it has been expressed by me and agreed to by Sara, that, the girls should not be left alone with their stepfather for those reasons. Mark, again, on this occasion, as is his pattern, picked an argument with Nancy and Elizabeth and began to berate them about not going to his religious meetings. He insisted that they should go and abandon all other friends who are not of their religion (they are Jehovah?s Witnesses).

    As related to me by my daughters, Mark kept on, and the girls argued that their friends were actually good people and much more loving than the Jehovah?s Witness religion. They were respectfully trying to have a mature dialogue with Mark, according to them, trying to defend their choices and their beliefs. Mark referred to his daughter, Tera, as an example of someone who was happier than they due to the fact that she had only Jehovah?s Witnesses as close friends. Tera spoke up, and good for her, that Mark?s statement was not true, that the Jehovah?s Witnesses do not seem to like her and pointed out that they do very little to associate with her. Ultimately, Mark told them (Nancy and Elizabeth) that because of their choice in friends they were "bad association", a term used in their religion to "mark" or "label" anyone outside the organization who disagrees with their religious doctrine, or anyone inside the organization who manifests a "lack of faith" in the organization?s beliefs. To be marked as "bad association" is to be shunned and abandoned emotionally, physically and spiritually by everyone in the faith, this includes family members as well. Anyone who is outside of the organization of Jehovah?s Witnesses is under "Satan?s control". Anyone who was once one of Jehovah?s Witnesses and no longer believes their doctrines or even questions or doubts their doctrines is labeled "apostate", "evil" and "wicked". Sara has told the girls many times that I am evil and wicked.

    Mark told Nancy and Elizabeth that because they were "bad association" and "becoming a bad influence on (his) daughter", they should not come over to his home anymore (which also implies that association with their mother would also cease as a result). To these children who were born and raised in the religion, this meant they would be treated as outcasts by even their own family, ignored and shunned in the church and on the street by life-long friends . . . for nothing more than disagreeing with one of their religious doctrines. I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that such shunning practices, when implemented, are devastating to the child both emotionally and mentally. I was officially shunned, a practice called "disfellow-shipment" by the Jehovah?s Witnesses, when I was only 17. The shunning accompanied by the pressure to return to the organization by family members led me to a major breakdown and a suicide attempt. I took an entire bottle of pills in front of my mother to show her what kind of pain she was putting me through, that I could not take it anymore and I just wanted out. After taking the pills, she sneered at me with a very creepy expression of satisfaction on her face. I have never forgotten the pleasure she seemed to derive from my self-destruction. Upon trying to take my own life, not one Jehovah?s Witness came to me for comfort and support with the exception of one friend whose compassion and good heart managed to override the harsh rules of the organization. My two older brothers, Jim and Ron, were coerced into "dedicating their lives to the organization" of Jehovah?s Witnesses at the tender ages of 11 and 12. They were disfellowshipped by the time they were only 12 and 13 for nothing more than being children who did not realize who they were or what they wanted. Now as they are well into their 40?s and 50?s, my brothers still suffer from the residual effects of such a cruel religious policy. They too suffered the humiliation and heartbreak of being abandoned by every friend and family member they had ever known which lead the eldest to attempt suicide as well. They have never gotten over how our own mother did not protect them from such a thing. Yet, this was the implied threat Mark was putting across to the girls. I speak of these experiences because these are the same terrible ordeals Mark and Sara M[edit] are putting my daughters through.

    When Sara returned home to discover the incident, she instructed the children to be quiet and not argue, to go along and respect what Mark says. By this, she implied to the girls that she supported the shunning tactics, or the implied threat thereof, now being employed at this juncture. The entire ordeal was very upsetting to the girls and Nancy called home to ask if we would come and get them. My wife Mary and I, immediately went over to pick them up.

    Before we departed Mark and Sara?s home, I wanted to find out exactly what had happened. When my daughters emerged from the house they were in tears, as was Mark?s daughter, Tera, age 16, and they seemed very shaken.

    We stepped off onto the sidewalk to talk. Present were myself, my wife Mary, Nancy, Elizabeth and Sara. The girls explained in detail what had occurred and I was naturally indignant at a grown man?s childish display and mental abuse on these young girls and I only wanted to have a word with Mark to say that he was out of line; which I believe, it is my right as their father to confront (in a non-violent or threatening way) anyone who deliberately and carelessly hurts my children. As Mark previously stated to Elizabeth, "I like arguing with you because I know you can?t win". It is my job, my responsibility, to protect them and stand up for them when they cannot stand up for themselves as in a situation like this. I calmly asked Sara to please get Mark so that I could "have a word with him". She refused, so I called to him. I told him I wanted to talk to him, "that instead of picking on little girls, he should come out here and pick on me, a grown man". The language I used was, "talk to me like a man" NOT, "come out and fight like a man". I have witnesses to verify the words and language I used.

    He remained in the backyard hiding in the dark and muttering incoherent utterances. I called to him once more and told him I would confront him the following Sunday at their church so that he could rightly answer to and for his threats to shun my children and also have them shunned by others. Why at the church? Because all matters, including domestic violence, child molestation, alcoholism, drug abuse and any other form of "sin" have traditionally been "handled" by the congregation elders. They will only hear a case when there are "two or more witnesses" who accuse the violator/sinner. In most cases, and in spite of the type of crime committed, the entire thing is contained within the organization, kept secret, and never gets reported to the proper authorities. When my daughters had gone to the elders for relief from their mother and stepfather?s problems, they did not stand a chance since their pleas for help and assistance were, by mom and step-dad, chalked up to rebelliousness and disobedience. Their cries for help fell upon deaf arrogant ears. Again, in this way, countless instances of child abuse are covered up and not reported to the proper authorities. Countless victims of mental and emotional abuse go unpunished as a result of the crimes being "handled" within the "organizational arrangement of things". This has always been the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society?s policy, and is only now slowly changing due to a mass exposure of the child molestation problem plaguing the religion.

    If a church member who has suffered abuse at the hands of another member should go to outside authorities, that is, the police or the courts to resolve the issue, no matter what the crime may have been, that member is shunned or marked and most members will then disassociate themselves from the one going outside the arrangement. To a large extent, Jehovah?s Witnesses arrogantly believe that they do not have to be in complete subjection to the laws of the land, especially when they can reason that in any particular instance, God?s laws trump government laws. They find many loopholes to reason this way, and again, child abusers often remain in the congregation as recidivists and continue to victimize children, as in this case.

    As also in this case, the elders that have been counseling Mark and Sara M[edit] with their domestic and spiritual challenges have known about the pattern of abuse for approximately eight years and have not once, to my knowledge, ever reported it to the proper agencies to be handled competently and professionally. In all instances reported to me by my children, the elders have instructed my children to "be obedient" to Mark and Sara and "go along with the organizational arrangement of things". The elders are represented to the children as unquestionable authority figures to whom they must subject themselves to and to do whatever it is they might be counseled to do. They are instructed on how THEY can contribute to peace and spirituality of the household while Mark and Sara get to take no responsibility for their actions. This sick pattern within the organizational structure of Jehovah?s Witnesses allows and encourages parents to pressure, coerce, threaten, brainwash and force their children to believe everything the Watchtower teaches as absolute truth and to just blindly accept it as the unquestionable word of God.

    The process starts at birth where the child is conditioned to sit still and quiet for two-hour religious meetings where Watchtower publications are studied, and information from The Watchtower Bible & Tract Society is disseminated. The ages of the children vary when most parents take their small toddlers into the Kingdom Hall bathrooms for vigorous spankings to "lovingly discipline" the child and get it to sit quiet for the meetings. As the child grows older they are taken from door to door to place WT literature at the homes of strangers. They are taught that anyone outside the organization, or not in good standing with the organization will suffer a terrible death at the hands of God at Armageddon, an event that is ALWAYS looming just around the corner. Before Armageddon comes, however, JW?s are taught that a "great tribulation" will befall them in which their own governments will turn against them, persecute them, torture them, kill them unless they denounce Jehovah as the one true God. If they make it through "the great tribulation" they are assured everlasting life in paradise right here on the earth. Still, as they pass through adolescence, other techniques are used to guilt and shame them into "staying close to Jehovah?s earthly organization".

    Much fear is ingrained into their little psyches and when they are given over to the elders? authority since birth, they have a hard time speaking up about cases and instances of abuse in their home. Everything that goes on at home seems to be normal to them when in reality it is by proper standards, abusive.

    The average Jehovah?s Witness child feels trapped, especially when going through adolescence and they usually lead a double life to escape the rigidity and unyielding dogma of the organization. In my eldest daughter?s (Elese, now 17 years old) case, she felt extremely trapped with no where to go, too afraid to move as it were, and she came to the conclusion, when she was only 13 years old, that the only escape for her was suicide. This incident was also covered up by Mark and Sara to avoid any responsibility for pushing Elese to the brink. The elders, who I KNOW were notified, never reported the suicide attempt. How many other cases are there of attempted suicide and abuse that get covered over? I was once part of this organization since birth and I have seen and heard all of these things first hand.

    When Sara first arrived at the hospital (8-30-04), Elese met her in the lobby of the ER. Elese took Sara aside to explain what she knew about what had happened with Nancy and her attempted suicide. Sara then specifically told Elese that Nancy on two recent occasions (the more recent being Friday, August 27, 2004, the same day of the latest incident with their step-father), that Nancy had disclosed her suicidal thoughts and intentions and even spoke of a specific plan to accomplish her aim.

    Elese became appalled and indignant at her mother and asked, "you mean to tell me that you KNEW Nancy was in trouble and didn?t even pick up the phone to warn anyone about it? What the hell is wrong with you?", she screamed at her mother.

    Sara shrugged it off and gave Elese a disgusted and unconcerned look, rolled her eyes, and then walked arrogantly away back into the ER lobby. God! The head games!

    I had been inside with Nancy during this incident between Elese and her mother. I was coming outside to the lobby to let in a visiting friend to see Nancy when I saw Sara approaching the ER security door I was emerging from. To protect my daughter and considering Sara?s irrational and inexplicable behavior the night before on the telephone, I had instructed the front desk and nurses station that when Sara arrived that they should not let her in to see Nancy before I could have a dialogue about the situation and discover her frame of mind. I did not want Sara?s emotional state to adversely affect Nancy. After Elese confronted her mother about not intervening, she also went to the ER front desk and asked them not to let her mother in to see Nancy until I had a chance to speak with her.

    Before she entered, I only wanted a rational word with her in order to explain the incident, as I understood it. She appeared agitated and angry, NOT shaken or in shock with the news of her daughter?s attempted suicide. She started making a scene and refused to listen to me saying that she has the right to see her daughter. The nurse(s) tried for a moment to sort the disturbance out, but saw the need to call security to sort it out. I agreed that she did have the right to see her daughter, that she was going to see her daughter in just a moment, and I again, attempted to explain my reasons for hindering her visit at this point. I did manage to advise that she should only go in to see Nancy when she was calm and not so eruptive. My voice at this point remained calm and even, but firm. After talking to a security guard, it agreed that in light of Sara?s agitated state, that the initial visit with Nancy be supervised by a security guard.

    While Sara was in with Nancy, Elese approached me and explained how her mother KNEW that Nancy was suicidal and had a plan to commit the act as recent as last Friday (8-27-04)but did not say or do anything to stop it. I put two and two together and realized why Sara had acted the way she did on the phone the night before and why she had called the police to check on Nancy?s welfare. What I could not understand was why, HOW Sara could know this and do ANYTHING to intervene in such a crisis, knowing all too well that Elese had attempted the same fate only four years ago. I became very indignant and distressed that someone so irresponsible was sitting bedside to the victim at that very moment. I remained as calm as I could and proceeded to the nurse?s station to urgently ask for them to call a CPS worker to the hospital. I was plainly distressed and the nurse(s), as I recall, contacted the Crisis Intervention worker at the hospital to talk to me.

    I explained to the worker what I knew, and I do not know if was she that contacted CPS or not, but a CPS worker, Jennifer Paasch, did arrive at my home today (9-1-04) to interview all of the family about the suicide attempt.

    I went for a short walk to cool off. I saw Sara sitting at a table outside with a Jehovah?s Witness friend, Ellen [edit]. I approached and cursed Sara and asked her why she did not do anything to intervene, having KNOWN what Nancy was considering. She then denied that she had any foreknowledge of Nancy?s state of mind, and then began accusing me of abusing our daughters in front of Ellen. She called me "evil" and "demon possessed". We now walked along, her accusing, me defending. She then blurted out loud, in front of Ellen and a large public crowd, without any provocation or reason like a twisted unconnected maxim, that she KNEW that I was sexually molesting ALL of my daughters and that was why Nancy tried to kill herself. I was speechless and dumbfounded. I could have died from such a disgusting accusation. I responded that she should ask all of them.

    She had just attacked me and accused me of the most repulsive accusation a father could be accused of, not just privately, but publicly. On that note she was smugly and arrogantly on her way back into the ER unit to see Nancy once again. I went to the ER front desk and pleaded with them to stop Sara from going back into the ER unit to see Nancy. I could not stand that such a person, one that would sit on her hands while her daughter was moving toward a life threatening action, one that would falsely, shamelessly and publicly accuse a father of molesting his own daughter, could have any unsupervised contact with such an innocent fragile child. As Sara moved inside the ER security doors I again begged for the staff to stop her. Security was again called and they escorted Sara back into Nancy?s room.

    Shortly thereafter, not having had any more contact with Sara, I watched the security guard escort Sara to her car.

    I never once threatened or assaulted Sara M[edit] that day, not even when pressed by her attacks beyond what I thought I could bear. I am swearing unequivocally and categorically that the statements made in Sara M[edit]?s restraining order are false and entirely misleading to cover up the continued abuse and lies perpetrated upon my family and my daughters.

    Response to the 2 nd Most Recent Abuse

    The efforts to thwart and undermine the recovery, progress, health and safety of Elese, Nancy and Elizabeth Corvin under my care, and to also coerce and emotionally blackmail them into returning to the Jehovah?s Witness religion, the most recent incident involving Mark and Sara M[edit] and my daughters (8-27-04 see as describe above) was the basis for a lawful demonstration/protest staged near but off the property of their place of worship. If a mother and stepfather who are supposed to be loving Christians can employ such detestable tactics that harm and confuse impressionable young children, I can certainly protest expose their practice of hurtful shunning (as also described above), and the covering up child abuse in an organization that is trying to claim my children as three of their victims and potential casualties, as documented evidence to be presented will reveal. So, in a show of strength and fearlessness, in a gesture of protecting the rights and healing of my children and other Jehovah?s Witness children who may be going through the same thing, I did conduct a lawful and peaceful protest across from the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah?s Witnesses on Sunday, August 29, 2004.

    I did employ the use of large signs exposing the abuse cover up and only ASKING those arriving at their place of worship, which is MY former place of worship, if they knew of the ongoing child abuse being covered up in the congregation by the elders and Mark and Sara M[edit].

    Please note that many of those arriving at the Kingdom Hall were common "friends" that Sara, Mark and I once shared. They know me, have known me for years. They have known my children since birth and have been close to the our families both when Sara and I were together, and now while Mark and Sara are together. I was not addressing or harassing strangers as it were. These were common friends who now shun me for standing up for my children and trying to protect them. They all now view me as a "demon possessed apostate" who has turned away from "the True God, Jehovah", and according to Watchtower policy they must "hate" me.

    I did not molest or hinder any of the worshipers from their activity. I did not trespass or threaten anyone, their person or their property. I did also employ a video camera to document the demonstration so that no false accusations could rightly be made to stand regarding my conduct that day. Accompanying me, was Susanne ______, a former Jehovah?s Witness, who like myself and my kids, were raised in the religion and suffered untold abuse and injustice at the hands of the "elders" and parents who were brainwashed by the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society. Susanne brought her three daughters in support of this peaceful demonstration, one of which (Sammy) is my daughter Elizabeth?s best friend. Sammy was given the same cold shunning treatment by Mark and Sara when first introduced simply because she was not a Jehovah?s Witness and disagreed with a Scriptural point. She was marked from that day forward by Mark and Sara. Sammy willingly, conscientiously and of her own accord asked to come and show her support for her best friend who she has seen go through some terrible times over the religion and the child abuse it promotes.

    My youngest daughter, Elizabeth, volunteered to go and take part in the demonstration. Her reasoning and purpose was to expose the lies told by her mother and stepfather, and to HAVE A VOICE in her new life and to say all the truths she was not permitted to say when she was trapped hopelessly in the Jehovah?s Witness religion. She was happy to be there, boldly stood up for her rights and said silently with her own handmade sign what she needed to tell a group of "friends" who simply would not listen to her in times past while she was experiencing the depths of dark tumbledown. She stood shoulder to shoulder with a small courageous group of former victims of abuse and brainwashing to exercise her right to freedom of speech and say what she really needed to say. She was testifying to a group of "friends" to confirm that she was hurt and abused by her mother and stepfather, that it was covered up, and she still suffers every time she is made to go over to her mother?s home and be subjected to religious persecution. It is simply false when Sara says that Elizabeth was upset and crying behind her sign at the supposed scene I was making. It is a total fabrication and fantasy on the part of Elizabeth?s mother. This was a total therapeutic experience for Elizabeth and it has made her stronger and more confident in herself. She has also been suicidal in the past grieving over the threats of abandonment for not believing as the Jehovah?s Witnesses believe.

    I do not understand why Sara would object to her daughter standing up for the truth unless there were things to hide and suppress. Sara has no objection to dragging Elizabeth from door to door on a Saturday morning (when most kids are watching cartoons and being kids) telling strangers that if they do not believe what they believe, God will destroy them very very soon. Some of the householders might even be schoolmates. How do you tell someone you know from school that you are at their door to tell them you think you are righteous and they are not, that you will be saved at the battle of Armageddon while they will be destroyed for their wickedness? Sara has no objection to instructing Elizabeth and the other girls to not salute the flag, to stand firm and not participate in any holiday activity that will gain them Jehovah?s disapproval and ultimate destruction. Sara has no problem with teaching Elizabeth to hate those who are not Jehovah?s Witnesses and to even shun "spiritually weak" individuals in their own faith. HYPOCRISY and LIES.

    I did cause a "commotion". I confronted two elders in the congregation who were off property as to why they did not report the child abuse in the M[edit] home when they knew it was going on for years. I asked them why they did not call me, their father, when they were going through crisis. I followed each one as far as their vehicles to confront them about my eldest daughter?s suicide attempt four years ago. I asked them why they did nothing to protect the children of the "flock" they are entrusted to shepherd. Why did I choose to confront them in public? Because that is my right. I chose to confront them and question them publicly because I am considered an "evil apostate" to them, and they are required by Watchtower policy to avoid me like the plague. Because of my status, they do not feel obligated in any way to talk to me as the father of the children they "counseled" for 7 years while living with Mark and Sara. I don?t remember giving them the right to do or say whatever they want to my kids without my consent or knowledge, and I don?t think any information they have about my children is privileged when it comes to abuse. Whenever I have tried to begin a dialogue with them concerning my kids, long before I lost complete trust and faith in the organization and resorted to these methods of exposing them, they would only tell me that they were "handling matters" (because I was disfellowshipped, i.e., officially shunned). They stonewall anyone who inquires of their methods or procedures.

    What?s more, the allegations and grounds presented for this restraining order are bogus and unfounded as neither Mark nor Sara M[edit] were in attendance at the religious meeting that day, and they are in no position to say what transpired. I have videotaped evidence of the demonstration that will show Sara?s accusations to be false and unreliable.

    Response to Describe Any Injuries

    I do not see the relevance of bringing up the stated prior act of battery that hardly presents any kind of pattern of violence or abuse since it was 13 years ago, and there have not been any instances of that kind of behavior since then. On the other hand, it is a matter of public record that Mark M[edit] more recently has been charged with domestic violence, undergone incarceration, fines, an anger management course and mandatory AA meetings. He has shown himself to be a recidivist and unremorseful of his actions and chances are good that he will offend again. In my opinion, it would be more prudent that Sara file for a restraining order against her current husband to protect her children from abuse rather than going after someone who is actually showing love and concern for the welfare of her children.

    Finally, I am outrage at all of these unfounded, malicious, slanderous accusations being hurled at me. They are lies and there is absolutely no proof whatsoever of these allegations. These lies serve only to undermine the safety and wellbeing of my children.

    I have witnesses who will present truthful and honest testimony to establish my innocence in this matter.

  • doogie

    infuriating. absolutely infuriating. (i had to stop and take a little breather half way through.)

    best of luck to you, man. i'm all for freedom of religion, but this organization is simply harmful.

  • DevonMcBride

    Wow Corvin, what a letter.

    Here is a custody case you may want to read about. It could be useful in your case.

    Child Custody - Kendall v. Kendall

    Note: This case is most compelling as it answers many of the concerns addressed throughout the child custody hearing process in relation to the impact of religious differences between parents.

    Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Judicial Court, Room 1407, Boston, MA 02108; (617) 557-1030.



    Norfolk. October 7, 1997. - December 9, 1997.

    Present: Wilkins, C.J., Abrams, Lynch, Greaney, Marshall, & Ireland, JJ. Complaint for divorce filed in the Norfolk Division of the Probate and Family Court Department on November 25, 1994.

    The case was heard by Christina L. Harms, J., and posttrial motions were heard by her. The Supreme Judicial Court granted an application for direct appellate review.

    Michael S. Greco (Melissa J. Solomon with him) for Jeffrey P. Kendall. David E. Cherny (Jacob M. Atwood with him) for Barbara Zeitler Kendall.

    LYNCH, J.-This appeal arises out of a judgment of divorce nisi issued on August 20, 1996. Jeffrey P. Kendall, the defendant, appeals from provisions of the divorce judgment and a temporary order issued after Barbara Zeitler Kendall, the plaintiff, filed a complaint against him in the Probate Court for contempt of the divorce judgment. The plaintiff also filed a cross appeal, requesting an award of attorney's fees and reversal of the joint custody order and disposition of the marital home. We granted the defendant's application for direct appellate review.

    1. Factual background. We summarize the facts found by the judge. The parties professed to hold different religious beliefs when they were married in 1988, the plaintiff being Jewish, and the defendant, Catholic. The parties' fundamental religious differences would be unremarkable but for their controversial effect on their three minor children caught in the crossfire generated by their parents. Before the parties were married, they discussed the religious upbringing of any children, and agreed that children would be raised in the Jewish faith.

    In 1991, the defendant became a member of the Boston Church of Christ, a fundamentalist Christian faith. The defendant believes in Jesus Christ and that those who do not accept the Boston Church of Christ faith are "damned to go to hell" where there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth." The defendant testified that he would like his children to accept Jesus Christ and that he "will never stop trying to save his children."

    The parties' divergent views polarized in 1994 when the plaintiff adopted Orthodox Judaism. Ariel also began studying and adhering to principles of Orthodox Judaism. Soon after the parties' beliefs drifted to opposite doctrinal extremes, the plaintiff filed for divorce in November, 1994, based on an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, pursuant to G. L. c. 208, § 1B.

    2. The court proceedings. At the outset the plaintiff sought to limit the children's exposure to the defendant's religion, and the defendant objected to any limitation on his ability to share his religious beliefs with the children. On October 18, 1995, the judge granted the plaintiff's request for the appointment of a guardian ad litem (GAL) to "address the inter-religious conflict between the parties in particular."

    In Felton v. Felton, 383 Mass. 232, 233 (1981), this court addressed the question of accommodating diverse religious practices of parents, living apart, in the upbringing of minor children. The court held that the overriding goal in any such inquiry is to serve the best interests of the children even where "the attainment of that purpose . . . involve[s] some limitation of the liberties of one or other of the parents." Id. at 233.

    The judge found it substantially damaging to the children to leave each parent free to expose the children, as he or she wishes, to his or her religion. The resulting judgment of divorce contained the following paragraphs:

    "5. RESTRICTIONS UPON RELIGIOUS EXPOSURE: Each parent shall be entitled to share his/her religious beliefs with the children with restrictions as follows: neither may indoctrinate the children in a manner which substantially promotes their . . . alienation from either parent or their rejection of either parent. The [defendant] shall not take the children to his church (whether to church services or Sunday School or church educational programs); nor engage them in prayer or bible study if it promotes rejection rather than acceptance, of their mother or their own Jewish self-identity. The [defendant] shall not share his religious beliefs with the children if those beliefs cause the children significant emotional distress or worry about their mother or about themselves. Thus, for example, [the defendant] may have pictures of Jesus Christ hanging on the walls of his residence, and that.will not serve as any basis for restricting his visitation with his children. But, [the defendant] may not take the children to religious services where they receive the message that adults or children who do not accept Jesus Christ as their lord and savior are destined to burn in hell. By way of further example, [the defendant] may not shave off [Ariel's] payes. This provision shall not be construed so as to prevent [the defendant] from having the children with him at events involving family traditions at Christmas and Easter.

    "In the event that there is a disagreement between the parents as to whether one or more of the children could be exposed to the religious belief(s) of [the defendant] without substantial negative impact upon their emotional health, the parents shall engage the services of Michael Goldberg, Ph.D., to act as G.A.L./investigator/evaluator on such issues and disputes. The fee of Dr. Goldberg shall be shared equally by the parties. In the event that Dr. Goldberg is unable to serve in this capacity, then the parties shall agree upon an alternate child psychologist, or an alternate shall be selected by the Court.

    "6. EXPLANATION TO CHILDREN. Neither party shall initially discuss with the children the terms and conditions of this Judgment. Within two (2) days of the date of receipt of this Judgment, the Plaintiff shall contact the Court-appointed Guardian Ad Litem, Dr. Michael Goldberg, to arrange for a meeting with the children. Dr. Goldberg shall explain to the children, in a developmentally appropriate manner, the Court's decision, with the goal being to help the children understand that they are being raised in the way they are because the Court believes that it is in their best interest. It is intended by the Court that this intervention may help the children avoid blaming themselves."

    The defendant argues in this appeal that the judge's findings did not demonstrate "substantial harm" to the children so as to warrant the limitations imposed on his liberty interest in educating his children in the tenets of his religion. He challenges both the judge's factual findings of harm and the legal conclusions based on that evidence. [10]

    3. Standard of review. We scrutinize without deference the legal standard which the judge applied to the facts to ensure the ultimate findings and conclusions are consistent with the law. Williams v. Resolution GGF Oy, 417 Mass. 377, 382 (1994), citing Marlow v. New Bedford, 369 Mass. 501, 508 (1976). The plaintiff was required to demonstrate "in detail" that exposure to the defendant's religion caused the children "substantial injury, physical or emotional, and [would] have a like harmful tendency for the future." Felton v. Felton, supra at 234, 235. We uphold the judge's factual findings unless they are clearly erroneous ; we review her legal conclusions to ensure they are based on correct legal standards. Williams v. Resolution GGF Oy, supra at 382 n.6.

    4. Analysis. "[P]arents together have freedom of religious expression and practice which enters into their liberty to manage the familial relationships." Felton v. Felton, supra at 233, citing Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972). Those individual liberties may be restricted where there is a compelling interest. Felton v. Felton, supra. A parent's right to practice religion may be restricted only where limited exposure to that parent's beliefs is necessary to further a child's best interests. Felton v. Felton, supra. To do so, there must be an affirmative showing of harm caused by exposure to the conflicting religious teachings. Id. at 233-234.

    The determinative issue is whether the harm found to exist in this case is demonstrated to be so substantial so as to warrant a limitation on the defendant's religious freedom. In Felton v. Felton, this court suggested that a "likely source[]" of proof of substantial harm "by implication" could be derived from testimony as to the child's general demeanor, attitude, school work, appetite, health or outlook. Id. at 242, citing Pope v. Pope, 267 S.W.2d 340, 343 (Mo. Ct. App. 1954). The court also opined that the "wholly uncorroborated testimony" of a parent was insufficient to demonstrate harm. Felton v. Felton, supra. By implication, the court suggested that a plaintiff should consult "church, school, medical or psychiatric authorities" to support a charge that a child has been harmed by exposure to the parent's religious beliefs. Id. Moreover, the court specifically recommended the appointment of "a qualified investigator (whether called a guardian or some other title) who would look into the facts, render a report, and be subject to examination by the parties." Id.

    Other States have struggled to define what constitutes substantial harm. Very few have actually ruled that substantial harm had been demonstrated.

    We adhere to the line of cases requiring clear evidence of substantial harm. Application of the strict requirements in those cases comports with the protections of religious freedoms historically preserved under the Massachusetts Constitution. See Society of Jesus of New England v. Boston Landmarks Comm'n, 409 Mass. 38 (1990), S.C., 411 Mass. 754 (1992) (citing authorities documenting historical protection of religious freedoms).

    The harm found to exist in this case presents more than the generalized fears criticized in Felton v. Felton, supra. The judge afforded substantial weight to the GAL's report. The judge considered the report so "comprehensive" that it should be considered in its entirety on any appellate review. Among the factors the judge cited to support her conclusion that substantial harm to the children had been demonstrated are the following findings:

    "20. I find that, in early 1995, the [defendant] threatened to cut the fringe off Ariel's tzitzitz if he did not tuck it inside his pants. This greatly upset Ariel and the [plaintiff], and the [defendant] later apologized.

    "21. I also find that, in the summer of 1995, the [defendant] cut off Ariel's payes. I do not find credible the [defendant's] explanation that he did so at Ariel's request.

    "24. I find that the Boston Church of Christ services to which [the defendant] has taken his children have included teachings that those who do not accept the Boston Church of Christ faith are damned to go to hell where there will be 'weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

    "25. I find that the oldest child, Ari, has drawn from the above teaching the conclusion that [the plaintiff] may go to hell, and that this causes him substantial worry and upset.

    "56. [The defendant's] behavior toward his children fosters negative and distorted images of the Jewish culture. [The defendant] insists that all individuals who do not accept his beliefs about life and existence are sinners who are destined to tortuous punishment. [The defendant] opposes his children being taught the history of the Holocaust. Further, [the defendant's] cutting off of Ari's religiously meaningful side burns (payes), and his threats to cut off his clothing fringes (tzitzitz) show that he does not refrain from inducing guilt in the child for having the beliefs that he does.

    "57. I find that Ari has a strong Jewish self-identity. I am persuaded by the report of the G.A.L. that Ari 'clearly identified himself and his siblings as being Jewish and provided a rationale based on Jewish law for his belief that he is Jewish,' and that the child's 'behavior in which he ascribes his Jewish identity to Jewish law and theology is indicative of his attainment of a formal self-identification of himself as a Jew.' Indeed, [the defendant] himself reluctantly concedes that if asked, Ari would unquestionably say he is Jewish.

    "58. [The defendant] understands that Ari perceives himself as Jewish, and that having a Jewish identity is akin to having an ethnic identity. But the matter goes further. Ari perceives his Jewishness as being part of his 'soul.' For Ari, efforts to convince him that his religion is wrong are logically equated with convincing him that his 'soul' is damaged or inadequate.

    "59. I credit the G.A.L.'s report and testimony that Ari 'may experience choosing a religion as choosing between his parents, a task that is likely to cause him significant emotional distress.' In fact, the G.A.L. specifically concludes, and I credit his conclusion, that the children are now in a position where they are perilously close to being forced to choose between their parents, and to reject one.

    "60. I find, based upon the G.A.L.'s report as well as his testimony, that the oldest child Ari '. . . is emotionally distressed by the conflict between his strong desire for affection and approval from [the defendant] and his desire to maintain his Jewish religious practice,' and that as a direct result '. . . there has been a decline in his motivation and academic performance.'

    "62. I find that Ari is understandably uncomfortable and unhappy when he 'has to do the stuff [he's] not supposed to do on Shabbas', and that precisely as the G.A.L. indicates, Ari then has the no-win dilemma of pleasing and obeying [the defendant] (while displeasing and disobeying [the plaintiff] and his own internalized beliefs about how the world is 'supposed' to function on the Sabbath) or the reverse. Poor Ari: he told [the defendant] that he 'wants to celebrate the Sabbath and not do stuff that I'm not supposed to do', and [the defendant's] response was 'we'll discuss that with the lawyers.'

    "64. I credit the G.A.L.'s report that 'Moriah is experiencing emotional distress related to the parental conflict . . .' I find that Moriah has a very solid understanding of who she is and who her family is: 'I'm not Christian. I'm Jewish. Mom is Jewish. My dad is Christian. My brother is Jewish and my sister is Jewish.' Moriah's straightforward description is comfortable and age-appropriate. More importantly, it is accurate. And most important of all, it shows that she can tolerate the knowledge of her parents' religious differences.

    "66. I find, based upon the G.A.L.'s report that Rebekah is likely to experience '. . . a sense of not belonging in her own home' by '. . . anything that serves to promote her identity as fundamentally different from that of her mother and siblings.' I find this would be substantially to her detriment.

    "67. I credit the report of the G.A.L. that 'should the children come to accept the religious beliefs that [the defendant] reports he wants them to accept, they are likely to come to view their mother negatively and as a person who will be punished for her sins . . .' resulting in a '. . . negative impact on their relationship with their mother . . . and difficulty accepting guidance and nurturance from her.' I find this would be to the children's substantial detriment.

    "68. For children of tender years (and it seems to me that this likely means at least up to age 12), I find directly contradictory messages from trusted adults to be solidly contrary to their best interests."

    Whether the harm found to exist amounts to the "substantial harm" required to justify interference with the defendant's liberty interest is a close question, especially because there is considerable value in "frequent and continuing contact" between the child and both parents, and "contact with the parents' separate religious preferences." Felton v. Felton, supra at 234. In this regard the judge ruled:

    "There is surface appeal to the [defendant's] argument that the [plaintiff] has not met her burden of establishing substantial present harm to the children from exposure to [the defendant's] religious beliefs and practices, for the G.A.L. found only a few instances of concrete present harm to the children. I am mindful that the G.A.L. has not found current damage to the children so severe that it has caused them to suffer a psychotic break, or to have a 'formal psychiatric diagnosis'...

    The case law does not require the court to wait for formal psychiatric breakdown and the evidence paints a strong picture of the reasonably projected course if the children continue to be caught in the cross-fire of their parents' religious difference: [the defendant's] religion may alienate the children from their custodial parent (she is bad, she will burn in hell), and may diminish their own sense of self-worth and self-identity (Jews are bad, Jews will burn in hell). At minimum they will be called upon to 'choose' between their parents, in itself a detrimental result. The G.A.L. predicts damaging consequences of the children's exposure to two vastly different, and on some points directly contradictory religious views. 'Sometimes . . . a diversity of religious experience is itself a sound stimulant for a child . . . the question that comes to the courts is whether, in particular circumstances, such exposures are disturbing a child to its substantial injury, physical or emotional, and will have a like harmful tendency for the future.' (Felton, [supra] at 234-235). Applying that standard to the facts of this particular case, I see substantial evidence of current and imminent harm, to these 7, 5, and 3-year-old children."

    In balancing these conflicting interests, fully aware of the complexities and nuances involved, we conclude that the judge's findings support her order in paragraph 5 of the judgment.

    Where, as here, the judge has found demonstrable evidence of substantial harm to the children, we reject the defendant's arguments that the divorce judgment burdens his right to practice religion under the free exercise clauses of the Massachusetts and United States Constitution. Both the Massachusetts and the United States Constitutions permit limitations on individual liberties where there exists a compelling interest. See Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 230 (1972) (deferring to parental rights with respect to religious upbringing of children absent harm to their physical or mental health); Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158, 166-167 (1944) (recognizing parents' rights to practice religion and rights to family decision-making are not beyond limitation); Felton v. Felton, supra, at 233 (stating limitations on individual liberties permissible where best interest of child must be promoted); Custody of a Minor, 375 Mass. 733, 748 (1978) (emphasizing that parental rights "do not clothe parents with life and death authority over their children"). Promoting the best interests of the children is an interest sufficiently compelling to impose a burden on the defendant's right to practice religion and his parental right to determine the religious upbringing of his children. Felton, supra at 233. Paragraph 5 of the divorce judgment is limited in scope and imposes a minimal burden on the defendant's right to practice religion by requiring only that he limit sharing certain aspects of his beliefs with his children. The divorce judgment imposes no additional limitations on the defendant's individual ability to practice his religion. Thus, we believe paragraph 5 of the divorce judgment is a constitutional limitation on the defendant's individual liberties as it is necessary to ensure the best interests of the children.

    The defendant's claim that the divorce judgment violates art. 11 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution and the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution must also be rejected. In making establishment clause assessments in the past we have applied the test set out by the United States Supreme Court in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 612 (1971). Attorney Gen. v. Bailey, 386 Mass. 367, 378, cert. denied sub nom. Bailey v. Bellotti, 459 U.S. 970 (1982). In so doing we determine whether the divorce judgment has a secular purpose, that neither advances nor inhibits religion, and does not "foster 'an excessive government entanglement with religion.'" Attorney Gen. v. Bailey, supra, quoting Lemon v. Kurtzman, supra at 612-613. Although there is considerable doubt about the continued vitality of the test in Lemon v. Kurtzman, supra, in light of recent decisions of the Supreme Court, we reach this conclusion if we apply that more stringent test.

    We reject the defendant's claim that the divorce judgment "established Judaism" as the religion to govern his children's upbringing. In limiting the children's exposure to the defendant's religion, the judge merely recognized the preference that the parties allowed to develop and one that the defendant, until recently, encouraged. Moreover, paragraph 5 was intended for a wholly secular purpose -- to limit the emotional harm to the children caused by exposure to negative messages presented by the defendant's religion. Although the judgment contemplates continued court involvement, it does not foster excessive government entanglement because the focus of any judicial inquiry will center on the emotional or physical harm to the children rather than the merit-worthiness of the parties' respective religious teachings.

    5. Joint custody. The plaintiff argues on cross appeal that it was an abuse of discretion to award joint legal custody to the parties. The determination of custody rests within the discretion of the judge. Vilakazi v. Maxie, 371 Mass. 406, 409 (1976). The material facts found and reported must support the judge's action in awarding joint legal custody to the parties. Id. We are mindful of the importance of a trial judge's opportunity to observe and appraise both parents in custody matters. Stevens v. Stevens, 337 Mass. 625, 627 (1958). The plaintiff argues that joint legal custody is inappropriate because she and the defendant are unable to agree on "major decisions regarding the [children's] . . . moral and religious development." G. L. c. 208, § 31. See Rolde v. Rolde, 12 Mass. App. Ct. 398, 404-405 (1981) (suggesting joint custody is appropriate where parents are "relatively stable" and "amicable" and agree on basic issues). Because the plaintiff points to no conflict other than the parties' inability to reconcile their views as to the children's religious upbringing, we conclude that she has not established that the judge abused her discretion in granting joint custody.

    6. Property disposition and attorney's fees. The plaintiff also argues the judge erred in granting the defendant twenty-five per cent of the proceeds on the sale of the jointly owned marital home because her family provided the funds for its purchase. We will not set aside the trial judge's division of marital assets unless an award is "plainly wrong and excessive." Heins v. Ledis, 422 Mass. 477, 481 (1996). The judge found that the purchase of the marital home was a completed gift to the parties from the plaintiff's parents. The award was well within the proper exercise of her discretion.

    The plaintiff also claims that she should have been awarded attorney's fees pursuant to G. L. c. 208, § 38, because the defendant proceeded in a dilatory and vexatious manner. The judge's decision not to award attorney's fees is within her discretion. Brash v. Brash, 407 Mass. 101, 106 (1990). Furthermore, she was in a position to observe first hand the defendant's conduct; therefore, we shall not disturb her assessment on the basis of a printed record.

    Judgment affirmed.


    After the plaintiff filed her complaint for divorce, a probate judge entered a temporary order according to a stipulation of the parties dated December 9, 1994. That "agreement" demonstrated that the parties considered their divergent religious views an issue throughout the divorce. The stipulation contained a provision stating, "Neither party shall make negative or derogatory comments to the children about the other parent or his/her religion." As soon as the order issued, both parties challenged the order's visitation schedule as interfering with planned weekend religious events with the children.

    See Khalsa v. Khalsa, 107 N.M. 31, 36 (Ct. App. 1988) (general testimony regarding parents' divergent religious beliefs causing child to be upset or confused insufficient to justify restriction of exposure to noncustodial parent's religion); Munoz v. Munoz, 79 Wash. 2d 810, 815 (1971) (duality of religious beliefs does not per se create conflict in child's mind); Robertson v. Robertson, 19 Wash. App. 425, 427 (1978) (child's alarm at religious beliefs insufficient); Zummo v. Zummo, 394 Pa. Super. 30, 74-76 & n.39 (1990) (rejecting speculation by parents and experts as to potential future emotional harm to child based on assumption that exposure is generally harmful); In re Marriage of Weiss, 42 Cal. App. 4th 106, 116-117 (1996) (rejected notion that contradictory messages caused harm, no evidence child had disciplinary problems, nor bruises); In re Marriage of Mentry, 142 Cal. App. 3d 260, 266 (1983) (held that evidence of child's social adjustment problems in school and periodic stomach aches were not attributable to conflict over religion); Kirchner v. Caughey, 326 Md. 567, 577, 579 (1992) (child psychiatrist determined that child suffered from anxiety was not conclusive where problems could just as easily have been attributed to parental conflicts); Levitsky v. Levitsky, 231 Md. 388, 398 (1963) (requiring serious danger to life or health of child before determining protection necessary from exposure to parent's religious beliefs).

    See Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158 (1944) (limiting guardian's ability to expose minor child to religious proselytizing). In Ledoux v. Ledoux, 234 Neb. 479, 486 (1990), the court upheld a prohibition of a child's exposure to the noncustodial parent's religion where a child psychologist found the child suffered from "serious" stress evidenced by bed wetting. In Ledoux, however, the Nebraska court followed its precedent that the custodial parent usually determines the child's religious upbringing.
  • ohiocowboy

    You are a very loving, sincere father who really wants what is best for your children. Commendable!

    I would be concerned that the mother and the cong. will lie through their teeth about everything, using their so called "theocratic warfare", as they are directed to do through the org. It may be good to have the WT articles handy that discuss theocratic warfare, and how they are trying to justify lying, so that these can be brought to the attention of the authorities, and will show just how hypocritical the JW's are.

    Best of luck to you always.

  • Undaunted Danny
    Undaunted Danny

    Remember Corvin 90% of the general population is on your side. The Local elder flunky's are now in direct contact with WT$ Legal whores on how to take you down. MY own court petitioned harassment order against the Bangor Maine Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses and their operatives. Nothing beats going in front of a 'worldly' Judge and deliberating your side of the story. Judge
    As a matter of safety protocol i avoid going anywhere near the Bangor Kingdom Hall,so they can't make up any bogus story's.Instead of picketing The Kingdom Hall i picket City Hall.Got me in the local newspaper too.
    My own case at my 'post purge' at the Rockland Massachusetts Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witness.The elders there filed a perjured police complaint and LIED ( a Felony) that I was "egging cars" in their K.Hall parking lot. The Judge throw the case out. Here in Bangor Maine they brought in an out of town,'hit man' to harass my picketing.His tactic( no doubt WT$ A.O.P) was to repeatedly stop his van in the middle of the road and ask for directions,feigning to be a lost traveler. This was a 'setup' to report me as a fanatic who was flagging down cars with my anti-WT message,to try to get me arrested. BE WARNED their chief tactic they use for opposer's on the outside is to instigate trumped up bogus false police complaints.The police and the court system are satan's s**t to them. They tried that on me,and now and I have made sure that all the law enforcement personnel in my county are aware of their nefarious sleaze.[big backfire] There is nothing that they will not stoop to.The bastards all belong in jail themselves. There's is a supremacist extremist cult,they are the one true religion and that is that. We are with you Corvin,Undaunted Danny


    Extensive Notes on JW Child Custody Cases (posted 7/17/01)
    Custody 911 Custody in the News
    Dealing with JW Custody Cases by Rick Ross
    Father's Right to Custody
    How to Win Child Custody
    Jehovah's Witness Youth and Testimony in Court
    Law and Child Custody: An Overview
    Lying In Court: a review of the Watchtower's booklet, "Preparing For Child Custody Cases"
    Letter of Disassociation of Gloria Muscarella
    Pro-JW Custody Site

  • badboy

    How about a counterclaim?

  • Nosferatu

    You go, Corvin! Kick the bitch's ass!

    Please, while you're going through all this bullshit, take care of yourself too. Your daughters need you, but they need you to take care of yourself as well.

  • Sunspot

    Wonderful letter Corvin! You did a great job! I wish you every success that you hope for and should receive from now on. I wish you could have it printed in your area newsapers so others can get a realistic view of the "workings" of the WTS.



  • Angharad

    Excellent letter Corvin ,it explains very clearly for someone like the judge who may not understand WT rules etc.

    Hope the judge can see through everything that is going on. Good luck

    Hugs to you and your family

  • outoftheorg






















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