Crossing the Jordan: Father Faces Jail for Baptism of Daughter

Joseph Reyes may be unique in the annals of criminal law: he is facing potential jail time for baptizing his daughter. His ex-wife Rebecca Reyes is Jewish and was awarded custody of the girl. The mother is raising her in the Jewish faith. Hon. Edward R. Jordan has issued an order barring Reyes from “exposing his daughter to any other religion than the Jewish religion. …” Now Reyes faces the ultimate baptism under fire.

Jordan imposed a 30-day restraining order forbidding any non-Jewish exposure of the daughter. While Reyes was out of line to unilaterally baptize the child without her mother’s consent, the order raises some interesting constitutional questions. Reyes may not have custody but he continues to have parental rights. As a Catholic, he would be barred from exposing his child to his faith.

When the couple was married in 2004, the mother insisted that Reyes convert to Judaism. He now says the decision was not voluntary — a difficult concept since he was not drugged and put through an involuntary conversion ceremony.

Reyes says that he never stopped practicing his Catholic faith and he sent his wife pictures of the baptism. Rebecca Reyes promptly sought a temporary restraining order.

Reyes appears intent on a showdown — he called the media to watch him take the girl to church in violation of the order.

He seems to be working on a curious defense. On Good Morning America, he insisted “in terms of Judaism, based on the information I was given, Catholicism falls right under the umbrella of Judaism.” I doubt many judges, let alone theologians, would support that defense.

For the full story, click here.

38 thoughts on “Crossing the Jordan: Father Faces Jail for Baptism of Daughter”

  1. The court decides what is in the best interest of the child, and is not interested in promoting one religion over the other. The father’s use of the child as a pawn in a power struggle is not in the child’s interest.

    This is not a unique situation. It is happens all the time in divorce over many issues that once seemed settled when the couple had been together. Family court judges are very familiar with this kind of behavior.

  2. Richard:

    We have the right to teach our children our faith as much as they have the right that we feed, clothe, and house them for perhaps decades.

  3. this is awful……

    What a horrible thing to do to a baby/child/offspring.

    Shame on the father. If he read his bible he should have known he wasn’t supposed to marry outside his faith.

  4. Most of us object to prisoners of war being water-boarded and other torture; certainly we should seek to prevent babies from being subjected to this. Regarding the religious education of a child: everyone should be entitled to a religious education. That is an education in the nature of all religions to the point where the child would be able to choose their preference at some time as they mature.

  5. Sprinkling as a baptism method is NOT even in the new testament and if I were the baby’s mother I wouldn’t think anything of this “Baptism.” John the baptist actually baptized ADULTS by totally immersing them in water. Babies do not have original sin. The baby will not go to pergatory if she dies. Pergatory isn’t biblical.

    “…Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” ~ Acts 2:38

    Can a baby repent? No! Since the baby cannot speak, she cannot repent. Especially because the baby has nothing to repent for.

    Now, if the father demanded my child go through Catholic school, then I’d be offended.

  6. Garry Wills is the source of the story about the Buckleybaptisms:

    “After he learned as a child that any Christian can baptize a person in need of salvation, he [Buckley] and Trish would unobtrusively rub water on visitors to their home while whispering the baptism formula. In the National Review circle, those who were not Catholics to begin with tended to enter the fold as converts—Bozell, Russell Kirk, Willmoore Kendall, Frank Meyer, William Rusher, Jeffrey Hart, M. Joseph Sobran, Marvin Liebman, Robert Novak, Richard John Neuhaus. The major holdouts were James Burnham, a born Catholic who left the faith and never went back, and Whittaker Chambers, who was drawn to Richard Nixon’s Quakerism. It was always easiest to be a Catholic around Bill. I believe Bill was so nice to me because I am what the Lutheran scholar Martin Marty called me, “incurably Catholic.” There were different concentrations of people at National Review—Yale alumni, ex-communists (Burnham, Meyer, Chambers), ex-CIA members (Bill, Burnham, Kendall, and Priscilla Buckley, another of Bill’s sisters)—but the Catholic contingent outnumbered all others.”

  7. Vince,

    The Buckley story is simply hilarious. He’s comedy gold even from beyond the grave.

  8. At least for the local TV interviews, Reyes has the same attorney as accused-wife-killer, former cop Drew Peterson: Joel Brodsky.

    I’m not a lawyer, but Brodsky appears to be a PR-crazed doofus. He and Peterson did a ton of media, which appears to have led to the Illinois Legislature passing a law to broaden what hearsay evidence can be admitted in cases like Peterson’s. (The law was unambiguously a response to the Peterson case(es).) It may turn out that the added hearsay evidence leads to the case being re-tried long in the future, but for now, it seems that Brodsky’s decision to go media-crazy has created a very bad situation for Peterson.

    (This law broadening the admissibility of hearsay evidence seems like it will turn out to be a huge mess. It may well be overturned, which will screw up this and probably other cases. Plus, it seems that it would allow even more things like “jailhouse snitch” testimony, which is going in exactly the wrong direction in cleaning up capital cases.)

    It may turn out that a judge doesn’t have the power to limit a parent exposing a child to a religion, but for the time being, Reyes looks like a real jerk for not only disregarding the order/agreement and baptizing the kid, but also sending the mother photos of the event. We’ll see of Joel Brodsky gets Reyes deeper into the poop with all this media attention.

  9. MJS, welcome. I’m a long time fan of your poetry and love your ‘Opinuary’ column too. ElaineM, a frequent contributor, is a writer of children’s books and biting, humorous political poetry so you’re in great company here.

  10. My Jewish ex-mother-in-law threatened to be a no-show at my wedding if her son and I married in the Catholic church, and asked why I don’t just convert to Judaism. So, we married outside with a priest and a rabbi. She further had a fit when we decided to raise our child in both the Catholic and Jewish religions.

    When we divorced, I decided to raise her in a secular home. Needless to say, the ex-mother-in-law as horrified, feeling my daughter would grow up to be a hot mess. Well, the kid is alright – probably one of the most well adjusted, thoughtful, and self-respecting teenagers I’ve ever come across.

    Stories like this confirm that my decision was the right one.

  11. I seem to remember watching an interview with Marilu Henner where she stated that she did proxy baptisms for the Three Stooges. Weren’t they Jews?

    The reason that the Mormons do such extensive genealogical research is that they perform proxy baptisms as well. You too could be a Mormon someday-but I don’t see the Celestial kingdom in your future.

    I don’t get infant baptism anyway-I see no justification in scripture. I’ve seen a lot of infant dedications-which at least seems to be cut out of the Jewish model.

    I wonder, would a judge get involved if a dad cut all his daughter’s hair off? Would he be charged with battery? What harm has been caused?

    I predict her Jewishness will grow back.

  12. The kid’s life is going to be tough enough already, and his parent (s) is making a a public spectacle out of their legal battle out of it?! how disheartening..

    if only the kid could pick which religion he would like to be apart of…

    indoctrination of children is the problem.
    ~Teach kids all religions. Let the kid decide OR better yet, wait until the kid is old enough to legally consent.

    let them have their choice without brainwashing from any guardians, elders, holy books, camps…

    No indoctrination of children into any theism (christianity/islam/judaism/hinduism…ect), or deism, not even atheism* (<–* my personal definition of atheism: teaching that there are certainly No gods)

  13. Anyone who doesnt think you could find a priest to baptist a child whos parent wants that child baptisted Catholic doesnt know much about Opus Die or the priests and religious orders that hang out around Mother Angelicas EWTN….while maybe not in the majority of priests there are many who are as medieval in there beliefs as the Muslims we so often hear about today…….And would consider it Gods work to do.

  14. A young man in his thirty’s believed that he had never been baptized because that is what his parents told him. He decided when his infant child was baptized to receive the sacrament and the Protestant minister baptized them both. His parents attended the ceremony and enjoyed the party. As the minister was sprinkling water on his head, his paternal aunt leaned over and whispered in my ear, “We didn’t agree with the parents decision all those years ago and baptized him in secret when he was a baby … we never told anyone.”

    People are nuts!

  15. Would the same sentiment be expressed if his wife was a Scientologist, and he became a Scientologist in order to marry her, but after getting divorced he decided to return to his Catholic roots?

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