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.
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