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. He took his Jewish baby
    And against his ex’s wishes
    Put her in a fountain
    And started doing dishes
    A ritual from ancient times
    Practiced by John the Baptist
    To cleanse the soul for Heaven
    A spiritual crapfest
    No angels have arrived on scene
    To set the matter straight
    But who is it that the father tempts
    With his daughter as the bait?

    ++++

  2. There is a conflict here, but in our society the wishes of the lawful custodial parent govern. The judge CAN order the legal enforcement of those wishes.

    Everyone has freedom of religion, but this guy wants the freedom to ram his religion down the throat of a defenseless child. Give me a break.

    As a visitation parent, he might have had the right to expose the child to his religion, if he had not agreed otherwise. When he voluntarily became Jewish, he voluntarily adhered to their doctrine that all children born to a Jewish mother are Jewish. It is up to the courts to determine the facts and resolve the issue legally.

    No one put a gun to the husband’s head. He voluntarily undertook an obligation for consideration, and the law is holding him to that commitment. He now claims that it was not voluntary. He was not married by a shotgun, for crying out loud!

    This all works both ways. Mike and JT will also confirm that back in the days before Vatican II, the priests ABSOLUTELY refused to marry any Catholic to a non-Catholic unless the parties entered a solemn agreement to raise the children as Catholics. There are plenty of grown-up Catholics with a non-Catholic parent out there.

    If this guy had wanted Catholic children, he should gotten himself married by a priest in a church, and should have secured an agreement that the children be raised as Catholics.

  3. Rcampbell asked “can one simply show up at any random church rectory and request an immediate baptism? Or would prior arrangements be required? If so, were members of clergy aiding and abetting Mr. Reyes’ violation of the court order?”

    No responsible Catholic priest would ever baptize a baby at random under any circumstances. The priest in the church would never baptize an infant without a thorough interview and interrogation of the parents, determining their authority and desire to baptize the infant, and their mutual promise to raise the child as a catholic.

    No members of the clergy aided or abetted Reyes.

    He performed the baptism himself.

    If you watch a baptism, you will see a formal contractual agreement. The church agrees to wash away the infant’s original sin, and the parents make a solemn covenant to raise the child in the catholic religion. This is how the church perpetuates itself. It requires parents to imprint their children with their religion. It is how all religions maintain their membership.

    Baptism, as JT and Mike Appleton will confirm from their seminary days, does not require a priest. Any Catholic can do it. The just pour the water and say the formal words, and the deed is done. Reyes used this loophole to baptize the child himself.

    I have read that William F. Buckley Jr. discovered this doctrine and began baptizing all his friends by discretely sprinkling some water on them “accidentally” and murmuring the words barely audibly. A lot of old National Reviewers wound up as catholic converts.

  4. Vince,

    You have your views and I have mine. We can agree to disagree on this issue. I found this on Wiki and it tends to be nonbias (if there can be such a thing).

    Jewish-American Princess or JAP is a pejorative characterization of a subtype of Jewish-American women. The term implies materialistic and selfish tendencies, attributed to a pampered or wealthy background.

    The stereotype is often (though not always) the basis for anti-Semitic jokes both inside and outside the Jewish community.[1] In recent years the term “JAP” has been re-appropriated by some Jewish women as a term of cultural identity, especially in areas with high-density Jewish populations.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish-American_princess

    I have many friends and a few family members that are Jewish. I can go either way on this. I dated a female that was Jewish that became a Judge. I can’t say we are still friends though. lol. There was only one word and that was hers.

  5. “The slur is usually considered offensive both for its sexist and ethnic implications, however, some people self-identify themselves as Jewish American Princesses.”

    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=jewish+american+princess

    As I said, it is offensive to some as a derisive stereotype, and I knew one Jewish woman who was a lawyer and a judge who would have found it very offensive.

    I intend no offense. I am just trying to impart some information.

  6. “Hon. Edward R. Jordan has issued an order barring Reyes from “exposing his daughter to any other religion than the Jewish religion”.

    Can he DO that?

    I concur with those who noted the publicity aspect. That quite taints Mr. Reyes’ pious religious assertions. Perhaps I’m naive, but can one simply show up at any random church rectory and request an immediate baptism? Or would prior arrangements be required? If so, were members of clergy aiding and abetting Mr. Reyes’ violation of the court order?

  7. I agree with Mike. If Catholicism was so important to the guy, then do not convert and marry. If you do, respect your promises to your spouse.

    There is no need to take this case to federal court. Everyone here should know that, under Article VI, Clause 2, “the Judges of every State shall be bound” by the Constitution as “the supreme Law of the Land.” Under clause 3, all state judges are bound by oath to support the Constitution. State courts can resolve constitutional issues, and they do so every day. The Supreme Court takes appeals from the final decisions of the state courts under Article III.

    If you go to the linked story, you will find that the wife’s lawyer compared the baptism to an assault. I would call it a battery, a physical contact without the knowledge or consent of the lawful custodial parent.

    He had no business doing this. It is just a self-serving, malicious publicity stunt to grab headlines. It is bad enough for parents to wage custodial divorce wars, but to put the beliefs of a child in play is despicable.

    Finally, Catholicism and Christianity did grow out of Judiasm, but the child has not been very nice to the parent down through the pages of history. Take a look at 2000 years of Christian anti-Semitism. When I was in Rome last year, friends took us to the old Jewish ghetto. They pointed out a church where the Popes had forced the Jewish residents to attend compulsory Christian sermons every Sunday for hundreds of years. The practice lasted until 1848.

  8. I’ll have to go with Vince Treacy on this one. My gut instinct tells me that this case is about machismo rather than religion. First, were Catholicism of critical importance to Mr. Reyes, he would not have converted to Judaism, even if it meant terminating his relationship with his now ex-wife prior to their marriage. Second, he would have arranged for the baptism of his daughter to take place without the knowledge of his ex-wife. The fact that he chose the publicize the entire event means that he was attempting to exercise control rather than freedom of religion. Finally, as Prof. Turley noted, Mr. Reyes’ knowledge of Catholicism, let alone Judaism, is laughable. Were he to bring a First Amendment claim, I would toss it out of court.

  9. Ah yes, the religious struggles of yesteryear. It is so yesterday. Oh ma gaa we are so beyond that as a modern society. Ok, maybe not.

  10. Because I intended to offend no one I just called the lady up, we are still friends. This is what she had to say, She said it means a Jewish women in terms of cultural identity, especially in areas with a lot of Jews. She does not consider it offensive and that she is comfortable in her heritage.

  11. Vince,

    I intended to offend no one. As a matter of fact, I first learned the word J.A.P. from her. So, if you are offended, I am sorry.

    I learned a lot of things as well as words from her as well. However, no offense was meant.

  12. From the story:

    “Her father decided to baptize his daughter without consulting his wife.

    “Joseph Reyes sent his wife pictures and an e-mail documenting the occasion. Rebecca Reyes responded by filing for the temporary restraining order, which the judge granted.

    “Stephen Lake, Rebecca Reyes’ attorney, said his client was shocked at her estranged husband’s actions.

    “’Number one, it wasn’t just a religious thing per se, it was the idea that he would suddenly, out of nowhere without any discussion … have the girl baptized,’ Lake said. She looked at it as basically an assault on her little girl.

    “Furthermore, Joseph Reyes had never been a particularly devout Christian, Lake added.

    “When the girl’s father took her to church again in violation of the order, he called the media to witness the event.”

    So.

    The guy only became religious when it became a weapon in the divorce war. Then HE CALLED THE MEDIA. He went on TV. He is a publicity seeking hypocrite.

    No one is infringing his constitutional freedom of religion. There is just a bona fide effort to enforce his own promise, taken voluntarily, to honor the freedom of religion of his wife and daughter.

  13. There is a historical analogy for this.

    Take a look the Papal States under Pius IX where he ruled central Italy until 1870. The Pope was the absolute temporal ruler, claiming direct political descent from the Caesars, on the basis of the Donation of Constantine, a proven forgery. He ruled alone, hindered by no council, legislature, or judiciary. He was also the absolute civil, military and spiritual leader, and had himself proclaimed infallible in faith and morals by the first Vatican Council. He issued the Syllabus of Errors denouncing, among many other things, religious freedom and the separation of church and state.

    He called the Jews of Rome “dogs,” saying there were too many in Rome, heard howling in the streets.

    One Jewish couple had their six-year old son kidnapped by the Pope’s agents in 1858, after a servant claimed to have baptized him secretly. Despite years of anguished protests, the Pope never relented in denying their basic human rights as parents, and had the child raised as a Catholic. He refused calls of Catholic heads of state like Emperor Franz Josef and Napoleon III to return the child to his parents.

    When American Jewish parents used to hire Catholic babysitters, they ran the hazard of having their infant secretly baptized by the sitter in the kitchen while they were out dining. The priests explained that it was wrong for them to do so, since it was a violation of the parents’ rights to raise their children in their own faith –BUT THAT IT WAS A VALID BAPTISM.

    That was superstition, not religion.

  14. Gyges,

    Just because this devout religion seeks to celebrate 365 days a year does not make them any less religious than the rest. Texas also has TBN and its lesser known victims. I will assure you Dallas is not the mecca for Southern Religion. It must be WACO closer to W’s real place where UFO’s are known to be……

  15. I never understood these sort of parental objections.

    If you don’t believe in the religion or their practices like baptism then why would you care if the person was baptized?

    If you don’t think it actually represents any reality then why would it bother someone? It seems like getting upset over your kid pretending to be a Prince or Princess. If its not real, why does it matter?

  16. I can see his argument is well founded in the fact that Catholicism is rooted in Jewish History and no where did the supposed founder ever renounce Judaism. It was supplemented in the esoteric beliefs of many mystic religions.

    The child will always be Jewish and raised as a Jew without further distinction. For a Judge to BAR someone from the faith that they practice endorses a religion. Therefore, I believe that this is an issue that is ripe for the Federal Court rather than appeal the order to a higher state court.

    I would take this out as quick as possible to prevent any more excessive government entanglement. ie endorsing a particular branch of faith over another. However, if you look at this in the big picture once a divorce is granted or a temporary order, involving children then the Government takes control of your family and for what its worth you no longer have control.

    I can see where the man is coming from. I dated a J.A.P. many years ago and life has been so much more peaceful since we did not get married…..

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