A British judge has permitted a 10-year-old Jewish girl to convert to Christianity despite her mother’s opposition.
The decision comes after the girl’s mother applied for a court order in November 2011 to prevent her ex-husband from having the girl baptized until she turns 16. The mother claimed the girl had been “brainwashed” and was too young to convert out of her faith.
The parents, both of whom were Jewish at the time of the girl’s birth, divorced in 2010. They had agreed on a custody arrangement for the girl – identified as C by the court – and her younger brother. Not long after the divorce though, the father converted to Christianity.
Judge John Platt, in a letter to the girl last week, wrote: “Sometimes parents simply cannot agree on what is best for their child, but they can’t both be right. Your father thinks it is right for you to be baptised as a Christian now. Your mother wants you to wait until you are older so they have asked me to decide for them. That is my job.”
The judge continued by thanking the girl for “telling me so clearly why you want to be baptised now…It is important for me to know how you feel.”
The judge outlined both parents’ positions, saying that the mother believes C is too young to make such a momentous decision and that it should wait until C turns 16. In opposition, C’s father’s claimed that he does not intend to negate his children’s “Jewish heritage and culture.”
Giving his decision, Judge Platt wrote: “My job is to decide simply what is best for you and I have decided that the best thing for you is that you are allowed to start your baptism classes as soon as they can be arranged and that you are baptised as a Christian as soon as your minister feels you are ready.”
Still, he said, “Being baptized does not mean that you give up your Jewish heritage. That will always be part of you and I hope that you will continue to learn more about that heritage and about your mother’s faith. Even after you are baptized you are still free to change your mind about your faith later when you are older.”
Regarding confirmation, which is considered to be the ratification of the covenant initiated by the baptism ritual, the judge wrote: “In the light of her Jewish heritage, I would consider it appropriate that she should attain a much fuller degree of understanding and greater maturity before being confirmed and I therefore propose that she should not be confirmed before her 16th birthday without the consent of the mother.”
The court considered a written submission from Odom Brandman, a Chabad rabbi, who was quoted by the London Jewish Chronicle as saying that “It is unfair to any child to put them under this pressure and to do something unnatural to their soul.”
The Judge’s letter to the child was reproduced as the written judgment of the case.
JTA content was used in this report.