Eugene Volokh (somewhat) recently made a series of posts on the use of beliefs and speech as criteria in child custody trials which I found interesting.
In "Want Custody of Your Quarter-Korean Seven-Year-Old? Better Enroll Her in Martial Arts Class", Eugene criticizes the implicit use of "connection to ethnic heritage" as a criteria, and subsequently addresses whether judicial discussion of facts are an endorsement of their relevance.
The case where a mother's open paganism was treated as one of the reasons to deny her custody is followed by a hypothetical in which the discrimination is against Christianity: "To Those Who Defend Family Court Decisions That Discriminate Based on Parents' Religion".
Eugene then posts about an actual case related to his previous hypothetical: "Make Sure That There Is Nothing in the Religious Upbringing or Teaching That the Minor Child Is Exposed to That Can Be Considered Homophobic":
A Christian mother is appealing a judge's decision that prohibits her from teaching her daughter that homosexuality is wrong.That order was reversed on appeal with the caveat that it could be reimposed if "the child's emotional development [would be] significantly impaired". The post ends by considering racist beliefs and speech.
Cheryl Clark, who left a lesbian relationship in 2000 after converting to Christianity, was ordered by Denver County Circuit Judge John Coughlin to "make sure that there is nothing in the religious upbringing or teaching that the minor child is exposed to that can be considered homophobic."
Eugene summarizes his position in Child Custody Decisions and the Constitution, and provides greater detail in his May 2006 NYU article: "Parent-Child Speech And Child Custody Speech Restrictions (pdf)", part of which he condensed into a blog post: Why Parents in Split Families Shouldn't Lose Their First Amendment Rights To Talk to Their Children.
As I understand it, Eugene argues that Constitutionally protected speech and beliefs should not be considered in custody battles, and that there is not sufficient cause to treat a split family differently in that regard than one that is intact. He admits that cases exist where this may be less than ideal for the child, but argues that, as in some non-custody cases, maintaining our freedoms is worth that risk, and that serious and imminent harm to the child can still be avoided.
There's a lot of material there (including some interesting comments) and I certainly don't expect you to wade through it all (I haven't), but I'm curious what your thoughts are regarding court judgements on better or worse speech, beliefs, religions, and even sexual behavior, as it relates to child rearing, morality training, and custody battles.
To me, these criteria can be relevant, but the variability in our culture makes me wonder whether judges should be trusted to employ them at their own discretion, or even whether it would be feasible or Constitutional to compromise and codify some agreeable framework for judicial use.
What do you think?
Update (Aug 21): Eugene continues with: Wife's "Anti-American Sentiments" (and Perhaps Anti-Semitic Sentiments), which considers a custody case involving a wife's Muslim extremism. He also refers back to a previous post about a judge who gave an order prohibiting a paroled father from discussing with his child any issues pertaining to his religion: Parent-Child Jihadist Speech.