Which case won?

casea
The case for the father
  • My daughter is currently attending a school whose entire construct is religious instruction. Her exposure to religious beliefs at the school is more akin to indoctrination than instruction.
  • My daughter’s life is currently saturated with Christianity. I don’t object to her receiving religious instruction, but I feel she receives sufficient instruction from her mother at home and by attending church with her mother on Sundays.
  • If my daughter attends a public school, she will be exposed to a greater diversity of beliefs and practices, which would be to her benefit.
  • My secular beliefs are just as valid as the religious beliefs of my daughter’s mother. There has to be sufficient space in my daughter’s life for her to be instructed by me about my secular morals and values. This is not possible while my daughter is wholly insulated in a religious environment.
  • I cannot afford to pay the fees of my daughter’s current school as I am unemployed. Having our daughter attend a public school is an obvious and practical choice.
caseb
The case for the mother
  • I am a devout Christian and it is important to me that my daughter attends a school which upholds the same values.
  • It is important for my daughter to receive religious instruction, given that I hold such deep convictions and I share parental responsibility for her.
  • By attending a Christian school, my daughter can be nurtured in a holistic environment where her spirit and soul are nourished and not just her academic needs addressed.
  • My daughter has been making excellent progress at her current school and she should continue to attend it.

So, which case won?

Cast your judgment below to find out
Case A Case B

Case A won. You were right!

How people voted
a63%
b37%

Expert commentary on the court's decision

“The court underlined the fact that it was just as important for the child to receive instruction from the father about his values and beliefs as it was for her to receive religious instruction in accordance with her mother’s beliefs.”
Family Court finds in favour of father

In the case Bilz & Breugelman [2013] FamCA 578, the Family Court agreed with most of the father’s arguments. The judge declared that the child should be withdrawn from the Christian school she was attending and instead enrolled in a public school in close proximity to the mother’s residence.

This was only a partial victory for the father, who had wanted his daughter to attend a public school which was equidistant from his residence and the mother’s residence.

The court noted that ordinarily it is in a child’s best interests to attend a school close to his or her residence. Since the court orders specified that the child was to spend ten nights per fortnight living with her mother, it followed that she should attend the public school closest to her mother’s house.

Maintaining friendships with local children an important aspect of socialisation

The court took into account the fact that the children of the mother’s neighbours attended the same public school. This meant that if the child attended that school, she would do so in company with children from her immediate neighbourhood.

It was the view of the family consultant who was cross-examined by the court that maintaining friendships with children who live locally could be an important aspect of the little girl’s socialisation.

School fees could cause financial pressure and lead to further conflict

The court highlighted a number of reasons for its decision that the child should be withdrawn from the Christian school and enrolled in the local public school.

One practical consideration was that as both parents were unemployed, they did not have the resources to pay the fees charged by the Christian school. The court pointed out that financial pressure could lead to further disharmony between the parents, who already had a long history of conflict.

Father’s values and beliefs as important as mother’s religious convictions

Equally important was the desirability of the child having some respite from constant instruction in devout Christianity. The court recognised the need for the father to be afforded a reasonably equivalent opportunity to teach his daughter his own secular values.

In reaching this conclusion, the court underlined the fact that since the parents had equal shared parental responsibility for the child, it was just as important for the child to receive instruction from the father about his values and beliefs as it was for her to receive religious instruction in accordance with her mother’s beliefs.

Family Court is impartial in questions of faith

Anyone involved in proceedings in the Family Court should bear in mind that the court does not discriminate between belief systems. The court will remain impartial on questions of faith and will not regard a particular world view as inherently superior merely because it has a religious foundation.

Devout followers of any religion may find this a difficult truth to swallow.

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