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Nature of sacraments takes center stage in Pennsylvania custody battle
Custody battles are almost invariably messy, so be patient with this story. Jana Hicks grew up Catholic, but married David Hicks in a Presbyterian church. Eventually, the two started attending an evangelical church, then an Assemblies of God congregation. In 1998, David and Jana split, but by then they had a daughter (identified only by the initial "M" in court documents). Custody was shared, with David Hicks getting the girl three out of four weekends. Most weekends, M went to First Assembly of God in Hermitage, Pennsylvania. That fourth weekend, it was off to a Roman Catholic parish with her mom, Jana.

In 2001, Jana and M started attending St. Sergious Russian Orthodox Church in Parma, Ohio. Last year, Jana decided to remarry, this time to a Russian Orthodox man. And she wanted M to be baptized in that church. But David opposed the baptism.

"This will be now the third religion introduced into [M's] life, and her being baptized in the Orthodox Church, ummm, I oppose that," David explained. "I don't think that that should happen at this time. I think she should grow up, and at her age, when she's old enough, she can make her own decision."

The Court of Common Pleas of Mercer County, Pennsylvania, agreed.

"Substantial harm would be caused to M.H. should [Jana Hicks] be permitted to have her baptized in the Russian Orthodox faith at this time," Judge Thomas R. Dobson ruled in June. "The harm would come from the significant increase in the level of stress." He continued:

While each party tolerates the other's religious choice, it is evident that each believes their chosen religion is the only true religion. The choice of which religion to have their daughter ...
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February 2005

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