Catholic Father, Jewish Mother Battle Over Daughter's Faith

There's a strong possibility a Chicago man could be jailed for defying a court order that temporarily barred him from taking his daughter to church.

Joseph Reyes, 35, went to court on Tuesday facing criminal charges. He pleaded not guilty.

The charges were brought by Reyes' estranged wife, Rebecca Reyes (formerly Shapiro), who is Jewish. Reyes, a law student, is Catholic.

When the couple married in 2004 Reyes agreed to convert to Judaism to make his in-laws – who would only accept him if he was Jewish – happy, as reported by ABC News. But he never stopped practicing Catholicism, he said.

The couple is now in divorce court and battling over what faith their now 3-year-old daughter, Ela, should be raised in.

In a petition for a temporary restraining order against Joseph taking their child to church, Rebecca claims they always agreed to raise Ela in the Jewish faith and "have done nothing other than to raise her in the Jewish faith." Joseph has denied the claims. He has also said that they did not attend Jewish services regularly – only on High Holy Days.

The motion for a restraining order was filed after Joseph sent her photos of Ela's baptism at Queen of Martyrs Catholic Church in Evergreen Park.

"It is not in Ela's best interests to be baptized and thrust into a religion outside of the Jewish faith," the motion states. It also argues that Ela and Rebecca will suffer "irreparable injury" if "inappropriate behavior such as baptizing the child outside her religion" and taking her to church continues.

In December, Judge Edward R. Jordan issued a court order, without hearing testimony, temporarily restraining the father from "exposing Ela Reyes to any other religion other than the Jewish religion" during his visitation.

In an appeal, Joseph's attorney, Joel Brodsky, argued that the order is not a preliminary injunction because there was no evidentiary hearing. He also made the case that there was no evidence of Ela suffering harm, confusion or distress from the baptism. The appeal was denied by the First District Appellate Court.

On Jan. 17, Joseph invited a media crew to record him taking his daughter to Holy Name Cathedral.

"I have been ordered by a judge not to expose my daughter to anything non-Judaism," Reyes told CBS2 News. "But I am taking her to hear the teachings of perhaps the most prominent Jewish Rabbi (Jesus Christ) in the history of this great planet of ours. I can't think of anything more Jewish than that."

He now faces up to six months in jail if found guilty of indirect criminal contempt of court.

Attorney Brodsky, who happens to be Jewish, contends, "My client should be allowed to take his daughter to church. In every way this is wrong. Freedom of religion is absolute and no judge should be able to interfere with that freedom."

In an interview with ABC News, Joseph Reyes said he simply wants to be a father to Ela. "[T]he only thing I want to do is be the dad that I am to my daughter. And Rebecca, I would think, would want that for her daughter, as well."

"[M]y daughter is my daughter too, and, as a result, I am entitled I think to share certain experiences with her."

Reyes is scheduled to be back in court on March 3.

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