The Age (Melbourne)The dispute played out in the Federal Magistrates Court in Melbourne where the separated parents, known as Mr and Mrs Macri, asked the court to determine the religious future of their children: a 10-year-old and eight year-old twins.
7 July 2010
Siblings given religious freedom of choice
By Bellinda Kontominas
A father has won the right to stop his children from taking part in Jewish coming-of-age ceremonies, after a court agreed with the man that they should be able to make their own religious choices.
The mother wanted her children to participate in their bar and bat mitzvahs - ceremonies that mark the beginning of boys and girls taking responsibility for their Jewish faith.
But the father, a Catholic who irregularly attends church, wanted them to choose their own religion in a "voluntary and informed" way when they were old enough.
The dispute played out in the Federal Magistrates Court in Melbourne where the separated parents, known as Mr and Mrs Macri, asked the court to determine the religious future of their children: a 10-year-old and eight year-old twins.
Mr Macri, 44, did not oppose his children observing Jewish holidays and events. The children had undergone some classes in Hebrew, but the lessons had lapsed at their request. In accordance with traditional Jewish practice, the son had undergone circumcision.
Mrs Macri had enrolled the children in a religious youth group for two hours each Sunday. But Mr Macri was concerned this had "an element of political content" and wished for them not to attend.
He also asked for an injunction, stopping Mrs Macri from committing their children to the Jewish faith through the bar and bat mizvah ceremonies until they were older. Jewish girls usually undergo bat mitzvah aged 12, while boys have their bar mitzvah at aged 13.
Federal magistrate Terry McGuire allowed the mother to take the children to the youth group but ordered her not to let her children participate in the ceremonies until they made the choice or their father agreed to it.
"Australia is a multicultural and secular society," Mr McGuire said. "These children are fortunate in that they have the opportunity to directly experience the culture and traditions of the religions practised by each of their parents."
Mr Macri had not pitted one religion against the other but had wanted his children to participate in the culture and traditions of both religions without committing to either at this stage, he said.
In contrast, Mrs Macri wanted to commit the children to Judaism immediately.
He said there was no evidence that deferring the decision would later stop the children choosing to enter the Jewish religion.