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It's the Law in South Dakota: Convert to Islam, Lose Your Child
July 12, 2002 7:37 AM   Subscribe

It's the Law in South Dakota: Convert to Islam, Lose Your Child Citing a woman's conversion to Islam as a sign of "bizarre behavior" that made her unfit to be a mother, a South Dakota judge removed her 5-year old son Trevor and gave temporary custody of him to his grandparents. "My wife and I are very concerned about Trevor's safety," explained Conrad Rederth, the child's grandfather. "Trevor's mother has engaged in some bizarre behavior, including wearing Muslim garb and declaring herself a Muslim." (Via alt.muslim)
posted by laz-e-boy (63 comments total)

 
I say let the kid move to Egypt. Years from now he can come back to take flying lessons.
posted by Postroad at 7:47 AM on July 12, 2002


Why couldn't the judge just take away Trevor's passport, but leave him in custody of his mother? Converting to Islam and marrying a man in Egypt somehow makes her a bad mother?
posted by jennak at 7:57 AM on July 12, 2002


She said Mr. Rederth has been feeding her son pork, which is forbidden to Muslims, smoking around him and buying him firearms in an effort to spite her new religion.

What an asshole. I sure wouldn't want MY grandparents trying to decide what's right for me AND I surely wouldn't want my parents to decide things about my child. This is a sad situation and now that the court is involved, it's only going to get worse.
posted by ColdChef at 7:58 AM on July 12, 2002


Judge Rodney Steele of the 3rd Judicial Circuit ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on June 20, confiscating Trevor's passport and stating that "the only way to protect the child" is to prevent his mother from leaving the country with him.

Also, I'd like to say that Rodney Steele would be a great name for a porn star.
posted by ColdChef at 8:00 AM on July 12, 2002


Unless there's something else going on in this case -- the grandparents claim she has been unable to care for the child in the past -- I don't see how the judge can justify even the temporary removal of custody from the mother. Taking away the child's passport while this is resolved should be sufficient.
posted by rcade at 8:01 AM on July 12, 2002


Also, I'd like to say that Rodney Steele would be a great name for a porn star

[laughing] You are right about that one ;-)
posted by a3matrix at 8:03 AM on July 12, 2002


I love it how absentee dads (the biological father and the grandfather) come out of the woodwork in cases like these.
posted by mariko at 8:04 AM on July 12, 2002


ColdChef: It already is.
posted by rcade at 8:06 AM on July 12, 2002


Having only read what was printed in this article, I would say the judge in this case is completely out of line. In the U.S., the constitution grants us freedom of religion. It's not the judge's decision to make, what religion I can and cannot raise my child under. As for the other large question, the court can't tell me what country I can and can't take my children to, either. I have to wonder what kinds of things this mother has done in the past to make her unable to care for her child?

As for the other things, yes, that guy's an asshole, and yes, that would make a great porn name.
posted by schlaager at 8:08 AM on July 12, 2002


I love it how absentee dads (the biological father and the grandfather) come out of the woodwork in cases like these.

"He's my child and I have a responsibility to see how he's raised!"

"Umm...that's great, Richard, but howzabout footing up a little money every now and then."

"That ain't my responsibility."

Also, Dick Hill would be another pretty good porn name.
posted by ColdChef at 8:12 AM on July 12, 2002


As for the other large question, the court can't tell me what country I can and can't take my children to, either.

Why not? I'll bet hundreds of custody-related cases are brought into court where the non-custodial parent doesn't want a child taken from the U.S. to another country.
posted by rcade at 8:12 AM on July 12, 2002


I love it how absentee dads (the biological father and the grandfather) come out of the woodwork in cases like these.

And absentee mothers.

I say let the kid move to Egypt. Years from now he can come back to take flying lessons.

Are we just ignoring this kind of swill nowadays?
posted by adampsyche at 8:16 AM on July 12, 2002


yes. ignore the troll, the troll eventually learns he's wasting his time.

is the hope.
posted by Sapphireblue at 8:19 AM on July 12, 2002


adam - yes.

[on preview: damn - got beaten]
posted by zpousman at 8:22 AM on July 12, 2002


I feel like there is something more here. Why was she unfit before? What is her status now (job, mental status, housing status.) It didn't specifically say that it was Islam that concerned the judge, but it was more her taking the kid to Egypt (which isn't illegal either, but a little less objectionable than because she's Islamic.)

I don't know about you, but I never thought of South Dakota (or any of those flyover states) as very thoughtful, open minded, or tolerant. I'm not too shocked.
posted by aacheson at 8:24 AM on July 12, 2002


I say let the kid move to Egypt. Years from now he can come back to take flying lessons.
adampsyche: thats not swill, that's commonly know amongst the humor-endowed as a "quip". they can be quite a lot of fun once that nasty humor-deficiency is corrected.
posted by quonsar at 8:26 AM on July 12, 2002


"My wife and I are very concerned about Trevor's safety and well-being as Trevor's mother has engaged in some bizarre behavior, including wearing Muslim garb and declaring herself a Muslim," Conrad Rederth, the grandfather, stated in an affidavit.

Maybe she sincerely converted and has found a way to make a better life for her and her son. I hope she gets custody and the passport back.

People like this man make me sick.
posted by onhazier at 8:26 AM on July 12, 2002


I think we've all come to expect that sort of thing from Postroad. maybe if we ignore it, it will go away? yes?
posted by mcsweetie at 8:28 AM on July 12, 2002


Another article about this case here.
posted by laz-e-boy at 8:36 AM on July 12, 2002


lighten up! My view when not kidding around: let the mother and her child go wherever she wants to go and that is her choice and her responsibility. Sort of like having a circumscision when you are just born--parents decide and you are stuck with their choice.
posted by Postroad at 8:37 AM on July 12, 2002


I don't know about you, but I never thought of South Dakota (or any of those flyover states) as very thoughtful, open minded, or tolerant. I'm not too shocked.

That's the kind of smug stereotyping that I'd expect from someone who simply flies over without stopping to get to know any of us.
posted by MrBaliHai at 8:40 AM on July 12, 2002


thats not swill, that's commonly know amongst the humor-endowed as a "quip". they can be quite a lot of fun once that nasty humor-deficiency is corrected.

Har har. In light of recent posts, you can hardly tell, now can you?
posted by adampsyche at 8:43 AM on July 12, 2002


As to the story, I've forwarded it to a couple of legal defense groups in the hopes that she can get a competent lawyer. It seems to me that this is base religious discrimination, but as others have pointed out, we don't have the full story.

As to Postroad: It's pretty obvious at this point that Postroad is an irrational racist who won't go away. We can't do anything about him but ignore him. He'll come in and piss on any thread that has anything to do with Arabs, Muslims or the Middle East. He never contributes anything but hatred and vitriolic vomitous garbage. He's the MetaFilter anti-arab David Duke. It's just easier to ignore him than get worked up about it. I wish he'd get a freaking clue, but he won't...so we're stuck with him.

But boy howdy, I sure do wish there was an /ignore command, so I could just filter him out without seeing him spew all over every thread.
posted by dejah420 at 8:59 AM on July 12, 2002


The thing about this case that troubles me is that this can become a precednce for future cases in courts around the country.

Now, any mom/dad can take their spouse to court for converting to Islam and take away the custody. Anything that comes out of the court has long term consequences.

It is common practice for the courts to hold passports in order to avoid any adventours by the spouses. This next step is just biased, BS.

"I say let the kid move to Egypt. Years from now he can come back to take flying lessons."

Yeah, or we can let the kid stay here and in case its a boy, he can grow up to be just the kinda low life that his dad is.
posted by adnanbwp at 9:01 AM on July 12, 2002


Forgot to mention that the Muslims in that community have set up a bank account to help pay for the lady's legal problems.
posted by adnanbwp at 9:02 AM on July 12, 2002


Postroad is an irrational racist who won't go away.

He never contributes anything but hatred and vitriolic vomitous garbage.

Am I the only one who thinks Postroad is, for the most part, just having fun with us? He's a 70 year old man with a zealous interest in politics, but he doesn't strike me as someone who's full of hatred. I remember the day he joined MeFi, and to this day his posts still don't really bother me.

Sorry for the de-rail. I guess I susck at ignoring the 'troll'.
posted by Karl at 9:16 AM on July 12, 2002


I also suck at proofreading.
posted by Karl at 9:17 AM on July 12, 2002


The grandfather is buying firearms for a five-year-old?

I dunno... based on that alone I'd figure the kid's a lot safer with his mom...
posted by ook at 9:21 AM on July 12, 2002


Just to play devil's advocate here: what if the mother hadn't converted to Islam, but to something that might commonly be regarded as a "cult"? (I'm thinking Waco here, but that raises all sorts of historical issues.)
posted by riviera at 9:25 AM on July 12, 2002


what if the mother hadn't converted to Islam, but to something that might commonly be regarded as a "cult"? (I'm thinking Waco here, but that raises all sorts of historical issues.)

That would be easy, the government would shoot her and set the child on fire.
posted by thirteen at 9:39 AM on July 12, 2002


Now THAT'S a quip!
posted by rushmc at 9:47 AM on July 12, 2002


He's a 70 year old man with a zealous interest in... !!!!
posted by quonsar at 9:52 AM on July 12, 2002


This is not about religious discimination at all.

It is about putting some court-imposed delays on a woman who apparently has a history of mental illness and parental unfitness making some radical and precipitous decisions (marrying an Egyptian she met on the Internet and then converting) which could seriously impact the welfare of her child, by, among other things, removing him from his network of support from (potentially) more stable parents and subjecting him to a step-father in a foreign country with radically different rules about child discipline.

The combination of (a) the mother's mental illness and the and (b) the simultaenous introduction of a step-father (step-fathers are a constant source of child abuse and other problems) and removal from the influence / oversight of grandparents is something that any family court would regard with the greatest of concern and caution.
posted by MattD at 9:59 AM on July 12, 2002


quonsar: [this is good]
posted by RylandDotNet at 10:01 AM on July 12, 2002


I swear, someday I'm going to make a site called MetaFarkPile.
posted by RylandDotNet at 10:02 AM on July 12, 2002


Well, the boy was abandoned by his real father, so I can't imagine the stepfather being any worse. And the so-called "grandparents" abandoned their daughter as well. This is supposed to be a more stable environment for the child?

Mental illness (although she seems more stable than the rest of her family) or introduction of a stepfather are things that are quite common in American society and usually don't result in having a child taken away.
posted by laz-e-boy at 10:06 AM on July 12, 2002


So, the question boils down to: Is there something else going on here that we're not aware of?

Most courts - especially in the "flyover country" that aacheson seems to dislike but apparently has never visited - are very reluctant to remove a young child from the custody of the mother.

Or it could be a bigoted judge. Bad judges aren't exactly uncommon.
posted by hadashi at 10:20 AM on July 12, 2002


riviera -- No choice of religion or lifestyle, however loony the neighbors might think it is, should be in itself grounds for loss of custody. Because where do you draw the line? What's the difference between a "cult" and a "real" religion? I'd hazard a guess that most if not all established religions started out as something the neighbors would've considered the lunatic fringe. What if she'd joined the moonies? The scientologists? A vegan pagan hippie colony? So what? Who has the right to say any of those are nuttier than worshipping a cross, or believing an old book is the literal word of God?

Freedom of religion is like freedom of speech: means you have to allow the loonies to have their say too, and to raise their children within their belief system even if it differs from that of the neighbors -- so long as no laws are being broken. (So I guess I'm saying, in your hypothetical example, you couldn't take away her child on the grounds that she converted to Branch Davidianism -- but you could on the grounds that she started shooting at federal officers.)

(I'm of course not by any means saying I think Islam is "loony" -- no more or less so than any other religion is, anyway. If people want to believe in God or Allah or Elron or invisible superheroes from planet Lepton, it's their business. I just don't think the "cult" loophole can be fairly applied. This woman's family, and quite possibly the judge as well, would probably classify Islam as a "cult".)

There certainly seem to be other factors in this particular case -- none of the people involved seem like the sort I'd want at my dinner table -- but the mother's choice of religion, in and of itself, shouldn't be a factor in the case.
posted by ook at 10:34 AM on July 12, 2002


Keep in mind that the statement about the mother not being able to previously care for the child was made by the grandfather. This is the same man who abandoned her, as laz-e-boy pointed out. When I look at this and his statement calling her conversion to Islam "bizarre behavior", I have to say that comments from this man are suspect at best.

Individuals who need anti-depressants are not necessarily a threat to themselves or their children. Use of anti-depressants doesn't mean that they're abusing or neglecting their child. They're depressed and are hopefully seeking help or are under treatment for it. Depression is much more common than most people want to believe.
posted by onhazier at 10:37 AM on July 12, 2002


The court's principal responsibility is for the well-being of the child. Step-fathers and boyfriends are absolutely recognized as a significant threat to a child's well-being -- an amazingly high percentage of abuse is perpetrated by them.

Grandparents and non-custodial parents have an absolute right to insist upon a reasonable degree of transparency and continuing access to the child when a step-father or a boyfriend is introduced. Cutting off that access is prima facie evidence of a threat to the child's welfare.

Add to the mix the fact that the step-father intends to remove the child thousands of miles from any other family members and to a place where the law gives the mother no recourse against the step-father if he abuses the child -- and where, if she were to have another child, she would be essentially trapped, since she would have no custody rights whatever.

In weighing the facts and the best interests of the child, the judge should not make conversion, in itself, any kind of object of the decision. However, he would be very well within his rights to consider all evidence of radical change as part of a pattern of erratic behavior which might lead him to question the ability of the mother to continue to assure the child's best interests in Egypt.

And, of course, the fact that depressed people should be encouraged to seek treatment should not, in any way, keep a judge from make an assessment of fitness on the grounds of mental health condition. A depressed person under medication is still sicker than a person who doesn't require medication in the first place. (A judge would not permit a quadripeligic without home assistance to have cusotdy of a child, just because the quadripelic had a well-functioning wheel-chair and ramps throughout his house.)
posted by MattD at 11:01 AM on July 12, 2002


aacheson: I don't know about you, but I never thought of South Dakota (or any of those flyover states) as very thoughtful, open minded, or tolerant. I'm not too shocked.

MrBaliHai: That's the kind of smug stereotyping that I'd expect from someone who simply flies over without stopping to get to know any of us.

Well said, MrBaliHai. We're not as backwards as the rest of the country thinks.
posted by DakotaPaul at 11:11 AM on July 12, 2002


Step-fathers and boyfriends are absolutely recognized as a significant threat to a child's well-being -- an amazingly high percentage of abuse is perpetrated by them.

Children are not taken away from mothers simply because they remarry. Child abuse cannot be a factor if it has never happened. Is this the Department of Pre-Crime?

Grandparents and non-custodial parents have an absolute right to insist upon a reasonable degree of transparency and continuing access to the child when a step-father or a boyfriend is introduced. Cutting off that access is prima facie evidence of a threat to the child's welfare.

Both the grandparents and the father abandoned their own children. They cut off their own access and do not deserve the treatment that a proven parent would get.

Add to the mix the fact that the step-father intends to remove the child thousands of miles from any other family members and to a place where the law gives the mother no recourse against the step-father if he abuses the child -- and where, if she were to have another child, she would be essentially trapped, since she would have no custody rights whatever.

Subjective fear-mongering. Anyway, if this was the case, simply taking both the mother and child's passport would be sufficient, not removing the child altogether from the only parent who bothered to care for him.
posted by laz-e-boy at 11:32 AM on July 12, 2002


It's the law in South Dakota...

Sorry, laz-e-boy, there's no such law. You took one newspaper report of a judge's decision and insulted half a million people.

The second story provided some balance to the first. For those of you condemning either the woman or the grandparents, please note that most of the "facts" being thrown around are of the he-said/she-said variety. For every pork-eating, gun-totin' five-year-old, there's a clinically-depressed, religion-switchin' mama.

One thing that caught my attention was the name Rederth. I knew someone who had Anglicized the name Red Earth to Rederth, so I wonder if that's the case here. The second article mentions the fact that the family is from Flandreau, which has a large Sioux population. Anyone from one of those 'ota fly-over states so easily dismissed by the cosmopolitan aacheson (BTW, aacheson, did you know that there were 3 US candidates for the site of the UN: New York, San Francisco, and Rapid City, SD?) would recognize the anomaly of a Lakota Sioux converting to Islam. Such a conversion shouldn't raise objections, but it would raise eyebrows.
posted by joaquim at 12:06 PM on July 12, 2002


I don't know about you, but I never thought of South Dakota (or any of those flyover states) as very thoughtful, open minded, or tolerant. I'm not too shocked.

Ever hear of George McGovern?
posted by agaffin at 12:08 PM on July 12, 2002


A depressed person under medication is still sicker than a person who doesn't require medication in the first place. (A judge would not permit a quadripeligic without home assistance to have cusotdy of a child, just because the quadripelic had a well-functioning wheel-chair and ramps throughout his house.)

While the depressed person may be sicker than a perfectly healthy one; the depression may not be as debilitating as paralysis. How severe was the mother's depression? We don't know and shouldn't assume that she was even approaching the point neglecting or abusing her child much less that of psychosis. You might was well compare medicated depression to a diabetic on insulin or an asthmatic with inhalers. It's an illness that requires daily maintenance. It doesn't have to debilitating.
posted by onhazier at 12:10 PM on July 12, 2002


I love this place. Here's a story that suggests a good deal we're not getting (in my experience-- admittedly in New England only-- courts leave children with their mother unless faced with an incredible, immediate danger) but 90% of the posts are about the obvious bigotry.

Subjective fear-mongering. Anyway, if this was the case, simply taking both the mother and child's passport would be sufficient, not removing the child altogether from the only parent who bothered to care for him.

Right. Take away the passport because the mother's not the real danger, Egypt and Islam are. Maybe the judge didn't do that because he's more concerned with the mother's behavior, rather than the religion she converted to or her choice of residence.
posted by yerfatma at 12:19 PM on July 12, 2002


You might was well compare medicated depression to a diabetic on insulin or an asthmatic with inhalers.

I think you will find that depression is much more closely linked with the types of behavioral problems that might negatively impact parenting than diabetes is, so that's not a very useful analogy.

Basically, there simply are not enough facts presented for us to understand the situation. Which will not keep us from discussing it, of course.
posted by rushmc at 12:27 PM on July 12, 2002


Hoy vey, Sorry about insulting those in the flyover states. It's true, I've never been to South Dakota. My apologies to you all.

I guess I just stereotype middle america as less open minded and tolerant as those of us on the coasts. Compared to San Francisco and Berkeley (where I grew up) middle america looks a um.... uptight?

Put it this way, no judge in California would dare do such a thing. It would never happen. Perhaps that's what I meant.
posted by aacheson at 12:43 PM on July 12, 2002


courts leave children with their mother unless faced with an incredible, immediate danger

That is changing very quickly, thank god. I have physical custody of my son and am seeking to have my wife adopt him. Birth mother is MIA, but that was after I was awarded physical custody.
posted by adampsyche at 12:47 PM on July 12, 2002


Sorry about the South Dakota slight. My father-in-law is moving to South Dakota, so I'll have many chances to meet y'all up close and personal.
posted by laz-e-boy at 1:00 PM on July 12, 2002


That is changing very quickly, thank god.

I didn't mean to imply I agreed with it.
posted by yerfatma at 1:03 PM on July 12, 2002


I think this line:
Mrs. Barakat took medication to treat depression and anxiety for three years until last August. She met Mr. Barakat on the Internet and then in Cairo in September.

Seems the most intriguing. She just met a guy face to face in Sept and converted and married him 2 months later? There's much more to this case than what is presented and being argued here. I kinda agree with the judge I think I would be afraid of the mother taking the child to Egypt and outside the pull of the US. court system before this whole mess can be settled.

I sincerely don't believe this is a thing against other religions I believe it's the families concern for her sudden conversion, leaving the country, etc. That raises this case.
posted by bitdamaged at 1:05 PM on July 12, 2002


And AA you are right and wrong about "this happening in CA" It really depends on why the judge made his decision (and I'm of the opinion it wasn't the choice of religion).
posted by bitdamaged at 1:11 PM on July 12, 2002


Put it this way, no judge in California would dare do such a thing. It would never happen.

Of course a San Fran judge would have no qualms about a child living with Moon Dweezil, his communal hippie dope-smoking "earth father". :) I think the coasts (especially SF/Berkeley) can be just as wacky as the bible-ers in Flyover Land.
posted by owillis at 1:26 PM on July 12, 2002


AAcheson -- this kind of decision happens all the time in California. California law is quite permissive in terms of giving judges leeway to second guess parents who seem to be going off the far end, and California judges are quite aggressive in using this leeway (Probably a legacy of the hippy / Jim Jones era.)

And California, like all other states, is very, very reluctant to permit a bona fide child-welfare case to made moot by allowing a parent to take the child to a place (Egypt, for example) where determinations of US family courst and principals of US family law are given no weight.

I suspect that this case will result in the child being permitted to move to Egypt, but only after hearings establishing (a) that there is no strong relationship between grandparents and father, on the one hand, and the child, on the other, (b) that the mother has given full and reasonable consderation to her marriage, conversion, and move to Egypt, including, among other things, full consideration of the legal status in Egypt, vis-a-vis their husbands and their children, of American women married to Egyptian men, and (c) that the Egyptian husband has no history of child abuse, no other wives, etc., or anything else that would make a home he controls unsuitable for the child.
posted by MattD at 1:26 PM on July 12, 2002


The thing I can't really get over is the fact that the grandfather complaining about this NEVER took care of her, and the biological father of the child never took care of the child. Not one, but TWO examples of asshole fathers. It would take a very, very serious problem with the mother for things to be worse than with those two guys - to me, they've lost any right at all they have to claim anything whatsoever about family. Now if this huge missing X-factor about the mother does exist, how can the news article leave it out when it is so important? Our media machine can't suck that much, can it?
posted by swank6 at 1:37 PM on July 12, 2002


Take away the passport because the mother's not the real danger, Egypt and Islam are.

No -- you take away the passport because they could leave the country with the child and never come back, giving the court no chance to resolve the matter in a way that's in the best interest of the child.
posted by rcade at 1:58 PM on July 12, 2002


Exactly. This is only temporary custody after all, and the mother is clearly a flight risk, as they say.

bitdamaged: Unfortunately, I've known people who meet someone on the internet and rearrange their entire lives to be with them. Nine to eighteen months later, they're trying to arrange it back.

For the record, not all marriages of Western women to Egyptian men end badly, especially if they end up in urbane "Alex". The situation has tended to be somewhat more problematic in Saudi Arabia, and though Egypt is more moderate in general, Islamic Family Law still applies and US citizens will not have all the protections they have here. I can't find, now, the State Department warning to women marrying Saudis (that they took off their site after CAIR objected, bless their pointy little heads).

Of course, things look different when you look through the big end of the telescope.
posted by dhartung at 3:07 PM on July 12, 2002


Of course a San Fran judge would have no qualms about a child living with Moon Dweezil, his communal hippie dope-smoking "earth father". :)

Now that you mention it, that sounds a heck of a lot better than the depressed mom or the gun-totin' grandpa.

Give the kid to Dweezil!
posted by ook at 3:35 PM on July 12, 2002


dhartung, my point exactly ;)
posted by bitdamaged at 6:11 PM on July 12, 2002


Have patience with South Dakota Social Services --- several years ago they stripped custody from a mother and instead granted it to the father. Several years later the man burned his house down, daughter included, in an attempt to cover his manufacture of child pornography with his daughter.

Google 'Larry Froistad' for more.
posted by nathan_teske at 10:17 AM on July 13, 2002


"taking Trevor to *** to live with a man she hardly knows"

Oh yes, this is consdiered strange behavior in trailer park circles...
posted by Zurishaddai at 11:25 PM on July 16, 2002


Follow-up: The woman has regained custody of her child with the stipulation that she can't leave South Dakota until working out a visitation arrangement with her in-laws.
posted by rcade at 6:42 AM on July 23, 2002


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