A B.C. couple whose religious views are too extreme even for churches and pastors and put them at odds with family, doctors, social workers and anyone else trying to help them with their daughter, have lost their battle for custody of her.
The unusual child custody trial featured the couple speaking in tongues to a stuffed animal they said transmitted the word of God directly to them and refusing legal assistance because Jesus Christ — through the stuffed lion — was their lawyer, witness and judge.
In November, when the girl was one, the Provincial Court of British Columbia formally declared she was in need of protection and placed her in provincial custody, a decision the parents appealed to the B.C. Supreme Court. The parents claimed the judge violated their Charter rights, discriminated against them as Christians and made procedural errors.
Both parents were raised in Christian homes, she in Ontario and he in B.C., but strayed from their roots until reconnecting with their beliefs as adults. They met in 2014 and shared a mutual interest in their own emerging view of the Christian faith and were privately married a year later, court heard.
They are not named to protect the identity of the child.
They had unstable working and living arrangements, moving around various communities in B.C., court heard. Their views started interfering with their relationships with others, including Christian communities. Several churches banned them and even called police for assistance when the couple set out to “purge churches of evil influences,” according to court records.
At one point, after the birth of their child, they were criminally charged with causing a disturbance after police were called to a church in West Kelowna where the parents were trying to cleanse demonic influences, court heard.
“It appears that, due to their strong religious beliefs, they are intolerant of those who do not espouse identical views. This includes other Christians,” Justice Diane MacDonald wrote in her ruling, released this week.
After the woman found she was pregnant, she told a social worker her husband sometimes choked her to make her stop crying, had once tied her hands and covered her mouth with tape, which scared her, and occasionally beat her, court heard.
She told the worker her husband grew up in a cult and believes sexual relations between children should be encouraged and that they “role-play” sins where she plays the victim and he plays the perpetrator, court heard.
When interviewed by police about the allegations, she denied them. Her husband said that once, when he was frustrated with her and had had a few drinks, he put one hand over her throat and the other over her mouth.
This led to a complaint to the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
It appears that, due to their strong religious beliefs, they are intolerant of those who do not espouse identical views. This includes other Christians
After the birth of their daughter, the parents refused all medical tests and procedures for her, including a hearing test, blood test, eye drops and a vitamin K shot. The mother also said she was unwilling to have her vaccinated.
Because of concerns over family violence and mental health, the ministry monitored the family. The couple refused to have parental capacity assessments, despite a court order.
A month after the girl’s birth, she was removed from the home and the parents continued to have supervised access.
The mother applied to change her daughter’s name to Jesus JoyoftheLord and her own first name to Risen Lord Jesus, her middle name to Refinersfire and her last name to Christ (with a hyphenation including her real name.)
When their child custody case came to court, the couple refused legal aid.
They said they had legal help, however, which came in the formed of a stuffed lion. During trial, the couple spoke to the lion in non-discernible words, presented as “speaking in tongues,” and said that through the lion they heard directly from God.
They said Jesus Christ was their “lawyer, witness and judge.”
When they cross-examined witnesses, they told each witness that their lawyer Jesus was asking the questions through them.
In the end, the judge did not find them to be credible and ruled in favour of the ministry and placed the baby in continuing care. The parents appealed that decision, claiming it infringed on their religious freedoms “as Christian parents.”
“The parents obviously love their child and wish to raise her in their home with their Christian values,” she wrote. “It is clear that there was sufficient evidence before the trial judge to allow him to come to the conclusion that a continuing custody order was warranted in the circumstances,” MacDonald wrote.
She said the decision was not based on religious beliefs but on evidence of domestic violence; ignoring health care recommendations; concerns for the mother’s mental health; and their inability to work with those who could support them in parenting, including their own family, a maternity clinic, public health nurse, doctors, social workers, churches, Christian families and legal representatives.
A continuing care order can lead to placing a child for adoption.