Star Tribune, October 23, 1998

Court rejects religion as defense in child-abuse case

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Muslim who whipped his son to discipline him cannot expect the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom to keep him from losing custody of the child, an appellate court says.

The ruling Thursday by the 4th District Court of Appeals upholds the removal of the boy from the man' s home.

The father could not show his religion requires the use of corporal punishment for discipline or that his beliefs were rooted in religion, the court ruled.

The man' s views on physical discipline are a matter of personal philosophy and are not entitled to First Amendment protection, the court wrote.

The boy, now 6, was placed under the protection of the Dane County Department of Human Services in June 1993.

He was in foster care from March 1993 until August 1997. While there, he was diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder and medication was prescribed.

His father was in prison at the time. After his release, he tried to get the boy returned to his home.

In August 1997, a Circuit Court judge ruled the boy could live with his father in Zion, Ill.

A few months later, however, the boy' s social workers sought to have him returned to foster care.

A social worker testified the boy had been whipped and smacked in the head by his father and had not been getting his medication.

The boy' s father told Circuit Judge C. William Foust he spanked his son as a form of discipline and said his religion favored using corporal punishment.

He also admitted discontinuing the boy' s medication.

The judge ruled it was in the boy' s best interest to be removed from the home.

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