Child custody cases are often not pretty, they can be emotional heart-breaking affairs. But it is even worse when your religious and social choices are used against you in a custody battle. Last year a divorced Wiccan couple were ordered to not teach their child Wicca after a judge decided they might “confuse” the child in a harmful manner. The ruling was struck down, and many were hoping this was an isolated incident. But it looks like it is happening again.
Rachel Bevilacqua (an active SubGenius known as “Rev. Magdalen”) had her son, Kohl removed from her custody and was barred from even writing to her child due to her bawdy and satirically blasphemous participation in Subgenius festivals (at which the son was never present). Not only was the son never present at these adult-oriented festivals, but she has been barred since 2000 from “exposing” her son to any information or activities related to the Church of the SubGenius.
For those not clear on who or what the Church of The SubGenius is, the group is a parody religion (or a religion of parody) formed by a loose assortment of artists, freaks, ex-hippies, and free-thinkers. The church delights in blasphemy, sex, and outsider art. The group has spawned a nationally syndicated radio show, has published several books, and has been championed by artists like Devo and R. Crumb. It is considered by many to be a syncretic offshoot of Discordianism (AKA Eris worship).
At the last custody hearing Judge James Punch (an outspoken Catholic) not only allowed the irrelevant photo evidence (of which the child was never involved) into the court hearing but then obviously lost all sense of justice and balance in the proceedings.
“His Honor also strongly disapproved of the photos of Rachel Bevilacqua in a bondage dress and papier mache goat’s head. The judge repeatedly asked, “Why a goat? What’s so significant about a goat’s head?” When Rachel replied, “I just thought the word ‘goat’ was funny,” Judge Punch lost his temper completely, and began to shout abuse at Rachel, calling her a “pervert,” “mentally ill,” “lying,” and a participant in “sex orgies.” The judge ordered that Rachel is to have absolutely no contact with her son, not even in writing, because he felt the pictures of X-Day performance art were evidence enough to suspect “severe mental illness”. Rachel has had no contact with Kohl since that day, February 3, 2006.”
Church of The SubGenius founder Rev. Ivan Stang has weighed in on the issue on his blog.
“For Magdalen (Rachel) and Jesus (Steve), a parent’s NEXT-TO-WORST NIGHTMARE is taking place in real life, and one reason this injustice is happening is due to, not the Church of the SubGenius, but dumbass misunderstandings of it (and probably pretty much everything else Slackful). Also, if you ask me, on a monstrous misunderstanding of what “freedom” in America is supposed to mean.”
Currently the ACLU is looking into the case and the church is trying to raise money for the substantial court costs this case will accrue. One can only hope that this mockery of justice will be struck down as well, and that people who don’t adhere to the dominant religious paradigm won’t be treated as second-class citizens in our country.