August 24, 2012
A judge in Britain recently ruled that a 10-year-old girl may be baptized into the Anglican Church.
The ruling has sparked angst and even outrage among some Jews, including a number of rabbis as well as, reportedly, all four of the girl’s grandparents. And it also provides telling commentary on the animosity that seems to be felt toward Christianity on the part of some Jews.
“In Judaism we don’t encourage conversion either way as it is unnatural for a person to change the religion they are born into and which this us ingrained in their soul in a deep way,” said Chabad Rabbi Odom Brandman, who made his views known to the court.
According to The Telegraph, Judge John Platt, of the Romford County Court in Essex, was “scathing about these claims” denouncing them rendered in “inflammatory terms without any supporting evidence.”
Also it doesn’t appear as if “C” was pressured or coerced into undergoing baptism, as some of the detractors are claiming. On the contrary, she reportedly “experienced an encounter with God” after attending a Christian festival and even went behind the father’s back to talk to a Sunday school teacher about being baptized.
It is true that he converted to Christianity after his marriage came to an end in 2010 and that he began taking his daughter to church at that time. But supposedly the family had never been strictly observant Jews, and the wife didn’t seem too perturbed at the time. Oddly it was only the girl’s expressed desire to become baptized that prompted the court case.
The case of the Jewish girl who decided she wanted to be baptized cannot have escaped readers' notice. Both parents and grandparents were Jewish, although the child had had little Jewish education.The divorced couple shared the care of their daughter, from one week to the next. The father converted to Christianity and, after returning from a Christian festival, the daughter told the mother she wished to be baptized.In response, the mother applied for a court order forbidding the father from arranging the baptism. But after a succession of hearings, a judge ruled against her.
“Jewish law maintains that any child under bar-or batmitzvah is not considered intellectually mature enough to make decisions on even the simple things in life, let alone such drastic, life-altering changes. It is utterly tragic when a Jewish girl is having the core of her identity stripped from her.”
“I am absolutely appalled,” he said. “It seems to me that the father is either wittingly or unwittingly using her as a pawn. The community should do everything it can to overturn this ruling.”
But the ruling is actually non-binding. It doesn’t mean the baptism must go ahead. It only means the mother can’t block it. The judge’s entire ruling in the matter can be found here. Posted along with the ruling is a personal letter to “C” written by Judge Platt:
It must seem rather strange for me to write to you when we have never met but I have heard a lot about you from your parents and it has been my job to make an important decision about your future.
Sometimes parents simply cannot agree on what is best for their child but they can't both be right. Your father thinks it is right for you to be baptized as a Christian now. Your mother wants you to wait until you are older so they have asked me to decide for them. That is my job.
I have listened to everything your mother and father have wanted to say to me about this and also to what you wanted to tell me. You have done that by speaking to the Cafcass lady and she has passed on to me what you said to her. That has made my job much easier and I want to thank you for telling me so clearly why you want to be baptized now. It is important for me to know how you feel.
My job is to decide simply what is best for you and I have decided that the best thing for you is that you are allowed to start your baptism classes as soon as they can be arranged and that you are baptized as a Christian as soon as your Minister feels you are ready.
Being baptized does not mean that you give up your Jewish heritage. That will always be part of you and I hope that you will continue to learn more about that heritage and about your mother's faith. Even after you are baptized you are still free to change your mind about your faith later when you are older. Finally, and this is the most important thing, both your mother and father will carry on loving you just as much whatever happens about your baptism.
I understand that the past few months have been a difficult time for you but that is over now and the decision is made. I send you my very best wishes for the future.
Judge John Platt