Want to send your child to Christian School and your ex-spouse disputes?

In an interesting case out of Nevada, the Nevada Supreme entered the realm of parenting disputes involving Christian schools. The facts were basically these:

Melissa Arcella wanted her 12-year-old daughter, identified in court documents as RA, to attend public school, while the girl’s father, Matthew Arcella, wanted her to attend Faith Lutheran, a private religious school.

The parties shared joint legal and physical custody of the child. The mother objected to Faith Lutheran because of religious objections.

The trial court, according to the father, demonstrated “unconstitutional hostility to private religious education.” The Nevada Supreme Court agreed.

When a district court decides a child’s best interest, “[t]he First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.” … The district court violates this principle of neutrality when it treats one parent’s religious objection as dispositive when deciding between a religious school and a nonreligious school….

In sum, a district court does not violate the First or Fourteenth Amendments by ordering a child to attend a religious school over a parent’s religious objection. Indeed, the district court must order a child to attend the religious school if attendance at that school accords with the child’s best interests.

Here is the full opinion.

As in Alabama, in disputes over custody and everything in between, the best interest of the child controls. Here, the court allowed a religious objection dictate the outcome of the question. Other factors, including expense, should have been considered.