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drug possession charges, chapter 13 bankruptcy, public intoxication, divorce proceedings

No Pagan Parents Allowed (A "Paganalia" Exclusive Report)

Author: Dian Firebearer Mueller

Dian Firebearer Mueller is a facilitator of the Burlington UU Circle (BUUC) chapter of CUUPS in Vermont. This is an excerpt from the July edition of "Paganalia" news digest, published in abridged form in BUUC's moonly newsletter, _Green Mountain Circle Works_, available by subscription for $18/print, $9/zipped ascii email (which includes the unabridged column). An abridged quarterly version appears in _Connections_ quarterly.

This article may be reprinted so long as an approved version of this notice is included and e-mail versions and Website urls are cc'd to Firebearer@aol.com and print versions are sent to: BUUC, POB 221, Burlington, VT 05402. Please seek approval of any editing before publication, and pay your usual freelance fees to the author.

You be the judge: A Pagan woman who works as a Chapter 13 bankruptcy
assistant for a law firm wants to regain custody of her 9-year-old son. Her
ex-husband is in jail on a $700,000 bond for solicitation of capital murder
of his second ex-wife. Seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it? Well, Judge
Philip Warner in Houston, TX, summarily denied Erin Echels Scott continued
temporary sole conservatorship on Apr 10.

The lawyer for Donald Chachere, Jr, argued that "whatever charges" were
leveled against his client didn't automatically make Scott the logical choice
for custodian. He didn't contest Scott's assertions that she took advantage
of every possible visitation allowed, kept well informed of his welfare, and
that her son gets along well with his younger half-sister. Instead, he
focused on her religion, and on seven-year-old drug possession charges. Scott
alleges that Chachere framed her during the divorce proceedings and that
statements to the arresting officer in his current case confirm his
involvement.

"You practice a type of witchcraft; isn't that correct?" Chachere's attorney
asked. "I practice a form of Paganism," Scott replied. "And part of your
[original divorce] decree says ... 'Each parent ... has ... [t]he right to
have ... direct moral and religious training of the child, excepting
witchcraft'; isn't that correct?"

Scott confirmed the religious discrimination of the original decree, which
set Chachare's counsel up for questions about a note her son had written in
school that referenced "celtic authority." This, he surmised, was evidence
that the boy was learning about "pagan worship." When Scott tried to contend
that it more likely had to do with Celtic history, the judge ruled her answer
"nonresponsive."

Examination of Scott's current husband did not touch at all on his
relationship with Scott's son, but a great deal of attention was paid to old
charges of DWI and public intoxication. Even Scott's attorney didn't focus on
his parenting ability, and during his testimony, the judge asked whether he
practiced Paganism. When he answered "no," the judge asked him to step down.

Likewise, when Chachere's sister, to whom Chachere gave custody, took the
stand, she was questioned about whether she attended church regularly, going
so far as to inquire about her plans for Easter Sunday. Her assertion that
she provided a "loving environment" for her nephew apparently had more weight
than the representation by Scott's attorney that she would provide "a stable
environment for the child irrespective of [her] personal religious
philosophy." It probably didn't help matters that this comment was prefaced
by remarks that "this Court and society has certain beliefs about religion,"
which he did not then argue were unconstitutional intrusions into a child
custody case.

After taking recess "for a moment or two," Judge Warner denied the temporary
orders.

"There is NO other reason for this other than my religion of Paganism," Scott
argues. Although the TX Pagan Awareness League acted as a liaison between
Scott and the ACLU, as we went to press, the civil rights group had still not
decided to intervene. The boy, now 10, has exerted his right to declare his
custodial preference for his mother; a final hearing is pending. {AREN;
Harris Co. Cause No. 94-02949; Scott}

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