Exploring Different Points of View

Yesterday, I stumbled across a blog post entitled Religious Persecution in Modern Day America?. The post wrote about a

“10 year old home-schooled girl named Amanda Kurowski who was ordered by the New Hampshire court to attend regular school because of her "vigorous Christian faith." According to a recent WorldNetDaily report, a court official said Amanda "appeared to reflect her mother's ridigidity [sic] on questions of faith"

I added a comment to the blog post saying:

While I agree with your concerns about the specific case you mention, you need to be careful about confusing between an errant judge in the State of New Hampshire and 'the New Hampshire Court' or 'America'.

You must remember that the Judge in the case is a fallen person, just like you are I. Every day across our country, judges make good decisions and judges make bad decisions. I've written about several cases where judges have made bad decisions and the process of having these decisions over turned.

If the case is as clear cut as you present, I hope that Amanda's case is over turned, but I also hope that you and others do not disparage the New Hampshire or the United States judicial system because they are forced to rely on human judges.

I was surprised at the strident response I got from the blogger in which she responded to my comment on her blog as well as posted four comments on my Facebook page. She says things like

You accused me of something I did not do---I am not disparaging or anything like that…

Here are several links of the same news when they specifically said it's the Court of New Hampshire and the judge. Those are not my words. So also please be careful about making accusations against me. I DID NOT DISPARAGE.

One link was to One News Now, a division of the American Family News Network, New Hampshire Court orders Christian homeschooled girl to attend public school, that article provides a little additional context with

The case involves divorced couple Martin Kurowski and Brenda Voydatch and their 10-year-old daughter, Amanda. The couple split in 1999 when they were living in Massachusetts, and the proceedings moved to New Hampshire after Voydatch relocated to that state with her daughter in 2002.

Although Voydatch has primary custody over Amanda, both parents agreed to a parenting plan that included joint decision-making responsibility. A court-appointed guardian served as a mediator.

The article includes the famous quote about the young girl, ” She appeard [sic] to reflect her mother's rigidity on questions of faith”. However, the article does include the important preamble that has been lost in much of the coverage about the case, “According to the guardian ad litem's further report and testimony, the counselor found Amanda to lack some youthful characteristics.

Based on all of this, I responded to the blog post with the following comment:

binkee Perhaps I did misinterpret your post. However, you're title "RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION IN MODERN DAY AMERICA?" does sound like it is a commentary on "modern day America" as opposed to the decision of a single person in the court systems of New Hampshire.

In addition, it sounds as if you are misinterpreting my comment. When I said, "you need to be careful about confusing between an errant judge in the State of New Hampshire and 'the New Hampshire Court' or 'America'", I did not say that you were in fact making that confusion, but instead warning against the potential for that confusion.

Beyond that, I would encourage you to try and get broader and more complete information about the decision. You cite a few different sources of questionable objectivity, each referring back to a specific advocacy organization.

In particular, the focus of the story seems to take a quote severely out of context. Specifically, you and other sources quote the second half of a quote from a court appointed 'Marital Master' whose job was to determine an issue between divorced parents about where the child should be educated.

The quote about how Amanda "appeared to reflect her mother's ridigidity on questions of faith" omits the important first part of the comment: "According to the guardian ad litem's further report and testimony, the counselor found Amanda to lack some youthful characteristics" The rigidity on questions of faith of a ten year old is sited as one example of where the child lacked "some youthful characteristics".

While we all hope that our children will reflect our own beliefs, and important part of growing up is differentiating from ones parents. This can be complicated in the situation a broken family. So, it is not unreasonable for a court appointed official to note where normal childhood development appears impeded in a broken family dispute before the court.

Based on what I have done for further reading, the real issue is not about the religious beliefs or the whether or not the child was receiving all the course material she would receive at a public school. The real issue sounds like it is concerning the social and emotional development of the child which the father believes is not being properly met and the mother believes is being properly met.

I respond this way for a couple different reasons. First, I am concerned when people do not question the reports that they read from some news sources without questioning them, or attempting to get a fuller context. (Again, I am not saying that you do this, but it came across that way in your blog post).

This is especially of concern to me since I try to attend court hearings to get as much first hand information before I blog about this and I have often seen people in blogs, at advocacy organizations, and traditional media organizations present views about cases that bear very little correlation to what has really gone on in the courts.

Looking at this from the press release from the Alliance Defense Fund which was launched by Dr. James Dobson and others, which has been repeated in the World Net News, founded by Rush Limbaugh collaborator Joseph Farah, and American Family News Network’s One News Now, this may well be religious persecution in modern day America.

However, New Hampshire Public Radio presents a more balanced view of the case. It covers many of the issues that the Alliance Defense Fund talks about but then goes on to get the father’s side. In Judge Orders Homeschooled Girl to School, they report

Mr. Kurowski [the child’s father] objects, and his lawyer, Ms. Donovan, says it’s not about religion.

“He respects his child’s faith – he’s been to the church, he supports her in that,” Donovan explains. “We’re interested in pursuing the best interests of this child, and my client believes her best interests are served overall by attending public school.”

The article also includes this quote about the order:

The judge’s order goes on to say, “Amanda’s vigorous defense of her religious beliefs… suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view.”

Perhaps this gets to the real issue. Do we want people to seriously consider different points of view? It seems as if the father wants his child to be exposed to different points of view. I want the same things for my children, and I wish more news outlets and blogs would also more seriously explore different points of view.

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