Q&A: In Interfaith Marriages, What Religion Are the Kids?

Plus: What women should wear to a mosque; visiting an Orthodox church; and pork for Jehovah's Witnesses

Have a question about someone else's religious practices--or your own? Send e-mail to columnists@staff.beliefnet.com with "Etiquette" in the subject line.

I have always heard a child born of a mixed marriage--ex: Catholic/Jewish--is raised in the faith of the mother. Is this true? If so, why? --Michele

You may be thinking of the Jewish principle of matrilineal descent, which holds that anyone born of a Jewish mother is Jewish, whether or not they practice Judaism. In the Conservative and Orthodox branches of Judaism, children born of a non-Jewish mother must undergo a formal conversion ceremony before they are recognized as Jewish. Reform Judaism, however, affirms descent through either the father or the mother.

In Islam, the faith of the father is often considered decisive. In some Muslim societies, a Muslim father has rights over his children that their non-Muslim mother might not have.


In other religions, children of mixed marriages may be more up for grabs, so to speak. Obviously, if children are baptized in a particular denomination, they would probably identify themselves as being raised a certain kind of Christian.

In this day and age, more and more people are choosing their spiritual paths when they're older, and identifying with faith groups based on their own beliefs, not those of family members.

I will be visiting a mosque in a southern city as part of an adult education class on local religious groups. I know that I will need to remove my shoes, but do not know what is appropriate dress. I am female. Do I need to cover my head? May I wear slacks without offending or should I wear a skirt? --Judy

Modesty is expected at mosques. You'll definitely want to cover your hair, arms, and legs. Flowing, non-clingy slacks are OK in some mosques, but your safest bet is to wear a long skirt. Again, nothing form-fitting; lycra is not your friend. Also, avoid wearing prominent religious jewelry, like a cross or Star of David.

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