Last August, a lower court said Lee Meyer of Chittenden County couldno longer raise his 9- and 11-year-old daughters as Jehovah's Witnessesor bring them to the group's meetings. The restriction was part of alarger decision to give his ex-wife, Erika Meyer, sole parental rightsin determining numerous factors from travel to education.
Last week, Lee Meyer called on the high court to restore his equalparental rights, including the right to shape religious formation. Buthis ex-wife warned against the harm that could ensue.
Erika Meyer believes the Jehovah's Witnesses' teachings havecontributed to her daughters' anxiety and nightmares, according to herattorney, Amber L. Barber.
"The kids feared their mother would be destroyed when Armageddoncomes because she's not a Jehovah's Witness," Barber said. Erika Meyerhad been a member of the group but was "disfellowshipped" years ago forreasons Barber did not cite.
Lee Meyer's appeal of the Chittenden County Family Court rulingrested on the grounds that the court had no basis for imposing itsrestrictions. His lawyers argued that no evidence existed to sayreligious teachings had caused anxiety or other harm.
The mother "just didn't want the daughters raised as Jehovah'sWitnesses," said Catherine E. Clark, attorney for Lee Meyer. "Shefocused on the beliefs, not the practices. We don't feel that she provedthere were any practices causing harm."
Jehovah's Witnesses, known officially as the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, claim 3.5 million members in more than 200countries. They're known particularly for door-to-door distribution ofreligious literature and their refusal to accept blood transfusionsunder any circumstances. They reject certain Christian teachings, suchas the doctrine of the Trinity, but aim to live according to a strictinterpretation of the Old and New Testaments.
Barber said the case is not about anyone's right to practice areligion.
"This is not a religious issue, this is a custody issue," Barbersaid. The parents "became unable to communicate. One of the many thingsthat these people couldn't agree on was religion."
Lawyers in the case expect a ruling in the coming weeks.