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(Family Division; Baker J; 30 July 2010)
A Muslim father had two children by different mothers who were both converts to Islam. Before the birth of the younger child the father was convicted of unlawful sexual intercourse with a 15 year old girl and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment and placed on the Sex Offender's Register. The court ordered no direct or indirect contact with the elder child who lived with mother. At about the same time the younger child was born. The mother of that child had addiction problems and a history of violent relationships and consequently the child was taken into care. The child was placed with the maternal grandparents and the father was to have contact four times a year. The grandparents were not Muslim, but were willing to bring the child up as a Muslim. The father opposed the placement on religious grounds, preferring the child to be fostered or even adopted by Muslims. The father made several applications to the court, arguing various human rights breaches, particularly the failure to respect the religious persuasion of child. The mother of the younger child had now reverted to Catholicism and was urging that the child be raised a Catholic. The grandmother was raising the child with information about both Catholicism and Islam.
The father's applications were dismissed and the care order was to remain in place. The local authority was required under s 33(6)(a) Children Act to ensure that a child in care is brought up in the religion of its parents with a full appreciation and understanding of its heritage. If the religion of the parents changes, the authority must take that into account, subject always to promoting the child's welfare. Although there had been no infringement of statutory duty or convention rights in informing the child about both Islam and Catholicism, the authority should do more to support the teaching of the child's Islamic religion and culture.
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