Jewish girl can be baptised despite mother's wishes

A ten-year-old child in Essex has been given permission by a judge to convert to Christianity against her Jewish mother's wishes.

Both parents of the girl, who cannot be named, are Jewish. But after the marriage soured, her father converted to Christianity and his children, the girl and a younger brother, could now do the same.

He already takes them to church every other weekend, which the mother has agreed to, but in November she applied for a court order to prevent the father from having the girl baptised, at least until she is 16. The court heard that the girl herself had asked to be baptised and that the father initially doubted that she was serious.

The judge at Romford County Court has now written to the girl giving her permission.

Judge John Platt told the child: "Your father thinks it is right for you to be baptised as a Christian now. Your mother wants you to wait until you are older, so they have asked me to decide for them. That is my job."

He said he had decided that "the best thing" for her would be to be allowed to start baptism classes as soon as they could be arranged "and that you are baptised as a Christian as soon as your minister feels you are ready".

But he added: "Being baptised does not mean that you give up your Jewish heritage. That will always be part of you and I hope that you will continue to learn more about that heritage."

The court heard a written submission from Chabad rabbi Odom Brandman, who said the case was "extremely disturbing".

"In Judaism we don't encourage conversion either way as it is unnatural for a person to change the religion they are born into and which thus is ingrained in their soul in a deep way. Although conversions are performed they must be worked at over a number of years when a real change can realistically take place. It is unfair to any child to put them under this pressure and to do something unnatural to their soul."

The child's grandparents said the father was forcing their granddaughter to give up her Jewish heritage.

The judge's decision does not mean the baptism will go ahead, but it stops the mother from preventing it via the courts.

Last updated: 10:05am, August 3 2012