Catholic is ordered to keep Shabbat

By Paul Berger, June 3, 2010
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A Catholic woman has been banned from driving on Saturdays when looking after her seven-year-old Jewish stepson and ordered to cook him only kosher food.

A Chicago judge ordered Laura Derbigney and her husband Nelson to follow these and other rules during an acrimonious custody battle with Mr Derbigney's Orthodox ex-wife.

The judge also stipulated where Mrs Derbigney could shop for kosher food and instructed that the boy must wear a kippah to school.

Mrs Derbigney, a Hispanic Catholic, described the order as "quite intrusive.

"That I have to now obey certain aspects of being kosher and follow the Sabbath in order for my husband and I to see his son, is wrong," she told NBC News.

Mrs Derbigney added that she had no idea how to keep kosher or observe the Sabbath.

The case is reminiscent of another recent messy Chicago divorce during which Joseph Reyes was barred from taking his three-year-old daughter to church.

Mr Reyes's ex-wife Rebecca sought a court order after he had their daughter baptised without her permission and sent her a photograph of the ceremony.

Mr Reyes, a Catholic who converted to Judaism after he married, proceeded to risk jail by taking his daughter, Ela, to midnight mass in front of a TV crew.

The case was resolved in April when Ms Reyes won full custody of her daughter.

Mr Reyes, however, was granted permission by the judge to take his daughter to church. He was specifically granted visitation rights during Easter and Christmas.

Joel Brodsky, a high-profile Chicago lawyer, has spoken on behalf of both Mr Reyes and the Derbigney family.

He told NBC News recently: "Just because you're divorced, the court can't say how to live your lives or what grocery store you can go to.

"The next step is going to be a Muslim father with custody. During the next visitation, is the mother going to have to wear a burka? That's where we're heading. Divorce courts have to stop getting in the way of religion."

The boy's parents were unable to comment for legal reasons.

However, his mother, Elina Margolina, claimed through her lawyer recently that she is pressing for the court order because her ex-husband fed his son a non-kosher hot dog and mocked his kippah.

Ms Margolina's lawyer, David Grund, told the Chicago Sun-Times that Mr Derbigney was ruining the boy's religious upbringing.

Mr Derbigney denied the allegations.

He said his ex-wife, a Reform Jew who is now strictly Orthodox, has only become more religious since the couple divorced three years ago.

He maintained that during their marriage she did not keep kosher or observe the Sabbath.

Last updated: 2:58pm, November 2 2010