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06/21/89 In Re C.L.T. Et Al.

June 21, 1989



Illinois, Petitioner-Appellee, v.

Judith Tabor, Respondent-Appellant)

540 N.E.2d 1043, 185 Ill. App. 3d 110, 133 Ill. Dec. 177 1989.IL.950

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Champaign County; the Hon. John R. DeLaMar, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE LUND delivered the opinion of the court. McCULLOUGH, P.J., and KNECHT, J., concur.


The three minors, C.L.T., M.W.T., and M.J.T., were adjudicated abused in December 1985. By Dispositional order, the circuit court of Champaign County made the minors wards of the court, and ordered their custody transferred to the Department of Children and Family Services , along with power to place them. At a review hearing on October 24, 1988, the court continued its Dispositional order with the following provision added. C.L.T. was allowed to choose which church she would attend, if any. Respondent, C.L.T.'s mother, appeals only that portion of the order relating to C.L.T.'s ability to choose her own religious training.

The cause involving these three minors has been before us on two previous occasions. (In re C.L.T. (4th Dist. 1989), No. 4 -- 88 -- 0408 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23); In re C.L.T. (4th Dist. 1989), No. 4 -- 88 -- 0673 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23).) We need not recite the entire background in order to deal with respondent's question. The pertinent facts follow.

This cause initially began as a result of an incident in which C.L.T. was punished for eating forbidden candy. She was 11 years old at the time, and her punishment was to be spanked on the buttocks 50 times with a wooden paddle. C.L.T. suffered severe bruising and some bleeding. Later, after the children had been involved in counseling, it was discovered the children had deep emotional scars left by respondent and her husband, Frederick Tabor. All of the children had very low self-esteem. In large part, this stemmed from the method of discipline used in the Tabor household. Respondent and Frederick attempted to achieve behavioral compliance by inflicting pain, oftentimes severe pain. At times, the wooden paddle was used and, at other times, a belt. As part of the family life-style, the children lived according to strict religious tenets.

After a period of time, a theme of excessive control appeared. Many of respondent's actions were viewed by DCFS counselors as attempts to exercise excessive control over the lives of her children. Respondent underwent a psychological evaluation prior to the October 24, 1988, hearing. The evaluator expressed concern over respondent's "need to control . . . especially when it comes to her religion." After being removed from the family home, two of the children rebelled against respondent's life-style and expressed hostility to her. At a review hearing on May 4, 1988, it was noted that the oldest child, M.W.T., had ceased visitation with his mother. At that time too, C.L.T. expressed her desire to have visitation cease. Both children viewed the strict religious requirements as respondent's method of maintaining control over their lives. According to the review report prepared for the October 24 hearing, C.L.T. maintained little contact with her mother and expressed her desire to sever her ties with her mother's church as well. She was happy with her foster home and stated her desire to begin attending church with her foster family.

At the hearing on October 24, respondent expressed her desire to have the children maintain religious ties with her church. Respondent stated the control issue was, in essence, really one of following unchangeable church doctrine. The court disagreed:

"It's a broader issue of control and control of all aspects of the children's life, personality, development, likes, dislikes, thoughts, words, and actions. It's the kind of desire, in fact, almost fanatic pursuit of control that led to many of the problems that have been encountered in this case including the ongoing physical abuse.

The religious aspect of it, I believe, is an illustration, and it's an example of the issue. I don't believe it is the issue in and of itself. The Court does not sit to decide what religions are appropriate for children and what if any religions are not appropriate. That also is not the issue, in my judgment. Whenever any religion, any religion, either in and of itself or as applied by a parent, hurts a child or is other than in the best interests of that child, then I believe that religious practice must be suspended until such time as it no longer injures the child or until such time as the parents' ...

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