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Kendall v. Kendall

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
687 N.E.2d 1228 (Mass. 1997)


Facts

Barbara Kendall (plaintiff) and Jeffrey Kendall (defendant) were married. The couple had three children. Barbara was Orthodox Jewish, and Jeffrey was a member of a fundamentalist Christian church. Jeffrey believed that anyone who did not accept the faith of his church would go to hell. Accordingly, Jeffrey wished to indoctrinate the Kendall children into his faith. Barbara objected to this indoctrination. Indeed, the couple often fought about their religious differences, and the children were aware of the discord and the reasons for it. The children self-identified as Jewish, but had no desire to disappoint or upset Jeffrey. At one point, Jeffrey cut off his son’s payes. Barbara filed a petition for divorce. The trial court appointed a guardian ad litem to assess the religious conflict and issue a report. The guardian ad litem’s report indicated that the children were suffering emotional distress on account of their parents’ religious differences. Based on this report, the trial court granted Barbara a divorce, awarded joint custody, and ordered that Jeffrey and Barbara not indoctrinate the children in any way that would alienate the other parent or cause the children emotional distress. Jeffrey appealed, arguing that the order violated his free exercise of religion.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Lynch, J.)

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