A Catholic man could face prison after violating a temporary court order that forbade him from taking his toddler to Mass. Joesph Reyes of Chicago is in the midst of a bitter divorce suit with his estranged wife, Rebecca Shapiro, who is Jewish.
Shapiro was awarded custody of their three year old girl when the couple split and has raised the child in the Jewish faith. Reyes pleaded “not guilty” in a hearing on Tuesday.
The arraignment comes after Reyes had previously received a 30-day restraining order forbidding him from “exposing his daughter to any other religion that the Jewish religion” after he had his daughter baptized a Catholic and sent pictures of the occasion to his soon to be ex-wife.
Rebecca Shapiro responded to the photos by filing for a temporary restraining order, which was granted. According to Shapiro's lawyer, Rebecca was shocked by Reyes' actions and believes they were motivated out of spite.
“Number one, it wasn't just a religious thing per se, it was the idea that he would suddenly, out of nowhere without any discussion … have the girl baptized,” attorney Stephen Lake said to ABC News. “She looked at it as basically an assault on her little girl.”
“Going to church, I don't think I violated the order,” Reyes told “Good Morning America” on Tuesday. “In terms of Judaism, based on the information I was given, Catholicism falls right under the umbrella of Judaism,” he offered.
Shapiro's lawyer also claimed that Reyes had not been a particularly devout Catholic during their marriage. In fact, Reyes is reported to have converted to Judaism upon marrying Rebecca in 2004, yet has since claimed that he did so under duress.
According to Reyes, conversion to Judaism was essential for his parents in law to “accept” him.
In an interview on Tuesday with “Good Morning America,” Reyes said that his daughter means “everything” to him and said that he does not want his daughter to “grow up into a world where her fundamental rights are threatened or weakened by court decisions.” When asked about the assertion that he is simply being antagonistic towards his estranged wife, Reyes said, “No, that's not my motivation at all. For one, I'm not really that angry with Rebecca. I think that some of her decisions are questionable, some of her motivations are questionable, but my motivations are on my daughter.”
Reyes faced further questioning in the interview, however, when it was brought up that he intentionally contacted the media before taking his daughter to Mass. He responded by saying that “this situation merits the attention” and that “at some point, when you do as much has been done to me in this situation, there is a straw that breaks the camel's back. I've made every concession that I possibly can make for Rebecca, and I have to draw the line in the sand somewhere and this is where I choose to draw it.”
“My faith means a lot to me,” Reyes insisted.
The next court date is March 3 and Reyes is expected to file a motion that would dismiss all criminal charges against him. If he is found guilty of indirect criminal contempt, Reyes could face a up to six months in jail.