Girl of 10 given Judicial permission to convert from Judaism to Christianity

A 10-year-old Jewish girl has been given permission to become a Christian after His Honour Judge John Platt rejected claims by her mother that she had been “brainwashed” and was too young to change faith.

Romford County Court heard that the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was born in late 2001 to Jewish parents and grandparents. Her parents divorced in 2010 and, following this, her father converted to Christianity. The girl and her younger brother have since lived one week at a time with each parent under a shared parenting agreement and in November 2011 the girl’s mother unexpectedly applied for a court order which prevented the father from baptising or confirming her into the Christian faith.

The father claimed the family had never been strictly observant Jews, and neither of his children grew up with any strong religious beliefs.  He said that his daughter told him on the way back from an evangelical Christian festival that she had “experienced an encounter with God”. He added that he was initially sceptical, as he thought she was just “on a high” following the festival. The father also said he was “unhappy” when the girl went behind his back to talk to a Sunday school teacher about being baptised.

For her part, the mother claimed her former husband prevented the girl from practising Judaism and wanted her daughter to wait until she turned 16 to become baptised. The girl’s maternal grandparents accused the father of forcing her to give up her Jewish heritage, while a Rabbi told the court that it would be “unnatural to their soul” to make a child change religion. The Judge was scathing about these claims, saying that neither the mother nor the grandparents had made “any real effort” to consider what was best for the girl while the Rabbi’s letter was made in “inflammatory terms without any supporting evidence”.  He also said that it was “wholly wrong” for the mother to have gone to court without discussing it with the father or his priest.

At the end of this unusual case, the Judge ruled that the girl was mature enough to choose her own religion and uniquely wrote a personal letter to the girl explaining his decision.  His Honour Judge John Platt wrote “Sometimes parents simply cannot agree on what is best for their child, but they can’t both be right. 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 went on to say “My job is to decide simply what is best for you and I have decided that the best thing for you is that you are allowed to start your baptism classes as soon as they can be arranged and that you are baptised as a Christian as soon as your minister feels you are ready.” But the judge stressed that it did not mean the girl could not learn about Judaism or her Jewish heritage. He concluded by writing “Finally, and this is the most important thing, both your mother and father will carry on loving you just as much whatever happens about your baptism.”


Satvinder Sokhal