A state appeals court in New York said Thursday, a mother will be losing custody of her multiracial child unless she gets rid of a “small” rock near her driveway that is painted with a Confederate flag.
In a unanimous 5-0 ruling, appellate justices allowed the couple to retain joint custody of the child, who was born in 2014 and attends school in the Dryden Central School District, which is east of Ithaca. But if the Confederate-flag-decorated rock is not removed by June 1, Family Court would be obliged to factor its presence “into any future best interests analysis” regarding the child, stated Justice Stanley Pritzker, who authored the decision by the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court’s Third Department, the state’s second-highest court. According to reports of Albany Times-Union.
Pritzker wrote, “Given that the child is of mixed race, it would seem apparent that the presence of the flag is not in the child’s best interests, as the mother must encourage and teach the child to embrace her mixed race identity, rather than thrust her into a world that only makes sense through the tortured lens of cognitive dissonance,”.
“Further, and viewed pragmatically, the presence of the Confederate flag is a symbol inflaming the already strained relationship between the parties,” the judge continued. “As such, while recognizing that the First Amendment protects the mother’s right to display the flag if it is not removed by June 1, 2021, its continued presence shall constitute a change in circumstances and Family Court shall factor this into any future best interests analysis.”
The court’s decision was clear: “The rock puts the woman’s child custody at risk.” The newspaper noted that the mother was not represented by an attorney. According to The Washington Post.
Jason Leifer, the attorney serving as the child’s law guardian, told the Times-Union that while he agrees the rock needs to go, he’s concerned about the precedent the court’s ruling could set for future custody battles between parents.
“I think parties will now raise objections to many symbols and opinions held by the other party, including some that the majority of society does not find offensive,” Leifer told the outlet. “What’s going to have to happen is this — if the issue is raised the court will need to hear evidence of the child how the child’s well-being is negatively affected by a parent’s views and opinions. In some cases this will be easy, such as if a child is being indoctrinated into a hate group, but in many cases it won’t be so easy.”
Leifer told the Associated Press, “I just think that this thing opens a door to litigating… someone’s personal opinions on something.”