Father wins child custody battle

By Jeff Headley

York -- Ruling that Carol Peterson's religious beliefs have threatened the heath and well-being of her three children, York County District Judge Bryce Bartu granted Robert Peterson's change of custody motion Wednesday.

Robert Peterson of York, Carol's ex-husband, was name custodial parent of Sadie, 15; Cassie, 11; and William, 6. Following the court order the children were taken fom Carol's York residence by York County deputy sheriffs Dale Radcliff and Paul Vrbka around 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Carol Peterson's attorney, Richard Watts of Mills, Mills & Papik of Osceola, said Thursday morning "an appeal of the decision is being very seriously considered."

The change of custody case centered around Carol Peterson's involvement with the Good Life Pentecostal Church of York. Testimony brought forth by Robert Peterson's attorney, Bruce Stephens of York, alleged cult practices by the church and it's pastor, the Rev. Edward Morey of York.

A key witness in last week's trial, psychotherapist Caryn Hacker of Omaha, testified that the Good Life Pentecostal Church exhibits seven of the 10 characteristics of a religious cult. Having seven of the 10 characteristics as a cult, Hacker, who has a master's degree in social work, said.

In his ruling, Bartu wrote that Carol Peterson "has adopted systems of corporal punishment and fear to force obedience and submission of her children to the doctrine of her church."

Bartu said courts generally will not disqualify a parent for religious beliefs, but when "such beliefs threaten the health and well-being of the children, then the courts have a duty to act to remove the children from such abuse."

Bartu ruled that Carol's religious beliefs "have caused a deficiency or incapacity" in her ability to parent and "has caused or will result in detriment to the children's well-being."

Cassie had been living with her father for some 11 months, but official custody was not granted until Wednesday.

Sadie, Robert's adopted daughter, and William were also removed from the York Christian Academy, which is a part of the Good Life Pentecostal Church.

Barto also ruled that Carol Peterson may have visitation at her parent's home and she must abstain from corporal punishment and promoting her religious beliefs to the children under contempt of court penalties.

Stephens, said he was "very pleased" with Bartu's decision.

"We need to get on and get some counseling for the kids, especially Sadie," Stephens said. "But this puts them back on track to a normal life."

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.