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
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
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."