Sagar v. Sagar

781 N.E.2d 54 (2003)


Sejal (W) filed for divorce. H physically and mentally abused W. H beat her numerous times. H was also very controlling. He would allow his wife to telephone her relatives only on birthdays and anniversaries; and the contents of the kitchen cabinets had to be arranged as he specified. He threatened to stop paying tuition for W's education should she fail to get straight A's. The husband made questionable transfers of marital assets and refused to comply with a court order to hold certain funds in escrow. W and H were both devout Hindus. During and after marriage, the parties followed substantially the tenets of the Hindu faith. During W's pregnancy and after their daughter's birth, the parties engaged in Hindu ceremonies prescribed to mark various transitions in an infant's life, including a religious baby shower, a homecoming ceremony, a naming ceremony, a first visit to the temple, a ceremony for the child's first solid food, and an ear-piercing ceremony. The parties attended temple weekly and even had a temple in their home at which they worshiped on a daily basis. H moved the court for permission to perform a Hindu religious ritual, Chudakarana, upon the parties' young daughter. H presented evidence to support his position that a Hindu may not forgo the ritual of Chudakarana. The ceremony, which is believed to contribute to the child's longevity and ward off illness, should be performed before the child is three years old and is a necessary prerequisite to Hindu marriage. If the ceremony is not performed, an elder (here the father) may atone, allowing the ceremony to be performed at a later date. W's position was that Chudakarana is not integral to the Hindu faith. Neither she nor her extended family believe in the efficacy or necessity of the ceremony. She did not participate in the ceremony, nor did her brother or cousins. Prior to marriage, H never inquired whether she had participated in Chudakarana; neither did she inform him that she had not. The judge ordered that Chudakarana shall not be performed on the minor child, until the child is of sufficient age to make that determination herself, absent a written agreement between the parties. It found that H wanted it done not for religion but for his desire to control. H appealed on grounds of free exercise.