Custody Battle Takes Religious Turn

By Daily Mail

A mother-of-two in New Mexico claims she was ordered by a court to undergo religious sessions as part of a custody battle - and that her children were taken away when she stopped attending.

Holly Salzman claims that she was sent to the classes to help teach her how to raise her twin 11-year-old sons as a single parent after divorcing her husband.
However the Albuquerque mom said what she received were classes that explicitly promoted religious values.
'I walked into the session and the very first thing she said to me was, ''I start my sessions by praying'',' Salzman told KRQE News 13.
'When I expressed my concerns that I didn't pray she said, ''well this is what I do'' and she proceeded to say a prayer out loud.'
A court late last year assigned Salzman to 10 sessions with counselor Mary Pepper to assist her and her husband 'with our co-parenting as well as communication skills'.

After that first session, Salzman complained to the court that she disagreed with the teachings of the class and found them offensive.
However the court didn't get back to her.
When she stopped attending the sessions, the court removed her children.
'It's probably the worst thing I've ever been through in my life,' Salzman said.
Salzman was forced to finish the remaining nine classes to order to have her children returned and completed them within a month.
However KRQE News 13 sent a secret camera into one of the meetings with Salzman.
'The meaning in my life is to know love and serve God,' Pepper told Salzman in one of the meetings, the camera captured.
'If you want to explore how God was in your past, how God was in your life and not in your life… I know you don't believe in God which is fine but I know at some points he was in your life in some way.'
Salzman was given handouts with quotes of Psalms and other religious quotes.

Late last year a court assigned Salzman to 10 sessions with family counselor Mary Pepper, but Salzman said the teachings were heavily religious and started with prayer
Pepper also gave her homework titled 'Who is God to me?'.
However Pepper denied that her teachings are religious-based.

I'm a believer myself and if a person is open, we talk about God,' she told KRQE News 13.
'If they're not open, it's a secular program that I provide.
'I'm a private business that people decide to come through or not.'

While the court does pay for Salzman's sessions or run them, she was ordered to go.
The American Civil Liberties Union said that, because the classes are court-ordered, there is a problem.

'No one should be put in a position where they are forced to accept training or therapy that violates their own religious beliefs and morals,' Peter Simonson, ACLU Executive Director, told the station.

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