November 15, 2019 Feature

Religion, Child Custody, and Visitation

Margaret F. Brinig

In January of 2017, Robert Bear was sentenced to incarceration for seven to twenty-three months for desecrating a church in Pennsylvania by gluing thirty-seven posters to its outside walls and sidewalks and disturbing the church service going on inside despite police orders that he stop. At the time, he was eighty-seven years old. The dispute dated back to 1972, when Bear was excommunicated from the Reformed Mennonite Church for questioning church doctrine about giving communion to a woman accused of adultery. The excommunication resulted in his shunning, including by his then-wife and his six children, and, eventually, in her divorcing him, continued estrangement from the children, and a lengthy series of legal actions as he unsuccessfully sought reunion (or even contact) with his family or withdrawal of church actions against him.

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