A New York district court ruled that a woman must remove a rock with a Confederate flag painted on it from her driveway, or may find it becomes a factor in a custody battle for her mixed-race child.
Justices in an appellate division of the state’s second-highest court in Albany ruled unanimously in a 5-0 decision that a couple would retain joint custody of their child.
However, the woman has until 1 June to remove the rock or, according to the court’s ruling, it could play a role in “any future best interests analysis” regarding the child, who was born in 2014 and attends school in Dryden, east of Ithaca.
Justice Stanley Pritzker wrote: “Given that the child is of mixed race, it would seem apparent that the presence of the flag is not in the child’s best interests, as the mother must encourage and teach the child to embrace her mixed-race identity, rather than thrust her into a world that only makes sense through the tortured lens of cognitive dissonance.”
The Albany Times Union reports that the mother, identified as Christie BB in court documents, testified that she did have the rock in her driveway.
Justice Pritzker referred to the flag as “a symbol inflaming the already strained relationship between the parties”.
“While recognising that the First Amendment protects the mother’s right to display the flag if it is not removed by June 1, 2021, its continued presence shall constitute a change in circumstances and Family Court shall factor this into any future best interests analysis,” Justice Pritzker wrote.
He noted that neither Tompkins County Judge Joseph Cassidy, who presided over the matter in 2018, nor the child’s law guardian had addressed the possession and placement of the flag on the rock near the driveway.
Jason Leifer, the child’s law guardian, told the paper that he supported the court’s reasoning but said that he believed the mother had only recently moved into the residence and that he was not sure if she was responsible for the rock’s presence.
Mr Leifer said that the ruling is “appropriate because it brings political views that could potentially damage the child’s well-being into the custody discussion”.
However, he added that he thought the introduction of the flag into the ruling potentially creates opportunities for parties to litigate political views and opinions that would inflame an already strained relationship and create tension that is not in the best interests of the child.
“I think parties will now raise objections to many symbols and opinions held by the other party, including some that the majority of society does not find offensive,” Mr Leifer said.
“What’s going to have to happen is this — if the issue is raised the court will need to hear evidence of the child how the child’s well-being is negatively affected by a parent’s views and opinions,” Mr Leifer said.
“In some cases, this will be easy, such as if a child is being indoctrinated into a hate group, but in many cases, it won’t be so easy.”
Justices John Egan, Sharon Aarons, Molly Reynolds Fitzgerald, and John Colangelo joined Mr Pritzker in the ruling.