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Over a year ago, Kendra Stocks had her daughter baptized Catholic the day after she lost a custody dispute with the girl's father, Paul Schaaf.
Schaaf and Stocks both wanted to raise their child, now four years old, as a Catholic. But Stocks allegedly arranged the baptism without informing the father or the judge on the case.
Stocks, a mother of two, is now in jail for seven days for acting in contempt of the court. She had the girl baptized in August 2016, just one day after Schaaf won custody.
The girl's parents were never married. Stocks became pregnant with her daughter during a relationship with Schaaf that lasted about six months.
The custody decision specifically stipulated that the father would be responsible for religious decisions regarding his daughter. Stocks was charged with violating this by trying to keep the girl's baptism a secret from the father and the court.
"I'm scared," Stocks told the Charlotte Observer. "I'm sad about what has happened. I don't regret having her baptized."
Stocks complained about being found in contempt of the court, saying, "I don't see how this is in the best interest of the family. Her father is sending her mother to jail."
The baptism took place at St. Peter's Catholic Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, on August 27, 2016. Schaaf, the father, claims he never knew about his daughter's baptism until afterward when he saw pictures from the baptism on Facebook.
Court documents state that "the mother has acted selfishly by depriving the father of the ability to be present at an event that was extraordinarily important to him."
The parents are both Catholics and both wanted to raise their daughter Catholic. But court documents suggest the couple was often at odds over religious matters, and the child's baptism was delayed as a result. When asked what the religious disagreement was actually about, Stocks merely commented, "I would like to know that myself."
The judge who found Stocks in contempt of the court was Judge Sean Smith. He was born and raised in Charlotte and pursued higher education at Notre Dame University and Villanova University — both Catholic institutions.
Church Militant tried to reach out to Smith for comment but was unable to get a hold of him in time for publication. Other news sources say Smith was unable to speak with them about the case for legal reasons.
A 2015 report identified Smith as a Republican and relayed accusations that he has a fiery temper. Smith was once fired for his passionate intensity at work which co-workers felt bordered on anger and ill-will.
The father's attorney, Jonathan Feit, told the press, "For our system to work, there ought to be consequences for willfully and intentionally violating a court order. I teach my children that."
He added, "I reject the notion that anybody else is responsible for what is happening besides Ms. Stocks herself."
Some North Carolina citizens are pushing for major changes to the state's custody laws. They argue the current policies are unfair toward whichever parent the judge deems less suitable than the other.