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Judge: Believing prayer can ward off evil is not a mental health issue

Carol Atkinson's been ruling on a case regarding the care of a baby. The family, who are based in Bexley, London cannot be named.

She claimed police and social workers had raised concerns over the father's views with some claiming they were a "mental health issue". The judge dismissed that opinion, stating: "He (the man) has been brought up by a mother whose religious beliefs might be considered by some to border on 'superstition'.

"However, when you peel it back and give him the opportunity to explain I have found nothing concerning in his views.

"I am quite satisfied that what he was seeking to explain in his police interview and in his evidence before me was a strongly-held belief that something other worldly and possibly disruptive, evil if you like, bringing bad luck could be warded off through prayer. There is nothing unusual in such a belief.

"Many mainstream Christian faiths have their homes blessed by a priest before occupying. Other faiths have prayers written on paper rolled up into a container and nailed above the door to keep their home safe. The crucifix over the entry to the home. The blessing of a baby by a practising Catholic before christening lest anything untoward might happen. Crossing your fingers. In my judgment these are all examples of the same thing."

The case is determining the future of the boy who is approaching his first birthday.

Social services currently has responsibility for his welfare. Judge Atkinson said he had been taken to hospital with a fractured leg when a few weeks old. Social workers had become involved and had asked for a ruling on the cause of the baby's injuries.

The judge said there was a "real possibility" that either the baby's mother or father had "harmed" him, but she said she could not identify one parent as the "sole perpetrator".

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