Right to Parent

Miriam Moster, Sociology
Faculty Advisor: Thomas DeGloma
Project Website: Right to Parent
NML Award: The Social Justice Award (June 2021)

Right to Parent

Right to Parent is an organization committed to supporting and advocating for parents who leave strict religious marriages and communities. Leaving any marriage is a fraught experience, but the process of leaving a strict religious marriage and community poses unique challenges. In some cases the religious community mobilizes against the parent who leaves, and even close family members may turn against that parent. Divorce becomes more isolating for these parents than the experience normally is, as they lose their family and former community in the process.

The newly divorced parent is thrust into single parenthood alone, with little support, all the while struggling to earn a livelihood, make court appearances, and provide for the children. Sometimes, this experience is compounded by an up-hill custody battle in a court that favors preserving the religious status quo.

In numerous cases the religious parent and religious community have organized to deny the ex-religious parent custody and to alienate the children from the ex-religious parent. In so doing they ignore the sacredness of the parent-child bond and the severe toll this alienation takes on both parent and children, as well as the documented evidence of children’s resilience in the face of changing circumstances.

This project and the website are an extension of my doctoral research on the experiences of these parents. I am conducting oral history interviews as well as a survey to gather data. This project aims to spread awareness about this issue and to support parents in this situation.

The website is built in WordPress and Omeka to allow for various functionalities. Some of the data will be shared using Omeka, to archive and catalogue parents’ stories. Some of these stories will be shared through Twine, a “choose your own adventure” gaming platform that will allow visitors to engage with parents’ stories. The choices available will reflect the choices and consequences a parent leaving a strict religious community would face. Additional informational content will be shared on the WordPress site. The site will also host a crowdfunding platform to fundraise for parents in need.

The site will also link to Right to Parent’s social media accounts that will amplify website content as well as share and amplify related content.