BATTAGLIA v. BATTAGLIA was a 1958 New York appellate
court decision. Limited details only. This case evidently
involved some unusual details not available to me. This
custody and blood transfusion case involved the couple
Mario and Valeria Battaglia of Latham, New York. Mario was
a retired jockey who operated a barbershop. The year 1957
apparently was a whirlwind for this family. This couple had
a newborn baby, who apparently had a medical condition
which either did require, or at least presented a likelihood
of requiring blood transfusions. Around the same time that
Valeria Battaglia gave birth to Michael, she joined the
Jehovah's Witnesses, a religion which forbade blood
transfusions. Valeria Battaglia evidently attempted to keep
her newborn son from receiving the necessary blood
transfusions. That apparently led to this divorce and
custody action between the parents.
The parents had been married in the Presbyterian Church.
Baby Michael was baptized in the Presbyterian Church soon
after his birth in September or October 1957. Valeria
Battaglia joined the Jehovah's Witnesses soon thereafter.
Mario Battaglia soon thereafter filed for divorce claiming
that Valeria Battaglia was spending all her time going to
Jehovah's Witnesses meetings, and doing door-to-door
recruiting, rather than spending time taking care of her
newborn son. Valeria Battaglia apparently moved out of the
marital residence. It is unclear whether she took the
newborn with her. The details regarding the need for blood
transfusions for Michael, and what Valerie did to prohibit
such is also unclear.
At any rate, custody of seven month old Michael was
awarded to Mario Battaglia, who apparently was in his 40s,
since a comment from the appellate opinion mentions that
he had already reared a son from a previous marriage from
infancy through college. Therafter, Valerie Battaglia
appealed. In affirming the trial court's custody award, the
appellate court stated in part:
"During the fall of 1957, the petitioner joined a religious sect
known as Jehovah's Witnesses. Largely as a result of the
change in petitioner's religious faith, a clash developed
between the parties which led to their ultimate separation.
Respondent claims that the petitioner has been absorbed
by activities in her newly embraced faith, attends meetings
of the sect, and engages in work for it, as a result of which
she has allegedly neglected the child.
"Respondent has also contended that one of the tenets of
Jehovah's Witnesses bars blood transfusions, however
essential such device may be deemed by medical experts.
He has claimed that petitioner would not permit a blood
transfusion for the child even though the child's life might
be thereby saved, and further contends that the sect
accepts the principle that the death of the child constitutes
'saving the child'.
"Petitioner, of course, enjoys her constitutional right to
freedom of religion and may practice the religious faith of
her choice without interference. She has not, however, the
right to impose upon an innocent child the hazards to it
flowing from her own religious convictions. The welfare of
the child is paramount. If medical science requires a blood
transfusion to preserve the child's life, the child should not
be deprived of life because the mother's religious
persuasion opposes such transfusion.
"The child has a right to survival and a chance to live and
the court has a duty to extend its protecting arm to the
child. It is of no concern to the court what religious
preference the parents may elect. The best interests of the
child are the primary concern in all custody conflicts and
not the desires of either the mother or father. In this case,
the father has demonstrated great interest in and affection
for the child. He has previously had the custody of an infant
son from a prior marriage, whom he has reared and who is
now a college student. ... "
Jehovah's Witnesses Lose in Court-Often....