The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Local News

December 16, 2010

Protesters march for fathers’ rights

Controversial custody decision focus of rally

ANDERSON, Ind. — Protesters carried signs outside the Madison County Courthouse on Thursday with such messages as “Fathers are parents, too,” and “A loving dad isn’t bad” in a rally supporting fathers’ rights in custody cases.

“We’re rallying for equal rights for fathers and equal rights for everybody, really,” said Martin Stapleton of Anderson, who joined a handful of protesters who braved cold and snow early Thursday for the daylong rally.

The event was organized by Craig Scarberry of Anderson, who claims he lost joint custody of his three children last month because of religious bias. He has appealed the judgment against him that has garnered international news coverage because it mentions that Scarberry is agnostic — one who believes the human mind cannot know whether there is a God.   

Madison County Superior Court 2 Master Commissioner George G. Pancol, who heard Scarberry’s custody case and wrote the ruling, has denied that the matter was decided on religious grounds. Pancol has said the case was decided in the best interests of the children.

Passersby Thursday honked and waved to demonstrators on each corner of the courthouse; some voiced support as they walked from the government center. Among those who rallied were friends and family of Scarberry, representatives of groups that support equal rights in custody cases, and some who said they had been deprived of their custodial rights without cause.

Scarberry’s cousin Lucas Eads of Fortville carried a sign reading “Equal rights, fair consideration for all.” He said decisions that deprive a parent of joint custody when children have not been harmed have an impact beyond the parents: “I’m a cousin, so I lose time I get to spend with the kids, too.”

Eads said, “We’ve gotten a lot of thumbs-ups, honks, and consideration like people offering coffee.” He said he had no question about driving from Fortville after an overnight snowstorm. “Some things are worth fighting for,” he said.

Stuart Showalter, executive director of Indiana Custodial Rights Advocates, joined the rally Thursday. He said his organization fights to make sure children have as much access to both parents as possible. The group supports joint custody for all children unless harm can be established by the child’s mother or father.

He said his organization took an interest in Scarberry’s case after reviewing Pancol’s ruling that he said was based on “some of the poorest findings I’ve ever seen written.”

Showalter said a winter storm that hit his home in Indianapolis harder than Madison County could not dissuade him from attending Thursday’s rally. “There’s no way you can say it isn’t worth a 50-mile drive over heavy snow,” he said.

Scarberry said several groups that support joint custody and equal rights for parents in custody cases have taken interest in his case. “I’ve gotten huge responses from everybody. Such a huge and diverse community has given me encouragement and support.

“It’s not just an agnostic thing and not just a Christian thing,” he added. “This affects everybody.”

Contact Dave Stafford: 648-4250, dave.stafford@heraldbulletin.com

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