Court to rule on baby's baptism

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A COURT will be asked today to rule whether the child of unmarried Christian and Muslim parents can be baptised, after the Muslim father took out an injunction preventing the christening ceremony.

The baby was to have been christened at an Anglican service in Wiltshire last Sunday, but, in what is thought to be the first case of its kind concerning an unmarried couple, the child's father won an interim injunction under the 1989 Children Act, and the ceremony was called off at 48 hours' notice. A hearing will take place at Swindon County Court today.

The 27-year-old father is said to want the five-month old girl brought up in the Muslim faith. The mother, aged 21, is a Christian, and claims to have been entirely responsible for her care. The mother's lawyer, Dianne Anderson, said yesterday that she had never heard of a similar case, adding: 'It is even more unusual because the parents are not even married.'

The child's aunt said: 'The whole family is distraught by the incident. All we wanted was a quiet, pleasant family christening and now my sister is having to go to court over it.'

A spokesman for the Bishop of Salisbury said yesterday: 'We have never heard of a parish priest having a court injunction served on him to halt the proceedings of a baptism.' Christopher Ross, the diocesan secretary, said: 'We respect every other religion but in this case the mother has obviously taken responsibility for the upbringing of the child and it is her will to bring her child up as a Christian.'

Muslim law requires that a child be brought up in the father's faith, except in cases of rape or where the father is unknown. Masoud Shadjareh, chairman of the human rights committee of the self-styled Muslim Parliament, said yesterday: 'We normally suggest a contract is drawn up when a Muslim marries a non-Muslim, so that there is no grey area over the child's upbringing, should the relationship end.'