Maryville Woman Feels Persecuted Over Faith

By: Stephen McLamb
By: Stephen McLamb

Blount County (WVLT) -- A Maryville woman says she feels persecuted by a judge and her ex-husband's attorney.

The claim follows a child custody hearing that she lost.

Jo Anne White says it seemed a questioning about her faith as a Seventh Day Adventist was excessive and out of place.

But an attorney for her ex-husband says it was her constant infliction of that religion on her husband and children that brought her faith into the courtroom.

White is redoing her home and rebuilding her life after the divorce from her husband, Donald, was finalized in August.

She's doing it with the help of her faith.

"Lots of people say it doesn't matter which day you go to church but it does matter to God because the Seventh Day Adventist church preaches the Sabbath and we keep the Sabbath,” White said.

But Jo Anne never dreamed her religion would be the focal point in a courtroom in the fight for her children.

That was until she says she was bombarded with constant questions from her ex-husband's attorney and Judge Dale Young.

"It just seemed like almost an hour and the judge just kept on and on and on," she said. “That was the most humiliating thing I've ever been through in my life."

"Religion was gone into because of the fanatical nature of Mrs. White," said Craig Garrett, Donald White’s attorney.

Garrett says her constant interjection of religion to Donald and the children, who attend a Baptist church, was a problem.

In an “agreed order” from last year, there was to be no discussion regarding religion and the divorce from the parents to the children.

"The father testified about things that she had said to him, things she did and said to the children and based it on religion,” Garrett said. “It was improper and needed to be brought to the court's attention."

"The main thing is I'm telling the truth,” White said. “My husband and his pastor continue not to tell the truth to my children."

But in the end, Garrett says it wasn't religion, rather the 16 and 17 year old children's wishes as to who got custody.

"Under state law they have an absolute right to testify and give their preference,” the lawyer said. “They had been with their dad over a year before the divorce."

Jo Anne White feels more than the pain of separation.

"Violated and condemned for the truth,” she said. “I know that persecution happens all the time."

Judge Dale Young is out on vacation and was unavailable for comment.

The custody of the children is only temporary.

Garrett says a final custody hearing is set for December.


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