UPDATE (8/31): In response to the outcry over his original order, Judge Shapiro has issued a new order restoring Ms. Firlit’s visitation rights.
The Zoom-call court hearing involving Chicago mom Rebecca Firlit and her ex-husband was supposed to be over expenses and child support issues regarding her 11-year-old son. Firlit and her husband have been divorced since 2014 and share custody of their son.
But one of the first things Cook County Judge James Shapiro asked Firlit was whether she was vaccinated against COVID-19. She responded in the negative. The judge promptly revoked her face-to-face parenting time with her son until she gets vaccinated.
“I was confused because it was just supposed to be about expenses and child support. I asked him what it had to do with the hearing, and he said, ‘I am the judge, and I make the decisions for your case.’” Firlit told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Firlit has good reasons for not getting vaccinated.
“I’ve had adverse reactions to vaccines in the past and was advised not to get vaccinated by my doctor. It poses a risk,” she said. She is now forced to communicate with her son only on the phone. She told the Sun-Times her son cries and misses her.
More importantly, why did the judge believe he has the authority to issue the order he did? Firlit’s attorney, Annette Fernholz, also spoke with the Sun-Times.
“It’s very much exceeding his judicial authority,” she said.
Judges in various places have used vaccination requirements as an inducement for some defendants who are seeking bail or reduced community service hours, The Washington Post reports. However, the Chicago case appears to be the first time a judge has ever issued such a ruling in a case involving parental rights.
Focus on the Family does not take a position on whether to vaccinate or not, leaving that up to parents and families to decide for themselves. But there’s something egregious about a judge interfering in the intimate relationship between a mother and son over the issue. Especially where the issue was never raised by the husband or the wife or their attorneys.
Firlit will appeal the judge’s order.
“I feel like this will resonate with people because this is how things will go if we don’t speak up. Dividing families, taking children from their parents, we have to speak out to make sure this is not the new thing. Unfortunately, I had to be the first person that this happened to, but parents aren’t going to stand for that,” she said.
Photo from Shutterstock.