Court Forces Non-Religious Mom To Get Christian Counseling Or Lose Custody Of Her Children

Holly Salzman is a loving mother of two sons who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She recently sought court aid in coparenting her children with their father, from whom she is now divorced. The judge then ordered her to attend sessions with a Christian counselor or face contempt of court charges and lose custody of her children.


Salzman said she just naturally assumed that the counselor the judge sent her to, Mary Pepper, would be someone who specialized in family and couples counseling, but as she recalls:

“I walked into the session and the very first thing she said to me was, ‘I start my sessions by praying’ When I expressed my concerns that I didn’t pray she said, ‘well this is what I do’ and she proceeded to say a prayer out loud.”

Had Holly Salzman refused to continue the Christian counseling sessions, she would have been held in contempt of court and could have lost custody of her sons. Salzman said that she feels for the court to order her to a Christian counselor is a violation of the separation of church and state, so after the initial session, she contacted Family Court and left a message expressing her concerns. She never heard a word back from anyone at the court.

Now we arrive at the second counseling session. And again, Pepper opened with a prayer. Salzman:

“We went back to court. I expressed concerns again about the religious overtones and they stated they hadn’t heard any problems concerning Mary Pepper with religion.”

Salzman stopped going to the weekly counseling, and the court took her sons away from her. Yes, they took them away because she objected to Christian counseling! Salzman says the entire ordeal has been horrible:

“It’s probably the worst thing I’ve ever been through in my life.”

ACLU executive director Peter Simonson commented on Salzman’s case:

“No one should be put in a position where they are forced to accept training or therapy that violates their own religious beliefs and morals. We’ve got protections in our country under the Bill of Rights are intended to try and stop that. On the face of it, it looks pretty problematic.”

Ms. Salzman has since completed the court-mandated counseling and been reunited with her sons. She said:

“I got a certificate and I kicked my heels on the way out.”

This article was originally published by the same author at

10 thoughts on “Court Forces Non-Religious Mom To Get Christian Counseling Or Lose Custody Of Her Children

  1. That judge needs to be removed from office. He is completely unqualified for his position and apparently doesn’t grasp the content of the Constitution he has sworn to uphold and administer.

  2. No one should be put in a position where they are forced to accept training or therapy that violates their own religious beliefs and morals.—————————–

    WTF. you mean the state of New Mexico isn’t defending this woman’s religious, or lack there of, freedom the way other states are defending Christians religious freedoms? where are all the Reichwing extremists? if it was one of theirs they’d be screaming louder than a Black Sabbath concert about being persecuted.

  3. Maybe its just me but im missing something……..i understand the therapist leads her sessions off with a prayer whether you pray along or not……. so what, let her do her thing…….but it mentions nothing about “the sessions”….. what were the sessions about? God? Her boys? Her relationship with ex? was the problem just the prayer at the beginning?

    • If you don’t join in, however, the therapist is undoubtedly going to give a negative report to the court. She will be automatically biased against you. It’s even worse than being pressured to pray in school. You’ll be socially ostracized if you don’t and subtly punished by the teacher. A counselor should keep their religious faith (I’d prefer an atheist myself) to themselves and mediate solely on the merits.

  4. This woman does not deserve her children, I would walk through fire to not be separated from my child, she took a risk of losing custody of her children to take a stand. She did not say that she forced to pray or discriminated against in the counseling session because she didn’t pray, she chose not to attend risking emotional harm to her children. I am a school counselor, I see parents that put their own needs above their children’s needs every day. If I had to see an non christian counselor in order to retain custody of my child I would do it in a minute, And you do not know if the counselor would have been biased against for not praying.

    • What part of NOT having to adhere to any religion in this country do you and that supposed counselor not understand? I would get me the first lawyer to sue the shit out of her, my ex, the state and anyone who had a part in this and I would get a lawyer who would see to it that my ex never ever got to see those kids again if he had a part in this!!

    • what if the mother was a Jew or Moslem, would the judge still order religious counseling? This judge was absolutely wrong! Those who support this judge
      are unamerican!

    • Really, so if a judge ordered you to attend a mosque and meet with the Imam for counseling, you would joyfully go and not have a problem.

  5. As far as I’m concerned that ‘judge” ought to be removed from the bench for a clear violation of the “Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. When he was sworn in he took an oath to uphold the Constitution, the entire Constitution, not just the parts he agreed with.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *