Fathers demonstrate at court for parental rights

By Dennis Tatz, [Quincy] Patriot Ledger

March 11, 1999

QUINCY -- A group of fathers and children picketed outside Quincy District Court yesterday to call attention to what they say is unfair treatment by the courts

The Fatherhood Coalition's protest coincided with the trial of Harry Stewart, 44, of Quincy charged with violating a restraining order obtained by his wife.

Several children in the group carried signs reading, " Why can't I see my daddy?," "Help my daddy please," and "Kangaroo court - sham justice."

Stewart's trial was continued to May 26 because of the court's heavy caseload.

Stewart is a licensed minister not currently affiliated with any church. He said the alleged restraining order violations stem from his former wife's attempt to keep him away from his two sons, now 7 and 9. "My wife has never accused me of being abusive," he said.

Stewart said he was accused of violating a restraining order three times in 1997.

He was arrested in December when he went ti pick up his children at thier school in Weymouth. He spent the night in jail and was arraigned the next day in Quincy court for a fourth restraining order violation.

The couple were married for nearly 15 years before divorcing last year.

Stewart's case has become a lightning rod for the Fatherhood Coalition, which has been protesting outside courthouses the past few years.

"Our children are suffering," said Mark Gilbert of Fitchburg, one of the protersters. "Now I'm a visitor in my daughter's life. Children need both parents. After divorce, because of the courts, they have only one."

Gilbert said the courts have contributed to the delinquency problems by failing to give fathers an equal say in the rearing of their children.

"How many men will we put in jail because they want to have contact with their children?" asked Earl Henry Sholly of Medway, a regional director of the group. "It's ludicrous what the courts are doing to so many innocent men."

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