Neo-Nazi’s have the right to free speech, but do they have the right to parenthood? Heath Campbell, a neo-Nazi living New Jersey, recently lost visitation right to his five children. His children, Joycelynn Aryan Nation, Adolf Hitler, Honszlynn Hinler, and Hons Heinrich were in foster care due to allegations of neglect and abuse. The latter three have been adopted. Campbell himself denies the allegations and claims he lost custody of his children because of his beliefs.
Campbell is a typical neo-Nazi: a Holocaust denier who believes that the name Adolf Hitler is “cute” and that his son, Adolf, is named after a “great war hero.” Campbell is also the founder of Hitler’s Order, a pro-Nazi organization which discusses political and legal issues. Campbell claims he is a good father, despite the fact both his former wives allege he was domestically violent (one of them had a restraining order against him). Campbell was also unemployed and on welfare, although that is due to a lung condition which prevents him from keeping a job. Campbell appeared at his child custody hearing in full Nazi uniform.
Campbell’s story reveals a few basic principles on family law, especially with regards to child custody. First, the needs of the child always come first. The allegations of neglect and abuse are the most important issues here. Campbell’s beliefs should not be considered until Campbell’s ability to keep his children safe and to provide them with food is certain. His lack of income and the claims of domestic violence by his ex-wives are factors a judge would take into serious consideration before visitation rights are granted.
Second, and this is true with law in general, always be presentable to the judge. Campbell’s beliefs are controversial, to say the least, but dressing in full Nazi uniform for a court hearing is not advised. The uniform is a bad idea though, not because it represents Campbell’s neo-Nazi beliefs, but because the uniform is a distraction to the real issues. The state of New Jersey believed that Campbell’s children were being abused and neglected. At best, the neo-Nazism may not hurt Campbell’s chances, but it will not help his case either. The Judiciary would treat neo-Nazism the same way it would treat homosexuality in a case like this: a non-factor.
With that said, Campbell’s case does raise the issue as to whether the parent’s beliefs should be a factor. There is a high probability that Campbell would seek to have his children emulate his beliefs. Campbell’s views on the Holocaust are morally repulsive, but only because society at large has decided so. What about children with radical Muslim parents or parents who prefer creationism over evolution? Proving whether a child has been abused or neglected spiritually, morally, or intellectually is difficult at best. This is not to say that such types of harm can’t exist, but the law can only measure physical harm.