I was recently shown a Facebook page entitled, “Help Reunite Ariel and Jordan”. It was shared to me by a friend named Joshua Stewart (administrator of “Atheist Support Network“), who informed me that this man, Jordan Clipston, had been denied the right to see his daughter, that his being an atheist had (through unfortunate events) led his ex to attempt to take his right to see his daughter away from him, that all rights to his daughter would be taken, and that little Ariel would be adopted by her mother’s new husband. I interviewed Jordan earlier today.
In this photo is Jordan Clipston, alongside his daughter, Ariel. To his memory, Jordan recounted to me that his daughter was a fan of Spongebob Squarepants. Her favorite movies include such classics as “Monster’s Inc, Little Mermaid, Shrek 2″ specifically. At 1.5 years old, she would even act the movies out in real time as they happened on the screen. “She never really had a favourite colour that I knew about, but she had an obsession with the shape, circle,” Jordan told me today, saying that at age 3 she would stop and point out circles in the oddest places, like she had an eye for finding them. He set up a keyboard in their living room, which Ariel found out how to operate. Jordan recounted how she liked to pound on the keys, and eventually discovered the magic of individual notes. Like any good father, Jordan probably had more to say about his daughter than any other topic we discussed. At age 1, she discovered that her favorite fruit was a banana, though she could not say it. “We had our own language for a few months,” he said. The last time Jordan saw Ariel, she was 4. That was two years ago. Until January, the only communication they had was online. Suddenly, that stopped as well.
Jordan: We also watched PBS together in the morning since that was my only time off. She loved Curious George and Zooboomafoo. Yeah.. that’s how it’s spelled. I have a band, and one of the songs I wrote for my daughter, (actually nearly all of them are about her) was a song called “Banana The Happy”. It’s about communication and the value of it.
I forgot to mention that I recorded all of her first steps, words, etc. Everything in the first two years of her life. I had 25 Digital 8 camcorder tapes in a box in my closet, which was at least 20 hours of Ariel. One day when I was at work, Samantha (Ariel’s mother) came in my apartment and took them. I tried to get them back but she refused. Three years ago, I tried to make a deal with her for her to send me a few tapes at the time so I can transfer them to DVD and send her the tapes back a few at the time in exchange for more and that I would send her a copy of the DVD’s with them… After stalling for nearly a year, she said that her parents had to throw them away because they got water damaged. That seemed too peculiar to me since I just so happened to be in most of those videos.
Could you tell me how a split-up came about, and why you were denied any form of custody?
Jordan: The split came about because of my stress with working three jobs, paying mine and Samantha’s bills and the frustrations of her irrational parents. I’m surprised I was able to put up with all the nonsense all at once; I was a much nicer guy then. At the beginning, around the time of the birth of my daughter is when it all started.
How did the girl’s mother get pregnant? Was there a relationship of any kind?
Jordan: Yes, we dated for a total of five and a half years. We lived together for two years before Samantha was pregnant. Samantha’s family was and still is a very conservative family. We were together for three years before having our daughter.
Can you tell me about your wife’s family?
Jordan: Luckily, I was never married. Although being married wouldn’t have put me in the situation I’m in now. They were a southern family and although they didn’t agree with my views, they never had any extreme differences with me until about a year before my daughter was born. Samantha’s father was active military in the Air Force and was stationed in Korea for a year, when he returned he had this newfound fascination with evangelical Christianity.
How did your differences with her family become a problem? What problems did that cause?
Jordan: The entire family always knew I was not religious, but it wasn’t until Samantha’s father started preaching Christianity to his family and myself, and judging those who didn’t believe as he did, it wasn’t until then that I told him that I didn’t believe in Christianity. It wasn’t until after my daughter was born until they found out I was an atheist.
Samantha and I lived together for two years after my daughter was born struggling with our differences with the weight of her parents on our shoulders the entire time. They dictated us how to raise our daughter and Samantha feared her parents and I had to waddle along.
The differences became a problem when I stood up to the parents against Samantha’s wishes and told them how they were wrong and how we know how to raise a kid. I pointed out that I’m the oldest of 6 siblings and I pretty much raised my brothers and sisters.
The entire thing ruptured the day my daughter was born, they were playing nice everyday before that, occasionally throwing out snippy comments about me being “a clown” or joking about me going to church with them, but it didn’t get hostile until the very day my daughter was born.
They probably didn’t like that very much.
Jordan: Samantha’s parents saw me as a kid, and they “knew” how to raise children and how to keep them God fearing and apparently, parent fearing. So anything I had to suggest wasn’t taken seriously.
I persuaded Ariel and Samantha to go to San Diego for a while. I knew they would be better off 1,500 miles away, than down the street from her parents. I wanted my daughter far away from Samantha’s parents, even knowing that it would be also hard for me to see her. I couldn’t afford to work 60+ hours a week forever and Samantha wouldn’t and couldn’t hold a job.
Naturally. Am I right to assume that Samantha began to side with her parents?
Jordan: Yes, Samantha, was “raised to respect her parents no matter what” and feared her parents. I’m a British citizen and had plans to take Samantha and Ariel to England with me and marry her there, but fortunately, that didn’t happen.
I one day stood up to the mother, who was feeding my daughter pills every Friday, because she was conveniently “actin up” or “runnin a fever”, these were unnecessary medications she fed my daughter and since Samantha was too scared to tell her anything, I did. That is what sparked the war and when her family began to oppose me.
This entire story is more of a battle I had with Samantha’s parents than it is with Samantha and I. But of course it became a war between Samantha and I when she decided to break off all contact with my daughter and I, over a year ago because of her family’s and fiancés’ wishes.
A detail I haven’t mentioned yet is that I was there for the birth of my daughter. The dad dictated to Samantha that she should have the baby on Lackland Air Force Base, rather than my plan of using Medicaid to have the baby in a civilian hospital, since he convinced Samantha that it would be fully covered.
You had to take time off of work for this?
Jordan: I was working three jobs at the time and was lucky that I could have to day off to see my daughter being born. I wasn’t really lucky, I just told two out of three of my jobs that I wasn’t coming in, with the risk of getting fired.
Quite a risk. So the child was born (congratulations), amid complications with the mother’s family.
Jordan: I was there for her birth, I remember going to the back and signing my name as the father on a lot of medical forms, but the next day I was working, and that’s when they filled out the birth certificate. I didn’t know about it, and even if I did, I didn’t have an ID to get on base to sign it if I could. The parents didn’t want me to have any legal rights and their excuse was, because they wanted us to be married first.
When did all the tension start with her parents?
Jordan: It all started when Samantha was about 6 months pregnant and we were decided on a name for the child. Our results near that time were Adrian, Rivan, Darren for a boy and Ariel, Holly and Elizabeth for a girl. The dad said, “why don’t you name them a strong Christian name like, David or Moses or Noah?”etc… I said, “well for one, I’m not a christian and neither is our baby.” I didn’t think a name like that was even an issue, I wanted a good name, I didn’t care if it was Christian or not. The father replied with “I don’t care if you’re a Christian, but my grandkid will be, and I’m going to make sure it goes to church with us,” he said in a border-line, jokingly way.
He also mentioned getting our child baptized and attending Sunday school and we even got into an argument about circumcision, where it began to get heated.
He said, “you don’t know what you’re talking about, in THIS country, WE circumcise our boys.”
Jordan: After my daughter was 2 years old, Samantha and I had complications because I was working three jobs and trying to hold a two bedroom apartment, a car payment and insurance, food, bills, etc…. I couldn’t afford it anymore and Samantha didn’t work much, because of her postpartum depression that lasted over 2 years. So she went to stay with her parents while I got a small studio apartment and tried to manage to pay off some loans and catch up with our late bills. That didn’t last long because she was fighting with her parents.
After some physical and verbal abuse from her parents, Samantha and Ariel came back to stay with me for a bit and then we decided to have her and Ariel stay with her aunt in San Diego for a while until we caught up. I visited Ariel when I could afford to, and we had a relationship over the phone and over the Internet. Samantha and I already agreed to officially split up since all we were doing was fighting.
How long did this break up last?
Jordan: It became permanent. About a year went by with Samantha and Ariel being in San Diego, California and me being in San Antonio, Texas. We met other people and went our separate ways, but I still was involved in Ariel’s life, sending her gifts, clothes, anything she needed. I visited her for her birthdays and sometimes during the summer, buying her new clothes for school while I was visiting.
(Below are excerpts from a phone conversation held between Jordan, and Samantha’s father. They are paraphrased from Jordan’s memory. This was the last correspondence Jordan had with Samantha’s parents. He was attempting to contact his daughter, as Samantha would not answer the phone. “Me” represents Jordan, “Him” represents Samantha’s father. It is edited slightly for length.)
Samantha’s dad picked up and said “Boy, what do you want?”
I said, “I would like to speak to my daughter”
he said “she ain’t no daughter of yours, you ain’t got no legal rights to her”
me: “What do you mean she isn’t my daughter, I’ve been taking care of her for two years and there’s no denying that she’s my daughter”
him: “You may be her biological father, but you ain’t her dad now, you need to just move on about your business and forget about her”
me: “I can understand that you hate me and want me to suffer, but how could you let your granddaughter suffer, not being able to see me?”
him: “She ain’t gonna be suffrin, she’s got a family that actually cares about her and can provide for her”
me: “So me working three jobs isn’t providing for her?”
him: “See you need to work three jobs just to provide for her, and you ain’t gonna get no time for her, so what’s the point of you even bein in her life?”
him: “You’re poor, you [had a child] out of wedlock (author’s note, discrepancy on my part. Original read incorrectly, “married out of wedlock. Sorry about the confusion.), you can’t provide for my daughter and grandkid, and you have no future… you need Jesus in your life son”
me: “I don’t think Jesus, Allah, Thor or any of the other gods are going to help my situation”
him: “you want to bring my grandkid and daughter up in a godless home with no morals and deny god?”
me: “yes, I don’t see where any gods have any purpose in a family and we don’t need gods to provide us with morals”
him: “then you’re going to burn in hell and I’m not going to let you take my daughter and granddaughter with you.”
( I try to say something at this point but he cuts me off and gets angry)
him: “Boy, you think I’m gonna let you destroy my family with your backwards view of reality? Your momma should have raised you right…. Boy, Ariel don’t love you, you’re never going to see her again.”
me: “Fuck you, you disgusting piece of shit”
him: “Boy, you’re gonna burn in hell… Boy?…BOY?”
Jordan: That was the last I heard his voice in November of 2007.
What did you do after this? Did you continue to attempt contact with Samantha?
Jordan: Yes… I even recorded a lot of the conversations. I contacted Samantha in February of this year, I sent her a three page email telling her that what she is doing is very irrational and that I’m giving her one final chance to do the right thing and allow me to pay child support and sign me as the legal father or I’ll have to take it to a higher authority. She didn’t respond, so I opened up my child support case so I can get a blood test. When she received notification of that, she panicked and had her dad sue me.
My girlfriend Emily and I saved about $800 together so we could take a road trip to attend the Reason Rally and Rock Beyond Belief. After two weeks away, we came back to a notice on my door for getting served. I was served with this petition the day after I returned from the trip. They’re suing me for adoption. I posted the petition on the page.
I was told it would be 8 weeks in February before the [child support] case would get going, so I expected my case to have some results by the time I got back, but she sued me and that’s what caused me to have to get a lawyer.
When did Samantha cut contact with you?
Jordan: January of 2011, because her family and fiance wanted me ‘out of the picture’.
So that’s when your girlfriend Emily made the Facebook page?
Jordan: Yes… the page was her idea, because I started to sell things, but knew I wouldn’t have enough money to pay for all $1900 in legal fees, and rent and other bills on top of that. I didn’t want to make my private matters public at the time and I definitely didn’t want to ask for money, so she persuaded me to agree to the page. Before that, I jokingly talked about having a reunite Ariel and Jordan page and to invite all of Samantha’s family and friends, but Emily turned that idea into something useful.
This concluded the interview.
Jordan discussed with me events of Samantha’s father loosely threatening him, and mentioned that Samantha is now married to another man, who will take away Jordan’s fatherhood rights and adopt Ariel if Jordan loses the case. It is due to her family’s religious hatred of atheists that any of this began in the first place, and they’ve made no attempt to conceal their disdain for his atheism, even initiating suit against him to take his right to his daughter away entirely.
This type of thing has happened to many people. Several of my own Facebook friends mentioned their similar situations, and asked me to wish Jordan the best in his attempt to avoid the outcome that had befallen them.
I understand that many atheists are skeptical (good on you) of any request for donation, but I hope this clears things up better. Jordan has listed images of the served papers on his Facebook page, linked at the top of the article. Of his current goal, he has been given roughly $250 in donations. He hopes to combat this suit in court, solidify his standing as Ariel’s father with a DNA test, and gain the right that he is owed to see his daughter. He is clean, does no drugs, and he wants more than anything to have his daughter back. So if you’ve got the time in your schedule or change in your pocket, please help Jordan.
I will be hosting occasional links to his page on the Crackpot Chronicle’s official page, One Nation Under Nothing, trying to generate support, but you can always find the link at the top of this article.
I would like to make a personal statement here. There is no reason why anyone should be allowed to tell a man that his daughter doesn’t love him or that he’ll never see her again. And nobody should certainly ever try to take a man’s child away simply on the basis that they don’t agree with his lack of religion. It’s discriminatory. Imagine, if you will, what would happen if a man’s daughter were being taken away from him on the basis that he’s of a different ethnicity. Half the country would be in an uproar, because racial discrimination is an openly frowned-upon act. Why should it be allowed that this man is discriminated against simply for his lack of religious belief? It’s his daughter, and the grandfather (Samantha’s father) has already proven to be a negative influence, willing to impose his views on someone else’s child. Jordan deserves his daughter, and his daughter deserves her real father. No man should have to fight to see his daughter, and no daughter should be stolen from her father. Please, if you can, lend a hand. Thanks for reading.