Non-religious woman who refused judge's order to meet with Christian counselor loses her sons


Holly Salzman of Albuquerque, New Mexico went to court to resolve coparenting issues with her ex-husband. The judge ordered Salzman to attend 10 sessions with a counselor named Mary Pepper (Photo). When Salzman went to the first session, Pepper began praying out loud, Salzman objected but Pepper told her, "well this is what I do." When Salzman attended the next session, Pepper prayed out loud again and spoke at length about God. Salzman asked the court to let her see another counselor, but the court never responded. Salzman stopped seeing Pepper and the court took her sons away.

In order to regain custody of the boys, Salzman would have to complete the sessions. KRQE News Channel 13 and Salzman worked together to covertly record three of the final sessions with Pepper.

"The meaning in my life is to know love and serve God," Pepper told Salzman in one of the recorded meetings. "If you want to explore how God was in your past, how God was in your life and not in your life… I know you don't believe in God which is fine but I now at some points he was in your life in some way."

Pepper frequently handed Salzman religious tracts and gave Salzman a "homework" assignment, to write an essay titled "Who is God to me?"

Pepper sounds like a real piece of work. KRQE News found out she uses public libraries to conduct her counseling sessions:

"That way I can keep my costs down," Pepper said.

But she's not allowed to work in public libraries. City policy forbids the sale of products or services on library property.

Salzman says Pepper is aware of that– claiming she has her clients book the rooms in their names and pay her in cash.

"She had actually explained to me that you need to be discrete about it because I'm not allowed to exchange money in the public library. So I had to kind of hide the money and then literally pass the money under the table," Salzman said.

Pepper wouldn't tell KRQE News 13 about the cash payments.

"I think that this interview needs to be ended," she said.