Over 800 homeschoolers brought together by the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators (NICHE) descended on the Iowa Capitol Building yesterday to meet with their legislators, hear from gubernatorial candidates, and hear Michael Farris speak on preserving parental rights.  Dr. Farris is the chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, the founder of ParentalRights.org, and the chancellor of Patrick Henry College.  At noon on the west steps of the Capitol building Farris lauded a Parental Rights Amendment.

His organization, ParentalRights.org, wrote and is working to advance the amendment which currently has 130 co-sponsors in the U.S. House and six co-sponsors in the U.S. Senate (in Iowa – Senator Chuck Grassley, Representative Steve King and Representative Tom Latham are cosponsors).  The amendment reads:

Section One

The Liberty of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children is a fundamental right.

Section Two

Neither the United States nor any state shall infringe upon this right without demonstrating that its governmental interest as applied to the person is of the highest order and not otherwise served.

Section Three

No treaty may be adopted nor shall any source of international law be employed to supersede, modify, interpret, or apply to the rights guaranteed by this article.

He explained why such an amendment is needed even though amending the constitution is the last thing we should want to do citing that it is easier to be elected President of the United States than to change it.  He reminded the audience that in the 1990s he pushed for an Federal Marriage Amendment and was told that the problem wasn’t acute enough; that we could wait.  He said we in Iowa know the result of that inaction quite well.

He noted a parental rights erosion within our judiciary much like what we saw with marriage.   He said, “we want to do with parental rights what the Second Amendment does for gun rights.”  Farris pointed out that if this amendment were to be passed, no level of government could interfere.  He said that like the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion and the right to self-defense are God-given rights, so too are parental rights.  He argued that government does not create these rights, but they acknowledge them.

He said the primary threat to parental rights is international law citing that the U.S. Supreme Court in two cases used international law to interpret the U.S. Constitution.  He mused that none of our founders would have asked when writing our Constitution what will Europeans in 2010 think?  It doesn’t matter what Europeans think, and international law should not and can’t rationally be used to determine the founders’ intent.

But in lower federal courts international law, Farris noted, is used repeatedly with one judge in a recent decision recognizing the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.  When it comes to parental rights Farris said that the Constitution of the United States and the Constitutions of the Several States should determine these matters not customary international law.

UNICEF describes the CRC as a legally binding instrument:

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the first legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rights—civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. In 1989, world leaders decided that children needed a special convention just for them because people under 18 years old often need special care and protection that adults do not. The leaders also wanted to make sure that the world recognized that children have human rights too.

Addressing the reason given by those who want the United States to ratify the Convention, namely to protect and realize children’s rights, Farris said, “If this House of Representatives in this Capitol (pointing behind him) can’t protect children they should resign.  If members of the U.S. Congress can’t protect children, they should resign.”

He also noted that if the UNCRC is ratified, an 18 member international committee (Committee on the Rights of the Child), not parents, would decide “what is in the best interest of the child.”  One of the members is from Uganda (Awich Pollar), a country which can’t decide whether or not to ban honor killings.

I’d also note that one of the members is from Germany (Lothar Friedrich Krappman), a nation where homeschooling is illegal with one family recently being given political asylum in the United States.  There are also member from Syria which is not exactly known for it’s stellar human rights record, as well as, from Thailand which has a dismal human trafficking record.

Farris notes that we really don’t want this Committee deciding for us what is in our children’s best interest.

He notes that the primary two primary items of concern regarding the rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child are these:

Best interest of the child:

The best interests of children must be the primary concern in making decisions that may affect them. All adults should do what is best for children. When adults make decisions, they should think about how their decisions will affect children. This particularly applies to budget, policy and law makers, (UNCRC, Article 3).

Farris stated that the government can decide under the UNCRC what is in the best interest of the child over the objection of the parent and even over the child.  Article 4 of the UNCRC states that:

Governments are then obliged to take all necessary steps to ensure that the minimum standards set by the Convention in these areas are being met… In some instances, this may involve changing existing laws or creating new ones. Such legislative changes are not imposed, but come about through the same process by which any law is created or reformed within a country.

Unfortunately in our country when you have a judiciary, which tends to already legislate from the bench, the likelihood of these standards being employed if the UNCRC is ratified is high.  They are already using international law in their decisions, this would further empower those rogue judges.

The UNCRC says that spanking is no good (Article 19), children have the right to the internet (Article 17), to join groups or not join, parents wishes be damned, (Article 15).  They also have the right to leisure, play and culture, (UNCRC, Article 31), can you imagine a child pulling out this trump card when you try to get them to do chores, and then also brings up article 32 regarding child labor, that chores should not interfere with their right to relaxation and play.

Farris said that in the legal system what is in the best interest of the child is determined at the end of trials and hearings dealing with abuse and neglect issue.  When a child is found what in Iowa is called “Child in Need of Assistance,” (CINA) the court imposes on the parents what they deem to be in the best interest of the child.  It could include counseling for the child and parents, parenting classes, up to the removal of the child and the termination of parental rights.

Farris notes that the UNCRC sets a legal precedent that all parents are now on the same standing as parents convicted of child abuse or neglect.  Nice.  The second item of concern is:

You have to listen to the kid:

Or “respect for the views of the child”

When adults are making decisions that affect children, children have the right to say what they think should happen and have their opinions taken into account. This does not mean that children can now tell their parents what to do. This Convention encourages adults to listen to the opinions of children and involve them in decision-making — not give children authority over adults. Article 12 does not interfere with parents’ right and responsibility to express their views on matters affecting their children. Moreover, the Convention recognizes that the level of a child’s participation in decisions must be appropriate to the child’s level of maturity. Children’s ability to form and express their opinions develops with age and most adults will naturally give the views of teenagers greater weight than those of a preschooler, whether in family, legal or administrative decisions, (UNCRC, Article 12).

Farris noted in Scotland (see number 14) children have the right to choose their own religion and that parents can only advise.  So consider the implications of this in conjunction with article 12.  Farris notes that this “erodes parents ability to give direction” to their children.  Article 14’s explanation says more in depth:

Children have the right to think and believe what they want and to practice their religion, as long as they are not stopping other people from enjoying their rights. Parents should help guide their children in these matters. The Convention respects the rights and duties of parents in providing religious and moral guidance to their children. Religious groups around the world have expressed support for the Convention, which indicates that it in no way prevents parents from bringing their children up within a religious tradition. At the same time, the Convention recognizes that as children mature and are able to form their own views, some may question certain religious practices or cultural traditions. The Convention supports children’s right to examine their beliefs, but it also states that their right to express their beliefs implies respect for the rights and freedoms of others.

So while this says parents won’t be interfered with in “bringing their children up within a religious tradition.”  But what about if you teach that Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life, (John 14:6)?  What if this in conflict with how somebody interprets article 29 which states the goals of education:

Children’s education should develop each child’s personality, talents and abilities to the fullest. It should encourage children to respect others, human rights and their own and other cultures. It should also help them learn to live peacefully, protect the environment and respect other people.

When we live in a culture where the word tolerance has been reinterpreted this article could be interpreted in a troubling way.  Besides, I thought that the goals of education should be reading, writing, math, science, etc., right?  Oh I guess not.

Farris shared that Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) will be soon introducing new resolution, which will be a temporary step on the way to passing a parental rights amendment.  The resolution will more or less say, “we don’t want or need the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.”  Their goal is to have 34 senators cosponsor this bill.  I’d encourage you to sign up for ParentalRights’ email network so you know when this is introduced so that we can make phone calls.  Then in the push for an amendment their goal is to have four million people calling Congress.

It doesn’t have to be just homeschoolers.  The ratification of UNCRC impacts all parents.

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