WELCOME TO THE BLOG.
WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH HOMESCHOOLING?
Sometimes we are asked why TEACH CT is discussing an issue that is not, at first glance, directly related to homeschooling. The mission of TEACH CT is to support the freedom of parents “to embrace their God-given responsibility to disciple their children through Christ-centered, parent-directed, home education.”
Christian homeschool freedom relies on the two pillars of religious freedom and parental rights. Encroachment on either of those freedoms can eventually impact Christian homeschool families.
Increasingly we are seeing inroads and assaults on religious freedom and parental rights. Sometimes it is clear that it could affect homeschoolers. For example, removal of the religious exemption for vaccination could impact homeschoolers attending summer day camps or community colleges.
At other times, there is not currently a direct link. Consider the changes happening in public schools. Public school used to be one brick and mortar building that housed anyone not in private school or in homeschooling. Now we see magnet schools, charter schools, online schools, and hybrids. As the distinctions become fuzzier, there is a greater potential for homeschoolers to be impacted.
We at TEACH CT monitor policy and legislative trends for any threats to the pillars that support us. Threats that are tangential are often best handled by other advocates, although in rare cases, we will voice our position.
It is becoming increasingly important that you- Christian homeschool families- develop a working knowledge of the issues we are watching outside the traditional realm of “homeschool regulation.” This way, if we issue an alert, you will understand why we are reacting outside our traditional wheelhouse. To that end, we are beginning a blog on the TEACH CT website to familiarize you with the issues… before they become problems. We hope you will be edified and strengthened as a result.
TOUCHING THE CONSTITUTION
HOW DO WE PROTECT PARENTAL RIGHTS?
WHAT IS GOING ON? Recently we have seen an increase in stories of the abuse of parental rights that boggle the mind. Parents have lost custody of their children based on trumped up “emergency” petitions (like in the case of Drake Pardo), or because they have refused hormone treatments for a teen who wants to transition to another gender. Parents have been threatened with neglect charges because there was an outstanding balance owed for school lunches.
More chilling than the abuse of power by child welfare agencies is the incomprehensible actions of judges in such cases. Why would the judge in the Pardo case grant custody to CPS after its many admissions to keeping information from the parents and not being able to verify its claims? Why would the same judge issue a gag order on the parents? Why would a judge remove a 17 year old from the care of his parents to receive questionable medical treatment?
In the past two years, we’ve seen multiple states fight bills aimed at regulating homeschoolers or trying to mandate home visits for children ages birth to three. We have experienced victories in these battles, but the question becomes… what next?
Academics are becoming more outspoken in their assertion of the rights of children over the rights of parents to bring up and train their children. This will be discussed in more detail in upcoming blog posts. For now, we mention it because it signals that the pressure to restrict parental rights will most likely continue in the near future.
WHAT IS THE ANSWER? What is the best way to protect parental rights when they are being systematically attacked across the country? TEACH CT alerts its members to issues so that they can contact their legislators. Is there another option? The leaders of the Parental Rights organization believe the best way to end this abuse is to amend the U.S. Constitution to specifically protect parental rights. See www.parentalrights.org.
HISTORY OF THE PARENTAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT Begun in 2008, the organization was established to present a US Constitutional amendment that would offer guaranteed protection of parental rights in the courts. They worked with members of Congress to introduce the Amendment and start the laborious process of amending the U.S. Constitution. As of August 2019, there are 18 sponsors in the House, but the Amendment lacks a sponsor in the Senate. Meanwhile, the organization has worked to preserve parental rights in other ways. In 2019, they offered language to amend CAPTA (the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act), although their language was ultimately rejected. Their next move is to work state by state for laws that will protect parents’ due process rights in family courts.
So why work for an Amendment to the U.S. Constitution? Such an action is complicated and requires either that two thirds of both Houses vote in favor of amendment (the method sought by parentalrights.org) or that a constitutional convention is formed upon the application of two-thirds of the states. That process is a marathon. Do we really want to open up the Constitution to amendment? Isn’t there a risk that established language will ultimately be used against us?
The founders of the Parental Rights organization observed the increasing encroachment on parental rights and a weakening of our rights in the courts. Before 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld parental rights as fundamental and parents were assumed to be the best caretakers of their children unless proven unfit. Then the court issued its ruling in Troxel v. Granville (2000) that muddied the waters with a split decision. It seemed to uphold the view of fundamental parental rights but also granted judges the power to balance parental rights on a case-by-case basis.
In addition to the confusion caused by Troxel, we have seen the court look outside U.S. law to international laws to decide issues of parental rights. In 2005, in Rogers v. Simmons, Justice Kennedy looked to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC) when interpreting phrases of the U.S. Constitution. This move signals a dangerous possibility of the court ruling that the UN CRC –although never ratified by the U.S. - is binding on the U.S. under the doctrine of customary international law.
What is wrong with the UN CRC? It grants autonomous rights to children that will be in direct contradiction to parents. In reality, when children are granted autonomous rights, it is the state that steps in as parent – it is a simple shift of power. It is the state that has been stepping in to take children from their parents when it disagrees with medical treatment. In the case of Connecticut, it is the state that does not want to even notify (much less obtain consent from) the parent if their child obtains an abortion or receives vaccines.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS? What are the arguments against a federal constitutional amendment? The primary argument is one that was made when our founding fathers debated the Bill of Rights. Are not parental rights fundamental rights? By spelling out certain rights in an amendment, are we subjecting ourselves to the possibility of regulation? Another debate exists concerning the use of a convention of the states approach to amendment. Given that a convention of the states is only one method of amendment, it will not be considered here.
Those in favor of the amendment, in addition to the concern about recent court decisions, might point out that calling a right fundamental does not mean it is absolute. Freedom of the press is considered a fundamental right, yet laws exist that punish defamation. Parental rights are fundamental, but laws exist that punish neglect and abuse.
Some have even argued that establishment of a parental rights amendment could lead to the establishment of a federal child protection agency, and therefore, proponents of the amendment must therefore want such an agency- with all its restrictions- to exist. This argument begins with pure conjecture of a conclusion and then assigns that phantom conclusion as motive to those who support the amendment. Unlike the 15th and 19th Amendments to the Constitution, the Parental Rights Amendment lacks a federal enforcement clause. The purpose of the amendment is to establish a standard for judicial review.
Legitimate arguments exist on both sides of the issue of a Constitutional Amendment. There is no need to assign nefarious motives to the proponents who are looking for answers to preserve parental rights.
TEACH CT is neutral on whether a Parental Rights Amendment is the best solution to protecting Parental Rights from further encroachment. We are, however, grateful for the work done by the organization to protect our parental rights and educate the public as well as legislators. It is a complicated issue. For more information on the Amendment, as well as answers to questions about how the process works, and what other options exist, we recommend you take a look at the information available at www.parentalrights.org. Meanwhile, TEACH CT will continue to support your freedom to train up and educate your children.