By Adriana Gonzalez
The long months of waiting are over. Finally, the anticipated moment has come, and in your arms you hold a precious, beautiful baby. As you look down at this helpless little person, it suddenly hits you that the awesome privilege and responsibility of raising and protecting this child is yours. You know it’s yours. Through thick and thin, come what may, no one will know and love this child like you do. And no one will invest more time and energy to try to provide the absolute best for this little girl or boy.
What if you woke up one day to realize that the right to raise and teach your child as you believe is not yours? What if you woke up to the nightmarish reality that the government can step in to override any decision that you make, without proof or even suspicion of abuse or neglect?
Such was the case for a mother and father of a thirteen-year-old boy living in the state of Washington in the early 1980’s. This growing boy was like many of his age who begin to question their parents’ decisions. In this case the family was attending church three times a week, and the boy wanted to go only once a week. He complained to his school counselors about the conflict with his parents. The counselors called the Department of Social Services who, in turn, took immediate custody of the boy! There was not even a suspicion of abuse or neglect; the only issue in question was church attendance. In a hearing three days later, the judge ruled that in order for the parents to get their child back, they had to agree to take him to church no more than once a week.
Pause and personalize this true story. Should the government have the right to step in and tell you, the parent, how often you can take your child to church, synagogue, mosque, or any other place of worship? Clearly, the answer is a resounding “NO!” So why did this happen? In the state of Washington in the early 1980’s, the law permitted a judge to have jurisdiction over a child if there was any conflict between the child and his/her parents. So if a child went to school, for example, and complained that her parents made a decision, any decision, that she did not agree with, she could then take her parents to court and leave it up to a judge to decide for her family.
I am a mother. Not a single day goes by that I am not engaged in a disagreement of one type or another. “Can I watch this movie?” “Can I go to the mall with my friends?” “Can I buy this dress?” Isn’t that part and parcel of raising children? I am perfectly capable of listening to my children and deciding for myself what is best for them and for our family. Often, I will yield to them; but many times, I will stand firm, knowing that I am acting in their best interests because I know and love my children more than any outsider does.
Although fortunately, the law in Washington that allowed that tragedy to occur has been overturned, the attacks on parental rights continue. Consider the following examples: In the state of Washington in 2011, a fifteen-year-old girl was taken, during school hours, to get an abortion without parental consent, or even knowledge! In Massachusetts also in 2011, a school board decided to start a contraceptive distribution program in which all students, beginning in the first grade, would be involved. And parents could not opt their children out of the program! (This decision was scaled back due to parental outcry.) In 2008, a federal court ruled that parents could not remove their kindergarten-age son from a class where he was being read very controversial literature. And in 2005, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals made this statement: “Parents…have no constitutional right…to prevent a public school from providing its students with whatever information it wishes to provide, sexual or otherwise, when and as the school determines that it is appropriate to do so” (Fields v. Palmdale).
Contrast the stories above with the teachings of the Church:
“Parents have the right to determine, in accordance with their own religious beliefs, the kind of religious education that their children are to receive” (Dignitatis Humanae, Pope Paul VI, 1965).
“The rights of parents are violated, if their children are forced to attend lessons or instructions which are not in agreement with their religious beliefs” (Dignitatis Humanae).
“In particular, sex education is a basic right of the parents and must always be carried out under their close supervision, whether at home or in educational centers chosen and controlled by them” (The Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Lopez Trujillo, 1995).
“The right and duty of parents to educate their children are primordial and inalienable” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2221).
Hope for the Future?
Has our nation, like so many others in history, embarked on an irreversible path of erosion of parental rights? Not necessarily. We have a solution to our problem and it is called the Parental Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution:
PROPOSED PARENTAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION
The liberty of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children is a fundamental right.
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.
This article shall not be construed to apply to a parental action or decision that would end life.
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.
The Parental Rights Amendment, once added to our U.S. Constitution, will secure the rights of fit parents in our nation to raise their children without undue governmental interference.
“. . . In the land of the free, and the home of the brave.” I have sung our national anthem countless times, but never before did I make the connection between freedom and bravery. Now I realize that in order to keep our freedoms, we must be brave enough to stand up and defend them. For more information on the Parental Rights Amendment, go to ParentalRights.org.