Parental Rights

This is one of those dangerous pieces of legislation that is packaged up so slick and pretty that you're tempted to vote for it unless you really take the time to think about it. And the RRR is counting on the fact that in this fast-paced world we live in, most Americans are simply not going to take the time— or perhaps even have the time— to think about it.

As a stand alone amendment, it often reads, "The right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children shall not be infringed." If, as was the case in Colorado, it was being added to an existing part of the constitution (in this case to the "inalienable rights" listed in Article II, section 3 of the state's constitution), it added "the rights of parents to direct and control the upbringing, education, values, and discipline of their children."

On the surface, it sounds innocent enough. And I might actually have considered voting for a parental rights amendment until I found out that groups like Traditional Values Coalition and Christian Coalition (among others) were supporting the amendment. So I started to dig deeper to find out just why they wanted this so badly. (At the time, I did not have the internet and relied on newspaper stories for my information.)

Essentially, the RRR wants a parental rights movement so it can take us back to the 50s, when heterosexual, white Christian males ruled their castles and children were to be seen, not heard, child abuse and child molestation were taboo subjects to discuss and children had no rights or advocates. The RRR wants back the control and power it lost when people who aren't straight, white Christian adult males started standing up and saying "I have the same rights you do."

Under a constitutional Parental Rights Amendment, a parent could refuse to feed a child and claim he was teaching that child moral values by making him feel what it was like to be hungry all the time. And there would be nothing the state could do about it.

A parent could beat the child and claim it was discipline. And there would be nothing the state could do about it.

A parent could take a child from school and force them to go to work in the family business at the age of eight and say they were teaching a good work ethic. And there would be nothing the state could do about it.

A parent could force a young girl who got pregnant to give birth to the child even if it meant that the girl's life would be lost saying that abortion is murder. And there would be nothing the state could do about it.

A parent could force a child to consume alcohol and get them drunk, saying they were teaching the child the dangers of drinking. And there would be nothing the state could do about it.

A parent could force their child to marry. And there would be nothing the state could do about it.

A parent could virtually sell their child into slavery claiming they were teaching the child what it felt like for Moses and the Jews in Egypt. And there would be nothing the state could do about it.

Essentially, a parental rights amendment would nullify all child protection laws, all child labor laws and render useless agencies that offer child protective services. A parent would have carte blanche with respect to his/her child. For every right that a parent obtained, the child lost a right. When the parent is given the right to essentially do what s/he wants, the child has no rights and therefore no protection. (Yet these are the same people who argue against abortion and put the rights of an unborn fetus over that of the pregnant female.)

But that wouldn't be the end of it. Such an amendment would give parents the right to demand a customized education curriculum for their children in public schools, including books to be used, etc. Can you imagine a public school where every child had their own curriculum, different books and different goals within that class? Since public libraries are tax-payer funded, it wouldn't be long before some self-righteous parent would be demanding that the library remove certain books from the shelf since they were interfering with that parent's instillation of morals in his/her child.

Fortunately, it seems that, for now, the RRR has decided to drop their push for a PRA at both the state and federal level. But once they get the rest of their agenda in place, a PRA will be back up for consideration.

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Click on any of the links below for more articles about the Parental Rights Amendment.
Parental Rights Amendment in Colorado Parental Rights Amendment in Colorado
Synopsis: A brief history of the movement that spawned the PRA from the point of view of a proponent of the bill.
What's Wrong with Parantal Rights? What's Wrong with "Parental Rights"?
Synopsis: An article detailing examples of what's wrong with a parental rights amendment.
Colorado PRA: How and Why It Failed Colorado PRA:
How and Why It Failed
Synopsis: A very detailed analysis of the entire process from start to finish, including the financial aspects, voter attitudes and reactions before and after the 1996 vote.
For the Love of... For the Love of...
Synopsis: An article I wrote dealing (in part) with the parental rights amendment.

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