When the 103rd Congress finally recessed on the weekend of October 8, homeschoolers from across the states heaved a sigh of relief. The country is never safer than when Congress is out of session. 1994 was a long and grueling year in the battle for home school freedoms. From the teacher certification requirements of H.R. 6, to the child-tracking registries of the Health Security Act, to the curriculum censorship and textbook revision mandated by an international women's treaty, Congress was never at a loss to introduce new and creative ways to regulate the family and invade the sanctity of the home. Over the course of the year, National Center for Home Education staff read thousands of pages of legislation. Homeschoolers sent thousands of letters and made tens of thousands of calls to their elected officials on a diversity of home school-related issues (without even factoring the one million calls during the battle of H.R.6). CapitolCoordinators for the Congressional Action Program put a lot of mileage on their shoes during ten home school lobbying day visits to the capitol. And thousands of America's children spent time in earnest prayer so that "Mommy can keep home schooling."
In the final analysis, the Lord was very merciful to the homeschoolers of America. The teacher certification measures of H.R. 6 went down in flames, and homeschoolers demonstrated that they could be a potent force of grassroots activism when threatened. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was never introduced. A last minute vote before the entire Senate on the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Womenwas blocked. The Health Security Act fizzled. The Lobbying Disclosure Act, a bill which would have undermined the right of homeschoolers to "petition their government for redress of grievances" was defeated. Even though Judge Stephen Breyer, an opponent of home school freedom, was placed on the Supreme Court, homeschoolers were able to raise the issue of educational freedom to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Hopefully, future candidates for the High Court will be evaluated in light of their view on parental rights and educational freedom. Finally, the change of leadership in Congress offers hope (though no assurances) that home school-related freedoms will fare better in the 104th Congress than they did in the 103rd. Of particular encouragement to homeschoolers is the fact that a hero in the battle of H.R.6, Congressman Dick Armey (R-Texas), is likely to assume the role of House Majority Leader, thus becoming the second highest ranking member of the House of Representatives.
U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
Just when homeschoolers thought things were settling down a bit, the Clinton Administration reached deep into its bag of tricks and pulled out a last minute zinger of mammoth proportions—the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Like the children's rights treaty with which we are all so familiar, the UNCEAFDAW would likely be interpreted as the supreme law of the land under Article 6, Section 2, of the Constitution. Both treaties compromise American sovereignty and allow the United Nations to dictate American domestic policy. In the case of the UNCEAFDAW, the federal government would be obligated to censor and revise all school textbooks which don't meet with politically correct feminist guidelines established by the United Nations.
Sound incredible? That is not all—the preamble to the treaty explains that the "traditional role of men as well as the role of women" are symbols of abuse which stand as the key impediments to reaching the U.N. goals of a world free of discrimination, and that all signatory nations are to "take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women" [Article 2, sec (f)].
The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on December 18, 1979. President Carter transmitted the Convention to the Senate for ratification on November 12, 1980, only days after he lost the presidential election. Article 2 of the original Memorandum of Law which accompanied the Convention when President Carter submitted it to the Senate states that the purpose of the Convention is to impose the Equal Rights Amendment, whether or not that Amendment passed (by 1982)—which it did not.
The Senate never ratified the Convention. The issue was revived when on September 14, 1994, Secretary of State Warren Christopher (acting at the direction of the Clinton Administration) contacted Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Claiborne Pell (D-RI) for immediate ratification of the treaty.
In a surprise move, on September 29, 1994, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 13-4 to recommend the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women to the Senate for ratification. Only four Republicans voted "no": Jesse Helms (NC), Nancy Kassebaum (KS), Paul Coverdell (GA), and Judd Gregg (NH).
The importance of persistence and determination was illustrated by the response homeschoolers received when calling their Senators to urge opposition to the treaty. A number of Senate staffs tried to deflect the concerns of callers and persuade them to stop calling by telling them that the treaty would not be brought before the Senate. Nevertheless, Majority Leader George Mitchell did attempt to bring the treaty to the floor. Fortunately, Jesse Helms offered a Senatorial "hold" and the treaty was dropped. Although the Senate of the 103rd Congress never voted on the international agreement, the treaty will most likely resurface for a vote sometime in the spring of 1995.
Senate Turnover Bodes Well For Foes of United Nations Convention
The shift in the balance of power in the United States Senate will probably mean more work for Marian Wright Edelman of the Children's Defense Fund and other advocates of the United Nations Conventionon the Rights of the Child. Children's rights advocates lost seven official sponsors of S.R. 70 (the resolution calling for the ratification of the Convention). Harris Wofford (D-PA), was actually unseated. David Boren (D-OK), George Mitchell (D-ME), Dennis Deconcini (D-AZ), Dave Durenburger (R-MN), Harlan Mathews (D-TN), and Howard Metzenbaum (D-OH) all stepped down from office.
When the 104th Congress is seated there will be only 38 Senators who officially support the treaty. That number is down from 50 earlier this year. Sixty-six sponsors are needed to guarantee ratification of the Convention, so children's rights activists will have to garner the support of an additional 28 members. A majority of Senators remain uncommitted on the issue. Thus, no one knows for certain whether the treaty would pass if introduced.
Of course, a Republican Senate is no guarantee that American family interests will be safeguarded. Several leading Republicans, including Dick Lugar and Jeff Jeffords of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have been known for their advocacy of both United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Womenand the children's rights treaty.
Senator Bob Dole will assume the role of Majority Leader. Dole, a one time supporter of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, withdrew his name from S.R. 70 after thousands of concerned parents contacted his office to voice their concerns over the treaty. Dole has not take a position on the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. If Dole opposes both treaties he could play a key role in shaping the debate on the floor of the Senate.
Jesse Helms to Chair Senate Foreign Relations Committee
For years Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) has been a champion of the American family and a defender of American freedoms. On several occasions, Senator Helms has taken a stand against those who would surrender American national sovereignty to the United Nations. As a result of the new Republican majority in the Senate, Helms will have an opportunity to chair one of the most powerful committees in the Senate—the Foreign Relations Committee.
As chairman, Helms will be able to wield a great deal of influence in the Committee decision-making process. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is responsible for approving and making recommendations on all United Nations treaties.
CAP Works To Defeat The Lobby Disclosure Act And The Women's Convention
When S.349, the Lobbying Disclosure Act, first passed the House and the Senate earlier this year, conservatives raised few concerns over the bill. After examining the legislation, HSLDA concluded that the bill would not have any fundamental impact on home school lobbying efforts. However, on September 27, 1994, the Lobby Disclosure Act emerged from the Conference Committee with a number of new provisions which would dramatically interfere with the efforts of the National Center and many state home school organizations to lobby on issues affecting the home school family. Within two days, the House of Representatives voted and passed the Conference Committee report by a six-vote margin.
The National Center dispatched a nationwide FAX ALERT on Friday, September 30, 1994, encouraging everyone to call their senators and demand a "no" vote on the bill. Meanwhile, as telephone calls were pouring into the Capitol from concerned citizens across the country, a special "emergency lobby day" was called. National Center staffers worked well into the evening preparing special packets to be distributed to every member of the Senate on both the Lobby Disclosure Act and the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
On the morning of October 4, more than forty Capitol Coordinators assembled for a special briefing and training session in the Quality Inn on Capitol Hill, just blocks from the senatorial offices. Two hours later these "CAPpers" hit the ground running to visit the Senate. By 2:00 that afternoon the Senate was blanketed by home school lobbyists. By 5:00 home school lobbyists had met with staffers from all one hundred offices. One Capitol Coordinator was so effective in her discussion with the Legislative Director for Senator Howard Heflin (D-GA), that the aide told her, "I have been on the Hill for sixteen years, and you are the finest lobbyist I have ever met." (Note: This was the second lobbying effort by homeschoolers in two weeks. On Wednesday, September 28, 1994, a team of forty Capitol Coordinators from the Congressional Action Program met with Congressional staffers to discuss parental rights and family privacy concerns raised by future health care proposals.)
Twice in two days, Senator Mitchell tried to break a Republican filibuster by invoking cloture on the bill to limit debate and require a final vote. Mitchell was denied the 2/3 vote necessary to invoke cloture, and the Lobbying Disclosure Act was finally defeated.