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Vol. XXIII
No. 5
Cover
September/October
2007

In This Issue

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by Michael P. Farris
- disclaimer -
Advocates Prepare for Ratification of Child’s Rights Treaty

A troubling wind is blowing in Washington, suggesting that the advocates of an internationalist approach to children’s rights are preparing for a major offensive. On April 16, 2007, I attended a briefing held in the United States Senate to promote the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The panel of speakers was an impressive collection of academics and activists. The featured speaker was Professor Jaap Doek, a law professor from Amsterdam, who recently completed a five-year term as the chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child—the agency with the authority to enforce this international children’s rights treaty. The moderator was Shay Bilchik, director of Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform and Systems Integration. Additional presenters included Randolph Stone, professor of law at the University of Chicago, and Mark Soler, executive director of the Center for Children’s Law and Policy. Over 70 people were in attendance, including an impressive number of Senate staffers.

Michael P. Farris, HSLDA Chairman of the Board.
...
WE MUST SECURE
PARENTAL RIGHTS AS
A TEXTUAL GUARANTEE
IN THE UNITED STATES
CONSTITUTION

...

The presentation was a wholesale assault on American juvenile justice practices which are claimed to be out of compliance with international standards on children’s rights. The presenters clearly were jubilant over their recent victory in Roper v. Simmons. This case involved three 17-year-olds who decided to do a thrill killing of a randomly-selected middle-aged woman by throwing her off a bridge. The Supreme Court employed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to bolster their determination that the death penalty was unconstitutional for minors. But, as was made clear in this Senate briefing, the Supreme Court stopped short of the true standards of international children’s rights: It is also a violation of international law to put juveniles in prison for life without the possibility of parole.

Of course, the child’s rights advocates at the briefing were wise enough not to focus on the facts of Roper. Instead, they simply discussed the abstract principle when advocating to the U.S. Senate that international law should be adopted to override American law to prohibit life sentences for juvenile murderers.

On May 18-20, 2007, the Campaign for U.S. Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child held a summit on the campus of American University in Washington, D.C. The workshops and other educational events were attended by 300 individuals, 100 of whom were children. Attendees included representatives of educational, human rights, legal, medical, religious, and social service professions.

The organizers of this conference touted the drafting of the “Declaration of the CRC Summit” as its most notable accomplishment. It states:

We believe that children and youth are our most important resource in an increasingly interconnected global community. Together we affirm our support for the U.S. ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), joining with 193 countries that have ratified the CRC.

As an international framework for children and youth, the CRC protects and respects children, youth, parents, and their families. Children are individuals with inherent rights and play an important role in society. U.S. ratification of the CRC will help protect the well-being and safety of children and youth.

Based on its history and tradition of human rights and responsibilities, the United States must demonstrate its dedication to provide all children and youth with a better today and a better tomorrow. We declare that a bipartisan commitment to ratify the CRC will provide current and future generations with opportunities and the support vital to meet the challenges of the 21st century.1

These are just some of the signs that the backers of the UNCRC are planning for a major offensive in the near future. Given the recent Democratic takeover in the United States Senate, the backers of the UNCRC seem to believe that their day for victory is on its way. They seem to be poised for action right after the 2008 elections. A major part of their strategy and timing seems to be predicated on the fact that one of the primary proponents of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Hillary Clinton, is the leading candidate (according to most polls) for the Democratic nomination for president.

All of this activity should give those of us who believe in parental rights a greater desire to take the necessary steps to protect these rights. Parental rights need to be placed in the Constitution of the United States in a way that will permanently prevent international children’s rights from taking over.

Geraldine Van Bueren, one of the drafters of the UNCRC and a professor of law at the University of London, described the impact of this treaty on parental rights to direct the religious upbringing of children. In the Human Rights Quarterly, she wrote, “Arguably, states parties to the Children’s Convention are obliged to respect the rights of parents in providing ‘direction’ to the child in religious matters, but such ‘direction’ is subject to two conditions: the parental direction should take into account the evolving capacities of the child and should not be so heavy-handed as to amount to coercion.”2

Her thinking is indistinguishable from that expressed by a trial judge in Island County, Washington, in a case I litigated in the early 1980s. Social workers removed a boy from his home because his parents did not respect his views relative to church attendance. He wanted to go to church only once a week while his parents wanted him to attend church with them on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and for Wednesday night prayer meeting. The trial judge ruled that the boy’s views had to be respected by the parents because this judge believed that once a week was enough church for any 13-year-old boy.

They call it children’s rights. But what the Convention on the Rights of the Child really gives us is an excuse for internationalist social workers and child-care “experts” to substitute their judgment for that of parents.

There is only one way to stop this internationalist move once and for all. We must secure parental rights as a textual guarantee in the United States Constitution. If you want to stop this internationalist move and secure constitutional protection for parental rights, sign the petition at www.ParentalRights.org.

Endnotes

1 http://childrightscampaign.org/crcsummit.htm.

2 Geraldine Van Bueren, “The International Protection of Family Members’ Rights as the 21st Century Approaches,” Human Rights Quarterly 17 (1995): 746.