Join the Groundswell
What does it feel like to be a good parent but have your parenting called into question by the authorities? In February 2004, Rob and Susan Gauthier found out.
The Pennsylvania couple’s baby daughter Isis had struggled with respiratory problems since her birth in early 2004, and Rob and Susan were carefully monitoring her condition, having taken her twice to a New York hospital shortly after birth.
The homepage of ParentalRights.org.
One evening days later, Susan rushed Isis to the local hospital because Isis was having trouble breathing. Following a brief examination, the doctor forcefully suggested that Isis undergo serious testing, including a spinal tap, and be given intravenous antibiotics. Susan consulted with Rob, and they decided to wait on these treatments until Isis was examined more thoroughly. The doctor then called in two hospital social workers to talk with the Gauthiers and convince them to allow the procedures. After repeatedly and unsuccessfully urging the doctor to re-examine Isis, the Gauthiers reluctantly allowed the doctor to begin the invasive treatment. “They didn’t do all the proper diagnostic procedures,” says Rob. “If they had, they would have found out that she only needed oxygen!”
As if the situation wasn’t stressful enough, a county caseworker later showed up at the hospital to interview the Gauthiers regarding the “possible medical neglect” of their daughter.
After the caseworker interviewed the parents and various doctors—finding no evidence of medical neglect—Rob and Susan were shocked to learn that the caseworker didn’t consider the case closed. She wanted to investigate their home! “My understanding was that we had provided everything they needed to close the case,” says Rob. “The baby was already being treated and had a proven history of being taken care of. At that point they should have turned around and said, ‘Okay, that’s the end of it.’ ”
But that wasn’t the end of it. The caseworker filed a petition in the county juvenile court, asking that the Gauthiers be compelled to allow her into their home. Home School Legal Defense Association responded by filing an appeal of the order and a petition for a stay of the order for the duration of the appeal. The family's petition for stay was denied by the county court, then the Pennsylvania Superior Court, then the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The family was finally forced to submit to the unnecessary and unwanted home visit, after which the caseworker decided that the accusations of medical neglect were unfounded. Fortunately, in a later decision by the state Superior Court, a three-judge panel recognized the infringement of the family’s Fourth Amendment rights and determined the home visit to be unconstitutional.
Though the Gauthier case was
decided on Fourth Amendment grounds, the suspicion this family faced is just one example
of a growing bias in our nation against parental rights.
DO YOU BELIEVE THAT
PARENTS PLAY AN ESSENTIAL
ROLE IN A CHILD’S LIFE?
IF SO, YOU ARE INTEGRAL
IN THE BATTLE TO PROTECT
Children need their parents. They need the kind of love, understanding, support, correction, and guidance that only parents can give—it’s what helps them become successful adults. Who knows a child better than Mom or Dad? Who else has a child’s best interests at heart day in and day out? Parents have a fundamental right to be involved in the lives of their children, to raise them, and to make decisions on their behalf.
But the child-parent relationship is under attack. The effects of this onslaught are visible at every level of our society. We can see it in the local public school where parental involvement is said to be vital to a child’s success. Parents are praised—as long as they’re organizing bake sales or chaperoning field trips. But let a parent try voicing a concern about curriculum or opting a child out of a sex-ed class and it is suddenly very clear exactly where “parental involvement” ranks in the school’s value system. 1
Mike Farris’ “Get 40” Challenge
“Do you know 40 people who believe
in parental rights, and are you willing
to ask them to sign the parental rights petition?”
If each HSLDA member gets 40 people
to sign the petition, it will amount
to 10,000 people in 80% of America’s
congressional districts backing the amendment—that's 3,480,000 people. With that many people contacting their congressmen and senators
in support of the amendment, says Farris,
“I’m absolutely confident we can get
enough members of Congress to sponsor this amendment and ultimately vote for it.”
We see it in the child welfare system where some caseworkers have become
so accustomed to dealing with bad
parents and damaged children that that is all they can perceive and every parent
is assumed to be guilty until proven
We can see the effects of a disregard for parents in our health-care system when parents find themselves reported for child neglect and endangerment merely because they questioned a doctor’s advice.3
We can see it in our court system and state legislatures when judges and legislators refuse to acknowledge the vital role of parents.4
We can see it in the halls of Congress where a representative introduces legislation that could override a parent’s decision to choose their child’s education5, and a leading senator and presidential candidate’s published treatise, It Takes a Village, clearly lays out her belief that a nanny government must oversee all aspects of child rearing.
And the attack comes not just from within.
The same voices who claim to speak for children’s best interests also insist that America submit herself to international law. Already we are seeing the influence of international law applied to United States court decisions—like the Supreme Court case Roper v. Simmons, where the brutal, teenage murderers of a 46-year-old woman were exempted from the death penalty because they were underage—a fact that the teens themselves were fully aware of and considered in the planning of their gruesome attack.
And we can see it in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child—a treaty the U.S. is under pressure to sign that would take decision-making power out of the hands of parents and place it in the hands of government.
How can the child-parent relationship be preserved?
There is only one solution: We must amend the U.S. Constitution to explicitly protect parents’ fundamental rights. This is the only comprehensive way to shield the rights of parents from being undermined by federal court judges as well as international law.
That’s why ParentalRights.org exists—it’s a grassroots organization designed for the sole purpose of amending the U.S. Constitution to protect parental rights.
“Join ParentalRights.org—if we’re going to succeed, it will be because people are joining our ranks who want to be passionately involved in the fight for parental rights,” says ParentalRights.org President Michael Farris. “Passing a constitutional amendment is not a spectator sport. We’ve all got to get out and work hard.” Launched in April 2007, ParentalRights.org is a national campaign uniting everyone who agrees that the vital role of parents in the lives of children should not be undermined by government action or policy.
Although ParentalRights.org was founded by Home School Legal Defense Association, the organization is separate from HSLDA. “Parental rights are not just a homeschool issue,” says HSLDA President Mike Smith. “The issue affects all parents and their ability to raise their children. We recognized that we needed to broaden our constituency from just homeschoolers to the general public.”
Building grassroots support for parental rights is the
main focus of the campaign right now. “Passing a constitutional amendment is actually
the hardest political task there is,” says Mike Farris. “The
second hardest task is electing
a president.” To amend the U.S. Constitution, the amendment must be passed by a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, and ratified by three-fourths of the states.
As executive director of ParentalRights.org, Rich Shipe directs the process of building nationwide support for a constitutional amendment.
“There’s got to be a groundswell,” says Rich Shipe, executive director of ParentalRights.org. “It’s going to take people telling their family, their friends, their neighbors, and then getting all those people to tell their family, friends, and neighbors.”
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW
Building grassroots support means getting the issue out in front of the public. The staff of ParentalRights.org is actively reaching thousands of parents across the country with the message that parental rights need to be protected.
“We want the website to be the centerpiece of the campaign,” says Shipe. “We want to provide easy tools to help people understand the issue, inform their friends, and stay updated on developments in international law and in American law and court decisions.” Launched in November 2007, www.ParentalRights.org presents information on the threat to parental rights and the solution, research into the positive impact of parents on the lives of their children, news about parental rights violations, FAQs, a blog, tools to get you started in the campaign for an amendment, and more.
Direct interaction with Congress is also an essential building block of the success of the campaign. Right now, chief lobbyist Mike Farris is championing the issue of parental rights on Capitol Hill and beyond. As of January 2008, he has visited 30 members of Congress, explaining the threat of international law, why we need an amendment, and the battle plan for amending the Constitution. He is also speaking to homeschooling families and pro-family coalitions around the country. (To view an events schedule, go to www
HSLDA President Mike Smith raised awareness of the threat against parental rights in speeches at state homeschool conferences in summer 2007 and will continue to do so this spring and summer. Rich Shipe is also engaged in speaking
to the public about the amendment.
(Read Mike Smith’s latest op-ed on parental rights, printed in the Washington Times on January 14, 2008.)
And people are responding. “This is an issue that’s important to a lot of people,” says Shipe.
Farris says that all but two of the 30 members of Congress he has talked to have agreed to cosponsor the parental rights amendment “and the other two wanted to think about it,” he adds. “People are generally very supportive. The failure of the marriage amendment makes people very aware that we need to act preemptively and not wait until it’s too late.”
“Giving parents choices and a meaningful say in the lives of their children really resonates,” continues Farris. At a coalition meeting Farris recently attended, he met a speaker and father who had opposed—in a federal litigation matter—local public schools that claimed the right to promote a pro-homosexual viewpoint to kindergarteners, even against parents’ wishes. “This dad was very supportive of the idea that parents’ rights have to be for everybody—not just for homeschoolers,” says Farris.
Bloggers are joining the ParentalRights.org blogroll, parents are commenting on the website articles and signing the online petition for an amendment, and ParentalRights.org staff are fielding dozens of calls each day, answering questions, listening to parents’ concerns about their rights, and explaining the need for an amendment.
“It’s got to be done relatively quickly—in approximately the next five years,” says Farris, “or I believe society’s generally favorable mood toward parental rights is going to change.”
When grassroots support for the parental rights amendment is broad enough, the campaign will shift its focus to intensive lobbying of senators and congressmen. “Congressmen are responsive to their constituents,” says Farris. “When large groups of grassroots people contact them, they will respond.”
As the campaign develops, ParentalRights.org will be developing additional materials for supporters, such as talking points and information on scheduling congressional appointments. Supporters can now download a petition form and instructions on the website, allowing them to gather names, driving toward the goal of 10,000 signers in each congressional district.
Reaching those with political experience and professionals who work daily with parents and children is another essential campaign goal. Doctors, teachers, and social services workers, to name a few, can speak from experience about the importance of parental involvement in the lives of children.
“It will be important for us to build networks of doctors, teachers, and social workers who understand that, yes, there are real problems in families, and we do need to deal with child abuse appropriately, but we can’t do that at the expense of a healthy child-parent relationship,” says Shipe.
WHAT YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW
“The most important thing people
can do is help us get 10,000 people in
each congressional district to sign the petition,” says Shipe. “Our goal is to have 100,000 petition signers by the end of 2008.” He encourages anyone to sign
the petition, although the signatures of registered voters will carry more weight with Congress.
Shipe adds that while getting petitions signed in front of the grocery store is good, “it will be more powerful if the signers aren’t just people who are signing the petition to be nice, but who, when push comes to shove, will actually pick up the phone and call their congressman.” He suggests appealing to people you know, such as other homeschoolers and fellow church members.
Here are some other simple steps you can take to show immediate support for the parental rights amendment:
Join ParentalRights.org. Becoming
a member is as easy as visiting
www.ParentalRights.org, and making
a contribution of $25 or more.
Your involvement as a member
strengthens our campaign to amend
the Constitution to permanently
safeguard parental rights. As a member, you will also receive access to member-exclusive areas of the website.
Tell your friends. Protecting
parental rights is something that every good parent needs to be concerned
about. The user-friendly “Tell a Friend" application on www.ParentalRights.org enables you to choose people from
your address book to inform about this vital campaign. You can engage your friends and family on the issue with the click of a mouse.
You can also play a powerful role
in mobilizing support for the amendment by informing your church, homeschool group, and other local groups and
associations. Visit www.Parental
Rights.org for in-depth, printable
Contribute. Your donations help ParentalRights.org advance the campaign by improving our resources and promotional materials, and reaching more people with the message of preserving parental rights.
Hold a petition drive. Remember,
if every HSLDA member recruits 40 people to sign the petition for parental rights, then we will have a solid number
of people in 80% of America’s congressional districts in support of the parental rights amendment. Holding a petition drive is as easy as downloading the
appropriate materials from www.Parental
Rights.org, and choosing an effective
location where you can gather signatures and support.
Stay informed. Read ParentalRights
.org emails, visit the website for updates, and scan the news. Farris urges supporters to create a Google alert for the UN
Convention on the Rights of the Child. “One way to gauge where a movement
is going is to see what its advocates are
saying,” he says, “and you get the early warnings of what’s coming. The other
side isn’t static. We’ve got to be more
vigilant, more prepared, and more determined to win.”
“Parental rights are of particular importance to homeschooling families,” says Mike Smith, “because homeschool freedom is based upon two fundamental rights: parental rights and the free exercise of religion.”
“Homeschoolers have been at the core of the fight to protect parental rights for decades and will, I believe, be at the core of the success of this effort,” says Rich Shipe.
“HSLDA members can be the starting point in this battle,”
continues Smith, “because they
know the issues regarding parental rights. We’re hoping we can mount a wave, this first wave being homeschooling families who recognize the issue and are willing to do something about it; and then this wave would grow.”
“Be involved,” Smith urges member families. “Sign the petition. Circulate a petition and get it signed by a whole bunch of people. Contact your neighbors. Speak to your pastor. Pass out literature. Together we can make a difference.”
Looking for more details about the threat to parental rights and the need for a constitutional amendment?
Visit the Court Report archives to read past articles by Mike Farris.
- “Parental Rights—Why Now Is the Time to Act,” Mar/Apr 2006.
- “A Dangerous Path—Has
America Abandoned Parental Rights?” July/Aug 2006.
- “Can America Protect Parental Rights from the Onslaught of International Law?” Nov/Dec 2006.
- “Dark Shadows in Germany,” May/June 2007.
- “Advocates Prepare for Ratification of Child’s Rights Treaty,” Sept/Oct 2007.
- “A Deeper Understanding of the Threat of International Law,” Nov/Dec 2007. Audio version also available online.
Listen to or read Mike Farris’ 2006 National Conference speech.
- “Protecting Parental Rights—Why It Should Be a Priority,” originally presented September 2006.
Visit the Home School Heartbeat archives listen to or read Home School Heartbeat programs.
- “Parental Rights, Part 1”
- “Parental Rights, Part 2”
- “The International Threat
- “Parental Rights-The Burden Test” aired 8/21/2006-8/25/2006.
- “Parental Rights Cases”
- “Human Rights and International Law” aired 1/1/2007-1/5/2007.
- “Dark Shadows: Germany’s
- “A New Battle in Washington”
- “Parental Rights Amendment”
1. Mozert v. Hawkins County Public Schools, 827 F.2d 1058 (6th Cir. 1987), cert. den. 484 U.S. 1066 (1988); Brown v. Hot, Sexy and Safer Productions, Inc., 68 F.3d 525 (1st Cir. 1995), cert. den. 516 U.S. 1159 (1996); Fields v. Palmdale School Dist., 427 F.3d 1197 (9th Cir. 2005), reh’g. en banc den. 447 F.3d 1187 (2006), cert. den. 127 S. Ct. 725 (2006); Associated Press, “Court upholds dismissal of suit over schools’ same-sex teaching,” Boston Globe, January 31, 2008, www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2008/01/31/court
2. HSLDA, “Kansas: Homeschoolers proven innocent,” Home School Court Report, November/December 2006; HSLDA, “Michigan: Unexpected visit based on bogus allegations,” Home School Court Report, November/December 2006; HSLDA, “Texas: Caseworker tries to hide reason for investigation,” Home School Court Report, July/August 2007; HSLDA, “Colorado: Social worker ignores federal law,” November 28, 2007, www.hslda.org/hs/state/co/200711280.asp.
3. HSLDA, “Texas: Doctor Threatens to Notify CPS,” July 17, 2001, www.hslda.org/hs/state/TX/200107175.asp; HSLDA, “Family investigated for changing doctors,” Home School Court Report, November/December 2003; HSLDA, “The best preventative medicine: Examining the doctor-parent relationship,” Home School Court Report, May/June 2004.
4. In re Sampson, 317 N.Y.S.2d 641 (Fam.Ct. 1970), aff’d. 323 N.Y.S.2d 253 (1971), aff’d. 278 N.E.2d 918 (1972); In re Sumey, 621 P.2d 108 (Wash. 1980); Associated Press, “Teen who fought treatment is in remission,” Washington Post, September 15, 2007, www.washingtonpost
.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/14/AR2007091402330_2.html; HSLDA, “Iowa: Calls needed to stop state power grab over 16- and 17-year-olds,” February 8, 2008, www.hslda.org/elert/archive/2008/02/20080208100649.asp; Sara Alexander, “Parents have right, responsibility to know what drugs given to child,” Morning Sentinel, February 14, 2008, http://morning
5. HSLDA, “H.J.R.29: Right to Public Education Amendment,” January 5, 2007, www.hslda