Parental Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution

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The Parental Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution is a proposed change to the United States Constitution. The amendment's advocates say that it will allow parents' rights to direct the upbringing of their children, protected from federal interference and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Amendment was first proposed during the 110th Congress as House Joint Resolution 97 in July 2008, but no action was taken during that Congress. The Amendment has been described as a "wedge issue" and part of the culture wars.[1]

The amendment[edit]

The proposed Parental Rights Amendment was introduced in the 111th Congress as House Joint Resolution 42 on March 31, 2009. The lead sponsor is Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI). The Amendment was introduced in the Senate on May 14, 2009 as Senate Joint Resolution 16. The lead Senate sponsor is Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC).[2] The language is as follows:

SECTION 1
The liberty of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children is a fundamental right.
SECTION 2
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.
SECTION 3
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.

Legislative history[edit]

The 110th Congress (2007-2008)[edit]

The Parental Rights Amendment was proposed by Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) as H.J. Res. 97 on June 26, 2008. It was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, and no further action was taken.

The 111th Congress (2009-2010)[edit]

The Parental Rights Amendment was proposed by Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) on March 31, 2009, and numbered H.J. Res. 42. It was also introduced by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) on May 14, 2009, and numbered S.J. Res. 16.[3] The House resolution has garnered 142 sponsors[4] (as of Oct. 28, 2010) and the Senate resolution has 7.[5] S.J. Res. 13, introduced by Sen. David Vitter on March 3, 2009, proposed the same amendment text, but had no additional sponsors. Each chamber referred its resolution(s) to its respective judiciary committee, and no further action was taken.

The 112th Congress (2011-2012)[edit]

The Parental Rights Amendment was proposed by Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) on January 3, 2011, and numbered H.J. Res. 3.[6] It currently has 17 cosponsors (May 26, 2011). It was assigned to the Constitution subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee. Rep. Trent Franks, chairman of the subcommittee, was a proponent of the proposal in the last Congress.

State Legislatures (2010 to present)[edit]

In 2010 the legislatures of Louisiana[7] and South Dakota[8] adopted resolutions calling on the U.S. Congress to propose the Parental Rights Amendment to the States for ratification. In 2011, the legislatures in Idaho,[9] Montana,[10] and Florida[11] passed similar resolutions.

Support[edit]

Support for the amendment is found at organizations such as the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, Focus on the Family, Liberty Counsel, and the Traditional Values Coalition.[12] Proponents of the amendment at ParentalRights.org contend that it will preserve the rights of children, arguing that the question is not one of child rights versus parents' rights, but whether parents, or the government can best decide what is in a child's best interest.[13] They contend that Section Two of their proposal will preserve the authority of the State to intercede for children who are abused or neglected, just as it exists today.[14]

Rep. Hoekstra has cited Antonin Scalia's dissenting opinion in Troxel v. Granville, where he argued that the Constitution did not confer upon judges the power to recognize parental rights not explicitly enumerated, as a motivation for the Amendment.[15]

Convention on the Rights of the Child[edit]

Proponents of the amendment[16] often cite concern over possible U.S. ratification of the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article Six, Section Two of the Constitution incorporates treaties ratified by the Senate into U.S. law, requiring state and federal judges to uphold treaty obligations. Constitutional lawyer Michael Farris, author and chief proponent of the Amendment,[1] expresses concern that ratifying the convention would disrupt state-level family law and shift power from the State to the federal government, leading to interference in the parent-child relationship.[2][17][18]

Farris and allied organizations also cite the theory of customary international law as a threat, claiming that elements of the Convention might become binding on the United States even without ratification.[19]

Opposition[edit]

Tom Head of About.com argues that the proposal contains "numerous 'poison pills' that would prevent it from being supported by mainstream civil libertarians," saying that its language is overbroad and would enable abuse and neglect by parents. He describes the amendment as unserious, meant more as a "rallying point" for "ultra-conservative legislators" than as a genuine amendment to the Constitution.[20]

Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) says that the amendment was crafted in response to the U.N.'s Convention on the Rights of the Child, but that the Convention is not a real threat to parental rights; therefore, an amendment is not necessary.[21][full citation needed] Mary Landrieu (D-LA) points out that the Convention has not been ratified, and asserts that even if it is ratified, it will not infringe upon existing laws.[22][full citation needed]

Opposition from homeschooling advocates[edit]

Larry Kaseman of Home Education magazine argues that the Amendment's focus on rights rather than responsibilities will empower parents to treat their children like property and shelter unfit parents from punishment for neglect and abuse. Kaseman also holds that parental rights exist separately from federal law, and expresses concern that a constitutional amendment would federalize family law, granting the government the power to give, define, limit, regulate, and take away parental rights. He argues that the Ninth Amendment to the United States Constitution already protects parental rights.[23]

Deborah Stevenson of National Home Education Legal Defense (NHELD) argues, citing the Tenth Amendment, that parental rights fall within state jurisdiction and that the issue should be resolved at the state level.[24]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Parental Rights: The New Wedge Issue". CBS News. April 8, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b David Crary, Associated Press (2009-04-30). "Kids'-rights pact finds critics in Congress". Sfgate.com. Retrieved 2011-09-06. 
  3. ^ "Parental rights needed in US Constitution". AFP. 2009-03-27. Retrieved 2011-09-06. 
  4. ^ "List of House Co-Sponsors". Thomas.loc.gov. Retrieved 2011-09-06. 
  5. ^ "List of Senate Co-Sponsors". Thomas.loc.gov. Retrieved 2011-09-06. 
  6. ^ Library of Congress at [1].
  7. ^ "Search of SCR 38 from http://www.legi.state.la.us". Retrieved May 26, 2011. 
  8. ^ "Search for HCR1014 from http://legis.state.sd.us/session/2010/index.aspx". Retrieved May 26, 2011. 
  9. ^ "USA Today, Feb. 3, 2011". February 3, 2011. Retrieved May 26, 2011. 
  10. ^ "laws.leg.mt.gov". Retrieved May 26, 2011. 
  11. ^ "http://www.myfloridahouse.gov". Retrieved May 26, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Drive for Parental Rights Amendment Picks Up Over 110 Co-Signers, Christian News". Christianpost.com. 2009-07-29. Retrieved 2011-09-06. 
  13. ^ "ParentalRights.org" Accessed September 2010.
  14. ^ "Parentsrights.us" Accessed October, 2010.
  15. ^ http://hoekstra.house.gov/parentsrights/faq.aspx
  16. ^ ParentalRights.Org Allied Organizations [2].
  17. ^ ParentsRights.us. FAQs.
  18. ^ Kunzman, Robert (2009). Write these laws on your children : inside the world of conservative Christian homeschooling. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press. p. 229. ISBN 978-0-8070-3291-6. Retrieved 2011-09-06. 
  19. ^ ParentalRights.org. "The Threat of Customary International Law." Accessed October 2009.
  20. ^ "Parental Rights Amendment - Does the Parental Rights Amendment Make Sense?". Civilliberty.about.com. 2010-06-11. Retrieved 2011-09-06. 
  21. ^ Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) wrote to a constituent on July 22, 2009, "Frankly the (amendment) seems unnecessary, as the Convention does not threaten these rights."
  22. ^ Sen. Mary Landrieu wrote to a constituent on March 12, 2009, "The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child does not infringe upon any laws in the United States."
  23. ^ Kaseman, Larry and Susan. "Taking Charge.", July, 2009.
  24. ^ Stevenson, Deborah. "The Parental Rights Amendment.", April 2009.

External links[edit]