Americans for a Society Free from Age Restrictions
|Motto||Ability, not age|
|Legal status||501(c)(3) public charity|
|Headquarters||Chicago, IL, United States|
|Leader||Max Harmony (President) Susan Wishnetsky (Secretary)|
|Board of Directors|
|Part of the Politics series on|
Americans for a Society Free from Age Restrictions, also known as ASFAR Youth Liberation, is an organization dedicated to increasing the rights of youth under American law. The purpose of ASFAR is to "defend and advance the civil and human rights of young people through promoting the elimination and reform of laws that limit the freedom and self-determination of young people in the United States, and empowering young people to act on their own behalf in defense of their rights and freedoms". ASFAR is associated with the youth rights movement, which advocates more freedom for young people and protection of their rights under law, in order to allow them the greatest degree of self-determination possible.
History and schism
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ASFAR, originally an email list organization, was founded in 1996 by Matt Walcoff and Matt Herman, two individuals who felt that age restrictions in the U.S. had gone too far. The small project grew into what could be called a legitimate organization. In 1999, ASFAR was incorporated in Missouri.
Within a year of its founding, ASFAR developed internal conflicts that would ultimately split the organization. Disputes over internal affairs and over the Declaration of Principles would lead to the creation of two factions. One group, which included the majority of the membership at that time, called for a detailed and radical declaration of principles and a high degree of membership involvement in the formation of policy. This faction took the name of the group literally and insisted the organization oppose all age restrictions as a matter of principle.
The other faction, led by Herman and Walcoff, called for a more traditional organization, led by a board of directors and with a smaller, more pragmatic set of policy positions. This latter group would leave to form the more visible and active National Youth Rights Association (NYRA).
ASFAR opposes a wide variety of laws that limit the freedom of young people, such as voting age limits, curfew laws, compulsory education, child labor laws, age of consent laws, minimum drinking ages, pornography age laws, child prostitution laws and minimum ages for firearm possession. They support a non-age-based alternative to every age-based law, and believe that the rights of all people to freedom and self-determination outweigh the cost of implementing non-age-based laws.
The animosity that led to the schism with NYRA has largely subsided, and ASFAR enjoys amicable and cordial relations with NYRA. While neither organization has gone on record as supporting formal reunification, neither organization has formally renounced the prospect.
ASFAR published an internet zine, Youth Truth, that was nominated for the Utne Alternative Press Award for "General Excellence -- Zine" in 2006. Youth Truth was suspended in 2007 by order of its board of directors. In the January 2010 board meeting, the board of directors appointed Susan Wishnetsky to restart the zine. Meanwhile, ASFAR's opposition to the age of consent continues to attract members to ASFAR, as NYRA objects to taking a position on the issue. ASFAR is currently in the process of forming new positions on the age of consent, students' rights, the drinking age, and the treatment of young people by the media.
- ASFAR Articles of Incorporation
- Schism - Youth Rights Network
- https://web.archive.org/web/20120310151524/http://www.youthrights.org/docs/NYRAChapterHandbook.pdf NYRA chapter handbook; see note in right-hand column of page 4