WASHINGTON, D.C. — It has been
a century since Woodrow Wilson reportedly opined that young boys
should grow up to be as unlike their fathers as possible. Whether
he worded it exactly that way, our 28th president surely pursued
the goal, both as educator and as politician.
Not that his era was the first to witness a challenge to parents'
prerogative. However, the early 20th century "progressive
movement" (of which Wilson was a part) did offer up the
most open manifestation of that attitude in American official
circles up to that moment in history.
Different versions, same crusade
In our own time, Hillary Clinton has channeled such Wilsonianism into
the high-sounding It Takes a Village, which a few years ago became
a bestselling book viewed by many as suggesting the "village" (not
the parent) as best arbiter of what is best for one's children.
History is replete with examples of government that seeks to acquire
more power by making parents less important or perhaps irrelevant in
children's lives. That creates an opening for the all-knowing state
to mold the young minds for the future. The old familiar story has
played out in tyrannies the world over. Though many "have seen
this movie before," those who push the anti-parent agenda — on
whatever pretext — are always with us.
Fortunately, a credible coordinated pushback to such mischief is emerging.
A Constitutional Amendment has been introduced in the Senate that hopefully
will light the fire of parental rebellion under establishment arrogance
on the issue.
The congressional resolution
Co-authored by South Carolina Senators Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham,
the desired addition to our Constitution reads as follows:
Section 1. The Liberty of parents to direct the
up-bringing, education, and care of their children is a fundamental
Section 2. Neither the United States nor any State shall infringe
this right without demonstrating that its governmental interest,
as applied to the person, is of the highest order and not otherwise
Section 3. This article shall not be construed to apply to parental
action or decision that would end life.
Section 4. 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.
A constitutional amendment proposed in Congress must achieve two-thirds
approval of both the House and Senate. Following that, it must be ratified
by three-fourths of the states. This process does not require any legal
input from the Executive branch of government. The president has no
official right to originate, veto, or affix his signature in any step
toward ultimate ratification.
One has to appreciate that the Founding Fathers anticipated that future
chief executives — being creatures of human nature — would
be vulnerable to the old verity that "power corrupts and absolute
power corrupts absolutely." The president's absence of involvement
in the amendment procedure was seen as one way of avoiding such over-reach.
The DeMint-Graham amendment has two goals: 1 — To faithfully
translate the traditional Supreme Court standard for parental rights
from an implied right into an actual, clearly spelled out textual part
of the Constitution. And 2 — To prevent international law from
supplanting American law on the subject of parents and children.
Backers of DeMint/Graham have been stirred to
action by recent trends that clearly pose a threat to parental
rights. Specific constitutional protections are seen as the logical
remedy. At the time of our founding document, its authors never
imagined an approach to government which would intrude on the
day-to-day decisions of parents on behalf of their children.
In the 21st century, however, we have seen multiple instances
where government seeks to intervene in family guidance for
the children without any indication that the parental judgment
would be harmful.
Example: A father took his 13-year old son to a doctor out of
concern for the boy's drug interactions. In raising the possibility
of illegal drug use by the son, the doctor asked the father permission
to test the teenager. After the test, the doctor said he was not
allowed to tell the father of test results because of federal Health
and Human Services (HHS) regulations.
(This column, in a previous
incarnation, warned of those HIPAA regulations
when they were formulated at HHS in the 2001-2002 period. Those of
us who expressed such concerns were given the brush-off. The irony
in this case is that privacy concerns may have resulted in challenges
to the right of the parent to have information necessary to guide his
child. It seems that if government doesn't butt into your life in one
way, another path to that same goal can be utilized.)
In 2010 in this space, we cited a hard core card-carrying Communist
whose "history" texts have been spoon-fed our children from
kindergarten through higher ed. Parental objections to such Hate America
indoctrination of their kids (on the parents' tax and/or tuition dollars)
have been ignored or rudely rejected. (See this column August
And these are not isolated cases. Backers of the Parental Rights Amendment
have been building huge files containing hundreds of other instances
where the hand of government has intervened between parent and child
in medicine, education, religious training, and other matters of everyday
decisions by parents for their offspring.
Ambivalent court rulings
In the absence of specific guarantees in the Constitution, the courts
are all over the lot on this question. In the 2000 Troxville v. Granville
case, the Supreme Court split six different ways, with only one justice — Clarence
Thomas — finding that parental rights are fundamental and should
be accorded the correct legal standard for that status. As a result,
many lower courts are issuing inconclusive rulings that endanger parental
responsibilities for raising their children.
An old story
Parental rights should be spelled out in the Constitution.
A petition now being circulated in support of DeMint-Graham
cites the arguments James Madison encountered when he offered
the Bill of Rights in the First Congress. He was told there
were other pressing matters and to come back with his ideas
if any problems developed.
Good thing he persisted. If he hadn't, we might have ended
up today fighting for our fundamental rights from the confines
of our jail cells.
Moral of the story, then and now: Put that in writing.
The Big Picture
Wes Vernon is a Washington-based writer whose broadcast career included
25 years with CBS Radio.
Copyright © 2012 by Wes Vernon and
the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. All rights reserved. A version of
this article appeared at renewamerica.com on
May 28, 2012.
See his biographical sketch and additional columns here.
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