By Cate Pilgrim
Patrick Henry College
Parentalrights.org seeks to ensure American parents maintain their right to educate and care for their own children
“Everything looks fine, but do you realize you’re old enough for Gardasil?” the doctor begins. “It’s a vaccination that the FDA recommends you get before adolescence and potential sexual activity. Would you like us to schedule an appointment?”
“Not today, thanks,” you respond, relieved that you stayed with your daughter. Piano lesson is next, and you’re reaching for your purse when you realize the doctor is looking at you. She meets your eye.
“Excuse me, that question is for your daughter to answer. She is my patient, and Gardasil prevents cancer…”
According to Jim Bentley, executive director of Parentalrights.org (PRO), situations like these are becoming normative in the United States. And they will increase if the United States ratifies the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), an international human rights initiative that claims to protect children, but which in many cases would usurp parental authority. Founded by PHC Chancellor and founder, Dr. Michael Farris, Parentalrights.org’s mission is to protect the rights of children and parents by preventing ratification of the CRC in the United States, and also by passing a Parental Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In order to help garner support in Congress, the organization is working to secure 10,000 citizen supporting signatures in each congressional district. Thus far, with the help of U.S. Representatives Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) and Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) along with Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), the Parental Rights Amendment has found 135 cosponsors in the House and seven in the Senate, and Bentley’s staff is concentrating on gathering 2,000 signatures in key districts.
Staffed by PHC Students
Bentley’s 26-person team, operating out of two office trailers parked behind Patrick Henry College, consists mostly of present or former Patrick Henry College students. Even at a College that places heavy emphasis on high-level internships, the occasion to work on the promotion and passage of a constitutional amendment is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Joanna Griffith, a sophomore at PHC, is one of PRO’s five regional coordinators, responsible for grassroots outreach in Midwestern and Rocky Mountain areas. She became involved with PRO after reading Forbid Them Not, a novel on parental rights by Dr. Michael Farris.
Griffith fully supports the mission of Parentalrights.org, to “protect the vital role of parents in the lives of children” and prevent that role from being “undermined by government action or policy.” She has participated in three major lobby days in D.C., and is encouraged by the progress PRO is making. “One thing working here at PRO has taught me is that Congress is a lot more accessible than it seems,” Griffith said. “It’s a privilege, getting to do things college students don’t usually get a chance to do.”
New alumni Jonathan Horton (R) and Jeremy Smith (middle) work alongside PHC student Andrew Leaming in the PRO trailer
The CRC, Bentley explained, seems innocent on its face. It was developed by the United Nations twenty years ago, and is a manifesto claiming to protect children from exploitation and to give them rights. To date, every other country party to the UN has ratified this document except the United States and Somalia. Why is the U.S. so wary of the CRC? Why is the “land of the free” lagging behind in passing an inclusive human rights treaty for its children?
Possibly because ratifying the CRC would make it effective law in the United States. According to the Supremacy Clause in Article VI of our Constitution, treaties ratified with the consent of the Senate must be enforced with the same thoroughness as any home-made law. The ratification of the CRC would mean the marriage of parenting and bureaucracy; parental decisions would be firmly placed in federal custody. Among the CRC’s supporters are PlannedParenthood, the ACLU, and the NEA.
Already, the U.S. is experiencing an erosion of parental rights. Under the banner of “individual rights for children,” lawmakers and activists are redefining parental authority. International law, including principles enumerated in the CRC, is seeping into the structure of our court system, as evidenced by Justice Steven’s anti-parental rights opinion given in the custody case, Troxel vs. Granville (2000).
Bentley, himself a parent, feels America and all she stands for is under threat. “My passion, besides being a parent, is to protect the ability of parents to share their culture and beliefs with their children. That is the fiber of this country. If you take away the right of parents to share that diversity and uniqueness, you will destroy what makes America America,” Bentley said.
He held up a stack of letters and emails Parentalrights.org has received from outraged parents. Some of the complaints were subtly invasive—parents denied access to their children’s school bills, library records, and report cards. Others, however, were utterly frightening—including the doctor’s behavior recounted above.
Of additional concern is the ignorance pervasive in Washington on this issue among Democrats and Republicans alike. The majority of politicians are ambivalent when it comes to parental rights, or they support the Convention on the Rights of the Child, possibly unaware that the CRC is cited as a “living document,” which can be altered on the whim of the appointed U.N. committee (See paragraph 20 of The Committee on the Rights of the Child’s “General Comment No. 8,” 2006). The eighteen committee members claim final power to “interpret” the CRC’s document. In 2003 they decided that the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives a legal basis “to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse,” included corporal punishment, a drastic adjustment to the CRC version passed by the U.N. in 1989.
The CRC is incompatible with America’s system of government, and Bentley, along with thousands of concerned Americans, hopes to trumpet its flaws until they are obvious to both parties. But Bentley and PRO do not only want to see the CRC defeated in the Senate: they are working to promote the Parental Rights Amendment in the House. The Parental Rights Amendment would provide a safeguard to the child-parent relationship, and prevent international laws from warping traditional liberties.
And for the students at Patrick Henry College who have had the privilege of working on the Parental Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the opportunity will undoubtedly stand as one of life's truly unique on-the-job training experiences.
Please watch this video of the winner of PHC's "Real Hope for the Future" speech contest, as Aaron Kamakawiwoole shares his passion for defending parental rights in Hawaii.