Currently before Congress is the Parental Rights Amendment which would explicitly define the liberty of parents to direct the upbringing, education and care of their children as a fundamental right.
Believe it or not, this right is not expressly stated in our Constitution, but is only an implied right. This shortcoming in our Constitution has led to the erosion of parental rights by court decisions and international law.
Historically, the Supreme Court consistently maintained that parents possess a "fundamental right to raise their children as they see fit” and parental rights were universally recognized and protected under the U.S. Constitution.
Yet in 2000, in the Supreme Court ruling in Troxel v. Granville there were six separate opinions regarding parental rights and none reached a five-vote majority. Only one justice held that parental rights receive the same high legal standard of protection as other fundamental rights and one justice went so far as to say that parents have no constitutionally protected rights whatsoever. This decision exposed parental rights as vulnerable and inadequately protected by our Constitution from government intrusion.
The ambiguity of our own courts in regard to parental rights is threat enough to our long-standing presumption of fundamental parental rights, however an even more ominous threat looms from international law and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child. This international treaty, if ratified by only two-thirds of our senators, would automatically override nearly all U.S. laws on children and families because of the Supremacy Clause in Article VI, which states that an international treaty becomes the supreme law of the land.
If ratified, the UNCRC would effectively transfer ultimate authority for all policies regarding the parent-child relationship to an unelected, unaccountable foreign committee and their official interpretations of the treaty would be entitled to binding weight in American courts and legislatures. Under the UNCRC, good parents would no longer be entitled to the legal presumption that they act in the best interest of their children. Instead, the government can override parental decisions on the best interest of the child without proof of abuse, neglect or harm. Furthermore, the UNCRC would create a child’s legally enforceable rights to complain about parental decision-making in every area of their life, including religious and educational decisions. Clearly the UNCRC infringes on American traditions and values, no matter your personal traditions and values!
In contrast to international treaties, where a specific document is drafted, signed and ratified, “customary international law” is an unwritten law "comprised of the customs and usages among nations of the world." Even though the United States has so far refused to ratify the UNCRC, if the convention is co-opted into customary international law, its provisions will shape how our law is understood, and could even be used to pressure American lawmakers and judges to craft new policies to satisfy America's "international obligations." In effect, the UNCRC would be imposed on the United States, with or without our consent. Although we have not ratified the treaty, our Supreme Court has already begun using it in their cases as though it is already ratified (see Roper v. Simmons — 2005, Graham v. Florida — 2010 and Sullivan v. Florida — 2010), resulting in the Supreme Court striking down state laws in Missouri and Florida.
If you agree that fit parents should be allowed to direct the upbringing of their children and that American legislators, not international tribunals, should make the public policy for America on families and children, then the only legal way to protect us from the domestic threat of ambiguous court decisions and from the UNCRC and customary international law is by amending the U.S. Constitution to specifically define parental rights once and for all.
Please consider contacting Sen. Max Baucus at (202) 224-2651 and Sen. Jon Tester at (202) 224-2644 and ask them to sign on as cosponsors of the Parental Rights Amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 42, and to oppose ratifying the UNCRC. Rep. Rehberg is already a cosponsor of the Parental Rights Amendment, House Joint Resolution 110, and has also pledged his support of the family in the past by supporting the amendment in 2010 as well.
We need to place the time-honored presumption of parental rights, as recognized by the Supreme Court for over 70 years, into the explicit text of the Constitution, and we need to protect U.S. sovereignty over family law. For further information please go to http://www.parentalrights.org. I also encourage you to watch a short documentary at http://www.overruledmovie.com.
(Kathy Sangray is a mother who lives in Havre.)