Christian Homeschoolers: Children Don’t Have Rights

There has been a lot of confusion about why the U.S. Senate failed to ratify the UN Disabilities Treaty. Fred Clark of the Slactivist is absolutely right that evangelicals’ fear that the UN is the vehicle of the coming antichrist, along with conservatives’ fear that the UN is a plot to form a one world government and erode the United States’ national sovereignty, played a role in the rejection of the treaty. But there’s something else there too.

I was homeschooled from kindergarten through high school. I grew up hearing that treaties like the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (which only the U.S. and Somolia, a country with no functioning government, have not signed) must be opposed at all costs because it would erode parents’ rights. This wasn’t some minimal thing. Michael Farris, the most well known homeschool leader in the country and the founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association, has been advocating for a parents’ rights amendment and fear mongering about UN treaties for decades now.

You see, the Christian homeschool movement holds that parents have rights, but children do not.

Growing up homeschooled, I was told that the idea that children have rights was a liberal plot to undermine the family by removing parents’ rights and handing children over to the government. The byline displayed on Farris’s ParentalRights.Org is “protecting children by empowering parents.” Not “protecting children by defending their rights,” no. Never. Children don’t have rights. Parents should have full and total control over their children. Parents always know what’s best for their children.

What does this have to do with the UN Disabilities Treaty? Plenty. Here is how Rick Santorum explained it in an article titled UN Disabilities Treaty Would’ve Had Bureaucrats Unseat Parents:

Who should make the critical health-care decisions for a child with a disability? A well-meaning, but faceless and distant United Nations bureaucrat, or a parent who has known, loved, and cared for the child since before birth?

Another example of this U.N. overreach is the treaty’s “best interests of the child” standard, which states in full: “In all actions concerning children with disabilities, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.” This provision is lifted from the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was also not ratified by the United States Senate. This would put the state, under the direction of the U.N., in the position of determining what is in the best interest of a disabled child, replacing the parents who have that power under current U.S. law.

In other words, the UN Disabilities Treaty was not simply defeated because of fear of UN control or because of concerns about limitations on U.S. sovereignty but also because it states that disabled children have certain rights. And men like Rick Santorum don’t believe children have rights. Santorum argues that parents always know what is right for their children, and should have full control to make decisions about their children’s well-being. He scoffs at the idea that there might ever be a case where parents might not know what is in their child’s best interests, or might want to do things that are not in their children’s best interests.

Someone needs to tell that to Lydia Schatz. Someone needs to tell that to Hana Williams. Someone needs to tell that to Joshua DeShaney. Someone needs to tell that to Austin Sprout. Someone needs to tell that to Lisa Steinberg. Someone needs to tell that to Zachary Swezey. R.J. Arrington. David Hickman. Rayna Gagne. Madeline Kara. I could go on. These are all children who died at the hands of their parents.

And yet, according homeschoolers like to Michael Farris and Rick Santorum, any attempt to state that children have rights is an attempt to take rights away from parents, and must be opposed. They argue that parents always know what is best for their children, and that the family should be upheld as sacred and not interfered with. They honestly don’t believe that children have rights. Instead, they believe that children are wholly under their parents’ authority and control until the day they turn 18. Children are, in some sense, simply the property of their parents.

I was recently at a workshop on children’s rights and homeschooling during which a scholar from Germany expressed confusion that we in America would see the state as a threat to the family and parents. He said that in Germany people don’t see questions of children’s well-being as a contest between parents’ rights and the state power. People there understand state only steps in to protect children’s rights, which, like any other right, must be protected. If the state must protect rights like freedom of speech or freedom of the press, must it not also protect children’s rights?

This is where, I suppose, I believe that Michael Farris and Rick Santorum are wrong. You see, I believe children do have rights.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Bix

    Sigh. Watching the Daily Show coverage, it seemed that people voted against the treaty because they saw it as an attack on sovereignty, but also criticized it because it lacked an enforcement mechanism. (Not sure if it only appeared that way because of editing, though.) But still.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The UN does not have the power to enforce these treaties. They’re just recommendations. We are not going to be invaded by a non-existent UN army.

    And it was even based off the Americans with Disabilities Act!

  • Lisa

    I believed that UN conventions meant that there would always be some sort of “investigation” on what the parents are doing, and that parents could be sued for, I don’t know, making their children eat vegetables. Because after all, that’s what it’s all about, right? I was told that they would come to our house and ask us if we had to do things we didn’t want to do, like clean up after ourselves, and if we said yes they’d take us to an orphanage where bad people would watch over us or, gasp, be given up for adoption by gay parents. Funny enough I always envisioned the orphanage staff as communists.
    Things are being totally blown out of proportion here, though. These rights don’t interfere with parents telling their children what to do (Eat the beans or no ice cream, clean up your room etc). They only come into play when there is something seriously wrong. I do think they also allow the children here to opt out of religion class and instead take a humanities or philosophy class without their parents’ consent – if they are in public school that is. But that’s the only thing I can think of that would have a direct influence of daily life.
    I know I’m probably going to get bashed for being against freedom of religion on this one, but I think if parents refuse their child medical treatment for religious reasons, and the lack of these treatments will cause lasting damage or death of the child (Yes, I have heard of such things happening), I’ll say the child’s right to live is more important on any day of the week.

    • Libby Anne

      I wrote about the whole fear of social workers thing – something I grew up with too – in this post.

      Also, I’m totally with you on kids having the right to medical treatment regardless of their parents opposition. Same with vaccines, actually. Same with education. It’s possible that someone could use the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to argue for more thorough regulation of homeschooling, to make sure those children aren’t being denied an education, but then, I think that would be a good thing. Still, you can see why Michael Absolutely-No-Regulations-On-Homeschooling-In-Any-Circumstances Farris would see it as something to oppose!

      • Seda

        As a sometimes-homeschooling Christian Science parent who has not followed the prescribed vaccination schedule for her children, I think I may have a slightly different viewpoint, or at least something to add.

        First, vaccinations: My coparent was working in early childhood intervention with autistic children before we had children, and so was familiar with research that showed some correlation between autism and vaccine use. (At that time, mercury was commonly used as a preservative in vaccines – I think/hope that practice has ended now.) We researched the subject thoroughly and held off on vaccines like the MMR, while providing others, such as tetanus. It was worth it to us to do the research to ensure that we understood the risks and benefits of both vaccinating and not vaccinating – and of understanding that there are risks both ways. Some people, however, may not have the resources to do this research, and some public health risks may be high enough for the state to require vaccinations *specific* to that risk. And when that risk is high enough, I think that kids have a right to that vaccine over the parents’ objections. But they should also have the right to have that vaccine withheld when reasoned analysis determines that the risk is greater than the reward. (See “Vaccination: The Issue of Our Times,” edited by Peggy O’Mara.)

        Second, religious exemptions to medical care: I haven’t seen anything in this thread to indicate that Christian Science is an issue with readers here (all I’ve seen refers to Christian Patriarchy, not CS), but since some are talking about “freedom of religious to deny their child decent medical care,” I want to bring it up, simply because I’ve seen similar arguments targeted at CS. I’ve seen plenty of proof that CS can provide excellent medical care. For instance, in treating my son for Lyme Disease, we went through several rounds of conventional medicine and 8 months of naturopathic care before 2 treatments from a Christian Science practitioner ended the problem completely. I would hate to see religious exemptions to medical care eliminated if it ended my ability to treat my kids’ in the most effective way possible. However, I also believe that the state has a duty to ensure that a minor’s right to *effective* “medical treatment regardless of their parents opposition” is realized. A child’s rights are as important as an adult’s. As a Christian Scientist, I recognize the duty and obligation of the state to *monitor* children whose parents are using a religious exemption to medical treatment (specifically CS), and to step in and ensure such treatment in cases where results are not timely or adequate; and I have no trouble with abiding by such a requirement.

        And homeschooling: Kids *do* have the right to an education. And since that is their right, and the state is the only body I know of that can ensure that right, the state has a duty to regulate homeschooling. And to step in when such education proves inadequate.

        Just MHO.

        Libby Anne, I like your list of children’s rights very much. Thank you!

        It is so ironic that a movement that places so much emphasis on the rights of individuals then categorically denies those rights to other individuals just because they’re young, small, and powerless. And sad, too.

    • jwall915

      I sure as hell won’t bash you! Yes, it does happen, and I think it’s horrible that people can parade around freedom of religious to deny their child decent medical care. Those exemptions need to be eliminated. A book I’d recommend that deals with this subject: “Breaking Their Will” by Janet Heinlich (I hope I spelled that right). And I agree with Libby Anne, too – children have the right to medical care, vaccines, and education regardless of their parents beliefs.

      • Elise

        I had just moved from Germany to Ohio, and was attending a course on Audiology at Miami University (recently in trouble for sort of enabling rape). Well, the small-minded professor ACTUALLY said that it is just fine for parents to deny their children vaccines. I asked if she really meant that, seeing that a child just died from being denied medical care. She replied: ‘Yes’. Fucking enabler. And in the medical field, no less.

    • Mike Haubrich

      I agree that freedom of religion doesn’t apply there, because it doesn’t recognize the freedom of religion for the children, only of the parents. Considering that there are religious organizations that teach that corporal punishment is a duty of parents,l this is especially egregious.

      Fetuses have more rights than born children in the eyes of the “Right to Lifers.”

    • Anat

      My coparent was working in early childhood intervention with autistic children before we had children, and so was familiar with research that showed some correlation between autism and vaccine use.

      Do you realize the paper by Andrew Wakefield that started this scare was fraudulent? There is no vaccine-autism connection. Removing thimerosal from vaccines did nothing to rates of autism diagnosis.

      • Seda

        Good to know about Wakefield – thanks! I don’t remember that we referred to anything specifically from him, but we did look at a lot of other stuff, including some conflicting information, and made the best call we could with the information we had. I’m not convinced. Do you have verified dates for when thimerosal was removed from vaccines and the stocks already in place exhausted? Or are they still using it?

      • Twist

        Wakefield started the current anti-vax trend. He is a fraud. He has since been struck off and spends his time preaching bad science to anti-vaxxers. He’s a laughingstock in the academic community. We used his paper as an example of how not to do science during my MSc. His study was based on retrospective self-reporting, by parents who were angry and looking for someone to blame. It was also based on only twelve children. Since then, the CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics, the NHS, among others, all have reviewed this ‘study’ and have all found no link between the vaccine and autism.

        Suggesting that vaccines cause autism was a huge fucking disaster. We have children dying from preventable diseases because of this. Dying. And guess what? Kids still have autism. Only now it’s caused by pollution, or antibiotics, or something you ate while they were in the womb or any number of other things that there’s actually pretty much no evidence for. If you made the best call you could with the information you had and still decided that it was best not to get your children vaccinated, then you need to seriously look at the information you had available again, see what agenda they are trying to push, look at what the CDC, WHO etc. say, and review your decision making process.

      • Christine

        Twist, you’re leaving out some of the crucial information: Wakefield was found to have falsified his data. Some of the parents discovered after the fact that their child was claimed to show autistic tendencies when no such thing had happened.

        Also, his attempt to market a competing vaccine may have had something to do with why he wanted to discredit the standard MMR vaccine.

      • Twist

        Even had he not falsified, there was no way that he should have drawn those conclusions from that data. He so obviously was pushing an agenda. Everyone has them, but when you’re a scientist and publishing a paper that other people will read and draw conclusions from, it’s beyond unethical to let your agenda cloud the truth. The Lancet should be embarrased that they ever published it.

        Regarding parents’ rights trumping childrens rights (it’s funny how the tide turns once the child has been born, isn’t it?) I would be in favour of taking important medical decisions (including vaccination, blood transfusions, the right to abortion and birth control for minors) out of the hands of parents altogether, and let a panel of doctors decide the best course of action. I wouldn’t let anyone other than a mechanic fix my brakes, so if I were incapable of making my own medical decisions why would I want anyone but a doctor to do that for me?

        No child should have to die because say, blood transfusions are against their parents’ religion. There was a case here recently where a woman absconded with her seven year old, who had been receiving treatment for a brain tumour, basically because she had incorrect beliefs about radiotherapy and wanted to use natural remedies. There’s a court battle now going on between his parents. His mother should not have the right to deny him potentially life saving treatment. Nobody should die because their parents’ have wacky beliefs. This is the real damage that the anti-vaxxers and homeopaths do, and in a way they’re worse than creationists because their actions can cost lives.

      • Anat

        Seda, see Thimerosal Controversy. It’s a wikipedia article that summarizes the history in the US (and some of the research in other countries).

        Much of the rise in autism diagnosis in the 90s had to do with expanding the definition of the condition (for example adding Asperger’s Syndrome to DSM IV) and increased awareness. Next year with the expected publication of DSM V the criteria are going to be tightened a bit and various sources expect anything from a 10-50% reduction in new diagnoses.

        As for thimerosal, according to the article, it was removed from most vaccines by summer 2001, still present in some preparations of tetanus vaccines and flu vaccines, yet the reported rate of autism kept rising.

  • MM

    Jon Stewart made an excellent point…if our values are so great and we’re the shining city on a hill, shouldn’t Christians be clamoring for these types of treaties on every single “moral” issue? I guess that’s a rhetorical question because I know the answer, but still. And, if the UN is the vehicle for the antichrist (I was basically taught that as well, and the Left Behind books key in on it too), then why aren’t Christians welcoming that as good news? Why fight it if it’s God’s will and is meant to bring about the Rapture? If I were a Christian, I’d be like “finally, bring on that antichrist! I’m getting raptured before shit really hits the fan anyway, so what do I care?”

    • Uly

      Why blame the Jews for killing Jesus? Even if they were responsible, if his death was necessary for your salvation, shouldn’t we all be thanking them?

      • Basketcase

        Although its plausible that it wasn’t the jews who “killed” Jesus, I still like this point.
        I also make this point in relation to Judas: Someone had to betray Jesus in order for the story to happen the way it did, so why is he being blamed so much? If no-one had done it, would the story have been able to unfold as it did?

      • thalwen

        This is one of the major issues I have with religion. On the one hand, God is supposed to give us free will. On the other hand, free will could have led Judas to decide to not betray Jesus and then the entire symbol of Christianity would not exist. It just seems like an inherent contradiction or a badly written (literal) Deux-Ex-Machina.

      • Nate Frein

        My understanding was that Judas’ unforgivable sin wasn’t betraying Jesus, but deciding that he could not be forgiven for doing so and committing suicide.

        But that might not be the mainstream interpretation…

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Um, plausible? It’s completely implausible that anyone but Rome had the authority to officially execute Jesus. Sheesh, I can’t believe what still goes around…

      • Christine

        Rome cannot really take all the blame for the execution. The Sanhedrin really manipulated the situation to get what they wanted.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Citation please? And, um, the bible doesn’t count.

        Also “Sanhedrin”=/=”The Jews.” Seriously people, think about what you are saying and perpetuating here. This is the 21st century. I’m so tired of these conversations…

      • Christine

        I’m not sure what else I could cite. Casey’s “The Historical Jesus” is out with a cousin at the moment, I can see if there’s anything in there. Given that the context of the discussion was a slander based on uneducated people looking to the Bible to support their xenophobia, the Bible had seemed to be a reasonable source.

        And I don’t see how specifying the Sanhedrin is inappropriate. Even were it true to say that “The Jews” had been the ones responsible, it would be inappropriate to perpetuate a medieval slander by saying that instead. Can I get more specifications?

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        If you’re not sure what else you can cite, maybe what you’re saying is unfounded. Just maybe.

        Honestly, I don’t get where you’re coming from here. The bible is an excellent source to cite if you are, as you say, an educated person looking to support your xenophobia (although just “bigotry” might be a better term here.) But you, presumably, are not, right? So why are YOU citing it, seemingly uncritically, to contest my claim that the killing of Jesus was a political execution ordered by the government of Rome? That’s what it seemed to me like you were doing.

        And it was the way that the Sanhedrin were seemingly being conflated with “The Jews” as an entire group that bothered me. Maybe you weren’t trying to do that and I’m taking out my frustration with several different posters on you. Sorry, I’m a bit skittish about this stuff right now. Been living in Europe for the past few months where anti-semitism is a proud tradition that just won’t quite die…

      • Christine

        If you’re ok if I cite scholarly works that are based on the Bible I have some, but that’s the main account that everyone here is working from. Most of the commentary that historians made about “Chreestus” happened after the fact, and was more along the lines of “the followers of this man did X”.

        The point I was trying to make was that it was strictly a local political issue (and this is why I specified the Sanhedrin). Rome, as Rome did, stayed out of local politics as much as they could get away with (I know that this policy changed, but as far as I’m aware this was definitely still in the era where the Empire hadn’t completely gotten rid of the practices of the republic). I had sand “Sanhedrin” specifically to break from “The Jews” (yes, the people behind this were Jewish, no that’s not a reason to say that “The Jews” killed Jesus). My apologies for hitting sensitive topics for you.

      • Anat

        Christine, even if a person called Yeshua bar Yosef actually lived in 1st century Palestine and did some of the things attributed to Jesus and said some of those things, there is no reason to accept the biblical story of his life and death as anything approximately factual. The gospels were written much after the fact and are laden with geographical and other errors. It’s not a work of history, it’s a narrative to justify a religious claim.

      • M

        An interesting point our rabbi brought up when I was in high school was the historical background of some of the Sanhedrin’s decisions in the New Testament.* Apparently, it was fairly common for the Sanhedrin to take troublemakers into custody around feast days to protect them from harsher Roman punishments such as execution. Then, after the feast day(s) had passed, the Sanhedrin would release whoever-it-was. The Romans were mostly interested in maintaining public order and would usually leave people alone after holidays, ripe with chances for riots, had passed. In other words, the Sanhedrin’s arrest of Jesus might have been a sort of protective custody instead of betrayal.

        It’s interesting and historically plausible, anyways. And I’ve found that it tends to spike a lot of anti-Semitic rhetoric before it really gets going to suggest that it’s possible “the Jews” didn’t actually kill Jesus but were trying to protect him!

        *Yes, he talked about the New Testament occasionally. Not as a holy book, of course, but in a historical context so we could learn about Judaism from around 2000 years ago, before the rabbinic tradition.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      What Anat said. And the only history we can be sure of here is that only a Roman governor would have had the authority to order a legal execution (as opposed to, basically, a lynching) which is what a crucifixion would have been. I’m a little bewildered by the fact that you seem to be quite clear-eyed about the flaws and unreliability of the New Testament, yet still seem to treat it as history. The writers of the gospels had an agenda, and not one that was necessarily friendly towards Jews.

      • Christine

        Of course I treat it as a history. That’s completely different than treating it as something factual. The Bible, including the New Testament, is from a pre-modern society and besides that, if you study the New Testament they make sure that you know the agenda of the different writers. (You cannot study the letters of Paul without knowing who Paul was, otherwise you lack a lot of the necessary context.) But even laying all that aside – the reason I’ve been citing the Bible is that none of this conversation makes a lot of sense outside of the context of that story. As Anat says, going by any other record it’s *if* Yeshua existed, not that he did. (Forget if he would be one and the same as the much better documented Chreestos). Making the claim that *anyone* executed him is a bit difficult if relying on other sources. (It’s late here, and the baby has a cold, so I’m not really up to looking up to see if the record says that the Chreestos had been crucified, my apologies).

        I would hardly say that I’m particularly aware of “flaws and unreliability”, I’m coming at it from a very typical Christian perspective, not a well-educated one. (I have only had one university-level religious studies course).

        Even aside from what I learned of the motives of each of the writers, current Biblical scholarship (which is what I’m familiar with), however, does goes against the idea that the writers might not have been friendly towards Jews. I’m young enough that I grew up with the early dates for the writing of the gospels – the synoptic gospels (i.e. Matthew, Mark and Luke – the ones that tell a story rather than ideas) and possibly even John were all written in the 1st century A.D. The epistles were written starting when Christianity was a subsect of Judaism. Most of the non-Jewish converts (even when the gospels, including Luke, who wrote as a gentile to gentiles) had been worshiping along with the Jews for a long time, and just were unwilling to conform to the Law. When given a way to convert without sacrificing any of their other strong beliefs (such as the need for bodily integrity) they took it.

        Now, a lot of these writers were rather antagonistic towards the hierarchy of the day, but to say that they were unfriendly towards Jews would be like saying I don’t like Canadians because I have a lot of nasty things to say about the current government. There are a lot of early extra-Biblical writings that do express this, I agree. Unfortunately the earliest extra-Biblical Christian writing I have read is St. Benedict’s Rule, which is a bit out of the scope of this, so I can’t comment on to what extent the biases of these writers caused them to make wild claims about the events in the New Testament. (I’m assuming you can get the Didache in English, but I’ve never even looked.) I know that a lot of the medieval hatred towards Jews was based on simple fear of the Other (especially when said Other holds your mortgage), but I believe that the writings of the Church Fathers were used to back some of this up. (I wonder to what extent the biases of the early writers dictated which of them became influential.)

  • Uly

    When it comes to disabled children, the situation if they are murdered by their parents is even worse. Too often, people who kill their disabled sentences get light sentences by claiming their child was suffering or that they were under a lot of stress.

    That page specifically discusses the murder of autistics, but it’s as bad for children with other disabilities. I remember one case, and to my shame I can’t recall the name, where a noncustodial father killed his son who had cerebral palsy, claimed it had been getting worse (CP doesn’t do that), and got a six month suspended sentence.

    All too often, people who murder their disabled children are almost praised by their communities, with people lining up to call their crimes an act of love. Combine “disabled child” with “strict religious parents” and… well, it sounds like a recipe for several kinds of disaster.

    • Monimonika

      I did not follow the link (yet), but I am reminded of how this relates to assisted-suicide for adults. Should an individual’s right to decide their own level of care (including if they want to die earlier) be superseded? It’s one thing if it is an adult’s rights being discussed (obviously, I’m all for honoring DNRs and legally-regulated(*) assisted-suicide), but this gets really thorny when it comes to children. Does the child’s opinion count? Can a child ever be considered informed enough to make medical decisions on their own? Should a child have to helplessly suffer the decisions made by others (whether it be forced to live or level of treatment)? If the child’s care must be decided by a proxy, should that proxy be the parents/guardians or the government? The parents, because they have vested interest in the child’s overall well-being and intimate understanding of the situation? Or the government, which because they are not directly involved with the situation, can make neutral decisions that do not include parents’ selfish interests that go against the child’s? …aaaggghhh!!! my brain huuurtsss…

      (*) By legally-regulated, I mean that there is a legal process in which the patient can state their wishes to die and allow those who assist in the (overseen) death to not be prosecuted. As I currently understand, in most current situations the assistance has to be done discreetly (away from government oversight) in order to follow the patient’s wishes.

  • Christine

    Did your parents actually say, in as many words, that you didn’t have any rights? How, as parents, could they swallow that? I had always thought that the fear of the official rights of children was because they weren’t going to get enforced properly, and that it was overstepping what the rights were. Ouch.

    • Rosie

      I don’t know about LA’s parents, but mine said that to me. And also, quite often, “This family isn’t a democracy. It’s a benevolent dictatorship.”

      • Libby Anne

        OMG same exact phrase! Word for word!

      • Niemand

        Dictatorships are never benevolent. Especially when the dictator says they are.

      • Elise

        I’m…dealing with something horrid. I was raped at 16, and my mum used it as a weapon against me. Just recently, a friend’s daughter was horrifically raped and left for dead. My father, who enabled my mother’s abuse citing ‘Parents are right’, completely dismissed the girl and went on a rant that liberals want to kill babies and that the rape victims themselves don’t matter. I am awfully sad. Triggered. It’s bad. And all for this stupid idea that parents are good and (even adult) children are willful and baby-killing evil-doers.

      • Carys Birch

        Rosie, I heard that phrase too! Exactly! Often paired with “This is not your home, it is my home. You’re just staying for a while at the [my dad's name] Hotel.”

      • JennyE

        Elise, I just wanted to say I’m so sorry that happened to you and sorry it happened to your friend’s daughter. I was raped (a little older, at 20) and didn’t tell my parents, with whom I was still living, for 5 years because I was afraid of the same thing. It didn’t turn out as bad as I was expecting, but that was partly because I told them so long after that they didn’t press me for details and I didn’t give them any. I was also engaged and had an “exit strategy” to go live with my in-laws-to-be if things went badly. I worry about kids younger than I was who have no way out when this kind of thing happens. I hope you find peace and support.

      • Niemand

        Often paired with “This is not your home, it is my home. You’re just staying for a while at the [my dad's name] Hotel.”

        Ah, suddenly I understand the line that is supposed to be classic for rebellious teens: “I didn’t ask to be born.” I always thought that was a strange thing for someone to say: both self-evident and kind of harsh to the parents. But if the parents are always telling you how this isn’t your home and you should be terribly grateful to them for allowing you to live there, it makes a lot more sense. Especially if they see children as notches on their quiverful belt…

    • Libby Anne

      I don’t think they said the words “children don’t have rights.” Rather, they said “children’s rights is a liberal plot to undermine the family.” And they said that parents should have complete authority over their children, including all medical decisions (i.e. faith healing), etc.

      The basic line was that children didn’t need rights because their parents would take care of them. Remember, we’re talking patriarchy. The same as how women don’t need rights because their husbands/fathers will take care of them, see? So yes, children didn’t need rights because their parents would make all the needed decisions and consider their best interests, and, of course, the parents know better than the child, etc, etc, etc.

      • Christine

        I’m wondering if there’s a cultural linguistic difference here. Because I can see that people can have rights, even if they are not recognised in law. (i.e. it’s obvious to me that children have rights, like the right to be treated as a human being for starters, but I can see, even though I disagree with it, why people would oppose a bill recognising them). So I’m hoping that it’s a case where they recognise that children (and women) have certain rights, which the parents (husband) are the best people to protect. They’re just using different language. Unfortunately, from some of the stories you’ve told here, I’m really not very certain that’s what it is.

  • Jaimie

    My husband and I were just talking about this, this morning. They’ve got to shut these wackjobs down in our opinion. The fact that they have as much power as they do to vote according to their paranoid delusions is a travesty. Santorum was practically giddy that it didn’t pass. It’s time for the UN to step in and override them. They are bad for this country and bad for the world.

  • lane

    My family believed much the same thing, and trying to find where parents’ rights end and children’s rights begin is something I’m still thinking about That is, since children are in some ways not competent to make complicated decisions for themselves, I’m not sure at what point they should have parental guidance vs be left to figure it out.

    But I digress. Mostly I came here to say is that what baffles me is that it seems what underlies this is that fungelical conservatives don’t seem to believe there’s such thing as bad parents. Why do they not see this? Do they know it happens but just pretend it’s not very frequent? Are they that self-absorbed?

    • Jaimie

      Maybe they know on some level that THEY are the bad parents. Just hypothesizing.

      • Elise

        No. My mother is too full of herself to imagine that she could ever be a ‘bad’ parent. She was doing god’s will by smacking me down as hard as she could.

  • Lana

    every country in the world has signed it but two countries, seriously? do you have a link for this? I knew Mike Farris was powerful, but not that powerful.

    • Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort

      Every country that -signed the treaty- ratified it except the US and Somalia. Somalia said it would sign it sometime in the future (they don’t have a central government so it’s hard to sign things.) South Sudan didn’t sign the treaty cause it was created after the treaty was written.

      Google is a big help.

  • Eamon Knight

    Well, I guess Rick Santorum wouldn’t object to what Robert Latimer did, then?

    (For the record: If there’s a right answer to the Latimer case, I don’t know what it is).

  • mythbri

    You only have rights until you’re born.

    • Monimonika

      THIS. How is it that the rights of fetuses can trump those of the parents, but once those same fetuses come out of the woman, the parents suddenly can do pretty much anything they want to the now-kid?

      Wait… “out of the woman”… Doih! Of course it’s about the suppression of rights instead of the support of rights.

  • Susan Raber

    I oppose the UNCRC and the Parental Rights Amendment, not because children don’t have rights, or parents should reign supreme, but because the gov’t doesn’t grant us our rights, and foreign gov’ts IMO can take a flying bite at Mars. Our right to life, liberty, and property is acknowledged as natural, and should not be defined by a federal bureaucracy that often can’t find its butt with both hands and a flashlight.

    Parents do not always know best, but it’s certain that gov’t officials don’t know best either. I doubt any one of us would appreciate it if our decisions about our private family life could be overridden by a social worker, teacher or doctor. With something like the UNCRC in place, those who would be defined as ‘at risk’ families and targeted for observation and intervention would be:
    *single parents
    *those with tolerance and anger management issues
    *parents with unrealistic expectations
    *parents who don’t understand age-appropriate discipline
    *parents who themselves were victims of abuse
    *parents of children under age 6
    *the poor or unemployed
    *parents of children with a physical, mental, or emotional handicap
    just to name a few. I took all of that directly from Ohio’s Dept. of Job&Family Guidelines.

    I am NOT looking for a way for parents to have the freedom to commit crimes against children. It is already against the law to abuse and neglect children. Just enforce the laws already in place. More red tape will not answer the problem of abuse and neglect in this country. The UNCRC might make some bureaucrats feel virtuous, and that’s about it.

    I personally wish the HSLDA would STOP trying to be the figurehead of homeschooling. Most of the time, their political machinations do not represent my interests or those of many of my fellow homeschoolers.

    • Bix

      The United Nations does not have the ability to enforce these treaties, or interfere in a country’s sovereign affairs. The point is to gather and affirm international consensus on human rights standards–in this case, to affirm that disabled people shouldn’t face discrimination and exclusion from society. It doesn’t create any more bureaucracy, because the UN doesn’t have the mandate to do that. International human rights treaties are just about delineating rights that we now consider “natural”, so that governments can’t impinge on them, and if they do, the international community can criticize them into getting their act together.

      • Bix

        Same concept does apply to UNCRC.

      • lucrezaborgia

        I don’t get people who get all up in arms about most of what the UN does. The UN could, on Monday, make a resolution about how money is no longer valid and that everyones monetary worth would now be based on the amount of lolcats on their computer. The total effect on the world would be nothing.

      • Susan Raber

        I think it imperative that folks understand the legal ramifications of signing a treaty, as the UN term ‘convention’ can have a generic OR a specific meaning. And our own Constitution states that the Constitution itself, as well as any treaties that are ratified, are considered the supreme law of the land. We cannot simply dismiss this treaty as being meaningless -and if it is meaningless, why all the fuss? If it is important, then we need to know what it actually means.

        The full text of the UNCRC can be found here-
        and the UN Charter is here-

        For instance, in the UNCRC, Article 29, Section 1… “States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:
        (a) The development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential;
        (b) The development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations;”

        What if a parent doesn’t agree with the principle enshrined in the Charter of the UN? Who enforces this, and how? Are parents going to be given due process? What exactly would a violation of this measure even look like?

        Article 43 states that “there shall be established a Committee on the Rights of the Child, which shall carry out the functions hereinafter provided.” and Article 43, Section 8 says “The Committee shall establish its own rules of procedure.”

        This is giving someone a blank check, people. There are NO specifications of how these rules of procedure would be decided- would we get to vote on or amend these rules? We simply do not know.

        Until we can answer questions like this, we have no business signing such an ambiguous document. And until folks read these documents in their entirety, I think it unwise to comment on the motives of those who oppose it. Anyone who understands rule of law realizes that this document sucks like an F5 tornado.

      • AndersH

        Susan, or you could go to, say, the website of the Committee on the Rights of the Child:
        And see what the rules are, what they have been doing, and how many rules they have enforced on other signatories of the treaty.

      • Steve

        If you violate the treaty, your house will be stormed by blue-helmeted UN troops and you will be thrown into a UN camp. Duh!

      • thalwen

        No, it isn’t a blank check. Most treaties, Constitutionally, have to be incorporated into domestic law. A treaty is only incorporated if Congress passes domestic law to that effect or if it is self-executing. Neither the Disability or the Child treaty is self-executing (which is why so many countries signed it without controversy).
        Yes, the treaties construct UN Committees, which do studies, make recommendations and have no enforcement capacities. Treaties aren’t meaningless, they bring the world together to at least think about an issue and have a positive effect on changing public opinion. But treaties are constructed by countries and countries want to preserve their sovereignty so even treaties that actually do stuff (like NATO) have ample protections for state sovereignty.
        That doesn’t stop them from being potent conspiracy fodder to the amusement and dismay of us who have actually studied and worked with international law.

      • Bix

        Okay. So in the field of International Relations, treaties such as the UNCRC are considered “normative”, which means that their purpose is to create norms of acceptable behavior on the part of governments, such as “children should be provided with an education”, and “cruel and unusual punishment is not acceptable”, and “people with disabilities shouldn’t face discrimination”. Together, these norms create the idea of human rights. The concept that rights are inherent and natural to the condition of being human didn’t spring out of nowhere. It was validated by these international treaties and conventions, which are designed–ironically enough, given the fear that they somehow enable government oppression–to protect people from their governments. So that governments don’t, for example, think that it’s acceptable to prevent children from receiving an education because of sex or ethnicity. Or think it’s acceptable to use drawing and quartering as a method of execution. Or think it’s acceptable to forcibly seclude disabled people in asylums.

        Does the UN have the ability to enforce these norms? No. The clause about establishing “rules and procedures” means the committee that writes reports about child welfare can decide how it wants to run its own meetings. All UN documents have that clause. It doesn’t refer to law-making or enforcement, because that goes way outside the jurisdiction of the United Nations. It’s not a blank check to do anything.

        But it can enable a potent form of “soft power” that makes countries behave because they don’t want to risk international censure. One recent example: Secretary Clinton telling off Saudi Arabia for refusing to let women drive. This violates international norms of gender equality and the right to move freely. Saudi activists know this, which is why they reached out to Clinton for support. With international support for human rights norms, they may be able to effect change in their country.

        So the UNCRC and other conventions are important because they contribute to change in the international system, by creating common understandings and standards of human rights. It’s no longer acceptable for countries to engage in the slave trade. It’s no longer acceptable for countries to detain people for long periods without trial. It’s no longer acceptable for governments to use torture. Do all those things still occur? Yes, but at least governments are now criticized for poor human rights records, and people have some measure of recourse, even if it’s just ideological recourse, against oppressive governments.

        So that’s why UN conventions are significant. It’s not because the UN can send in an army to make sure children go to school, because they do not remotely have the ability or the mandate to do that. It’s because they contribute to the idea of human rights, and they (hopefully) make people aware that they don’t have to accept governments that trample on those rights.

    • Elise

      What my mother did would not have raised concern. You are entirely misguided. Feel free to ask for my email, and we can talk about this. I fell through the cracks, and I am sure that others have, too. My life was miserable and the flashbacks are awful.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Why do so many people not understand what the UN is and what does and does not do? Is it that hard to find out? *sigh*

      • phantomreader42

        They don’t understand because they don’t WANT to understand. Without their paranoid fantasies, what would the Birchers have left to live for?

    • Twist

      “What if a parent doesn’t agree with the principle enshrined in the Charter of the UN?”

      Tough, basically. Parents need to start realising that their kids are not their property.

  • Angela

    For the record I do believe that children have rights that supersede parental and that intervention is sometimes necessary to enforce those rights. However, I also have very little faith in our current system. Often we remove kids from an abusive environment only to be placed in an even more abusive foster family or group home. Sure there are good foster parents, social workers, judges, etc out there but most of them are driven away by our very broken system that values bureaucracy first, parental rights second and only rarely acts in the best interest of the child. I don’t know if that’s the case in Germany or other countries but having worked with CPS here I am very, very wary of government intervention in families because we are so colossally bad at it.

    • lucrezaborgia

      Not only that, but state CPS organizations receive government money for children who are placed for adoption through foster care. This sounds fantastic until you realize that there is no financial incentive for giving children back to parents!!!! Also, the majority of the children who are adopted out of foster care are infants and extremely small children who were taken from their parents for little to no reason. No, this isn’t a tin-foil hat comment.

      • Lana

        there is holes in the system for sure. but most kids are given back.

      • Lucrezaborgia

        For sure there are holes. At the same time, those kids should never have been removed. CWs rotate in and out, caseloads are high, and there just aren’t enough of them to go around. Removing children who are not in eminent danger is a huge burden on the system. Cases move thru at the speed of snail even when no one has done wrong. If you want it done faster, you hire a lawyer at a huge cost. Then it will only take a year instead of nearly 3!

  • lucrezaborgia

    OK…I will probably be the lone voice of dissent but here goes…

    “Best interests of the child” is not, as you would believe, something that is easily discernible. As it is, TODAY, in US courts, parents are loosing custody of their children through “best interest”. Best interest allows a judge to make a decision about your children in a way that you have little to no defense. In a way where the parent or party with the most money will win.

    Sgt. Terry Achane’s daughter was illegally placed with wanna-be adoptive parents. They have fought him gaining custody of his daughter for 19 months now. “Best interest” is now being used against him from regaining custody of his daughter. Nevermind that a judge ruled that his daughter should be returned to him in 60 days. The wanna-be adoptive parents are going to appeal and drag this out for years! It’s standard practice in contested adoptions to use “best interest” against the rights of the parent while delaying the case for as long as possible.

    I myself have been involved in a custody battle with my husband for over 3 years now. Even though he had absolutely nothing to do with putting her in foster care (bio mom neglected her), and even though there isn’t a single legal reason to deny him custody, the judge continually does so because of “best interest”.

    “Best interest” standard is broken and until there is a definite way to define it, there is no way in hell I would support signing a treaty with that phrase in it.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Is this universally true? Because it doesn’t seem to be. It seems to me that mothers in particular can get away with an amazing amount before they have their children taken away from them. A woman my mother works with went through hell trying to get custody of her grandchildren, who were being neglected and abused by her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend. They were reluctant to take the kids away from their bio mother, even though the person who wanted to adopt was their GRANDMOTHER not some random family. She did finally manage to get the kids away and she’s thrown all kinds of money into getting various kinds of therapy and rehabilitation for them. One of them in particular will still probably face problem her whole life. That’s how bad it was.

      • lucrezaborgia

        Third-party custody is very hard to get if the state has not found someone guilty of neglect. If that wasn’t the case, anyone could come in and take children. There will always be someone else who can provide more and parent better. This is why third-party custody is so hard to get.

        On the flip-side, it’s insanely easy to get third-party custody if the children are already in the system. Here is how it goes down in Missouri, tho many states have almost the exact same policies: While family members are legally supposed to have preference over foster care homes, it doesn’t always work that way. While there are many people who get into foster care to help children and families, a lot of people get into it so they can adopt. A person can go through foster classes and whatnot and then specify that they will only take newborns and infants and they are allowed to do so. When these very young children are taken from a home for whatever reason, they are placed into what are called “pre-adoptive” homes. After a certain amount of time, the foster parents are allowed to intervene in the case and have a legal standing either close or equal to the parent. A parent can do everything right, not be found guilty of anything, and have the judge give custody to the foster parents because of “best interest” due to the amount of time the case has gone on. Cases in family court move through the system extremely slowly. It took us a year just to get our homestudy and background checks in and we aren’t having our first full-hearing until February first when my stepdaughter has been in the system since August of 2010.

        Add to this the ability for the foster parents to intervene in the case and get their own lawyer. These people are generally better off financially than the people who lost their children to the system. On top of that, the Adoption Tax Credits as well as state laws reimburse foster parents for expenses incurred while attempting to adopt…even if the adoption fails. This is on top of their monthly payment, foodstamps, and insurance for the child in the first place!

        Once the foster parents get custody, they go after you for child support and all sorts of fun stuff. After a few years, if you slip up at anytime, they will petition the courts for adoption and they will most likely get it. Why? Because by this point, the parent has been spent into a hole that they cannot get out of. Some parents just give up because they are sold on the notion that taking their child from “only home ever known” is intolerably cruel.

      • lucrezaborgia

        Also, hang around foster parent forums and blogs and you will see my story over and over and over from their POV…”how dare those birth parents fight me for custody of MY CHILD!”

      • Staceyjw

        It is not universally true, but it happens often enough to be worrisome.
        It seems to be cyclical- CPS takes too many kids away, there is backlash, then they swing too far the other direction, allowing abuse to continue unchecked.

  • David

    I can see both sides.
    Just north of my town, in Brigham City, Utah, there used to be what looked like an old prison: ugly institutional buildings surrounded by a high fence. It was the Utah Indian School. In the best interest of the children, they were removed from their families and sent to school where they were taught English and were not allowed to converse in their native tongue. I’m only 50, but I grew up knowing men who went to that school. It was done ‘in the best interest of the children’, but it was, in fact, a deliberate attempt to destroy a culture.
    Right now, on the border of Utah and Arizona, there is a community of polygamists, who exclusively home school, so they can maintain the rigid religious control over their children. It would seem so prudent to save their children from this obviously abusive culture, where they are often married to older men at a very young age. It would seem so just to deliberately try to destroy this culture too. Yet, I would not sign on to this either.
    I think giving the government rights which usurp parental choice must be done very carefully. It should be done, and it is in many cases it is. Abuse must be carefully defined. Best interest of the child must be carefully defined. Finally, when authority is given, responsibility must follow. Every governmental authority must be accompanied by a social consensus to accept that responsibility to care for that child in the stead of the parent who is violating the child’s human rights (which also must be carefully defined).
    To say a child has no rights, is wrong, but after that, there’s a huge gray area to cover.

  • Rosie

    Bizarre that Santorum and his ilk will openly say “children don’t have rights”, while also saying “fetuses have rights that supercede those of the pregnant woman!”

    • Niemand

      The thing is, fetuses can’t talk back. Children can. Therefore fetuses can safely be given rights but children can’t.

  • Tracey

    Interesting stuff and very complicated. Who does know best for a child and at what age? I know a woman who works as a lawyer in child custody cases who was annoyed a while back with changes they made in some of child interest legal stuff. Apparently they changed the mandate (not sure on what level) from advising the judge “what’s best for the child” to “what the child wants”. If the kids want to live with daddy because he gives them candy and never makes them take a bath? She’s supposed to recommend dad. I don’t envy her job.

  • smrnda

    Anybody who thinks that parents always know what’s best, or always have their children’s welfare in mind is just not paying attention to reality. Parents ‘parent’ out of lots of bad motivations – issues where the insecure adult becomes a little tin-hat dictator around the house to boost their fragile little status based ego, parents who punish children unreasonably out of adherence to ridiculous moral, religious or political beliefs, parents who won’t allow their kids any freedom since the kids *might* end up encountering viewpoints that the parents don’t agree with.

    My take on the family is that it’s quite often a horribly oppressive institution, and there needs to be checks and balances placed on it. There always is a danger that the state could end up punishing parents for bad reasons; an example is when neglect is really just the fact that the family is poor, which shouldn’t be viewed as the fault of the parent. This isn’t a problem of the existence of an agency but in how it’s run. But seriously, people spend lifetimes in therapy because of bad actions chosen by their parents, and parents are the people most likely to abuse kids anyway.

    A solution that I don’t think anybody could implement was that children should be able to leave their families and live in well-monitored residential facilities run by the government. Imagine some gay kid with conservative religious parents – the could just head out and live somewhere that they could get away from parents, get the material support they need, and where as long as they don’t commit crimes everything is okay. I think this because I’ve know people who for various reasons, like say, being gay, whose lives were made miserable by their parents. I wish kids like this could just tell their parents to shove off and that they would have a place they could go.

    On the UN, I’m all for a decrease in national sovereignty since it’s frequently just used as a pretext for the US to stay backwards – if the international community got more leverage with this nation, I think things would be much better.

    • lucrezaborgia

      Taking those same children and sticking them in foster care isn’t the solution either tho.

  • EmuSam

    Do they just think that parental rights are the same as property rights? Hasn’t slavery been outlawed?

    • lucrezaborgia

      Really think for a second as to what is exactly entailed in raising children. Beyond basic needs, we each think we have important things to pass on to our children that will enable them to go on to be successful adults. Think of all the little things that a parent does with a child and you will see why some parents are very adamant about their rights to their children. People with sentiments of yours take it to the extreme in family law cases: “Well, this child is doing so well with me, why move them?” is a common refrain in contested custody and adoption. There need to be concrete reasons for when and why children are taken away. You think that there are, but there are really not. Once a child is in the CPS system, it is extremely hard to get them out if you end up with agency workers with a bone to pick with you.

      This is a very personal subject for me and I am probably taking it out on you. At the same time, I’m really tired of the idea of being able to raise your child as you believe to be best being compared to property rights and slavery. Do some parents make it that? Yes! That isn’t every parent and until you’ve been stuck in the circle of hell that is family court for as long as I have, you would understand where people like me come from.

      • Rilian

        I like john holt’s proposed solution of letting children obtain legal independence from their parents, or sue their parents for abuse.

      • Anat

        I’m not sure what the best way to phrase this is, but I think a more correct view of the ideal position of parents wrt their children is that parents have duties and responsibilities toward their children rather than rights over them. Parents have a duty to raise children into functioning adults to the extent that is possible and they are given some degree of freedom to choose how to do that, but this does not mean they have rights.

      • Lucrezaborgia

        How do you fulfill your duty if you don’t have a right to it? My husband has a duty to raise his daughter, but he has to assert his rights to do that. Letting other people raise her isn’t fulfilling his duty in his mind.

      • Anat

        How do you fulfill your duty if you don’t have a right to it? My husband has a duty to raise his daughter, but he has to assert his rights to do that. Letting other people raise her isn’t fulfilling his duty in his mind.

        The duty is being fulfilled as long as the child is being cared for. One can make the argument they can do a better job of it or that their previous relationship with the child is important for the child’s welfare, and since these things can be hard to measure there can be disagreements about decisions. I’m sorry about your and your husband’s situation.

  • Rae

    I remember hearing this when I was a preteen, and then of course looking up what the actual convention said, and being somewhat disappointed that it actually didn’t cover a “If children have to eat vegetables that they don’t want to” kind of scenario.

  • Sheldon

    I remember well the scare tactics of Micheal Farris and the Court Report magazine HSLDA, unfortunately, it would always have me scared and/or outraged as a young fundamentalist home schooler.

    I glad I’m out of fundamentalism, can’t believe I ever believed in it in the first place, but then being raised into it, I wasn’t given much of a chance, was I?

    • Tracey

      The HSLDA makes its money by terrifying the low-education folks into paying the HSLDA money to protect them from dangers that don’t exist. This latest hysteria over the Rights of the Child, which basically says children have a right to a name and to know their parents (where possible) was twisted by the HSLDA and the low-info folks predictably panicked.

  • Rilian

    The reason I support homeschooling or unschooling or whatever is because is acknowledges and respects children’s rights. The point is for them to choose what kind of “schooling” they do. (not that the parents should just leave the kids alone, parents should help and give advice) A lot of times when I’m complaining that the main reason I hate govt schools is that they are mandatory, someone will say to me “but you can homeschool” and I say as long as that choice is given only to the parents, that’s not the freedom I’m looking for. It’s not freedom if the parents can force a kid to go to any kind of school, nor if the parents can force the kid to be homeschooled, or force the kid to take tennis lessons.

    There is someone I used to listen to called the unplugged mom, laurette lynn, and I don’t like her all that much because for one thing she goes on about parents have the right to decide what their kids do and how parents know best on everything, and for another that she says that being a stay-at-home-mom is the best thing and she kind of sounds anti-feminist. Not a lot but a little. But I didn’t get the impression that she was an xtian or that she was homeschooling for religious reasons.

    • smrnda

      But can’t parents choose to home school their kids just so they can exert total control over them? Can’t schools be less oppressive since you get exposed to a plurality of viewpoints from a diverse group of people, rather than just your own family? I think you can trust parents less than schools just since there’s less visibility of what goes on and no real checks and balances.

      • Rilian

        But I want the kids to be in control of their own education, not their parents to be in control.
        But yeah, I acknowledge that the way things are now, people can use homeschooling to hide abuse. But I think it’s overall better than government school or private schools that are similar. But the best thing is to let the kid choose. I personally probably would have chosen to go to school some days, but there were a lot of days that I didn’t want to go, and when I got 16 I didn’t want to go at all.

  • Malitia

    I lurked enough I think. :D

    Let me guess the same people who think children have no rights tend to be “pro-life” too? If yes. Why on earth? It’s not for protecting “children” as they have “no rights” worse a ban on abortion would directly interfere with the right of the (would be) parents. *confused stare*

    • phantomreader42

      It’s simple. To these right-wing lunatics fetuses are people, and corporations are people, but born children, women, and men who aren’t straight white rich christian republicans are NOT people.

  • Paige

    Just wanted to add: this attitude isn’t just restricted to Christians. It’s in full force among Asian parents too e.g. Amy Chua. Although not with the same vocabulary, it goes along the same vein of “my house, my rules”, “parents are always right, children are always wrong”. It makes for an awful transition into adulthood. It’s also heavily guilt-laden with “I have done so much for you and you are so ungrateful”. So much of it focuses on control. I can understand why it would be easier if children didn’t legally have any rights.

  • Saraquill

    Does Santorum believe that disabled adults don’t exist?

  • sara maimon

    I don’t know about other states but in NY a parent does not have the legal right to withold medical treatment to his/her child. A hospital could obtain a court order to administer the treatment against the parents consent. Such behavior may be grounds for investigation up to and including termination of parental rights.

  • sara maimon

    i would say that homeschooling families should be required to bring there children for a yearly medical exam.

  • kecks

    as a german i just don’t understand how anyone can think of the children’s rights convention as a threat to anyone but abusive parents. protecting children is a good thing, right?! we even do the “children have rights” thing here with the little ones in elementary school: every child has the right to get not abused. every child has the right to get educated. every child… they get that pretty easy even at age 7 or 8.

    • Paula G V aka Yukimi

      Oh yes, in my country too. I remember studying them in school when I was little. Also, the Pediatric area of the hospital is plastered with posters of the children’s right from the most general to the most conrete like : “Children have the right to continue their education in the hospital via blah blah blah”, “Children have a right to rooms with other children only and not adults”, …

    • Twist


      The ‘rights’ these people are so concerned about losing always seem to be the right to beat their kids and deny them medical treatment and/or a decent education.

  • Staceyjw

    The only rights children have in the fundamental, evangelical, world, is limited to the pre-born. ONLY the pre-born have rights that can trump the parent, particularly the Mom and her bodily autonomy. Everything must bend for the fetus, no matter how many rights the parents are actually stripped of, even if Mom can lose her life.
    After they are born, what they need or want is irrelevant, whether that means no assistance for homeless families or no right to an education. Once born, their parents can do what they please, even hitting them, or keeping them completely isolated.

  • Eclectic

    Let me get this straight… a parent should have the right to beat and starve their child to death, but not to abort a fetus?

    Error… Error… does not com-pute!

  • sunnysidemeg

    I tried to comment on the rights entry, but couldn’t get a reply or comment box. I wanted to share a list I really connected to from Virginia Satir called the Five Freedoms: The Five Freedoms are:

    The freedom to see and hear what is here, instead of what “should” be, was, or will be.
    The freedom to say what you feel and think, instead of what you “should” feel and think.
    The freedom to feel what you feel, instead of what you “ought” to feel.
    The freedom to ask for what you want, instead of always waiting for permission.
    The freedom to take risks on you own behalf, instead of choosing to be only “secure”.

    And her Bill of Rights:

    1. I do not have to feel guilty just because someone else does not like what I do, say, think or feel.

    2. It is OK for me to feel angry and to express it in responsible ways.

    3. I do not have to assume full responsibility for making decisions, particularly where others share responsibility for making the decisions.

    4. I have the right to say ‘I don’t understand’ without feeling stupid or guilty.

    5. I have the right to say ‘I don’t know’.

    6. I have the right to say NO without feeling guilty.

    7. I do not have to apologize or give reasons when I say NO.

    8. I have the right to ask others to do things for me.

    9. I have the right to refuse requests which others make of me.

    10. I have the right to tell others when I think they are manipulating, conning or treating me unfairly.

    11. I have the right to refuse additional responsibilities without feeling guilty.

    12. I have the right to tell others when their behaviour annoys me.

    13. I do not have to compromise my personal integrity.

    14. I have the right to make mistakes and to be responsible for them. I have the right to be wrong.

    15. I do not have to be liked, admired, or respected by everyone for everything I do.

    It’s completely at odds with what I was taught and with what I often feel now, but I’m learning

  • Jan Cosgrove National Secretary, Fair Play for Children, UK

    Farris and the PRA – this was conceived by him to kill ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Challenged, PRA and its supporters have never said what rights they think children have, and the assumption that they do not think they have any is rather going to take hold.

    The HS lobby misrepresentation of the UNCRC has stooped to misrespresentation, scare-mongering and worse – why the ire? Well, they want to present the CRC as taking over parents rights over children, and thereby hangs a real issue which none of them, nor their opponents, will discuss. What rights DO parents have? There is a spectrum of possible answers ranging from none at all to outright ownership. The CRC doesn’t address that question, rather it states who has responsibilities and on the parental role as against that of the state, it is clear enough. Parents have lead responsibility until or unless they are incapable of discharging this role, and that is a matter determined within the national laws of each state.

    Where the HS/PRA people seem to me to have most problems is around the imparting of information to children – so sexual health, evolution etc are major no-nos for some. Is it the parent who has the right to determine that issue? HS think it is, and the state and the rest of society do not – it’s a delicate balance but the core question is, does anyone have the right to deny information to children compatible with their capacity to understand? One may well ask, why should HS parents enjoy such a privilege? Some on that side of the fence will also be vociferous within state education that a non-science such as creationism be taught alongside evolution which has a scientific basis as if like-for-like.

    The hidden issue is the right to belief. Here we have Article 14: “1. States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. 2. States Parties shall respect the rights and duties of the parents and, when applicable, legal guardians, to provide direction to the child in the exercise of his or her right in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child. 3. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.” Note, this does not empower parents to oblige children to follow their parental beliefs – how could it if there are parents of differing even opposed beliefs. The right to belief is the child’s, so the HS/PRA tendency would find A14 a sore challenge, it would, and should, oblige the HS parent to provide information to children about faith other than their own.

    A final observation. PRA has lobbied GOP Senators hard on the Disability Convention, they have done a great deal also in that direction re the UNCRC. A debate is now looming about gun control post Sandy Hook School. It will perhaps be most instructive to see whether there is correlation both on any roll-call of Senate votes on the Treaty and gun control, and also between PRA and NRA targeting of Senators. Bets please ….

  • ekrampitzjr

    Sorry to come late to the party. Just discovered your excellent blog. I’ve had qualms about homeschooling for years, and Farris’s blather doesn’t help. He’s actually something of a laughingstock outside far-right Christian homeschooling circles. Many secular homeschoolers have looked upon the recent antics and stances of Farris and the HSLDA with alarm.

    Many fundamentalist (“fundie”) Christians (or perhaps I should add the sneering quotes and make it “Christians”) really do believe their children have no rights. Some fundies cite a biblical comment authorizing parents to kill a rebellious child, for example. Also, these people take certain biblical instructions out of context and use them to justify beating children, just as was done with justifying wife-beating just a few decades ago.

    If you stepped back in time 100 years, you would find that child labor was a common practice: 6–year-olds working 12 hours a day in harrowing, dangerous conditions in factories and mines as particularly egregious examples. Discussion of that today would leave you with the perception that mean corporations simply grabbed children and forced them to work instead of allowing them any semblance of a normal childhood or normal schooling.

    What is unsaid is that this was not the reality: instead, the children were sent to these employers by their parents, who pocketed the money the child earned. And in much of the US a majority of these parents were fundies with the same exact attitudes as Farris. At least some of us know better today. These fundies don’t. Hence the disturbing inability to consider ratifying a UN treaty to bolster the rights of the disabled…

  • sara maimon

    I don’t think thats a fair comparison without taking into account the families desperate poverty.

  • Concerned mom

    I believe you have completely misunderstood where Mr. Santorum is coming from.

    I also have a daughter with developmental delay and multiple organ system failure. I value her life immensely, and fight and work to protect her rights daily.