Monday, August 30, 2010

The Centaur Scrolls: The Legal Argument for Parental Rights, Part I


The following set of articles will build the legal case for passing an amendment to the US Constitution to protect parental rights. Much has already been said about why the Parental Rights Amendment for the preservation of our country’s heritage and traditions (for more information on it, visit, and find out how you can get involved). But I want to take time now to discuss the legal background and ramifications of passing—and not passing—the Parental Rights Amendment.

The rights of parents to direct the upbringing of their children have been protected by state and federal law for centuries, finding protection in state statutory laws, state constitutions, family court rulings, and the Supreme Court of the United States. But in recent years, there has been a trend in restricting the rights of parents without sufficient justification and evidence for proving that the parents are not acting in the best interest of the child. Over the next few articles, we will examine the threat to parental rights in two realms: domestic and foreign. Here, however, I want to focus on the legal precedent which has been set regarding parental rights.

Parents have traditionally been given the benefit of the doubt in raising their children. In Meyer v. Nebraska in 1923, the Court upheld the rights of parents to choose subjects of study for their child. Citing back to cases decided in 1884 and beyond, Justice McReynolds wrote that “it is the natural duty of the parent to give his children education suitable to their station in life,” and that “[the teacher’s] right thus to teach and the right of parents to engage him so to instruct their children . . . are within the liberty of the [First] Amendment.”

In 1925, the Court expanded on what was entailed in this “natural duty.” In Pierce v. Society of Sisters, Justice McReynolds held that “the child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.” Notice that this is not just a grant of power to parents. There is an obligation which comes with the “natural duty,” here recognized as a “high duty,” of parents: they must prepare the child for additional obligations. The right of parents to raise their children has a forward focus: it prepares the next generation to participate in our democracy, our society, and their future.

Justice Burger’s decision in Wisconsin v. Yoder in 1972 mentions this passage from Pierce, where he wrote: “The history and culture of Western civilization reflect a strong tradition of parental concern for the nurture and upbringing of their children. This primary role of the parents in the upbringing of their children is now established beyond debate as an enduring American tradition.” He uses this opportunity, however, to clarify what these “additional obligations” are in Pierce: “the duty to prepare the child for ‘additional obligations,’ referred to by the Court, must be read to include the inculcation of moral standards, religious beliefs, and elements of good citizenship.” That’s what we are protecting when we protect parental rights.

Notice: parental rights are always tied to a significant benefit to society. Parents raise their children so that they will be better equipped for later on in life. While there are exceptions to this rule, this is the norm--and the vast majority of cases support this. If you disagree, fine: but realize that this is how the system works, and that parents are reliable in the main. And that is now “established beyond debate as an enduring American tradition.”

More to come,


"I watch the stars, for it is mine to watch, as it is your's, Badger, to remember." -- Glenstorm

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