Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina has proposed a bill to amend the U.S. Constitution to guarantee parents have the supreme right of educating, caring for, and otherwise directing the upbringing of their children. House Joint Resolution 50, currently cosponsored by 65 other members of Congress, states parents have the “fundamental right” to choose the form of education they wish for their children, including public, private, religious, or home schools.
“This amendment to our Constitution would ensure that these decisions are made not by faceless bureaucrats but by parents who love their children and know them best,” said Meadows (R-NC) in a statement. Similar bills in each of the past four congressional sessions have become known as “parental rights initiatives.” The 2012-2013 bill had 85 cosponsors.
Parent rights have come under “very serious attacks by every level of government,” says Heidi Holan, the Illinois state coordinator for ParentalRights.org, which is leading the amendment effort. Common Core requirements, for example, could be challenged on a constitutional basis if this amendment is ratified, she said.
The U.S. Senate this year will reconsider a United Nations treaty on disabilities that would give primary rights and responsibility for all children to government officials. International treaties hold an equal status with the U.S. Constitution and trump all state and federal laws.
“Most people are surprised when they recognize how often government officials infringe upon this right,” Holan said.
Natural Rights and Duties
In 1923 the U.S. Supreme Court decreed, “It is the natural duty of the parent to give his children education suitable to their station in life.” In decades since, however, government actions have restricted this “natural duty,” says Michael Ramey, director of communications and research for ParentalRights.org.
For example, Washington State law allowed any third party to petition for child visitation rights even if the parents objected, until the Supreme Court overturned the law in 2000. ParentalRights.org wants to place language from Supreme Court precedent directly into the Constitution.
“There is simply no other option in law that can simultaneously protect the states from a ratified treaty and correct a decision of the Supreme Court,” Ramey says. The father of four says he works “to preserve what freedoms we have left, for my children and for my children’s children.”
Passing a constitutional amendment requires congressional approval by a two-thirds majority in each chamber, then ratification by three-quarters of the states.
Image by Lindsey Turner.