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Attack on Parental Rights
The right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children has been recognized and upheld for centuries. But there are dark clouds on the horizon.Today parental rights are coming under assault from federal judges who deny or refuse to recognize these rights. Adding further danger to the child-parent relationship, international law seeking to undermine the parental role is advancing on the horizon. Together, these threats are converging to create a "perfect storm" that looms over the child-parent relationship.
In the early 1980s, a landmark parental rights case reached the Washington State Supreme Court. The case involved 13-year-old Sheila Marie Sumey, whose parents were alarmed when they found evidence of their daughter's participation in illegal drug activity and escalating sexual involvement. Their response was to act immediately to cut off the negative influences in their daughter's life by grounding her.
But when Sheila went to her school counselors complaining about her parent's actions, she was advised that she could be liberated from her parents because there was "conflict between parent and child." Listening to the advice she had received, Sheila notified Child Protective Services (CPS) about her situation. She was subsequently removed from her home and placed in foster care.
Her parents, desperate to get their daughter back, challenged the actions of the social workers in court. They lost. Even though the judge found that Sheila's parents had enforced reasonable rules in a proper manner, the state law nevertheless gave CPS the authority to split apart the Sumey family and take Sheila away.
DANGEROUS PRECEDENTParental rights are under attack in our nation, with the first threat originating from within the federal court system. As this story illustrates, a growing disregard for parental rights has been spreading within the courts of our nation.
Across the country, many judges are beginning to deny the vital role of parents in the lives of their children, instead inserting the government into a "parental" role in a child's life. This dangerous assertion is leading to the severance of the child-parent relationship in numerous instances across the nation—removals that cause unnecessary pain to both children and their parents.
A thirteen-year-old boy in Washington State was removed from his parents after he complained to school counselors that his parents took him to church too often. His school counselors had encouraged him to call Child Protective Services with his complaint, which led to his subsequent removal and placement in foster care. It was only after the parents agreed to a judge's requirement of less-frequent church attendance that they were able to recover their son.
HANGING BY A THREADNot all judges hold a low view of parental rights. Some, like Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, believe that parental rights are among the "inalienable rights" of Americans enumerated in the Declaration of Independence but they are finding it increasingly difficult to rule in favor of parental rights when it is not explicitly included in the language of the Constitution.
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