Proposed Constitutional Amendment Aims to Secure Parent Rights
Rep. Mark Meadows has proposed amending 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 co-sponsored by 56 other members of Congress, secures parents 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-North Carolina) in a statement. Similar bills in each of the past four congressional sessions have become known as “parental rights initiatives.” Last year’s version 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 spearheading the effort. Common Core requirements, for example, could be challenged on constitutional basis if this amendment was ratified, she said.
The U.S. Senate will soon 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 focus on this right and then begin to recognize how often government officials infringe upon it,” Holand explained.
Natural Rights and Duties
As early as 1923, the Supreme Court has held that, “It is the natural duty of the parent to give his children education suitable to their station in life” (Meyer v. State of Nebraska). In decades since, however, state and federal laws, international treaties, and government actions have encroached upon the right of children and families to exercise this “natural duty,” said 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. In considering that law, the Supreme Court decided that court precedent means “it cannot now be doubted that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children” (Troxel v. Granville, (2000)).
ParentalRights.org wants to place language from Supreme Court precedent directly into the Constitution to “preserve the vital child-parent relationship.”
“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 is extremely difficult and therefore rare. It requires congressional approval by a two-thirds majority in each chamber, then ratification by three-quarters of states.
Image by Lindsey Turner.