In my blog of November 6 I told you about an effort to add an amendment to the Constitution of the United States designed to provide parents with explicit rights concerning the upbringing of their children.
The Parental Rights Amendment was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Randy Hultgren (R-IL 14), the lead sponsor of the resolution, and joined by 15 original cosponsors when he submitted the Amendment. The Amendment has been numbered HJ Res. 121. The Senate version, SJ Res. 48, was introduced in August by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). So, impossible as a constitutional amendment seems, it appears to be moving along.
On the surface it seems like a good idea—parents should not be denied rights concerning their children. (Remember this paragraph from my previous post? “The claim is made that ‘Laws in a majority of states limit or entirely deny to parents any ‘right’ to be present on school grounds where their child is in attendance.’ Check out the status of parental rights laws in your state.”)
However, as the title of this blog says, “But . . .”
I read the Amendment, https://parentalrights.org/amendment/ along with the “Dig Deeper” sections, and emailed ParentalRights.org about a concern I had. I wondered if the right to choose your child’s education included sending them to a Muslim school that taught Sharia law. I want to share with you the email back-and-forth that ensued. In “Dig Deeper” under Section 3 it reads:
Whenever discriminating against speech on the basis of its content, the government “must show that its regulation is necessary to serve a compelling state interest and that it is narrowly drawn to achieve that end”), and invidious discrimination against religion (see Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc., v. Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520, 546 (1993): “To satisfy the commands of the First Amendment, a law restrictive of religious practice must advance ‘interests of the highest order’ and must be narrowly tailored in pursuit of those interests.” In all these cases, the government must prove that it has a compelling interest, before the fundamental freedom at stake can be limited.
(If you don’t understand this, you are not alone. Legalese is difficult.)
The answer I received from Maggie McKneely, Director of Administration and Development stated:
Section 3 is actually designed to ensure that the government can still get involved in the case of parents who are abusive. It does not address education. However, the amendment (specifically section 2) would make it so that if a school is promoting a faith that the parent does not want taught to their child, the parent has a right override the school’s curriculum. The education that a child receives will be ultimately up to the parent and not mandated by the government. Let me know if that doesn’t answer your question!
Thanks, Maggie, for your quick response. But no, that doesn’t answer my question. Sharia law is in conflict with the laws of our state and federal governments. If it is taught to children in school as the law(s) that should be followed, it is teaching students to act in opposition to the laws of the United States. I don’t think that is a decision that should be left to parents. All children should be taught to conduct their lives in accordance with U.S. and local laws. It should not be a “parent’s right” to educate children in this country to act against our laws. Does your proposed amendment address my concern?
Apparently my question was now above Maggie’s pay-grade as my next response came from Michael Ramey, Deputy Director of ParentalRights.org. He said:
No, the Parental Rights Amendment will not prevent parents from teaching their children laws or teachings that may disagree with the laws of the United States. This freedom of religion is a fundamental freedom that already exists in the Bill of Rights, and we do not have any desire to overthrow this fbasic [sic] American value.
Consider that if the government has the power to prevent Muslim parents from teaching Sharia law (as a theory, knowledge, ideas), it also has the power to prevent Christian parents from teaching the Bible. The law of the land now includes homosexual marriage, yet countless Christians still teach their children that marriage is between one man and one woman. Do we want a Parental Rights Amendment that will prohibit those Christian parents from teaching that because “it is teaching students to act in opposition to the laws of the United States?”
What remains protected in our Amendment, however, is the children who could be harmed by those parts of Sharia law that call for abusive actions against the child. This is because the beliefs are one thing while actions are another. Parents can teach Sharia to their children, but if the child or parent acts in a way contrary to our laws, they can be prosecuted, and this especially applies to child abuse in the name of (any) religion. The Parental Rights Amendment preserves the current role of the State in preventing and prosecuting instances of child abuse or neglect.
I am sorry if this answer disappoints you, but I think if you will look at it from all angles you may come to recognize that this is the only balance that preserves our mutual American ideals.
Remember that what is “in conflict with our state and federal governments” can be changed with a simple majority vote of Congress (or your state legislature) at any time.
If the government can legislate all that people can learn, it can legislate what they think. And if it has the power to legislate away Muslim ideas, it has the power to legislate away Christian ideas, or atheist ideas, or pagan ideas, or whatever other ideas are out of favor under a given administration. We do not want our nation to operate that way, and I hope you don’t, either.
I truly appreciate Mr. Ramey’s long and considered answer. This alone creates in me an attitude that they are trying to do what they see as necessary and beneficial in establishing the rights of parents over the various areas of the lives of their children.
But . . .
Mr. Ramey’s comparison to parents’ right to send their children to a Jewish or Christian school where they would be taught principles of that religion is specious. First, how would the government know that Sharia law was taught only as a theory, knowledge, or idea, rather than the law that must be observed by all true Muslims? Sharia is in direct opposition to the laws of our country. They are incompatible. Would children in a Muslim school be taught that?
In comparison, our Constitution is based on Judeo-Christian principles. The Supreme Court ruling he referenced regarding marriage no longer being solely between one man and one woman does not preclude such a marriage, nor does it force marriages to be between other than one man and one woman. While Jews or Christians may not agree with the decision of the Supreme Court, they have the right to try to have it overturned, and they can still live their own lives in accordance with their own religious beliefs. This is far different than would happen if Sharia law were imposed on all people.
And just to clarify Mr. Ramey’s claim that “The law of the land now includes homosexual marriage,” same-sex marriage is not a law written and approved by Congress and signed by a president. As I stated above, it has been declared a fundamental right under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by the Supreme Court. It is a decision that can be reversed by a subsequent Supreme Court. “The law of the land” is a figure-of-speech for a matter that has been given approval by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Heritage Foundation in a report dated January 25, 2013 titled “The Constitutionality of Traditional Marriage” stated:
Because the institution of marriage is the principal manner in which society structures the critically important functions of procreation and the rearing of children, it has long been recognized as “one of the cornerstones of our civilized society.” The Supreme Court itself noted more than a century ago that “the union for life of one man and one woman” is “the sure foundation of all that is stable and noble in our civilization.”
Keep in mind that the acknowledgement that “the sure foundation of all that is stable and noble in our civilization” was overturned by only five people (the vote in favor of same-sex marriage was five Justices to four) out of a population of approximately 314 million.
This blog has gone on longer than I intended, but you need to know the background of my concern. Before going to the extreme of a Constitutional Amendment, we should all give the impact of such an action considerable thought. On the surface, it sounds like a really good idea to have parents in control their children’s lives, but the possible “unintended consequences” could be significant and far-reaching. If Muslim children were taught year after year that our country should be ruled by Sharia law (and how would that be known), soon those children who were so indoctrinated would be elected to positions of political power. How many generations would it take to overturn our Judeo-Christian principled laws and put Sharia in their stead?
Basically I believe what is contained in this proposed Amendment is good and helpful. But one overlooked principle could cause tremendous damage. What do you think? Pass this information on to your friends and ask them their opinion. Let me know. The time to investigate this amendment thoroughly, with all its ramifications, is now before the boulder starts its roll downhill and can’t be stopped.