Discounting Parents’ Rights

For people of faith in America, the Obama administration’s birth control mandate represents an unprecedented assault on religious conscience. It seems that the President and his surrogates have little appreciation for the role that faith plays in the lives of many Americans, and even less respect for the Constitution’s protection of religious liberty. As if to confirm this impression, the U.S. Justice Department is doubling down on the Administration’s anti-faith stance with a lawsuit against a German family seeking religious asylum in the United States. According to our esteemed Attorney General, the right to choose the best education for your child is not a fundamental individual liberty. When it comes to the education of our children, the government – not the parents – is the final authority.

The RomeikesJoe Carter writes about the plight of the Romeike family for the Action Institute’s “Power Blog”:

The Romeikes had withdrawn their children from German public schools in 2006, after becoming concerned that the educational material employed by the school was undermining the tenets of their Christian faith. After accruing the equivalent of $10,000 worth of fines and the forcible removal of their children from the home, they chose to flee their homeland and seek asylum in the United States. They believed our government was more respectful of religious liberties.

They soon discovered that was not the case.

On January 26, 2010, a federal immigration judge granted the Romeikes political asylum, ruling they had a reasonable fear of persecution for their beliefs if they returned to their homeland. The judge also denounced the German policy, saying it was, “utterly repellent to everything we believe as Americans.” However, President Obama’s Justice Department disagreed. They argued that the family should be denied asylum based on their contention that government may legitimately use its authority to force parents to send their kids to government-sanctioned schools.”

Why should we be surprised? Of course the President doesn’t trust the parents of America to make decisions regarding their children’s education. According to his cradle-to-grave, nanny state philosophy, how could we the sheeple be expected to know anything about our children’s educational needs? And how dare we expect that our personal values and beliefs play any role in the equation?

This is only the latest troubling policy emanating from Eric Holder’s Justice Department. By discounting the right of parents to make the final decision regarding their children’s education, the Attorney General is calling into question the ultimate nature of the parent-child relationship and the role of the family as the foundational unit of civil society. In his eyes it is the State, not the parent, that should decide what constitutes a “good” education, and the Obama Administration’s motive for education is radically different from that of most parents.

Under our president’s scheme, educating children means producing multicultural, socially-aware, environmentally-conscious, Progressive-minded citizens who believe that orthodox religion is evil, wealth is corrupting, and Uncle Sam knows better than they do what’s good for them. The fact that approximately half the nation holds a different view of what America should stand for and how her government should operate matters not a whit. Mr. Obama won; he’s got a mandate and he’s made clear that he intends to use it.

Parents are generally guided by different motives than government when it comes to the education of their children. For parents, the considerations are not political, they are personal. A parent is invested in the well-being of their child from day one. Parents bear a natural responsibility for ensuring that their child grows into a responsible, virtuous citizen. They have a desire to see that their offspring act as a stewards of their familial inheritance, including religious traditions. Unless some kind of abuse is occurring (in which case few would dispute the government’s legitimate role in intervening on behalf of a minor child), the government has no business overruling the wishes of parents when it comes to the child’s education. To suggest otherwise is a breathtaking invasion of privacy and a brazen usurpation of the fundamental natural rights of parenthood (rights that precede the Constitution and are most certainly protected by it).

The media may not recognize it, but this is a huge story with extremely troubling implications. If Eric Holder is successful in establishing a legal precedent that parents have no natural right to educate their own children, then it is no exaggeration to say that America is only one generation away from our constitution being reduced to a hollow shell. The American people better wake up, and wake up fast. Our leaders are quietly executing a systematic assault on our liberty right under our noses, and we are asleep at the wheel – preoccupied with our Facebook pages and Twitter feeds and reality television. In order for democracy to survive, we must be an informed and engaged public. But I fear that increasingly, we are neither.

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Ken Connor is the Chairman of the Center for a Just Society. An esteemed attorney, Connor is affiliated with the law firm of Marks, Balette, & Giessel, a firm nationally known for its successful representation of victims of nursing home abuse and neglect.

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