Issues relating to parental rights might soon be at the center of a heated debate.
Sen. Barbara Boxer is urging the U.S. to ratify a United Nations measure meant to expand the rights of children, a move critics are calling a gross assault on parental rights that could rob the U.S. of sovereignty.
Boxer has made clear her intent to revive the ratification process under the Obama administration, which may be amenable to the move. During a Senate confirmation hearing last month, Boxer said she considers it "a humiliation" that the U.S. is "standing with Somalia" in refusing to become party to the agreement, while 193 other nations have led the way.
During U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's January confirmation hearing, Rice called the convention "a very important treaty and a noble cause," and said it was "a shame" for the U.S. to be in company with Somalia, which has no real government.
Rice told Boxer that "there can be no doubt that [Obama] and Secretary Clinton and I share a commitment to the objectives of this treaty and will take it up as an early question," promising to review the treaty "to ensure that the United States is playing and resumes its global leadership role in human rights."
The treaty (a.k.a. the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child) includes numerous provisions that would distance children from their parents’ oversight, infringing on parental rights and authority in their child’s education and upbringing. For example:
- The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child's choice.
- States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to the development of respect...for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations
- States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
- States Parties recognize the rights of the child to freedom of association and to freedom of peaceful assembly.
- States Parties recognize the right of the child to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.
- States Parties recognize the important function performed by the mass media and shall ensure that the child has access to information and material from a diversity of national and international sources...
- States Parties shall recognize for every child the right to benefit from social security, including social insurance, and shall take the necessary measures to achieve the full realization of this right in accordance with their national law.
The convention has established a Committee on the Rights of the Child, an 18-member panel in Geneva composed of "persons of high moral character" who review the rights of children in nations that are party to the convention. But legal experts say the convention does nothing to protect human rights abroad — and that acceding to the convention would erode U.S. sovereignty.
Because of the Supremacy Clause in Article VI of the Constitution, all treaties are rendered "the supreme law of the land," superseding preexisting state and federal statutes. Any rights or laws established by the U.N. convention could then be argued to hold sway in the United States.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child emerged from relative obscurity most recently when, during the presidential campaign, then-Sen. Barack Obama replied to a question about the treaty by saying he found it “embarrassing” that the United States stood with Somalia – the only other U.N. member that has not ratified the treaty — and promised to review it as president.
Last week, Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) introduced a bill in the House to amend the U.S. Constitution to permanently “enshrine” in American society an inviolable set of parents’ rights. The bill had 70 co-sponsors, all Republicans, including Minority Whip Eric Cantor and Minority Leader John A. Boehner.
The bill, said Hoekstra, is intended to stem the “slow erosion” of parents’ rights.
Parental rights: The new wedge issue
Boxer Seeks to Ratify U.N. Treaty That May Erode U.S. Rights
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Convention on the Rights of the Child