Wednesday, August 7, 2013

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August 7, 2013

Federal Courts and the Parental Rights Amendment

For better or worse, the federal courts are involved in your parental rights. Lately, the decisions they are making regarding parental rights have not been good. The proposed Parental Rights Amendment is designed to correct this problem.

The Supreme Court first pronounced parental rights worthy of protection under the Federal Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment in Meyer v. Nebraska in 1923. Since then the Court has recognized that parents have a “fundamental and protected liberty interest” in the government not intruding into their families and that fit parents are deemed to make decisions in the best interest of their child. Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925), Prince v. Massachusetts (1944), Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972), Quilloin v. Walcott (1978) and Parham v. JR (1979) These cases stood for the proposition that a parents’ liberty to make decisions on behalf of their child was considered fundamental and granted the highest level of judicial protection, called “strict scrutiny.”

However, in Troxel v. Granville (2000), no majority of Supreme Court justices agreed that parental rights deserved “strict scrutiny” protection. The plurality decision in Troxel held that the court must merely grant “some special weight to” a fit parent’s decisions for their child. “Special weight?” That is a far cry from “strict scrutiny.”

Since Troxel, lower courts have held that parents have no right to be on school grounds where their child is in attendance, that parents have no right to opt their child out of offensive curricular material, that a threat to seize one’s children does not constitute coercion of parents in a Fourth Amendment context, and more.

Emboldened by this line of cases, big-government policy makers are trying with some success to remove parents’ access to a child’s medical records, library records, school transcripts, and so on. Now the federal government is even urging states to create a national database with your child’s information – information they often won’t share with you. Parents are being cut out of their children’s lives through government bureaucracy and overreach.

Some critics charge that the proposed Parental Rights Amendment will actually grant further power to the Supreme Court over parental rights. This “straw man” argument ignores the fact that the courts are already exercising that power going back nearly a century.

While we can argue about whether the Founders intended to give this authority to the High Court, it is indisputable that they do exercise that authority today. The Parental Rights Amendment would clearly and narrowly define the Court’s role in this area of law, not expand it.

The Parental Rights Amendment establishes that courts must give the highest level of protection – strict scrutiny review – anytime a government action would infringe on parents’ rights. Nearly every law or government action held to this level of review in the past has been declared unconstitutional.

Also, nothing in the PRA grants any additional authority to the legislature. Congress only has enumerated powers in the Constitution, and amendments which have expanded congressional power have done so explicitly with specific language. For example, the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, Fifteenth, Nineteenth, Twenty-third, Twenty-fourth, and Twenty-sixth Amendments contain the language: “Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” The PRA does NOT.

Setting the Record Straight

Critics are spreading misinformation about the Amendment, including charges that the PRA would expand federal power over families. You already knew these charges are false. Hopefully this explanation empowers you to set the record straight for others who may be confused.

If you host a blog, or if you frequent blogs on family or political issues, please post this information. If you are not involved in blogging, consider passing this email to family and friends. The more people who know the truth about the PRA, the less room there is for misinformation to spread.

I would also ask you to set up an appointment with your lawmakers to encourage support for the Parental Rights Amendment (HJRes50 in the House). Could you also donate to sustain our cause? For this week only your gift of $50 or more gets you a free copy of Michael Farris’s Constitutional Literacy DVD series.

Thank you for standing with us and helping us set the record straight regarding the Parental Rights Amendment.


Michael Ramey
Director of Communications & Research

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