Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Another State on the Brink of Protecting Parental Rights by Law logo
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April 22, 2014
Another State on the Brink of Protecting Parental Rights by Law

Oklahoma’s Senate last week voted unanimously in favor of House Bill 1384, codifying legal rights for parents in the state. Called the “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” HB 1384 is sponsored by Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City) and Sen. A.J. Griffin (R-Guthrie).

While we have offered very basic model language to help state lawmakers get started in preserving parental rights in statutory law, some legislatures have gone far beyond our modest and simple wording. (This is a good thing in those states that can get more detailed and robust protections passed!) Oklahoma’s 25-page bill certainly qualifies as one of these, and seeks to cover parental rights in every possible aspect of Oklahoma law.

Because the Senate adopted amendments to the bill, it has to return to the House for another vote. An earlier form of the bill passed the House on a vote of 89 to 3 (with 9 excused) on February 19, and no opposition to the amended version is anticipated.

With passage of HB 1384, Oklahoma will join a small but growing list of states that protect the liberty of parents to direct the upbringing, education, and care of their children as a matter of statutory law. Kansas included those rights in a religious freedom bill last year, while Nevada and Virginia adopted parental rights statutes of varying lengths and levels of detail. Other states, including Michigan, Texas, and Utah also protect parental rights by statute.

The vast majority of states recognize traditional, fundamental parental rights as a matter of judicial precedent. Without a statutory basis for those rights, however, they are subject to erosion as state courts follow the lead of their federal colleagues. The U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to apply the “strict scrutiny” standard of review in the Troxel v. Granville case in 2000 has especially led to confusion of this standard in lower courts which, as a result, treat parental rights as less than fundamental.

Massachusetts, where Justina Pelletier is in her fifteenth month of captivity at the hands of the Department of Children and Families, is among the states least friendly to parental rights. Yet even there, the tragedy of Justina’s case may open the door for some form of parental rights legislation.

We recently worked with Liberty Counsel to draft a bill that would make it illegal for DCF to accuse parents of “medical neglect” if they are following the diagnosis and treatment plan from a licensed medical provider. Such a law would have protected the Pelletiers from losing custody of their daughter when Boston Children’s Hospital disagreed with her diagnosis from Tufts Medical Center, then removed her parents from the equation for siding with “the wrong hospital.”

Thank you for standing with us in the effort to pass these state laws to protect children by empowering their parents to make these critical decisions on their behalf. Thank you, too, for supporting our ongoing effort to secure the ultimate solution to this problem, the Parental Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.


Michael Ramey
Director of Communications & Research

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