Statement of Michael Farris
President of ParentalRights.org
March 31, 2009
On behalf of ParentalRights.org and the rapidly growing number of allied organizations, I want to thank Senator Jim DeMint, Congressman Pete Hoekstra, and my own Congressman Frank Wolf for their leadership on this important issue.
There are two basic reasons that the Constitution has been amended throughout our history. Sometimes the need is to preserve our law and traditions from potential threats and erosion of our rights. The Bill of Rights serves as the chief example of amendments designed to preserve the existing rights of the people.
At other times, it is absolutely necessary to change the existing law. The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments were clearly necessary to end the evils of slavery and establish the principle of equal protection for all Americans.
The Parental Rights Amendment follows the pattern of the Bill of Rights—the goal of this Amendment is to preserve our existing law and traditions against judicial erosion and the ever-growing threat of international law.
Sections 1 and 2 of this Amendment do nothing more than restate the time-honored doctrines of the Supreme Court on parental rights. We are simply changing parental rights from an implied right based on judicial opinions to an express right based upon actual constitutional text.
Section 1 faithfully employs the words and phrasing of the Supreme Court’s decision of Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925), to declare that the liberty of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children is a fundamental right.
Section 2 carefully follows the words of the Court in Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972), to declare that parental rights, while very important, have limits. The government may intervene when the interest is of the highest order and not otherwise served. This section is a correct statement of current law. Today, when the government has proper evidence of child abuse or neglect, it may and should prosecute a parent who is responsible for such behavior.
Section 2 ensures that this principle remains intact. Parental rights are fundamental, but they are not absolute.
Section 3 preserves the current principle that only American laws govern the relationship between parents and children in this country. The use of international law is a rapidly growing trend in our judicial system. One federal district judge in New York has on two separate occasions ruled that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child already binds the United States under the doctrine of customary international law. An Ohio court ruled on an obviously flawed premise that this treaty had already been ratified by the Senate, and therefore ordered parents to stop smoking because it harmed the health of their children.
Section 3 makes it clear that the only law which can be used in American courts regarding American families is the law made in America by our legislatures or the people themselves. The use of international law for domestic purposes is utterly contrary to the idea that this nation is a self-governing Republic.
This section is necessary especially in the context of international law. Under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, international legal obligations are of superior rank to national law—even if that law is from the national constitution. However, there is an exception. Article 46 of the VCLT says that when the national constitution makes an exception concerning the power to enter treaties, then the national law still triumphs even in the face of an inconsistent treaty obligation.
Section 3 makes it unconstitutional for this nation to enter into a treaty that gives away our sovereignty on the subject of American parents and American children.
This should be a bi-partisan issue. President Obama recently declared, “In the end, there is no program or policy that can substitute for a mother or father.” Every member of Congress who agrees with the President on this principle should be in favor of this Amendment.
Every member of Congress who believes that Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925), was correctly decided should be in favor of Section 1.
Every member of Congress who believes that Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972), was correctly decided should be in favor of Section 2.
And every member of Congress who believes that only American legislators should make public policy for American families should be in favor of Section 3.
On this last point, a post-election Zogby poll (sponsored by WorldNetDaily) makes it clear that virtually every sector of the American public agrees with this last proposition.
When asked if they wanted American judges to use American law alone or to also consider international law in making decisions, by an overwhelming margin, the American public rejected the idea of using international law for these purposes.
The majority of Republican voters reject international law.
So do the majority of Democratic voters.
Those who voted for McCain reject international law.
A majority of those who voted for Obama reject it as well.
Union members reject international law.
NRA members reject international law.
Every region of the nation rejects international law.
Every age group rejects international law.
Every racial group rejects international law.
This is a bipartisan issue in America among voters, and I truly hope and believe that it will become a bipartisan issue on the Hill. The gap between the values of Capitol Hill and the values of the American people has grown too large on too many issues. This is the very best place to show the American public that we all can work together for shared values.
Both political parties say they are for family values. And this will demonstrate meaningful support for the family.
This Amendment preserves two essential values: the value that good families, not government, have the right to make decisions for children; and that America, not the UN or any other nation, gets to make our public policy to govern the critical relationship between parents and children.