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Constitution threatened by homeschool case

Posted By -NO AUTHOR- On 08/12/2006 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled

A couple in Brussels has been threatened with criminal neglect for schooling their children at home, and a U.S. expert on the issue told WorldNetDaily the case actually could pose a threat to the sovereignty of the U.S. Constitution.

That’s because if the basis for the legal arguments being made by Belgian prosecutors ever were accepted in – or imposed upon — the United States, that fact would make the U.N. protocol equal to the Constitution.

In the case at hand, Alexandra Cohen has published a piece on the Brussels Journal website that her husband, Paul Belien, the website editor, was called to police headquarters, questioned, and threatened with criminal negligence counts because their children are homeschooled.

“He was told that the Belgian authorities are of the opinion that, as a homeschooler, he has not adequately educated his children and, hence, is neglecting his duty as a parent, which is a criminal offense,” she wrote.

What terrifies U.S. homeschool education experts is the authorities’ decision to cite the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as a legal argument.

That 1990s-era document was ratified quickly by 192 nations worldwide, but not the United States or Somalia. In Somalia, there was then no recognized government to do the formal recognition, and in the United States there’s been opposition to its power.

“(The treaty) would become the supreme law of the land,” Chris Klicka, the senior counsel for the Home School Legal Defense Association, told WND. In conflicts with the Constitution, the treaty easily could prevail, he said.

“Our worst fears are being realized as we see these other European countries feeling the pressure because they did sign on and enter into this treaty,” he said. “Britain, for instance, had a report done by the (U.N.) Committee of 10 and they got chastised because they were allowing corporal punishment.”

Although signed under the Clinton Administration, the U.S. Senate never has ratified the treaty, largely because of conservatives’ efforts to point out it would create that list of rights which primarily would be enforced against parents.

The Convention is an international treaty that creates specific civil, economic, social, cultural and even economic rights for every child. It is monitored by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, which conceivably has enforcement powers.

Under the U.N. protocol, a child could have an abortion without telling her parents, while at the same time forcing them to pay for it. A generic description of the treaty calls it “child-centric.” But Klicka’s HSLDA is more specific.

The U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause requires that “all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land,” the HSLDA said.

That would mean any state law relating to child custody, the family, education, adoption, child pornography and dozens of other issues could be nullified in an instant, the group said.

Under the protocol, children would be vested with freedom of expression, so that “any attempts (by parents) to prevent their children from interacting with material parents deem unacceptable is forbidden.”

Reaching to the far end of that logic would produce this result: your 6-year-old wants Playboy magazine, or even to visit a Playboy club, and you pay for it.

Parents who fail would be subjected to “identification, reporting, referral, investigation, treatment, and follow-up.”

Klicka said the HSLDA is not directly involved in the Brussels case, although he has contacted the couple’s legal counsel and has offered assistance if needed.

In the report by Cohen, she said the couple’s four oldest children were homeschooled, and have moved on to the university level.

“Our youngest child is also being homeschooled, but she has yet to obtain her high school certificate, for which she is currently taking exams,” she said. Those exams will be taken before the nation’s Central Examination Board, of the Ministry of Education.

“The Belgian Constitution, written in 1831, allows parents to homeschool,” she wrote. “The CEB exists to enable people who have not attended or who have failed school to obtain an official high school certificate.”

The number of homeschooled students in Belgium, although small in number at about 500, has quadrupled in the past five years “as parents are seceding from the official schools where drugs and violence are rampant and pupils are indoctrinated with political correctness,” she wrote.

That, she said, “clearly bothers the authorities,” who recently introduced a legislative plan that cites the U.N. protocol and obliges homeschooling parents to sign “an official ‘declaration of homeschooling’ in which they agree to school their children ‘respecting the respect (sic) for the fundamental human rights and the cultural values of the child itself and others.’”

She and her husband refused, and now the Ministry of Education believes they have violated the law, she said.

The only response from the Minister of Education, Frank Vandenbroucke, came through a spokesman who said in a local newspaper that in Belgium homeschoolers are required to sign a document that requires them to follow the protocols of the U.N. Convention.

“These parents have not done this. This is why the ministry has started an inquiry,” he said.

Klicka noted that even if the Senate never ratifies the protocol, it could be dumped on the United States by the ruling of an activist judge.

“The fact that virtually every other nation in the world has adopted it has made it part of customary international law, and it means that it should be considered part of American jurisprudence,” Cohen wrote.

In an earlier critique, HSLDA’s chairman and general counsel, Michael Farris, noted the protocol essentially would move any rights that parents now have to social workers, who could make any decision concerning children – and force compliance.



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