Strengthening parent’s rights in “the Several States” is the goal of a new campaign adopted by the Virginia-based ParentalRights.org.
ParentalRights.org spokesman Michael Ramey says a state-by-state campaign makes sense because that’s where the relevant laws are.
“Most states already have a judicial precedent recognizing fundamental parental rights,” he said. “We would like to see the states establish that same standard through legislation. This will protect families from shifts in judicial opinions.”
In particular, Ramey said, “some state courts base this precedent on the concept that parental rights are protected under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
“So as the Supreme Court lessens that protection, as it did in Troxel v. Granville in 2000, the state courts can look to another source of law – in this case, state legislation – to find that legal protection for parents that has been traditionally recognized,” Ramey said.
He said parents’ rights are threatened at all levels of government, and he believes his group can be an asset to the states.
“Two things we can offer the states. One is the research and informational materials lawmakers may need to make an informed decision in passing this legislation. Along with that information is also sample wording they may use as a starting point for the legislation they would adopt to protect parental rights,” Ramey said.
“The second thing is the networking we are able to do among the grassroots volunteers in the state. As they sign up with us, we are able to put them in touch with others in their state who are working toward the same goal,” he said.
Ramey said the state approach isn’t as difficult, because most states have some form of parental rights laws. The focus is on reining in the power of the bureaucracy.
“In a majority of the states, parental rights are already recognized as fundamental, strict scrutiny rights. But this analysis is based on court decisions, which, of course, can change over time depending on the make up of the courts,” Ramey said.
One of the ways to address changing court decisions is through strong legislation.
“If we can pass legislation in each state, establishing legislatively the same standard already recognized in the judiciary, we can reduce confusion, limit frivolous litigation, and protect the rights of parents from over-reaching bureaucrats,” Ramey said.
Before any parents’ rights laws can be effective, the parents themselves need to be engaged in the process, according to Massachusetts resident, social commentator and author Amy Contrada.
She cites Lexington, Mass., resident David Parker’s case as an example.
“What people around the country need to do is absorb the details of David Parker,” Contrada said.
Parker was arrested in 2004 for “disorderly conduct” when he protested against a Lexington school sharing books on the homosexual lifestyle without notifying parents – a violation of Massachusetts law.
Contrada recalled how then-Gov. Mitt Romney didn’t act to uphold Massachusetts law, which Romney said protected Parker.
“My ebook ‘Romney vs. Family Values’ covers in detail the horrible sexually radical programs kids are exposed to in the schools here in Massachusetts, which led the way for the country. They need to know what they have to protect their kids from,” Contrada said.
Contrada added that parent activism through a state-by-state campaign is needed because the pro-family groups are frequently too soft on the issues impacting the schools and their children.
“Mushy, moderate pro-family groups sometimes object to strong bills, calling them too extreme. Somehow directly confronting and addressing the extremism of the sexual radicals is ‘extreme,’” Contrada said.
“In the Massachusetts case, bills proposed in the State House tried to change the law from an ‘Opt Out’ position – allowing kids to stay out of sexually explicit curriculum lessons – to the ‘Opt-In’ alternative,” Contrada said.
“But in Massachusetts’ case, those changes wouldn’t have closed the loophole of ‘human sexuality issues’ not including ‘family structures,’” Contrada said.
Contrada again pointed to what took place in Massachusetts.
“Once ‘civil unions’ or ‘gay marriage’ has passed in a state, it’s all over. That was the main reason the court gave to shoot David Parker down: ‘Gay marriage’ is ‘legal’ here, so kids have to learn that homosexual marriage and homosexuality are ‘normal’ and ‘good,’” Contrada said.
However, John Haskins, former executive director of the Massachusetts-based Parent’s Rights Coalition, says he’s not sure concentrating on legal or legislative activism is effective.
“I’m not against what ParentalRights.org or any other group is trying to do. However, because our nation is now in a ‘post-constitutional’ mindset, trying the activism route is not likely to get results,” Haskins said.
Haskins said other options may work better.
Contrada has been an activist for the pro-family cause since 2003 but is inclined to agree with Haskins.
"I'm afraid I agree with John that no one in government follows the laws or Constitution in any case. Romney should have enforced the parents' rights bill as it stood during the Parker case. Gov. Romney even said at the start of the case that the law was on Parker's side, but then went on to do nothing to enforce it!” Contrada said.
"The regulations had been written and were to be enforced by his department of education. Romney could have ordered the enforcing regulations strengthened," Contrada said.
"Instead, he let them get away with claiming that 'human sexuality issues' did not include Parker's situation because the books in question were about different kinds of families and respecting differences," she said.
Even so, Ramey stands by a state-by-state strategy because strong state laws can protect parent's rights.
His group will press for strengthening parent's rights laws because stronger laws clarify and codify the rights of parents.
"While this legislation still will not protect parents against an international treaty, or against the shifting ideologies of the U.S. Supreme Court, it will nevertheless clarify and strengthen legal protections for parents' rights in each individual state," the ParentalRights.org website explains.
Ramey observed that almost all family and parental rights laws are found on the state level. He added that the federal government doesn't have constitutional authority over parental rights.
"The federal government doesn't have any constitutional authority in most areas of family law. That's not something we want to change, but to preserve. So we work at the state level," Ramey said.
"It's not the policies we would pass, but the U.S. Constitution, that keeps the federal government out of family law – as long as we don't adopt a treaty that would shift that authority to Congress. And we avoid that risk by standing in opposition to ratification of the UN's Convention on the Rights of the Child in the U.S. Senate," he said.
However, Ramey pointed out that many conflicts over state laws eventually find their way into federal court, which is why he says the group will not give up the focus to concentrate on state laws.
"Any time an individual feels that a state law is infringing upon a right guaranteed to the under the U.S. Constitution, that case can end up in federal court," Ramey said.
He added that federal judges take a dim view of a state law that tries to limit federal reach.
"A state law that says federal courts can't hear parental rights cases would be struck down as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has found that parental rights today are under the Fourteenth Amendment. If a state violates those rights, the federal courts are the place to correct that violation," Ramey said.