Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) may be setting the stage for a “new conservative culture-wars issue” through his recently introduced bill (H.J.R. 42) to “stem the “slow erosion” of parents’ rights and to circumvent the effects of a United Nations treaty he believes “clearly undermines parental rights in the United States,” Politico reports. Hoekstra’s bill, which proposes to amend the Constitution, has 70 co-sponsors, all of whom are Republicans. The bill is in part a response to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, a 20-year-old document that was signed by former President Clinton in 1995 but never ratified. The treaty establishes international standards for government obligations regarding children in areas such as protection from abuse and preservation of a child’s right to free expression, Politico reports.
Michael Farris — a conservative Christian and founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association — said on his Web site parentalrights.org that under the U.N. treaty, a “child’s ‘right to be heard’ would allow him (or her) to seek governmental review of every parental decision with which the child disagreed.” Farris, who helped draft Hoekstra’s bill, said the treaty is “really about government empowerment” and “has nothing to do ultimately with the rights of children.”
Advocates for the treaty, including Girl Scouts of America and the Christian Children’s Fund, argue that 193 other countries have successfully implemented the treaty and that opponents have misinterpreted the treaty’s purpose and overblown its potential impact, Politico reports. Meg Gardinier, chair of the Campaign for U.S. Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, said the treaty “has been unfairly characterized as a kind of Big Brother apparatus, where countries could be shamed and penalized, but that was not the intent of it” (Coller, Politico, 4/8).
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