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Introducing H.J. Res. 42

The introduction of the Parental Rights Amendment in the U.S. Congress (H.J. Res. 42) was announced at a press conference yesterday afternoon. Below is the body of parentalrights.org president Michael Farris's powerful speech from that event. If your Congressman or Senator is not already onboard, we urge you to copy and paste that message into an email or letter to send to them, along with your own personal message. (Check the sponsors list; find contact info.) This message clearly articulates the need for the Amendment; it is imperative that we get it into the hands of all of America's lawmakers.

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...

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