Parental rights are under attack from multiple sources. These attacks are fundamentally anti-family, anti-religious, anti-traditional, and – at their root – unconstitutional, thus anti-American. Parents – indeed anyone who cares about the primacy of family over the State – must speak up. This is now the time.
Attacks on traditional, constitutional and statutory rights of parents have begun to cluster around core issues, including reinterpretation of due process, equal protection, state educational and domestic law definitions, and the reach and meaning of established federal laws, such as Title IX.
These laws protect parents, and in this way protect the nuclear family, children within the family, religious and family values – all against State overreach, preventing unconstitutional intrusion into the zone of privacy, moral teachings, and traditions of families, by schools or any kind of government.
So fundamental is protecting the family against the State, and prerogatives of parents in raising of their children, that only in cases of egregious criminal behavior or parsing parental rights on voluntary dissolution of the family, has the State has a role in assessing respective rights.
Until now, no government entity – including even the most brazen politicians, school administrators, teachers, government-funded non-profits, political organizations, or medical providers – have dared to assert that they have a right superior to parents’ God-given rights in raising their children as they see fit.
Unthinkable has been the idea that longstanding constitutional protections, statutes, and caselaw created over centuries to protect the family unit and values cultivated in the family, including morally, spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, and physically educating children – could be taken by the State.
Yet that is where we are. We are at a terribly consequential, sobering and objectively frightening intersection between rising State assertions of power over parents, in the name of social, moral, and physical control, and the long and well-worn road that is societal preservation of a healthy, free, and largely moral society through family primacy.
Specifically, government entities – from the Biden White House and Democrats in Congress, to left-leaning State leaders, down through unaccountable school boards and administrators, pumped up by activists, dark money, and media – seek to challenge, marginalize, and apparently displace parental rights.
They increasingly claim the right to exercise control – directly and through intimidation – over every aspect of a child’s education and self-definition, from what they will be taught, allowed to believe morally, psychologically, about everything from science to history, and even about their gender.
More grotesque, some of these self-inflated, self-appointed, non-parental custodians of the nation’s children believe they now have the right – even more absurdly an obligation – to permit secret changes in the child’s sexual, gender and personality identity, up to and including secret sexual mutilation. This is, ironically, a form of child abuse we condemn globally.
The arrogance of this new social turn, much of it premised on a Marxist reinterpretation of social structure, is only exceeded by the sheer horror of it, for parents and children. The relative silence by so many in these various communities – from Congress to school boards – is almost as arresting. That said, the power of parents to correct this turn is enormous, if used.
Basic questions need to be asked, with knowledge of longstanding laws, moral and social traditions, and family rights – all of which cut against, undermine, and completely oppose this new anti-parent trend.
A century ago, the US Supreme Court ruled that a “child is not the mere creature of the State,” and “those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations,” that this is a sacred right of parents, not the state. That was in 1925, Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510.
In 1972, they ruled in Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645, that parents possess the fundamental rights “in the companionship, care, custody, and management” of their children, hammering the point in Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972): “This primary role of the parents in the upbringing of their children is now established beyond debate as an enduring American tradition.”
In 1997, reinforcing past law, they affirmed in Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702 (1997) that the 14th Amendment’s due process clause protects the “fundamental right” of parents to direct the care, upbringing, and education of their children.
In 2000’s Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000), they “unequivocally affirmed” a parent’s right to raise their children, and “no reason for the State to inject itself into the private realm of the family to further question the ability of the parent to make the best decisions concerning the rearing of that parent’s child.” In sum, they barred “an unconstitutional infringement on” the parent’s “fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control” of children.
Yet where are we? Despite these rulings, reinforced by other constitutional and statutory language, such as exercise of religion, equal rights for biological girls, and parental primacy in family decisions, the government seeks – using leftist ideology – to assert control.
This cannot stand, because it flies in the face of all that is American, from protection of the family and innocence of children to rule of law, both constitutional and statutory. With the voices of more than 60 million parents of young children, another 120 million grandparents, this must not stand. The time has come…to defend parental rights – urgently.
Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.