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June 20, 2008

Comments

Brandon Watson

I think the reason it came before the judge in the first place was that it was really a part of custody struggle between the mother and the father (who have been fighting about it for nearly ten years, from what I understand). It still is a bit of a bizarre story.

American Phoenix

Plaintiff and Defendant are used in civil (i.e., non-criminal) litigation at the trial court level. In this case, the defendant-father lost the case. The father has now appealed the case to the appellate court. That makes the father an appellant and the daughter an appellee at the appellate court level.

As to the substance, I think this case is appalling. The father has every right to discipline his daughter, short of physical abuse. Given the nature of her conduct, I think that the father was absolutely right to do what he did. I would have done the same thing.

Had this been me, I would have had to carefully consider whether I even wanted to cooperate with the court, because to do so is tantamount to recognizing that any court has the jurisdiction even to consider such a case.

I think this presents an interesting ethical issue that parents may someday face as their rights to parent are further eroded.

The Sheepcat

It's one judge who, Lord willing, will get the stuffing knocked out of her ruling upon appeal, but this is a sign of how far gone things are in our fair nation. Watch out, U.S. of A., you're next if you're not careful.

Jim McCullough

All this commentary on the news is interesting, SDG, but plenty of people are already doing that. Some (few) of us are still hoping you'll get back to that series on priesthood, though...

John Thayer Jensen

We do it much better in New Zealand. We pass laws. It is against the law to touch your child for the purposes of discipline. A father was convicted recently for 'flicking' his little boy's ear. A stander-by saw it and called the cops.

A petition was got up to put an appeal to a referendum but failed - though I think it got quite close to the needed 300,000 signatures by the deadline - but did not get enough in time.

jj

Tim J.

Haven't y'all heard? The "family" is an arbitrary social construct that has outlived its usefulness. The only valid and enduring relationship is between the individual and the state.

Your sentimental attachments to ideas like "family" and "sanctity of life" are very amusing to the social engineering experts.

In times like these, I like to think of myself as an honorary citizen of New Hampshire, if only for their state motto; "Live Free or Die".

SDG

We do it much better in New Zealand. We pass laws. It is against the law to touch your child for the purposes of discipline.

You know, in all seriousness, that is better. At least you have the comfort of knowing that insanity isn't being imposed on you by an unaccountable, ivory-tower oligarchy-for-life usurping powers pertaining to another branch of government to quasi-legislate their own preferences by pretending that old pieces of paper say things they don't. You have insanity by way of actual due process, with the actual legislators actually writing things on brand-new pieces of paper.

A father was convicted recently for 'flicking' his little boy's ear. A stander-by saw it and called the cops.

Unbelievable. Somebody ought to flick that bystander somewhere or other.

A petition was got up to put an appeal to a referendum but failed - though I think it got quite close to the needed 300,000 signatures by the deadline - but did not get enough in time.

Out of morbid curiosity, how does that work? You can't have another referendum?

Just to clarify things a bit for you folks down in the USA and elswhere...

This case was heard and decided in Quebec.

Quebec is not really a part of Canada, not like Alberta or B.C. or Ontario etc.

Quebec is like a quasi-specialized territory filled with people that consider themselves a distinct society. They have a separete language, separete laws for the most part and worst of all, the great nation of Canada's bottle refund and recycling laws DON'T APPLY THERE!!!

Padre Steve

These kind of stories really make me annoyed. How can a judge take the parenting rights away from parents. Does the state want to raise our children for us.... don't answer that! I know there are many who believe they should. If we continue to undermine the family as we are doing now our culture will continue to unravel. We really need to pray for families!

bill912

Amen, Padre Steve. Some people read "Brave New World", thought it was a travel ad, and decided they wanted to go there (and take the rest of us with them).

Tim J.

"How can a judge take the parenting rights away from parents."

They can't. Parental rights do not originate with the state, and they can't be taken away by the state, though any number of arrangements might be established by brute force.

The family is more foundational than the state. It should be families and communities that limit the rights of the state, not vice-versa.

That said, there is a compelling interest for the society to protect the rights of individuals in families, when they are truly abused. This *should* be handled at the lowest level possible. If friends, neighbors and relatives had more spine in bringing pressure to bear on bad parents, there might be a lot less need for the state to intervene. But we have been taught for a long time that such things are best left to professionals, and then there is the real possibility of being sued, which hobbles the function of society in any number of ways.

It was the professionals who handled the priest abuse crisis. One wonders how things might have been different if, instead of picking up the phone and calling the bishop's office, the families and communities involved had picked up bricks and visited the bishop's home.

The Masked Chicken

This seems like another case of the whiner wins. One wonders if this judge has any children of her own. One wonders if she would not have done the sane thing if it were her children. This seems a classic case where Do unto others might have clarified the situation.

The Chicken

OPNY

The Canadian legal system is even crazier than ours here in the U.S. What a bunch of kooks!

The Masked Chicken

That should be, "the same thing" in my post, above...but, "the sane thing" works almost as well.

The Chicken

SDG

That said, there is a compelling interest for the society to protect the rights of individuals in families, when they are truly abused.

Yes, those would be legal situations, situations in which a law was being broken. Judges are competent to review alleged infractions of the law.

I do not see where any judge gets off reviewing domestic, non-legal disciplinary decisions of law-abiding parents regarding their minor children.

Of course as jj points out you can get screwy laws too, such as NZ's insane zero-tolerance policy on disciplinary physical contact. Yet even a bad law still has the virtue of saying what it says and not saying what it doesn't say. As long as judges sticks to the law, there's some sort of limit on their freedom to impose their own opinions on situations that by rights are none of their beeswax.

What really frightens me is the increasing unchecked judicial freedom of unaccountable ivory-tower oligarchs-for-life to engineer society any way they like, overriding laws, voters, legislators and now even law-abiding parents at will.

Can we take it for granted that no judge will ever order a parent not to teach their children that abortion or homosexuality are wrong? That parents will never be at risk of having their children taken away to protect them from the parental hate crime of being Catholic? These might seem extreme scenarios, but where we are now sure would have seemed extreme ten or twenty years ago.

bill912

Unfortunately, if some judges were in a room with God, they would consider Him first-among-equals.

SDG

Unfortunately, if some judges were in a room with God, they would consider Him first-among-equals.

Heh. That would be a decided step up from the juridical status assigned to God in modern society as identified in the title of C.S. Lewis's essay "God in the Dock."

Ian

It seems that banning physical punishment could actually be for the worse. Imagine the horrible things that get yelled at children by frustrated parents who are basically left with putting their kids in time-out as punishment. And if the kid doesn't want to go? The parent can't force them for fear of breaking the law.

Peter T Chattaway

I am tempted to point out that Quebec is the province in which Mike Myers' new comedy, The Love Guru -- a typical raunchy example of Myers pushing the limits of the American PG-13 rating as far as they can go -- was rated G.

But as I understand it, there's no difference between the G and PG-13 rating anyway, not really, since kids of all ages can still buy tickets to movies of either rating.

FWIW, in B.C. and Ontario, The Love Guru is rated 14A -- which, in these parts, means you don't get to see the film if you're under 14 unless you are accompanied by a guardian.

Now watch some judge rule that the dad is obliged to take his children to movies of that sort, if it's what all their friends are going to.

Margarita

You know how well the media reports on church decisions? The same dosage of salt is recommended in their treatment of legal matters. Basically, who knows what's really going on here? At face value, of course, yes it's absurd. But I question how firmly we're in the handbasket just yet.

CT

All men are created equal, including children. Children have the same human rights as adults as they are just as human. There is no right to be unkind, to be unjust, unfair or abusive. A parent who for example grounds his child for one whole year because the child said a "bad" word is abusing his power and exceeding his authentic authority. In that case, though this is not ideal, the child should have some sort of recourse. Where else would that recourse be but a court?

It may be that in this case the parent was not so unreasonable as to warrant societal intervention, but any sane person realizes that there are cases where even non-physically abusive disciplinary measures, like say grounding a child for a whole year for saying a bad word are so excessive as to constitute acting beyond the authentic scope of parental authority. We may disagree on the remedy, but the moral question is clear

SDG

All men are created equal, including children. Children have the same human rights as adults as they are just as human. There is no right to be unkind, to be unjust, unfair or abusive. A parent who for example grounds his child for one whole year because the child said a "bad" word is abusing his power and exceeding his authentic authority. In that case, though this is not ideal, the child should have some sort of recourse. Where else would that recourse be but a court?

It may be that in this case the parent was not so unreasonable as to warrant societal intervention, but any sane person realizes that there are cases where even non-physically abusive disciplinary measures, like say grounding a child for a whole year for saying a bad word are so excessive as to constitute acting beyond the authentic scope of parental authority. We may disagree on the remedy, but the moral question is clear

I would say children have the same human dignity as adults and must be treated accordingly. "Rights" can be a slippery word. Many things we ordinarily think of as "human rights" do not apply to children in the same way as they apply to adults.

For example, in the mainstream Western democratic tradition we would ordinarily consider it a basic "human right" to worship (or not worship) according to the dictates of conscience, and not to be compelled to participate in religious practices unless one wishes. However, parents certainly have the right to compel children to attend worship services, even if necessary and if they so choose against the child's will.

Even in baptizing an infant, parents are doing what could not ordinarily be done to an adult without permission, and would ordinarily be considered a violation of an adult's "human rights" if done to an unwitting adult (except in limited emergency cases). Similar points could be made about circumcision. Parents have the right to make decisions for children that no one has the right to make for an adult.

At least, so the mainstream Western democratic tradition would reckon it, though there are voices in society today that have begun to militate against this, and even to label religious pedagogy itself a form of child abuse. This is part of what makes the principle of the case in question so troubling.

If a court has the right even in principle to order a father to rescind disciplinary measures the court finds inappropriate -- regardless whether you or I thinks this particular case warrants such intervention -- who is to say some court somewhere will not order parents to allow their 12-year-old (or eight-year-old, or five-year-old) to skip Mass (or Temple, or prayer services of whatever tradition)? Indeed, who is to say a court will not order parents not to impose religious pedagogy on their child at all?

In regard to parenting decisions, parents have the right and duty to follow their own conscience and beliefs. Unless they break the law of some governing authority, no one has the right or authority to second-guess or overrule them. Family members, close friends or neighbors, or perhaps pastors among others may disagree strongly with the parents' decisions; depending on the relationship, they may even confront them and take the child's side. However, unless a law is being broken, the parents' final decision is final.

Grounding for a year for one bad word is certainly extreme, all right. But do parents have a legally enforceable obligation to allow their children to engage in any particular elective activities whatsoever? If John and Mary believe in keeping their children under their direct supervision at all times and whenever possible on their own property, as long as they meet all legal requirements for education and medical treatment and so forth, can a court intervene and order them to allow their kids to have unsupervised time with other children and adults?

I would say a father can legally disallow his child to go on a camping trip without any punitive justification whatsoever. A fortiori, therefore, he can do the same as a punishment for whatever infraction he deems just. It's nobody's business outside their family.

The family, not the individual, is the basic unit of society. The principle of subsidiarity places larger and higher levels of society at the service of lower and more local ones, providing for them what they cannot provide for themselves while avoiding interfering in their inner life: Nations exist for the sake of province or states, which in turn are at the service of the district or county, which are at the service of the city or town, which are at the service of the neighborhood, and all of the above are at the service of the family.

The rights of smaller and more local communities, above all in the case of the family, not to be interfered with by larger communities must most assiduously be guarded.

Only in cases where a child's welfare is credibly at risk can it be legitimate for society to directly intervene on behalf of the child. To ensure the child's welfare, we pass laws.

Mere injustice, in the sense of an unfair punishment, does not by itself put the child's welfare credibly at risk. In such circumstances, I do not believe there can ever be any question of "recourse." The "remedy" will always be far more dangerous than the disease.

Dean from NZ

A petition was got up to put an appeal to a referendum but failed - though I think it got quite close to the needed 300,000 signatures by the deadline - but did not get enough in time.

Out of morbid curiosity, how does that work? You can't have another referendum?

There were enough signatures presented but a statistical analysis of a sample showed that enough were invalid or duplicates that the threshold number of valid signatures (10% of the electoral roll) wasn't met. The legislation around referenda allowed the organizers a two-month extension period to make up the shortfall. The new total, 384,000 signatures out of an electoral roll of about 2.8 million, should now have enough margin, and gets presented to parliament today, coincidentally. More information here.

LJ

There is, and should be in law, a close relationship between responsibilities, rights and authority.
How many of us have worked for companies in positions of great responsibility but little authority? That is the same scenario here being created for parents as their right of authority is being severely curtailed by the state without the commensurate curtailment of reponsibility.
It is much like what the pharoah did to the Israelites in Egypt before the Exodus. Increase the workload and at the same time decrease the raw materials supplied to do the job. It is an injustice.

SDG's point was a good one. The girl is twelve. Her parents have been in court since she was two. How else would she think you handle disputes in a family? Her parents have taught her well. And lest the mother should gloat at this decision, the girl may well one day take her to court too.

The problem here, beyond the obvious, is that it is unusual cases that establish precedent. It is critical that the judgement be thrown out on appeal. If not, then Canadian parents have something to worry about.

labrialumn

Canada has become a totalitarian state. the US, as always, isn't that far behind Canada.

If a quasi-legal entity like an HRC in a relatively conservative province like Alberta, can order a Christian pastor to renounce his faith, why be surprised at the interference in family life? The NEA here in the States has been doing so and pushing for ever more, for many years.

Canada: 20 minutes into the future.

The Masked Chicken

And yet...is this a good thing or a bad thing? Relativism or indifferentism or what? Are we giving up control to go along with the culture?

The Chicken

CT

SDG, with all due respect, you used some sleight of hand there. Yes, it is a human right to choose to worship or not as one pleases. A parent's requiring a child attend a service does not curb that right. The child being in the same building does not mean he must worship with the others and just being physically present does not entail participating in the worship -- else the couple that recently was physically present in the confessional of a church in Italy during Mass would have been participating in the worship. A parent does not have the authority to force a child to actually worship or for that matter to not worship. If a child tells his parent that he doesn't believe in the divinity of Christ, it would indeed be "religious" abuse for the parent to thereby punish the child or for the parent to otherwise coerce the child into believing, professing, or acts of worship. You can look at it in the case of adults also. A journalist may be required by his employer to attend a certain worship service for some reason -- that does not entail the journalist actually participating in the worship. Any god worthy of our devotion does not a mortal, a parent, to tell a child in the pews that he must kneel else he will be grounded and a parent who does that deserves not only moral condemnation but also societal intervention. A religious society that facilitates that deserves to be rooted out from society in a manner consistent with freedom of speech and other rights of individuals and communities.

I also fail to see how the infliction of excessive disciplinary action does not harm the child's welfare. Being free is in of itself part of the welfare of a human being. Welfare means well-being and is not limited to physical health. And a child that is grounded for a whole year would probably not get as much exercise and that would harm his physical welfare anyway.

When there is no law that curtails overextension of parental power, you may be right in suggesting that the parent should not be punished or curtailed so. However, all that would mean is that such laws need to be put into place, either by statute, new common law precedent, new constitutional law, or, hopefully one day a new paradigm of justice-delivering where judges are seen not merely as arbiters of the technicalities and intricacies of the law, whose talk is only to be faithful to a game of rules, but also and primarily as crafters of just solutions so that situations not envisioned by the law are handled fairly by judges.

bill912

SDG used no "sleight of hand", you just disagree with him.


"...a parent, to tell a child in the pews that he must kneel else he will be grounded and a parent who does that deserves not only moral condemnation but also societal intervention."

Then parents would have no right to discipline their children, children could do anything they pleasee, and we would have a generation of monsters. I have dealt with parents who never tell their children "No", and their children *are* monsters.

Sleeping Beastly

I think Margarita is right about this one. I would bet that the daughter had a long talk with her mother before deciding to hire a lawyer. In all the news stories, the mother is conspicuously absent. No comments from her or anything. I suspect the reporters of leaving her out of the story so as to sensationalize it. If I am reading correctly between the lines, this is a dispute between the parents about how to discipline the daughter, and the daughter/court situation is just the battlefield on which this dispute is being decided. Still a very sad state of affairs.

That said, I don't think any of us are wrong to be nervous of what leftists in the courts and schools are up to. It's worth keeping in mind that socialism is intrinsically opposed not just to religion, but to the family as well. Marx and Engels explicitly stated so in their Manifesto of the Communist Party:

Abolition [Aufhebung] of the family! Even the most radical flare up at this infamous proposal of the Communists.

On what foundation is the present family, the bourgeois family, based? On capital, on private gain. In its completely developed form, this family exists only among the bourgeoisie. But this state of things finds its complement in the practical absence of the family among the proletarians, and in public prostitution.

The bourgeois family will vanish as a matter of course when its complement vanishes, and both will vanish with the vanishing of capital.

Do you charge us with wanting to stop the exploitation of children by their parents? To this crime we plead guilty.

But, you say, we destroy the most hallowed of relations, when we replace home education by social.

And your education! Is not that also social, and determined by the social conditions under which you educate, by the intervention direct or indirect, of society, by means of schools, &c.? The Communists have not invented the intervention of society in education; they do but seek to alter the character of that intervention, and to rescue education from the influence of the ruling class.

The bourgeois clap-trap about the family and education, about the hallowed co-relation of parents and child, becomes all the more disgusting, the more, by the action of Modern Industry, all the family ties among the proletarians are torn asunder, and their children transformed into simple articles of commerce and instruments of labour.

I'd say that was the real thinking behind the recent California court ruling about homeschooling.

Tim J.

"Any god worthy of our devotion does not a mortal, a parent, to tell a child in the pews that he must kneel else he will be grounded and a parent who does that deserves not only moral condemnation but also societal intervention."

"Society" does not equal "government". "Intervention" does not equal "legal coercion". That is the pernicious rut we have worn in our thinking, though.

To say that parents *shouldn't* force unbelieving children to worship is not at all to say that the state ought to play any role at all.

The state needs to butt out, but let grandparents, in-laws, neighbors and friends bring their influence to bear on situations where parents may be acting unwisely.

We already have a plethora of laws to address any *real* abuse. We don't need more just for the highly nebulous kinds of situations such as you describe.

ann

I am a lawyer who helped write our states' divorce manual. I am also an orthodox Catholic who believes that no-fault divorce, which was not opposed by any diocese in America that I know of, is a scandal.

That aside, the problem in America and I assume in Canada, is that there is a vague, concept called "the best interest of the child'. This concept is used to justify all sort of abominations (think the recent raid in Texas taking 400 children from their parents). The judiciary has no bright line standards upon which to base a decision, so they fall back upon their own personal opinions, which may, or usually may not, really serve a child's interest.

We and Canada and every western nation are in trouble because we will not believe and implement in our laws the fact that an intact biological family, if possible, is the situation which is in the best interest of the child.

I think JPII said just that. Every child has a right to a loving, mother and father.

CT

@TJ

I agree that it in such cases it is ideal for grandparents, in-laws, neighbors and friends to intervene. However, when that is not possible or that influence does not work, the only means society has for enforcing the rights of man is through the authority and power of society.

You all should keep in mind that if you say that society, including if necessary, society as a public, authentic entity, should not intervene in the case I described in my second post, you also have to say that society should not intervene in the case of atheistic parents who use undue influence and coercion in getting their children to renounce belief in the divine that they may have had held intuitively from a young age or acquired through their own activity. What if an atheistic couple told their children that unless they renounce religion, they would be grounded for a year. Under SDG's reasoning, it would seem, assuming I understand him, that such a couple would be free to carry out their anti-religious abuse without intervention of the law or courts. However, philosophically one might justify legal intervention in this case, practically speaking, one could not have such intervention in countries like the United States without also countenancing legal intervention in the counterpart case as I mentioned.

And is it "real" abuse for an atheistic couple to tell their children that if they do not renounce their faith in God, they will be grounded for a year (and to then ground them so when they don't)?

If it is not and you would have society just leave such helpless children be, then I am astonished. If it is, then how is it not also "real" abuse in the case of the religious couple?

The state is the arm of society and it is at the service of society. The state is not something evil or a necessary evil or anything like that. Even if all men were perfect and no crime of any sort existed, the state would or should still exist, to say organize city parades.

Tim J.

"If it is not and you would have society just leave such helpless children be, then I am astonished. If it is, then how is it not also "real" abuse in the case of the religious couple?"

I wouldn't have society leave them be. I would have the state leave them be. And, no, it is not "abuse" in any commonly accepted legal sense. It's a damn shame, but it's not abuse.

Some kids' parents are grumpy, emotionally distant, meddlesome, nagging, suspicious, over-strict, overprotective, or all kinds of other things. Is that fair? Not really, but neither is it cause for legal action.

We can't make life fine and dandy for everyone. We can't guarantee equality of outcome, and it is PRECISELY when we try to do this that we cause FAR greater mischief than any we may have hoped to cure.

SDG

CT,

From where I sit, the sleight of hand is yours. :-)

You say "A parent does not have the authority to force a child to actually worship or for that matter to not worship." This is trivial; the truth is that no one on earth has the power to force anyone on earth, child or adult, to worship or not worship.

What I said was that "we would ordinarily consider it a basic "human right" to worship (or not worship) according to the dictates of conscience, and not to be compelled to participate in religious practices unless one wishes."

Obviously this doesn't mean compelling people to actually worship or not worship). Rather, it refers minimally to compulsory attendance at approved services -- and prohibitions of attendance at unapproved services -- as well as any required participation at approved services.

Christian parents may legitimately prohibit their children from attending, say, Islamic services while requiring them to attend Christian ones. They may compel them to stand, kneel and sit at the prescribed times, may even require them under filial obedience to recite, chant or sing prescribed responses, etc.

To be sure, a child under constraint of conscience may in certain circumstances lawfully refuse filial obedience and resist parental compulsion (and parents correspondingly have an obligation to respect even the improperly formed conscience of their children). If a child says he doesn't believe in the divinity of Christ, he might be in a position to refuse to say the Creed or to kneel at the consecration. However, I don't think the parents are abusing him by forcing him at least to sit through the Mass, as similar compusion would certainly be considered an abuse of the human rights of an adult in the mainstream Western democratic tradition.

More later.

CT

On your very last point, I don't see it as being an abuse of human rights necessarily. Some adults who go to religiously affiliated universities may be required to attend chapel services -- such colleges did exist in the United States and included many well known ones that have since rescinded the requirement as part of their secularization. A teacher at a religious school may be required to attend a school religious service, even if that teacher does not share in that religion. If a govt were to require its employees to attend certain religious services as part of diversity training or to gain insight for certain govt objectives, that also would not be problematic. In the case of the family, unduly requiring attendance would be problematic just as it would be for the govt to unduly require it. Also, requiring them to engage in rituals like standing or kneeling would be problematic. Acts of worship should not be coerced in any manner. Of course, if it is a very young child who is not yet capable of understanding the meaning of such postures, then it is fine. But once the child is old enough to be capable of objecting, his conscience should be respected.

I maintain that children and adults have the exact same human rights; it's just that some rights do not apply or are not relevant due to incapacity. Just as a very young child may be legitimately required to stand or kneel since he doesn't understand those rituals, so also can an adult who is severely mentally retarded be so required by his parents. Freedom of religion is about being free to explore according to one's mind and heart. To the extent that the mind and heart is not developed sufficiently to allow for exploration, any restraint is not an impingement on freedom of religion. The reason why it is OK for parents to require children or mentally retarded adults to kneel or stand is because the parents can reasonably believe that their children would go along with it once they mature. When maturity occurs and the child expresses otherwise, that reason is of course invalidated.

I don't comprehend how the principle of subsidiarity as you have espoused it, stops at the unit of the family. By logical extension, it should maintain that the family should intervene only when things cannot be dealt with at the level of the individual. I also don't see any paramount value in having the governing arm be as local as possible. It seems rather that the governing instrument should be placed at the level which is most beneficial or efficent. So for example, commerce laws should be federal to minimize inordinate costs to businesses in complying with different state or local laws. If economies of scale apply to enterprises, surely they can apply to legislative structures as well.

The Masked Chicken

I can usually hold my own in a discussion, but this post is creating such anger in me that it is close to becoming an occasion of sin. I had many points to make in a post I originally wrote, but I had to delete it, because the more I wrote, the angrier I got. I really hope we have all of the facts, because to make me this angry, I have to know that the reason is valid.

Someone give me a reason to hope for the younger generation, please. They are not all this selfish, are they? It is my Christian duty to pray for this judge, but I hope someone teaches her and that ungrateful brat the meaning of the fourth commandment. The judge has caused this father to be dishonored in the sight of her daughter. How many want to bet that she could not even name the fourth commandment (Catholic/Lutheran version)? She ought to get down on her hands and knees and thank God that she has a father who cares enough to want what is best for her. Someday, if God's grace is allowed to act in her life, she will regret this.

I am the Masked Chicken and I am in a fowl mood.

The Masked Chicken

Alright, I have to say something about the CT/SDG discussion:

By all means, let your child have freedom of religion, but this assumes the proper formation of conscience. Clearly, this is not the case, here, since the father was exercising his right as a parent and the child could not or would not see it. Her conscience is, simply put, not well formed.

I doubt she goes to any sort of Church, either, or else she would know, in her heart of hearts, that what she was doing by disobeying her father was wrong.

Abstract discussion on principle can be useful, but, very clearly, this is a simple case. The precedents go back at least 3000 years - see: God vs. the People of Israel, Supreme Court, Mt. Sinai.

The Chicken

Tim J.

Hey Chicken... guess you could say this really ruffles your feathers, huh?

"I also don't see any paramount value in having the governing arm be as local as possible. It seems rather that the governing instrument should be placed at the level which is most beneficial or efficent."

Sounds like you might have been right at home in Soviet Russia. I'll take a humane government over an "efficient" one.

"I maintain that children and adults have the exact same human rights"

Not so. Children have rights that are qualitatively different. Children have no natural right, for instance, to go wherever they please, even when they have the capacity (the judgment) to do so. They do not carry adult responsibilities - even for their own behavior - and so they do not have the rights of an adult.

Children aren't just little adults. They are aliens from another planet. Ask any mom.

The Masked Chicken

I was overly judgmental and condemning in my post of July 24, 4:18 pm, above. I do not know the facts of the case well enough to make such seeping remarks. Holding another person or persons in contempt, for any reason, is sinful (one may hold their positions in contempt, of course) and my comments, above, if they do not hold the girl and the judge in contempt, are very close to it. My apologies to them and you all.

The Chicken

CT

The reason why it must be that children and adults have the exact same human rights is that human rights derive from the fact of someone's humanity and children and adults are equally human. There may be debate as to how human a human fetus is, but no one disputes that a young child is just as human as an adult. Children are not human in one way and adults in another. Thus they cannot have different "human" rights -- rights based on their humanity, their human nature as they have that fully from birth ("birth" here not meant to indicate birth as opposed to conception but birth in the metaphorical, ordinary sense of the word which was used for instance in the first English edition of the new Catechism in the phrase "regulation of births" IIRC). Children and adults may differ in other kinds of rights -- civil rights for example -- but not in human rights. An example of a civil right that children and adults and for that matter men and women or the educated and uneducated or the mentally healthy and mentally ill may differ in is the civil right to vote. This right is "civil" because it is one granted by society and for the sake of the good of society, not one possesed as a human right from birth.

On your comment about Russia. Russia was obviously not doing things efficiently. Most say this is because the govt there did too much, preventing the motive of greed from developing the nation economically. But that has nothing to do with my point. My point was not that govt should be involved more extensively in the economic or other life of a nation. My point prescinded from such questions and was addressing rather that when it is decided that govt should be involved in a certain matter, it should be involved at a level that most efficiently accomplishes the end that has been chosen. So for example, if one thought govt should be involved in policing (some economists have proposed privatization of policing, believe it or not ... including a Nobel Prize winner) and studies showed that policing was most effective when done at a local level (say due to familiarity with the quirks of the neiborhood or better police-citizen relations) then it ought to be done at that local level more than at other levels. Likewise, if one thought govt should be invovled in physical defense of territorial boundaries -- I know of none that favor privatization of that -- and studies showed that this was most efficient when done at the federal level, then it wouldn't make sense to have 50 separate and perhaps uncordinated and clumsy armies with potentially conflicting chains of command. So my point was not to argue for "bigger" govt" but rather simply on where the governing should take place -- regardless of how little it may be.

Private companies do not become profitable by blindling following some subsidiarity principle. If centralization in a company serves the bottom line, they centralize. If decentralization favors it, they do that. If certain things work better centralized and others not so much, then they act accordingly. One big industry is "consulting" firms that advise a company on how to better run their company. We need to do that kind of analysis for the govt of society rather than adhering to ideology.

I don't support communism as you know, but I also don't believe in the free market because the free market only exists in the realm of mathematics. In the case of perfect competition, profits are always zero. But they are never zero in reality. I think one thing we need to get away from is measuring economic success by GNP. Economic success should be measured by how happier society and its members are, not by how many goods we produce and consume. You could have an entire country growing addictive drugs and consuming and exporting it and doing nothing all day but getting high and have that country exhibit excellent economic metrics, but that would not indicate that the country was healthy economically.

Inocencio

CT,

The following document might give you a better understanding of Catholic teaching regarding the rights of parents to raise their children.

You seem to be confusing equal human dignity with rights.

CHARTER OF THE RIGHTS OF THE FAMILY

EXCERPT:

Article 7

Every family has the right to live freely its own domestic religious life under the guidance of the parents, as well as the right to profess publicly and to propagate the faith, to take part in public worship and in freely chosen programs of religious instruction, without suffering discrimination.

(empahsis added)

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Inocencio

CT,

There may be debate as to how human a human fetus is, but no one disputes that a young child is just as human as an adult.

In Catholic teaching there is no debate on the humanity of an unborn child at any stage of development.

CCC 2274

Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being.


Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

CT

I was referring to debate within society, not within Catholic circles. I am not Catholic and pray that I never will be.

Inocencio

CT,

I am Catholic and this is a Catholic blog so I hope you are not surprised I referred to Catholic teaching.

I pray that you will at least read the documents I quoted so that you have an understanding of what the Catholic Church teaches and why.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Tim J.

"when it is decided that govt should be involved in a certain matter,"

Decided by whom?

"it should be involved at a level that most efficiently accomplishes the end that has been chosen."

I believe you're starting at the wrong end. What if "the end that has been chosen" is evil, like eugenics? We can't reason from the point of view of what makes government intervention most efficient, we must start - as the framers of the constitution did - with certain "inalienable rights", the whole point of which is to act as a bulwark against the machinations of the state in the name of "efficiency".

Inalienable rights - rights which can't be taken away - are inalienable precisely because they are not granted by the state, and so can not be taken by the state.

Parental rights are not given to parents by the state because it is the most efficient arrangement. Parental rights rest with parents already, by virtue of their essential nature as parents. These rights were recognized - not conferred - by the U.S. constitution.

It may seem inefficient when these rights stand in the way of some goal or end that the state would like very much to achieve, but the family is more fundamental, good and necessary than the state, so the rights of families prevail against those of the state.

That said, though parental rights can't be taken away by society, they can be voluntarily abdicated through neglect or abuse, and then it is proper for society to act (at the lowest level possible) to protect the rights of the individual.

CT

Tim you misunderstood me again and it is I'm sure my own fault. I wasn't debating what role govt should have. I was simply saying that GIVEN whatever role govt should have, that role should be implemented at levels which are most efficient for the purposes of that role. So my point would apply equally to people who believed in limited or virtually no govt as much as it would to those on the other extreme. It wasn't about how much govt there should be, but about how it should be implemented, whatever the ideal degree of govt may or may not be.

However, let me address some things which arose from misconceptions all the same since they came up.

I don't see eugenics as evil. I'm taking eugenics to mean efforts by society to enhance the gene pool. Let's suppose there were a way to modify our genes to make us less susceptible to certain diseases and that these could be taken when we were children. There does not seem to be anything problematic with having children in society receive these genetic modifications which would be passed down through the generations. If preventing something bad in the gene pool (through non-coercive means) is OK, then why would it not also be OK to promote something good in the gene pool (through non-coercive means) -- such as promoting greater longevity. Suppose we could permanently modify the genes of children -- perhaps in the stage of embryonic development -- so that they are more healthy and live longer -- perhaps one day turning off an "aging" gene as IIRC, one of the bloggers here has speculated may happen. Suppose further that this modification could be passed down genetically to offspring without need of modification in each generation. That too would be eugenics and I don't see what the problem is with it. In fact, in the case of finite beings such as ourselves I don't see any actual distinction between preventing the bad and promoting the good. Being finite, when we receive a good, we are filling a lack -- for if lacked nothing we would be infinite -- so in receiving a good we are thereby preventing an evil (i.e. a privation of a good, meaning the privation of something inherently desirable).

Parental rights are not human rights. If they were human rights, they could not be "voluntarily abdicated" because one cannot abdicate being human. In terms of ends, it seems that the best end to have in mind is the greatest happiness for all persons. Any good "the family" possesses would be incorporated into that overarching end or be instrumentalized to the same ("or" meaning and/or as opposed to XOR). Siding with a grounded child certainly makes the child happier if the punishment is unjust. It will also make the parent happier once he realizes the injustice and is able to grow in love of the truth.

And you have it all backwards. It is not society that is to be at the service of "parental rights" but rather parental "rights" that is to be exercised at the service of society (in particular the children but also society as a whole). The same is true of any kind of right, including human rights. Rights are not something to be demanded and sought for their own sake, but rather to be exercised for the greatest personal good.

bill912

No, you have it backwards. As I posted above, if you had your way, parents would have no control over their children, and the children would grow up to be monsters.

Tim J.

"Parental rights are not human rights. If they were human rights, they could not be "voluntarily abdicated" because one cannot abdicate being human."

"Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" are among the human rights listed in the Declaration of Independence. We can voluntarily abdicate any of those by abusing them.

Short of that, though, they can't be taken away arbitrarily based on someone's foggy idea of the "greater good". To wit;

"I don't see eugenics as evil. I'm taking eugenics to mean efforts by society to enhance the gene pool. Let's suppose there were a way to modify our genes to make us less susceptible to certain diseases..."

Let's start with where we are. Practical eugenics, in today's world, means keeping certain people from having babies, and has nothing to do with the modification of individual genes.

One aspect of practical eugenics is the idea that minor children should be able to receive abortions without parental consent. After all, youngsters having babies out of wedlock is very inefficient and bad for the gene pool, so the state steps around the parents and puts the decision in the hands of "experts".

What say you?

SDG

It is not society that is to be at the service of "parental rights" but rather parental "rights" that is to be exercised at the service of society (in particular the children but also society as a whole).

No. "Family" is primary. "Society" is secondary. Families do not exist to serve society, society exists to serve families. Families are not society's way of perpetuating itself. Societies are families' way of having supplied for them what they cannot supply for themselves.

That is why I have the human right to move my family out of one community into another, or into no community at all, and the community I am leaving has no right to stop me and say, "No, you must stay and serve us." Nor, unless I commit some wrong against my community, may society ordinarily compel me to leave one community and go somewhere else. (If I have voluntarily committed myself to a particular employer or to the government or military, or in case of war, that might be a different story.)

SDG

I am not Catholic and pray that I never will be.

It strikes me as a wicked prayer. God knows better than we whether or not we should be Catholic; our part should be to humbly ask him to bring us to an ever fuller knowledge of the Truth as it is known to Him, not to instruct Him as to what that will or won't entail.

Inocencio

CT,

How many children are you raising? And do you vote on what is best for them with each child having an equal say? What do you do if, as the parent, you are out voted by your children?

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Leigh

One of the biggest complicating factors is the way in which public policy regarding child welfare tends to progress by horror stories. That is, it's only when things go disastrously wrong that action is taken. Thus, instead of a reasoned progression, we tend to have wild emotion-driven pendulum swings.

Right now our city has just had a series of really icky child abuse cases, some of which were caught in time and some of which *weren't*. Including one really awful one in which the kid was returned to the parent after the parent had completed a parenting class. Turned out the parent had just learned to parrot the correct phrases, and hadn't changed down inside, so as soon as the kid was back home, they backslid into the nasty old patterns -- and had learned what CPS would be looking for, and how to hide the behaviors.

So now people of good will are in a huge uproar about how these kinds of things have to be prevented, and we've got to do Whatever It Takes to make sure helpless innocent kids aren't hurt or killed by their own parents. So of course CPS will have broadened authority to take kids out of homes and to terminate parental rights in cases of documented abuse.

And you know how long that will last? Until someone has their kids taken away on the basis of the false report of a malicious or vindictive neighbor and one of the kids really does get abused, while in CPS custody. Then there'll be an uproar to put CPS on a leash and respect parental rights, and tough new procedures will be put into place to restrict their activities.

And then there'll be another horror story of a toddler beaten to death, or a creepy boyfriend violating an 8-year-old girl, or any of the other horrific evils that can be perpetrated against little kids, and the uproar will go the other way.

And the real problem is this -- the families where the abuse occurs are almost invariably those that are socially isolated. They're little islands, all their relationships turned inward, with no connections to other people who could offer a reality check. Even when they do interact with others, it's always very superficial, with no real sharing. They don't have friends, just acquaintances, so there's no going over to stay at a friend's place or visits of friends to their home. All this helps to conceal their dysfunctions until things get so hideously out of control that it can't be concealed any more.

The Masked Chicken

Dear CT,

You wrote:

The reason why it must be that children and adults have the exact same human rights is that human rights derive from the fact of someone's humanity and children and adults are equally human. There may be debate as to how human a human fetus is, but no one disputes that a young child is just as human as an adult.

What makes this so? What exactly makes a fetus less human than a child? It can't be genes, because they have the same amount. Can it be development? Well, try having a pre-pubescent child reproduce.

It can't be genes, anyway, because, by this logic, a person with Down Syndrome could not be human. One could run a thought experiment where, starting with a human being (whatever that is), one changes genes, one at a time, until one arrives at something that is not human. Exactly where is that? Should we take a vote and the majority wins?

What makes a human, metaphysically speaking, is the existence of a human soul. Do children and adults have the same types of souls? Sure, but some human rights are granted on the basis of physical attributes, like the right to make informed decisions, once the brain has developed. A baby does not have this right because it does not have this attribute. One cannot make an appeal to what does not exist. Giving men the right to bear children does not give them the nature to bear children. Only women can have an abortion - a man may cooperate and incur guilt, but human rights are not the same as the rights of some humans.

You also wrote:

I don't see eugenics as evil. I'm taking eugenics to mean efforts by society to enhance the gene pool. Let's suppose there were a way to modify our genes to make us less susceptible to certain diseases...

Again, who gets to decide - the majority; a special elite; your parents?
What special wisdom does society have that would enable them to make these choices? Even if we could prevent the problems that changing one gene would cause on the other gene expressions, do you have such faith in human nature that it knows what is needed for each individual at each given time? If you have not seen the movie, Gattaca, I highly recommend it as a jumping off point for discussion. Fahrenheit 451 is another good movie where societies best intentions lead to a bad end.

Finally, you wrote:

It is not society that is to be at the service of "parental rights" but rather parental "rights" that is to be exercised at the service of society (in particular the children but also society as a whole).

Let's see, if this were to be implemented in any society today the results would probably look like: this school year term the party in power (POP) has decided that boys should wear blazers to school. The majority of members (MOM) of the society comply. Next year, POP has decided that jeans are better. MOM complies. Next year, POP decides that boys must be driven to school. MOM sells house to afford it. Society collapses. POP is driven out of town by angry MOM.

If families were at the service of society, so would reproduction, ways of spending money, moral education. At what point is the family still a family - it becomes nothing more than a societal unit. It is true, possibly, that we are headed this way, but I have not seen anything to recommend it. Values clarification was a sloppy implementation of morals training by society; so was no child left behind in education. So far, I am not convinced by any evidence that society has any special wisdom to make families subservient to it. At least with families taking the responsibility, damage is localized.

This sort of Utilitarian philosophy was shown to be defective at least thirty years ago as a philosophical system. The greatest good to the greatest number does not imply the greatest good is always determined by the greatest number. It also does not imply that the greatest good is the greatest immediate good. Unlike animals, man can wait years for the greatest good to manifest (we have delayed gratification). Society drifts too much to provide a stable platform for this. Families are inherently more stable because they do not have to adapt to meet the need of the many, only the few.

Also, in order for Utilitarianism to really work, it must have special status. By that, I mean, consider ten people stranded on a desert island (the standard values clarification example) with a chance to save either nine or one. Strict Utilitarianism says save the nine (the greatest number), but here's the catch: the one left behind would have discovered the cure for cancer, thus saving millions. Consider the alternative: one of the nine saved goes on to create a dirty bomb and destroys millions. The flaw in Utilitarian thinking and ultimately where the society-trumps families-argument dies is that Utilitarian requires a knowledge of the future that it does not and cannot have. In dealing with a five member family observation is barely adequate to make sure that things work smoothly; a society would have to resort to statistics and these have not proven to be very successful in creating a healthy society - only a static one.

This is getting to long. I will let you respond.

The Chicken

CT

I can't respond at the moment, but I wanted to quickly clarify I was not meaning to say that human fetuses were less than fully human, only to say that some may dispute that they are but no one disputes that young children are. I am agnostic on the question of whether that which is not yet born is a person. I doubt that that being conceived makes one a person since as a matter of course many of those do not survive and their lives would seem to be meaningless and it is hard to see why a world would have that characteristic given that goodness rules it.

Mary

However, when that is not possible or that influence does not work, the only means society has for enforcing the rights of man is through the authority and power of society.

The "rights of man" do not include the right not to have something you want. Which is what this case was about.

Mary

only to say that some may dispute that they are but no one disputes that young children are.

Tell Peter Singer that.

Remember that the Democratic candidate for president thinks that it is a burden to a woman if her born child is entitled to medical care and therefore would not vote for a bill that would establish that the baby is entitled.

Nellie

Check out parentalrights.org. They have a lot of info about the "UN Convention on the Rights of the Child." It's pretty creepy stuff. Sign their petition and help fight to keep parents in control of their own children!

CT

@Mary

I am aware of Peter Singer. That's why I said "young children." My understanding of PS is that he has some unique ideas about the status of those newly born or around that very early age. I guess my phrase "young children" would include them and that was a goof on my part. I respect Peter Singer's position, though I do not agree with it.

@TJ

You cannot voluntarily abdicate your right to life or your right to the pursuit of happiness. Even when you are in prison, you are free to seek happiness. Happiness is something internal that can be pursued anywhere, even in the most dark situations. In prison you also have the right to life -- which I take to mean the right to live fully, "life" as in "vibrancy." Those in prisons should have such rights respected. Prisoners should for example be free to read books, be provided books if necessary so that their lives are fruitful, so that they can truly be said to possess "life" and the ability to pursue "happiness." And prisons do that. If you're referring to the death penalty, that's a thorny subject but having it be permissible to kill someone doesn't mean that they don't have a right to life. For example, it has been contemplated whether we ought to shoot down civilian airplanes if a situation were to arise where planes were being used as weapons. Let's suppose we ought to. In such a case, it does not then follow that the innocent civilians on the plan don't have a right to life. It only means that the despite their right to life, the countervailing rights of society outweigh them. The same is true of medical quarantines where patients are unable to "live" in the true sense.

"Practical eugenics" as you put it in terms of what could be done today, includes not only discouraging certain people from having lots of children but also encouraging certain others to have lots of children. This need not involve any coercion. It could be in the form of economic incentives. I dispute your notion that those who have children before being married are more likely to be genetically inferior in some way. I don't know of any evidence to suggest that and even if there were such evidence, that does not mean it is wise to do what you proposed. Being open to eugenics does not mean, necessarily, being in favor of any and all eugenics measures. Eugenics is one good among many. Minor children already do have the right to procure abortions in many states. Different states have different laws regarding parental consent for medical procedures. I am not sure about parental consent laws for medical procedures when the child is old and mature enough to comprehend the risks and benefits of the procedure but I am much more open to simple parental notification laws, not just for abortion, but for any significant medical procedure which would be ideal for a child to discuss with his or her parents. Unfortunately some parents are abusive and some children will be scared away from the procedure if they think their parents will find out and this is as I'm sure the more frank among you would admit, exactly what many in the anti-abortion movement desire. So I would be in support of parental notification laws which can be bypassed by the physician where if the physician reasonably believes in the young woman's story about the dangers of notifying her parents, then the physician can choose not to notify the parents.

@SDG

I did not say that families exist to serve society. I said that the rights of parents are to be exercised at the service of society, in particular the children but also society as a whole. I can't imagine how you'd disagree that parents are to exercise their rights for the benefit of their children and, largely in doing so, for the benefit of society as a whole. Having said that, I disagree that society exists to serve families. I contend rather that no one exists to serve anyone else. That's not how our existence is defined. I do say that everyone ought to serve everyone else -- so families should serve not just themselves but other families and society as a whole and society as a whole should serve the interests of all its constituent parts including families. It's an organic interlacing of relationships, grounded in love, not in ideology.

On your remark that my prayer is "wicked." First, I was using "pray" in the sense more of "wish" or "earnestly hope." However, if my prayer is wicked because it presumes that Catholicism is false, then surely the prayer of any Catholic who asks that he never becomes a non-Catholic would be equally wicked since it presumes that Catholicism is true. I don't think you can escape this logic without resorting to some kind of double standard.

And personally, I do in the spiritual sense pray that I never be Catholic or tied to any organized religion that presumes to have, unique among all of humanity, a special, unique connection to and revelation of the divine. That God would choose one man or several to speak on his behalf to all men is about as plausible as saying that some advanced alien civilization has chosen one man or several to speak on their behalf. We would have no way of verifying the claim in the latter case and likewise no way of doing so in the former.

The Masked Chicken

Dear CT,

You wrote:

And personally, I do in the spiritual sense pray that I never be Catholic or tied to any organized religion that presumes to have, unique among all of humanity, a special, unique connection to and revelation of the divine.

There are only two alternatives: no one has a connection to and revelation of the divine or everyone does. In the first case, how would one know that God exists (this is the atheist position) and in the second case, how would one know that God speaks truthfully, since this has been shown to lead to a multitude of different, contradictory statements about revelation?

It is not unreasonable, by any means, that a transcendent God would choose a human representative. Even large visible entities, such as countries, have representatives called ambassadors.

The Chicken

Inocencio

CT,

First, how many children are you raising?

Second, don't you at least have the fear that you have made yourself your own lawgiver? It must be easy to always feel you are right when you personally define right and wrong as opposed to having to be obedient to a God given authority.

We are made in the image and likeness of God. You seemed to have made God into and image you like that fits nicely into whatever you want to believe.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Mary

In prison you also have the right to life -- which I take to mean the right to live fully, "life" as in "vibrancy." Those in prisons should have such rights respected. Prisoners should for example be free to read books, be provided books if necessary so that their lives are fruitful, so that they can truly be said to possess "life" and the ability to pursue "happiness."

This is nonsensical. If "the right to life" means "the right to live fully", then someone who deprives you the opportunity to read is violating that right fully as much as someone who smashes your skull in.

MissJean

Just thought I'd comment on this question by CT:

"And is it "real" abuse for an atheistic couple to tell their children that if they do not renounce their faith in God, they will be grounded for a year (and to then ground them so when they don't)?"

It's not abuse if the child is a minor. I was aquainted with a case of a Catholic child who was not allowed to attend her church because her grandparents took her in after her parents died. She was barred from stays with religious friends/relatives and her grandparents tried to bribe her into renouncing her faith. However, not all coercion is abuse. They didn't physically punish her, call her names, etc.

Counselors and a child advocate encouraged her grandparents to give way, but the grandparents were within their legal right to refuse. I suppose a good analogy would be that her religion was treated much the same way that hobby or practice would be considered. Legal guardian aren't considered abusive if they decide hockey is too dangerous for their budding Gretsky or cancel young Beethoven's piano lessons.

Sleeping Beastly

CT, you wrote
I am not sure about parental consent laws for medical procedures when the child is old and mature enough to comprehend the risks and benefits of the procedure but I am much more open to simple parental notification laws, not just for abortion, but for any significant medical procedure which would be ideal for a child to discuss with his or her parents. Unfortunately some parents are abusive and some children will be scared away from the procedure if they think their parents will find out and this is as I'm sure the more frank among you would admit, exactly what many in the anti-abortion movement desire.

Sorry, I just couldn't let this one go. I've heard the reasoning this reasoning before, and it is false, false, false.

First, I will frankly admit that parental notification laws are not just an end in themselves. What most of us anti-abortion folks would like to see eventually happen is a cultural shift back towards regarding abortion as murder, and legislative changes to reflect this shift. Parental notification laws are a step along the way.

However, we do not believe that these laws will cause abusive parents to frighten their daughters out of having abortions. Figure: if a girl has abusive parents who are likely to beat her because she gets an abortion, are these not the same parents who are likely to beat her for getting knocked up in the first place? I cannot honestly conceive of a parent who would hurt his daughter for having an abortion but not for getting pregnant. I would love to see young women stop having abortions, but abusive parents are just not useful tools for this purpose at all.

I can conceive of a girl being frightened enough of her parents that she avoids having sex, at least until she's out from under their roof. For most girls, this will take the form of simple shame. They will know that their parents love them and would never hurt them, but they will be terrified of facing their parents with the news of a pregnancy in the same way they would be terrified of calling them from a jail cell after being arrested for drunk driving.

The theoretical abusive parent is always the reason given for these laws, and it's a very poor reason. First, let's look at the reason we notify parents of their children's medical procedures under normal circumstances:

Parents are the primary authorities and guardians of their children. If a minor child causes property damage, the parents are responsible for damages. If a minor child gets crippled, the parents are responsible for caring for the child. Almost all parents are happy to take on these responsibilities, because they love the children in a way that no one else possibly can. We (the rest of society) inform a parent of his child's actions and mishaps because we hope that he will be able to give the child the necessary support and guidance at these times.

If my teenage son were to get picked up by an ambulance for a drug overdose, there would be no handwringing about whether to contact me. I would be expected to show up at the hospital and address my son's behavior that landed him in that predicament. If someone were to pass a law saying that parents should be kept in the dark in this kind of situation, I think most of us would realize that this law is ridiculous. How is a parent supposed to offer his drug-addicted child support and guidance when he doesn't even know about the problem? If I am my child's primary guardian and source of support, I must be kept informed in order to best protect and guide my child.

That's how a family normally works, and the law should not cripple normal families in order to alleviate problems in abnormal families, even if such laws were the only way to protect the relatively few children with truly abusive parents.

But parental non-notification laws are not the only way to protect abused children. We have scads of laws on the books and organizations designed specifically to protect children from abusive parents. If a girl gets pregnant and fears abuse at the hands of her parents, it should be as easy for her to ask the police for protection as it is for her to ask Planned Parenthood for anonymity. And this is ultimately better for her, because the police can remove her from an abusive home. Planned Parenthood merely keeps her secret, and sends her right back to those same abusive parents we are all so worried about.

Parental non-notification laws are dishonest and harmful in the extreme.

Mary

There have been girls who ended up dead because of the lack of parental notification laws. They had their abortions, suffers complications, and did so in silence because telling their parents, in order to be taken to the ER, would have told them that they had had an abortion.

Sleeping Beastly

Mary,
Thanks for bringing it up. For those of you in California, please check out

http://www.friendsofsarah.com/

The comments to this entry are closed.

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