PA Homeschoolers has led a continuing campaign in Pennsylvania against the United Nations Child Rights Treaty which we think would negatively impact some homeschoolers. First is an op-ed piece that I wrote which explains our position. Then there's an article which appeared in our newsletter about Senator Santorum keeping his campaign promise to oppose the treaty if elected.
The following is an op-ed piece which appeared on the Opinion page (page A6), Tuesday, June 13, 1995, of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
On February 16th, President Clinton had the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations sign the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Then he sent it to the U.S. Senate for a ratification vote.
The Senate will either ratify the treaty or reject it. If they ratify it, they will also vote on "reservations" which, if acceptable to the U.N., would govern how the treaty would be interpreted in the United States.
Our government, at all levels, would be pledged to publicize the principles and provisions of the treaty and change our laws to match them. Under the U.S. Constitution, state and federal judges would be bound by the treaty's provisions.
The goal of the treaty is to protect children's safety as well as to expand their freedom. While no one objects to protecting children's safety, pro-family advocates have argued that children's freedom would be purchased at the expense of their parents' freedom. The core of the treaty is this statement:
In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be the primary consideration. (Article 3)
By contrast, America traditionally views parents as having a right to determine how their own children will be raised. This right is usually seen as primary so long as parents do not abuse their children. For example, the school code of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania states:
It is the policy of the Commonwealth to preserve the primary right and obligation of parent or parents, or person or person in loco parentis to a child, to choose the education and training for such child. (Section 1327)
The history of the treaty tells much about how it came to be this way. The first draft of this treaty was written by the communist Polish government to coincide with the U.N. declaration that 1979 was the International Year of the Child.
The final draft was put together, over the next ten years, by a committee of governmental delegates with much input from non- governmental organizations including children's rights advocates.
Each succeeding draft further expanded the individual rights of the child and further reduced the role of parents.
The final draft went far beyond any previous international document in promoting children's autonomy at the expense of the family's autonomy. (Some children's rights advocates see the family as a coercive setting which prevents children from achieving their aspirations.)
The treaty would give minors several new rights including freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of association, privacy, freedom of access to the mass media, and freedom from being paddled in school.
Although several statements in the treaty recognize parental rights, those rights are made subordinate to the rights of the child.
If the treaty is ratified, parents who don't give children the freedoms required by the treaty would increasingly be seen as child abusers.
Think about our problems with youth today, the street gangs, peer pressure, teenage-pregnancies, and children using drugs. Most of us would like to see parents take more control, not less, over their children's activities.
We don't believe that children should have the freedom to assemble with a street gang. We don't believe that children should have the right to associate with bad influences. We don't think that it is wrong for parents to limit children's access to mass media such as junk on TV or "gangster rap" on CDs. We don't think it is wrong for parents to raise their own children in their own religion.
We think that children can wait until they are adults for their freedom.
This treaty has a different viewpoint. It would tie parents' hands in order to enhance children's freedom. Which direction do we as a society want to go: more control by parents of their children, or less?
In answer to our questionnaire printed in this newsletter one year ago, Rick Santorum, then running for U. S. Senator from Pennsylvania, promised to oppose the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Since then he was elected Senator with strong homeschool support.
On February 16, President Clinton had the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations sign the convention and since then Sen. Santorum has co-sponsored a Senate Resultion called the Helms-Lott Resolution which opposes the treaty. In a letter to homeschool leader, Sue Means, he wrote:
Dear Mrs. Means:
Thank you for contacting me regarding the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. I appreciate hearing from you.
Like all international treaties, the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child treaty must be ratified by the Senate. Various legal issues have been raised concerning the potential effect of the U.N. Rights of the Child treaty on parental rights and state laws. A number of Pennsylvania residents have expressed concern that the enactment of this treaty could override certain state laws pertaining to adoption, education, child abuse, child custody, and other areas. I take these concerns very seriously. Domestic laws and policies that affect the lives of every American should not be based on a United Nations treaty.
Because of my strong opposition to the United Nations Rights of the Child treaty, I have cosponsored a resolution that calls on President Clinton to not deliver this treaty to the Senate for approval. As your U.S. Senator, I will work to ensure that this fundamentally flawed treaty does not become law.
If I can discuss this issue further, or assist you with other matters, please feel free to contact me again.
United States Senate
If you would like to send a thank you letter to Senator Santorum, you can write to him at:
United States Senate
Washington D.C. 20510-3804
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