Affirm That Parental Rights Are Fundamental!Jan 30, 2013
Tomorrow on the Senate floor, and Friday afternoon in the House of Delegates Courts of Justice Committee, Virginia lawmakers will vote on SB 908 and HB 1642, legislation that directs Virginia courts to treat parent's rights as fundamental rights rather than ordinary rights. Click here for the committee's home page, which provides links to the members' contact pages. Urge your delegate to vote yes on HB 1642 to affirm existing fundamental parental rights. Here is the link to the Senate membership's contact page — please call your senator Thursday morning and urge a yes vote and no to any attempt to re-refer it to committee.
This legislation is significant because courts give special deference to "fundamental rights." While our state courts have so far ruled that parental rights are fundamental, the courts could change their mind at any time if the General Assembly remains silent. HB 1642 directly addresses this issue.
The threat is real: 24 other states have reduced parental rights to "ordinary."
Some argue that the bill could have the effect of interfering with the state's ability to protect children from abuse or neglect. However, a fundamental right is not an absolute right. Courts have said:
This fundamental right [to bring up children as one sees fit] is not unbounded. Indeed the state can legitimately impose restraints and requirements that touch the lives of children in direct conflict with the wishes of their parents.
In Virginia, it's time to reassert foundational principles such as the fundamental right of parents to raise their children. While HB 1642, patroned by Delegate Brenda Pogge (R-96, James City County) and SB 908, patroned by Senator Bryce Reeves (R-17, Fredericksburg) read simply . . .
1. A parent has a fundamental right to direct the upbringing, education, and care of the parent's child.
2. That the provisions of this act are declarative of existing law.
. . . they would provide a world of protection for parental rights in Virginia law.
After all, authority for children instinctively resides with parents, solely, except in very certain and specific abusive cases where the state has a compelling interest (and meets a certain legal standard). But for years, government institutions and mandates have incrementally moved us to a system where they impart big government's values in place of the family values on which children are raised. The General Assembly has a chance to rectify that this year.