Why America Should NOT Ratify the Convention
on the Rights of the Child
by E. Douglas Clark
In what may be the greatest assault
ever on parental rights in America, liberal leaders are pushing for Senate ratification of a United Nations treaty called
the Convention on the Rights of the Child, or CRC. If ratified, it would:
radically encroach on our sovereignty;
subject us to an independent UN committee of “experts”
allow the government in all cases to determine what is in a child’s best interest;
intrude on parents’
rights to teach values and faith; and
grant to children autonomous rights, which many believe would include access to
controversial sexual information and even abortion.
To protect children is a
noble aim, and the United Nations has taken major steps in that direction. Shortly after its own creation, the UN created
the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, or UNICEF, to provide relief for children in countries devastated
by World War II. Later, UNICEF (with the name changed to the United Nations Children’s Fund)
became a permanent part of the UN, with an expanded mission to serve the children of the world.
The UN’s concern for
children continued in its 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which declared that
motherhood and children are deserving of “special care and assistance.” The UN sought to encourage such special
care by its 1959 Declaration on the Rights of the Child. Then, in a laudable
effort to strengthen protection of the world’s children, the UN worked toward creating an international treaty (called
a “convention”). It became a reality with the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, enacted with reservations expressed by various countries. The treaty is unquestionably well-intentioned
and addresses many important areas of concern for the protection of children. But good intentions do not assure good laws.
President Obama’s Embarrassment
a year of its enactment in 1989, some 130 nations had already ratified the treaty, and today it is the most widely ratified
human rights treaty in the world. Only two nations have not joined: war-torn Somalia, and the United States. The Clinton Administration
signed the CRC in 1995, but the Senate has never ratified (although it has ratified the Convention’s two optional protocols:
one on children in armed conflict, the other on child trafficking, prostitution, and pornography).
That the US has never
ratified the treaty itself is galling to President Obama. “It is embarrassing,” he has stated, “to find
ourselves in the company of Somalia.” President Obama’s Ambassador
to the UN is Susan Rice, who during her Senate confirmation hearing referred to the CRC as “a very important treaty
and a noble cause…. There can be no doubt that [President Obama] and Secretary Clinton and I share a commitment to
the objectives of this treaty and will take it up as an early question,” she stated, “to ensure that the United
States is playing and resumes its global leadership role in human rights.”
What’s in a Name?
One of the Senators pushing
hard for ratification is Barbara Boxer. “Children deserve basic human rights,” she declared, “and the convention
protects children’s rights by setting some standards here so that the most vulnerable people of society will be protected.”
Boxer’s words sound appealing. Who could be against protecting children?
Indeed, who would dare oppose a treaty bearing the name “Convention on the Rights of the Child”?
if, as a Chinese proverb holds, it is the beginning of wisdom to call things by their right names, then the title “Convention
on the Rights of the Child” may be misleading. For however noble the motives behind it, and however good the aspirations
of its proponents, and whatever good provisions it does contain, yet the fact remains that, in the words of law professor
Bruce Hafen, the treaty “includes an unprecedented approach to the autonomy of children” and thereby jeopardizes
parents' rights to protect and guide their children.
Our Laws and Handing over Parental Rights to the Government
Because of our Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, ratification of
this international treaty would make it “the supreme law of the land,” superior to all other state and federal
laws. This would disrupt our federal system created under the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, which reserves to the states
all powers not specifically granted to the federal government.
more troubling is the CRC’s approach to allow government to step in and, without any showing of any harm on the part
of parents, to override parental decisions based on what the government believes is in the child’s best interest.
Michael Smith, president of the Home School Legal Defense Association, writes:
This is contrary to traditional American law, which provides that absent proof of harm, courts and social workers
simply do not have the authority to intervene in parent-child relationships and decision-making. The importance of this tradition
and practice is that the government may not substitute its judgment for that of the parent until there is proof of harm to
the child sufficient to justify governmental intervention. It is clear that in two very important areas of the parent-child
relationship, religion and education, there will be potential for tremendous conflict [if the CRC is ratified].
Becoming Subject to an International Committee
if all this were not bad enough, the CRC places each nation under the oversight of an unelected and unaccountable United Nations
committee of eighteen “independent experts” who meet in Geneva. This Committee on the Rights of the Child monitors
compliance with the treaty and the committee’s interpretation of it. The committee requires regular reports from each
country and then provides “recommendations.” While the committee has no official enforcement authority, these
recommendations can carry substantial weight.
In a study entitled “How U.N. Conventions On Women's and Children's Rights Undermine Family, Religion,
and Sovereignty,” Patrick Fagan
of the Family Research Council tells that the Committee on the Rights of the Child is “targeting patterns of behavior
and social norms that have had the greatest positive effects on society and the individual:… motherhood and fatherhood,
caring for children in the family, chastity, and the special role of religion.” Fagan
points to several examples of the committee’s recommendations.
The committee criticized the United Kingdom
for the fact that parents were allowed to remove their children from sex-education classes without giving due consideration
to the wishes of the children themselves.
The committee criticized Austria for not providing a legal minimum age for medical
counseling and treatment without parental consent (“targeted specifically,” notes Fagan, “at removing parents’
control over the moral formation of their children and the parameters of their children's sexual behavior.”)
told Belize that it needed to establish legal mechanisms to allow children to challenge their parents, and criticized the
government for not allowing children to seek medical or legal counseling without parental consent.
Why would we Americans submit ourselves to an outside body in this vital
area of parent-child relationships? Why would we voluntarily subject ourselves to global governance by handing over a key
part of our national sovereignty to a foreign committee?
What Children Really Need
Allan Carlson, President of the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society,
in speaking of the CRC, has emphasized that children’s real needs include
the right to a father and a mother united in the bonds of marriage, the right to religious faith, and the right to mature
physically, emotionally, and morally. (“How to Make the World Truly Safe for Children.”)
SAVE THE CHILDREN!
Inscribed on a small plaque in the Warsaw Uprising Museum are words that echoed through the city in the last days of the Polish resistance against the Nazis in late 1944: “Save
the children—ours, yours… Collapsed buildings we can rebuild—the lost young generation
Our children are our most precious asset, the bridge to tomorrow, our hope for a better world. We must
not allow well-intentioned but unwise intrusion by government to interfere with our protecting, providing for, and teaching
Despite its high-sounding title, and notwithstanding
the good intentions behind it, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) poses a grave threat to our children.
Ten things you need to know about the structure of the CRC:
It is a treaty which creates binding rules of law. It is no mere statement of altruism.1.
Its effect would be binding on American families, courts, and policy-makers.2.
Children of other nations would not be impacted or helped in any direct way by our ratification.3.
The CRC would automatically override almost all American laws on children and families
because of the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause in Article VI.4.
The CRC has some elements that are self-executing, while others would require implementing
legislation. Federal courts would have the power to determine which provisions were self-executing.5.
The courts would have the power to directly enforce the provisions that are self-executing.6.
Congress would have the power to directly legislate on all subjects necessary to comply
with the treaty. This would constitute the most massive shift of power from the states to the federal government in
A committee of 18 experts from other nations, sitting in Geneva, has the authority to
issue official interpretations of the treaty which are entitled to binding weight in American courts and legislatures.
This effectively transfers ultimate authority for all policies in this area to this foreign committee.8.
Under international law, the treaty overrides even our Constitution.9.
Reservations, declarations, or understandings intended to modify our duty to comply with
this treaty will be void if they are determined to be inconsistent with the object and purpose of the treaty.10.
Ten things you need to know about the substance of the CRC:
Children would have the ability to choose their own religion while parents would only
have the authority to give their children advice about religion.13.
The best interest of the child principle would give the government the ability to override
every decision made by every parent if a government worker disagreed with the parent’s decision.14.
A child’s “right to be heard” would allow him (or her) to seek governmental
review of every parental decision with which the child disagreed.15.
According to existing interpretation, it would be illegal for a nation to spend more
on national defense than it does on children’s welfare.16.
Children would acquire a legally enforceable right to leisure.17.
Christian schools that refuse to teach "alternative worldviews" and teach that
Christianity is the only true religion "fly in the face of article 29" of the treaty.18.
Allowing parents to opt their children out of sex education has been held to be out of
compliance with the CRC.19.
Children would have the right to reproductive health information and services, including
abortions, without parental knowledge or consent.20.
Parents would no longer be able to administer reasonable spankings to their children.11.
A murderer aged 17 years and 11 months and 29 days at the time of his crime could no
longer be sentenced to life in prison.12.
“The family is the nucleus of civilization.”—Historian
put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family
in order.” —Confucius
"In every conceivable manner, the family
is link to our past, bridge to our future." —Alex Haley
is no doubt that it is around the family and the home that all the greatest virtues, the most dominating virtues of human
society, are created, strengthened and maintained.” —Sir Winston Churchill
"The family is a universal and irreplaceable community rooted in human nature and the
basis of all societies at all times. As the cradle of life and love for each new generation, the family is the primary source
of personal identity, self-esteem and support for children. It is also the first and foremost school of life, uniquely suited
to teaching children integrity, character, morals, responsibility, service and wisdom."—Wade Horn
"Perhaps the greatest social service that can be rendered by anybody to
the country and to mankind is to bring up a family." —George Bernard Shaw
happy family is but an earlier heaven." —John Browning
“We are living in a decisive and very important
moment. If we have bad laws concerning the institutions that are fundamental for the life of society, then we will all suffer
and, after us, the generations to come. The situation that has been created in our world with regard to marriage and the family
calls for all our efforts.” —Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo
it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference
of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it
possible for evil to triumph." —Haile Selassie
"The U.N.’s 'Convention on the Rights of the Child' of 1989 contains measures that subvert the authority
of parents over their children; strip away the authority of religious faith and tradition in favor of a politicized and radical
social science; and prevent nations and peoples from sheltering their own unique cultures. In Article 13, for example,
we read: '[T]he child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall
include the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing
or in print, in the form of art, or through any other medium of the child’s choice.' To protect this 'right,' the state imposes itself between parent and child. To put it simply, this understanding
of “rights” is the polar opposite of that found in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration (which states 'Parents
have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children')." —from "Globalizing Family Values"
Richard G. Wilkins:
development in international law that I wish to discuss is the novel notion that children within families are really just
miniature adults, with full rights – subject to governmental, not parental oversight – to privacy, association
and speech. This notion, if taken to its logical conclusion, goes a good deal toward abolishing, not only childhood itself,
but the very idea of parental rights. Prior to the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, no legal system
in the world granted autonomy rights to children. The Convention, however, does just that. The Convention, beyond question,
is well intentioned. But, its sweeping and unprecedented creation of autonomy rights for children may, in the long run, threaten
children’s well being.” —from “International Law, Social Change, and the Family”
Bruce C. Hafen and Jonathan O. Hafen:
“In general, the CRC's autonomy model ironically undermines the process of education
and nurturing that every child needs to build an autonomous self…. Whatever the drafters' understanding of paternalism,
their document resolves too many tough issues by erring on the side of children's autonomy. This stance places the full weight
of the United Nations behind the idea that parents and other adults should leave children alone, letting them speak for their
own welfare and choose for themselves how their needs should be met. This approach confuses children's needs for nutrition,
education, and protection (with which the UN has historically, and wisely, been concerned) with children's alleged right to
make autonomous choices…. Despite increasing autonomy rhetoric, the American legal system limits children's autonomy
in the short run in order to maximize their development of actual autonomy in the long run…. To short-circuit this
process by legally granting-rather than actually teaching-autonomy to children ignores the realities of education and child
development to the point of abandoning children to a mere illusion of genuine autonomy.” —from "Abandoning Children to Their Rights"
“If this treaty is made binding upon our
country, the government would have the power to intervene in any child’s life to advance its definition of “the
best interests of the child.” The scenarios that could occur—and are occurring—as a result of this dangerous
notion are both manifold and frightening…. In essence, the U[nited] N[ations] CRC applies the legal status of abusive
parents to all parents. This means that the burden of proof falls on the parent to prove to the State that they are good parents—when
it should fall upon the State to prove that their investigation is not without cause.” —from ParentalRights.org
Privacy—Article 16(1) states, “No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful
interference with his or her privacy.... ” Some have interpreted this to mean that parents may not have the right to
search their children’s rooms or be notified if a child is arrested or undergoes an abortion.
of expression—Article 13(1) provides that the child shall have the “right to freedom of expression,”
including “freedom to seek, receive, and impact information and ideas of all kinds.” Some contend that this could
be interpreted to allow children to speak their minds at all times, regardless of parental authority or discipline.
of thought, conscience, and religion—Some maintain that Article 14(1), which states that “States Parties
shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” might give children the right
to object to their parents’ religious beliefs or training.
Access to information—Article
17 states that States Parties shall ensure that “the child has access to information and material from a diversity of
national and international sources.... ” Some interpret this to mean that children have a right to access any type of
information regardless of their parents’ preferences, including television, books, and other sources they find objectionable.
assert that Article 28(1), which states that States Parties recognize “the right of the child to education,” could
lead to the government or CRC Committee mandating public schooling or interfering with the right of parents to home-school
or send their children to private school. Some are concerned that Article 29(1), which addresses elements that shall be included
in a child’s education, could lead to government interference in private school and home-school curricula.
punishment—Article 19(1) states, “no child should be subjected to physical or mental violence, injury
or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation,” at school or by a parent or legal guardian.
Some interpret this to mean that parents may not be allowed to discipline their children though corporal punishment, such
Freedom of association—Some are concerned that Article 15(1), which calls on States Parties
to "recognized the rights of the child to freedom of association and to freedom of peaceful assembly" could give
children the right to associate with people that his or her parents do not approve of, including cults or gangs.