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Treaty Threatens US Protection for Children

by Maggie McKneely • February 25, 2020

Some bad ideas just refuse to die. After laying dormant for several years, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has once again entered the spotlight via a newly introduced bill in the US House of Representatives.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) recently introduced a foreign policy package called the “Pathway to Peace.” Its seven bills represent various pillars of progressive ideology. One of those bills, House Resolution 854, supports the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), a treaty that HSLDA and other pro-family organizations have stood against since it was introduced.

On November 20, 1989, the CRC was adopted and opened for ratification. By September of the next year, 20 countries had signed it, the threshold needed to bring the treaty into force. Since then, 196 other nations have also signed it.

In 1995, Secretary of State Madeline Albright signed the treaty on behalf of the US, but it was never ratified by the Senate. As of 2020, the US remains the sole country to not have ratified the CRC.

When Parents Know Best

And we are working to keep it that way. At HSLDA, we know that children do best when parents are free to make the most beneficial choice for their kids. Parents don’t need an unelected bureaucrat in a faraway office to tell them what’s best for their child. Yet empowering officials to overrule parents is exactly what the CRC does.

One of the main tenets advanced by the CRC is that the government should make decisions based on the “best interest of the child.” In the United States, this principle has traditionally been used only in cases where parents have been convicted of abuse or neglect and judges must make major decision on behalf of children.

But under this international treaty, the application of “best interests” could be broadened to include cases involving fit parents. Under the CRC, this benign-sounding language could be used by courts and social workers to usurp the rights of parents. It would grant authorities in the US the power to determine if a parent’s decision regarding education or religion is in the child’s best interest or not.

According to international law expert Geraldine Van Bueren, the leading scholar on the CRC, “ ‘best interests’ provides decision and policy makers with the authority to substitute their own decisions for either the child’s or the parents, providing it is based on considerations of the best interests of the child. Thus, the convention challenges the concept that family life is always in the best interests of children and that parents are always capable of deciding what is best for children.”

Who Will Teach the Children?

Fit parents should always have the right to make fundamental decisions for their children, particularly regarding education. But the CRC would undermine that right.

In the early years of the fight against the CRC, HSLDA opposed it out of concern that it could be used to restrict homeschooling.

We know now those concerns were well-founded. A number of nations, including England, Northern Ireland, and Sweden, have proposed or imposed regulations that curb the freedom to homeschool, all in the name of the CRC. Other countries, such as Botswana, have handed down negative court rulings or harassed homeschool families under the CRC’s authority.

To some, the fact that the US has still not ratified the treaty is appalling and unacceptable. Omar stated in her press release regarding the bill that “protecting the rights of children is fundamental, and we should be a world leader on this issue, which we can’t be unless we’re a state party to the convention.”

No Effect

However, ratifying the CRC in the US would have zero impact on children in other parts of the world. Instead, it would override many existing American laws on children, dismantling the protections families enjoy today. Currently, family and education laws are created by the states; ratification of the CRC would transfer jurisdiction of those laws to the US Congress. Congress, in turn, would have to follow the mandates of the CRC.

As a resolution that merely calls on the Senate to act, HR 854 would substantively do very little. However, the CRC is an ever-present threat. Because the US has signed the treaty, the next step, Senate ratification, can happen at any time—it’s simply a matter of who has majority power in that body. Only un-signing the treaty would remove the threat.

That’s why, if members of Congress want to once again extoll the virtues of the CRC, we will remind them why ratification should never take place. Not if they truly care about the well-being of American children.

For a longer, more detailed expose on the many issues with the CRC, read Michael Farris’s essay on the subject.




Maggie McKneely

Federal Relations Liaison

Maggie McKneely travels regularly to Capitol Hill to meet with legislators and to encourage them to preserve homeschool freedom.


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