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The Washington Times
November 30, 1999

Government’s place is not in family affairs

By Michael Farris
The Washington Times
November 30, 1999

I had the privilege of attending and addressing the Second World Congress of Families in Geneva earlier this month. It was 2 1/2 years after the first event held in Prague in March of 1997.

I remember the date clearly because I was anxious to get home in time for the birth of my 10th child. (I don't know about you, but I keep track of most events in my life based on the ages of my children.)

In 1997, the message that came repeatedly from the podium was that families are in trouble everywhere. The cause of the problems may be different from culture to culture, but the net effect was the same. Traditional families were under attack all over the globe.

However, at this year’s Congress the message was largely upbeat: praise for traditional families and the strength they bring to civilization. Capping the three-day event, a Declaration of Principles was adopted unanimously.

This declaration was remarkable for its content and for the diversity of people who supported it. Not only were delegates from every continent and dozens of nations, but they also represented an impressive variety of religious backgrounds. Significant numbers of traditional Catholics, evangelicals, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Muslims, and Orthodox Jews were speakers, delegates and members of the declaration's drafting committee.

But make no mistake about it, the conference and the declaration were about building a political—not religious—coalition. This was a convention of the religious particularists of the world; people who believe that there is one particular way to God. And there were at least four different versions of that message in the room.

Good will was maintained by keeping to political topics—even though many speakers elaborated on how their religious faith influences their political judgments to reach conclusions similar to others. This is in striking contrast to the left’s approach, which seems based on political unity and religious syncretism, the notion that all roads lead to God.

The declaration staked out a remarkably conservative position on an impressive array of topics: Homosexual marriage is wrong. Divorce should be discouraged. Abortion is wrong. Promiscuity, pornography, incest, and homosexuality undermine civilization, declared various speakers, and they will never truly satisfy the human spirit, proclaimed the declaration. Education belongs within the jurisdiction of Mom and Dad, not the government. Home schooling was endorsed as parental exercise of a pre-existing right.

I spoke to the gathering about what is perhaps the biggest threat to parental rights, the “United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

While it was a great honor to have Jehan (Mrs. Anwar) Sadat on the same platform, it might have been more fun to deliver my talk in the first morning session, which was held in the great hall of the U.N. Palais in Geneva. The great hall is the same facility in which the implementers of the U.N. children's treaty hold their quasi-judicial hearings to put nations on trial for violations of the convention.

These “hearings” are a blatant attack on the jurisdiction of families and nations by an unelected world body that wants to become a world government. I urged delegates to resist implementation of this treaty in their nations. Only Americans have the right to make laws for America. Only the Swiss have the right to make laws for the Swiss. I intended to go on with other examples, but the delegates demonstrated their agreement by interrupting with loud applause.

If there is a theme that could summarize the entire declaration it would be this: Government should stay within its sphere of jurisdiction. It should protect the family, not attempt to become a substitute for it.

The family is protected when married people are taxed fairly, and divorce is discouraged. The family is protected when human life is sacred. The family is protected when marriage is reserved for one man and one woman.

But the family is undermined when the government, even with good intentions, attempts to solve social problems that properly belong within the jurisdiction of the family. Moreover, social problems are usually exacerbated by the state's interference.

Until America ratifies this treaty, the political pressure to force other nations to succumb to the tyranny of the Village People who run the U.N. children's operation will not abate.

The radical nature of the UN agenda — no spanking, no jail for juvenile criminals, parents’ educational decisions subject to bureaucratic review for the “best interest of the child” — is evident from the decisions issued from Geneva, holding that other nations have failed to live up to the treaty’s terms. (Get this one: Sweden doesn’t spend enough on social programs for children. Sweden!)

I promised the delegates that American home schoolers would continue to do our part to keep the “U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child” in a permanently unratified state. That pledge was warmly received. If national and state governments are miserable failures as family substitutes, a world government would be the worst of all.

Michael Farris is the father of 10 home-schooled children and president of the
Home School Legal Defense Association

Copyright 1999 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit our web site at