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Will UN Treaty Abolish Parents’ Rights?

By Lee Duigon
May 04, 2009

“In the name of defending all cultures, the UN is a new humanistic culture aimed at destroying all others by means of the imperialism of world law and a world police.” — R. J. Rushdoony[1]

“If the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child becomes binding in this country, then parental rights as we know them will be erased. Moreover, all state laws which recognize the right of homeschooling will be superseded by international law … We are poised to lose the right of self-government within the next generation.” — The Home School Legal Defense Association[2]

The United States today is the only country in the world that has not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC for short); but with a new president and a new Congress in office, that could soon change.

And if it does, say critics—watch out.

At first glance the CRC reads like just another globalist screed full of utopian claptrap and mindless platitudes. But utopian claptrap, especially of the kind hawked by the United Nations, has a way of metastasizing into disastrous public policies.

Witness, for example, a recent speech in Mexico City by Arie Hoekman, a spokesman for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).[3] Hoekman called the worldwide breakdown of the family—due to abortion, out-of-wedlock births, sodomy, etc.—a triumph for “human rights” over “patriarchy,” and exulted over “a weakening of the patriarchal structure, as a result of the disappearance of the economic base that sustains it and because of the rise of new values centered in the recognition of fundamental human rights,” etc.

This is of interest because one of the first things our new president did was to restore America’s share of UNFPA’s funding.[4] The president has also said he is interested in finally obtaining US ratification of the CRC.[5] With his party firmly in control of Congress, ratification does loom as a possibility.

A False Religion

What exactly is the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child?

Most broadly, it is yet another statement of the humanist creed that man, by works of man-made law, can procure his own salvation.

There could not be much more wrong with it than that alone. Self-salvation is a toxic theology. Rushdoony calls it “a false and deadly faith, all the more deceptive because its idealism is premised on an anti-Christian creed … If no higher law is recognized, and if law is what man says it is, is not either the law or man absolutized, and, in either case, the controlling powers invested with total power?”[6]

If man is the source of his own law, then there simply is no higher law. “[T]here can be no such thing as law without a lawgiver,” wrote T. Robert Ingram, an early and cogent critic of the “human rights” movement. “[B]y renouncing God the Creator of heaven and earth as lawgiver, there remains only man himself. The source of law, then, must be found in man.”[7]

That, in a nutshell, is what is wrong with the CRC in particular and with the whole United Nations enterprise in general. It replaces God with man as the source of law, and in so doing, establishes a false religion. No good can come of it. “Unless the LORD builds the house,” says the Bible, “they labor in vain who build it” (Ps. 127:1 NKJV).

But let’s delve into the CRC itself for details.

Exceptions to the Rule

A complete text of the CRC, along with related information, is available at http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/k2crc.htm.

The shrewd observer will note that among the many signatories to the treaty are the states of Afghanistan, Algeria, Belarus, China, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe—states renowned for their blatant trampling on human rights.

States are allowed to ratify the CRC with “reservations,” so all of the Muslim states have promised to honor the treaty except when it conflicts with Islamic shari’a law. Since virtually any humane consideration given to a girl child in Saudi Arabia, for example, would clash with shari’a law, it’s difficult to see how the treaty would in any way advance children’s rights in that country.

Most of the Western countries have formally objected to the Muslim countries’ reservations. [To sample the back-and-forth diplomatic bickering, click on Declarations and reservations.[8]] Ireland objects to Iran’s reservations, Italy to Qatar’s, and so on.

But North Korea is not a Muslim state, has not bothered to express any kind of “reservation,” and obviously has not the slightest intention of respecting anybody’s rights, child or adult. The same may be said of Cuba, Zimbabwe, and others. China states a reservation to protect her “family planning” laws, requiring the abortion of “extra” children, but says nothing about her policies of religious, ethnic, and political persecution, harvesting of prisoners for sale of body parts, and other outrages.

It’s clear that the restrictions laid on parents by the CRC will apply only to families living in Western countries where judges and legislators treat international law as real law.[9] Muslim states, rogue states, and dictatorships will, as they always do, ignore such laws while enjoying the cachet of having signed on to the convention. Nor will the UN make the least effort to pressure those states to live up to the treaty.

Lip Service

The text of the CRC plays lip service to the family (“the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members and particularly children”), but only to the extent that every child in the world should be “brought up in the spirit of the ideals proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations …”[10] It loses no time in setting up the UN Charter as the absolute, universal standard of morality.

“In all actions concerning children,” public or private, “… the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration,” says the treaty.

Who shall determine what are the best interests of the child?

“Competent authorities” appointed by the state, of course.

Children shall be “protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the child’s parents,” says the treaty—except if those parents happen to be Chinese, Pakistani, or Nigerian Christians. We do not have to read very far into the CRC before we encounter hypocrisy on a planetary scale.

The treaty insists that children shall not be separated from their families “except when competent authorities … determine … that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child.”

In other words, parents living in countries where the treaty is actually enforced will always have to worry about a government social worker peering over their shoulders.

The Real Agenda

Beginning with Article 12 of the CRC, we get a glimpse of its real agenda.

A “child who is capable of forming his or her own views” shall be assured “the right to express those views freely” (Article 12). “The child shall have the right to freedom of expression … to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds,” says Article 13; and states “shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.” “Freedom to manifest [the child’s] religion or beliefs” shall not be subject to parental limitations (Article 14).

Article 15 recognizes “the rights of the child to freedom of association and to freedom of peaceful assembly … No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of these rights …” Article 16 grants the child a right of “privacy” and “the protection of the law against such interference or attacks” on privacy.

In a few short paragraphs, the CRC reduces the parents’ role in child-rearing to an advisory capacity—and a timid one, at that. What this would mean, if the CRC were established as law in the United States, is a virtual abolition of parental authority as most of the human race has always known it. For example:

  • Parents could not restrict their teenage children from accessing pornographic sites on the internet (“freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds”).
  • Parents could not insist that a 12-year-old child attend the family church, or stay away from cults (“freedom of thought, conscience, and religion”).
  • Parents would not be able to prevent their child from joining a “gay/straight alliance” at school, or palling around with sexually promiscuous or drug-using peers (“freedom of association”).
  • Parents would not be allowed to monitor their child’s internet or cell phone communications (“privacy”).

Any attempt by parents to do any of those things could result in an irritated teen complaining to the government, with dire consequences to the family.

We are not exaggerating here. We are merely reporting what the treaty actually says, and drawing the obvious conclusions as to what those sayings mean.

Can We Still Homeschool?

The treaty makes high-flown comments on the right of the child to “education” and “the elimination of ignorance and illiteracy throughout the world.” But when it comes to parental rights to give their children a private education, or homeschool them, there is a not-so-subtle catch.

Article 29 says: “No part of the present article … shall be construed so as to interfere with the liberty of individuals and bodies to establish and direct educational institutions …” such as Christian schools and home schools. These will be permitted, says the treaty, “… subject always to the observance of the principle set forth in paragraph 1 of the present article …” [emphasis added].

And what is that principle that shall govern all forms of education everywhere in the world?

“The development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations”!

So, yes, you can still homeschool, as long as you teach your child that the UN Charter trumps everything else, including the Bible, as the supreme authority on everything.

Enter the “Experts”

As if all this weren’t enough, the CRC proclaims a child’s “right” to play and recreation, claims to protect children from sexual abuse (while allowing them free access to perverts on the internet), and in Article 37, abolishes the death penalty and life imprisonment for all convicted criminals under the age of 18. So a convicted murderer who made his kill one hour short of his 18th birthday would have to be released someday.

In Article 40 children are given a whole suite of legal rights, in the event they commit a crime. If the CRC becomes law in the United States, our entire juvenile justice system will have to be restructured.

Finally, in Article 42, we learn that states signing and ratifying the CRC will be required to submit regular progress reports to a UN committee of “ten experts of high moral standing and recognized competence in the field covered by this Convention.”

This might be the most chilling provision of them all. Who in America would be eager to defend our country’s “progress” in advancing children’s rights before a panel of “experts” from Venezuela, Cuba, Syria, China, and Sudan? We are not told what would be the consequences to America if six of the ten “experts” thought our progress wasn’t good enough.

Can It Be Stopped?

The United States government signed the CRC in 1995, after helping to draft it in the 1980s, but has yet to present it to the Senate for ratification, political realities being what they were until the most recent national elections. The Child Rights Information Network hailed the election of President Barack Obama as “a victory for children’s rights … the Convention on the Rights of the Child may finally have a much needed supporter in office.”[11]

We’re stuck with this president for at least four years, and with this Congress for at least two. If they are determined to ratify the CRC, they will at least be able to begin the process without any significant opposition. How far they can get will depend on to what degree they are blown off course by current events; economic and political crises, as they arise, may force the ratification of “human rights” treaties onto the bottom of the things-to-do list.

“We have only one shot at stopping this movement,” writes Michael Farris, of the Home School Legal Defense Association[12]: the passage of a constitutional amendment protecting parents’ rights (see ParentalRights.org).

But the amendment process is notoriously slow and difficult. Most Americans believe marriage should be restricted to a man and a woman, but the federal Marriage Amendment hasn’t gotten very far. Most citizens believe there should be restrictions on abortion, but the Right to Life Amendment has made even less progress than the Marriage Amendment. How long, if it could be done at all, would it take to pass a Parental Rights Amendment?

Little by Little

People are always offering political solutions to spiritual problems. The condition of our world today tells us how well those solutions work.

Children are not the property of the state, nor of their parents. We are all God’s property, who created us and bought us with a price. We speak of human rights, but it is God who has the rights: we have a responsibility to respect His rights. A transgression against any human being, child or adult, is thus a transgression against God. The “human rights” movement refuses to acknowledge this.

“The distortion in human rights comes from assigning law-making power to men as men, rather than seeing it as that by which God rules all things consummately,” writes Ingram. “The difference is total. Every truly lawful right becomes twisted and evil when its authority is said to be human and its source a mysterious, unknown and impossible ‘state of nature’…”[13]

Parents do not own their children, but God’s law assigns to them the duty to care for and instruct their children and guide them safely into adulthood. God divides human authority into distinct and equal spheres—the family, the church, the civil government—each sphere with its own responsibilities.

But humanistic law makes the state supreme over all the other spheres. The state educates the children, not the family. The state administers charity (through welfare programs and entitlements), not the church. The humanistic dream is a world state: hence the CRC’s insistence that the UN Charter be the absolute moral standard for every country in the world.

What’s to be done? Over the centuries, the church and Christian families have abdicated to the state their authority and responsibilities. Much ground has been surrendered, all without a struggle—as the church lapsed into pietistic sloth and families permitted themselves to be beguiled by “free” public schools, “free” healthcare, “free” farm subsidies, and all the other freebies offered by the Nanny State.

The ground that has been given up can only be regained as it was lost—little by little, over a span of long and often trying years. Family by family, church by church, by Christian schooling, tithing, the establishment of new churches faithful to God’s Word, by the Christian reconstruction of every sphere of life—only by those small steps can such a long journey be taken at all.

The “Christian America” that so many of us took for granted, growing up, has changed almost beyond recognition, and continues to change. But we must try to live as Christian Americans even if there is no Christian America for us to live in.

We need not wait for any humanist’s permission to pray, to seek our answers in God’s Word, to teach the Bible to our children—simply, in St. Paul’s words, to “[b]e not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21).

It will be extremely difficult to do this, especially if the state decides to play rough. But how difficult was it for the Christians of Paul’s time? The obstacles we have to overcome are nothing compared to what they faced. They were a tiny minority in a pagan empire whose government thought nothing of throwing them to the lions in the arena. They never rose in arms against this state, never refused to pay their taxes, never campaigned to elect a Christian emperor. They persevered in doing good, in spreading the gospel, in living by God’s Word no matter how harshly they were persecuted. And God saw to it that they prevailed and that His will was done on earth.

There’s nothing wrong with trying to shove a stick into the enemy’s spokes, politically, to slow him down, to buy some time. But if that is all we do, we gravely err.


[1] R. J. Rushdoony, The Nature of the American System (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2001 edition), 146.

[2] Michael P. Farris, “A Deeper Understanding of the Threat of International Law,” The Home School Court Report, November/December 2007, http://www.hslda.org/courtreport/V23N6/V23N601.asp.

[3] Matthew Cullinan Hoffman, “United Nations Population Fund Leader Says Family Breakdown is a Triumph for Human Rights,” LifeSiteNews.com, February 3, 2009, http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/feb/09020312.html.

[4]http://www.americansforunfpa.org/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=183

[5] Patrick Geary, “Is Obama’s win also a victory for children’s rights?” Child Rights Information Network, November 5, 2008, http://www.crin.org/resources/infodetail.asp?ID=18874.

[6] Rushdoony, The Nature of the American System, 131.

[7] T. Robert Ingram, What’s Wrong With Human Rights (Houston, TX: St. Thomas Press, 1978), 12.

[8] Convention on the Rights of the Child, http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/k2crc.htm.

[9] For a thorough explanation of how international treaties become law in America, see Farris, “A Deeper Understanding of the Threat of International Law,” The Home School Court Report, http://www.hslda.org/courtreport/V23N6/V23N601.asp.

[10] All quotations are from the published text, Convention on the Rights of the Child, http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/k2crc.htm.

[11] Geary, “Is Obama’s win also a victory for children’s rights?” http://www.crin.org/resources/infodetail.asp?ID=18874.

[12] Farris, “A Deeper Understanding of the Threat of International Law,” The Home School Court Report, http://www.hslda.org/courtreport/V23N6/V23N601.asp.

[13] Ingram, What’s Wrong With Human Rights, 21.


Topics: Statism

Lee Duigon

Lee is the author of the Bell Mountain Series of novels and a contributing editor for our Faith for All of Life magazine. Lee provides commentary on cultural trends and relevant issues to Christians, along with providing cogent book and media reviews.

Lee has his own blog at www.leeduigon.com.

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