Sunday, September 13, 2009

Home-schooling is a human right. Parents have the right to teach their children according to their beliefs and customs — and this has been true from time immemorial. It is unacceptable for courts and government agencies — of whatever country — to interfere in the responsibility of the parent to raise his or her own child.

Reading about the recent decree by a New Hampshire judge that 10-year-old Amanda Kurowski be required to attend public school to be exposed to beliefs other than that of her mother, a strong Christian, made me wonder where the ACLU has gone.

Doesn’t the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights say, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”? Where does a district judge of a particular state get the authority to supersede the Constitution? Why should this girl be denied freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, not to mention freedom of religion?

Judge Lucinda V. Sadler does not have the right to decide what is proper religious exposure for a child. To say, in a court ruling that the girl’s “vigorous defense of her religious beliefs … suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to consider any other point of view,” is overstepping the role of adjudication. A judge is not entrusted with the job of deciding whose religious faith has been tested or untested by exposure to others — especially when that person is 10 years old. Rather, the judge’s job is to protect the natural and constitutional rights of that minor from interference by those who would seek to separate her from her parent’s guardianship, and from the moral teachings that parent seeks to equip her with.

The origin of the complaints is the divorced father’s attempts, using the court system, to keep the mother from home-schooling her daughter. Though he failed to force this in a 2006 action, the court appointed a legal advocate, ostensibly to safeguard the girl’s interests. The advocate reportedly refused to accept the mother’s submissions on the home-schooling materials used. The judge ignored New Hampshire state law, which requires evidence of harm to a child before removing her from the home-school situation, and interposed an arbitrary basis for removal — that the child “appeared to reflect the mother’s rigidity on questions of faith,” and “would be best served by exposure to different points of view at a time in her life when she must begin to critically evaluate multiple systems of belief and behavior.”

Multiple systems of belief and behavior? I must say that having studied the basic teachings of the major world religions, I can’t say that what a strong Christian believes would be any different on the matters of morality than what a Muslim, Jew, Hindu or Buddhist believes.

I am tired of seeing jurists, legislators and social service agencies ignore the really desperate circumstances when children do need protection — such as the 300,000 runaways enslaved and prostituted all over America — and instead target a good mother educating a loyal and religiously observant daughter.

What’s next? Using Muslim girls’ modest head cover to force them into secular classrooms? Forbidding Jewish boys from wearing a yarmulke? Telling Christians that to wear a cross is a hate crime?

It’s time for such hypocritical and invasive misuses of power to be confronted. Our nation wouldn’t exist — and certainly would not allow the diversity this judge finds so important — if it wasn’t for the many Christians who sacrificed everything to establish a nation where all people could worship God according to their own conscience. Diversity is protected by faith, not destroyed by it.

It is instructive to note that state usurpation of parental education was a cornerstone of three memorable 20th-century governments: Joseph Stalin’s USSR, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany and Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution in China. Let’s hope sensible judicial minds will reverse this blatant violation of human rights, and uphold the rights of parents to teach children according to their own faith.

Kate Tsubata is a freelance writer and home-schooler who lives in Maryland.

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