The War Against the Christian Family

Karen VanTil Gushta, Ph.D.

From the moment Cain slew his brother Abel in cold blood, out of jealousy that God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and not his own, Satan has been at work to destroy families, for the family is the “well-spring” of culture and society.

The current threats against families are manifold: divorce, cohabitation, single parenting, same-sex parenting, not to mention almost 60 million children in America who were aborted before they had the chance to draw their first breath.  

But in addition to these problems, we are seeing the encroachment of government agencies upon the rights of parents. In its special report, “The State of Parental Rights in America, 2017,” ParentalRights.org shares examples from across the country that show what is happening to parental rights in four key areas: medical settings, education, child welfare, and cases of parents with disabilities. The picture is one of increasing interference by state agencies in each of these areas. There is a tension, says the report, “between parents and a group of professional elites who believe they can better make decisions for all children.”

The general trend is that “parents are losing custody without cause in far too many cases—and often losing their permanent parental rights, as well,” says the report. “[T]he lack of a sound legal standard leaves the door open for judges and child welfare workers to continue the system as it is.” In assessing the current situation, ParentalRights.org argues that “[t]he system is failing children, failing families, and failing our country as a whole.”

In its “Agenda for Freedom,” which was sent to President Trump along with thousands of supporting open letters from friends of the ministry, D. James Kennedy Ministries has called upon President Trump to reject “efforts to diminish parental authority.” Our ministry stands fast upon the principle that “parental authority and responsibility were delegated by God Himself, with the family being the only institution able to best attain the welfare of children.”

This principle, once commonly accepted in our society, is now under vigorous attack. The Supreme Court opened the door to states and individual judges to ignore it in 2000, when it ruled in a split decision in the Troxel v. Granville case. That decision gave judges the power to make decisions on a case-by-case basis and to apply their own rules to parental rights. The result has been a marked increase in violations of parental rights. Federal courts are now full of confusion since there is no clear standard for adjudicating the rights of parents when they are in conflict with state departments of child protective services.

As noted above, there is increased state and government interference in parental rights in education and in medical settings, as well as in cases of child welfare and parents with disabilities. In the area of education, the relationship between parents and professional elites who assume they are better qualified to make educational decisions is becoming increasingly contentious. In Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed a bill that would protect parents’ rights to ensure that their children would not be exposed to sexually explicit material by requiring the school to notify parents before such material was to be presented to students. When parents spoke to the Virginia legislature in support of the bill, they were asked to stop reading examples of the content they were seeking to block, because the passages were deemed too “obscene” or “indecent” by the legislators to be read in a public hearing. Yet Gov. McAuliffe vetoed the bill, reasoning that requiring parental notification would interfere with the educational process.

Two federal district courts have similarly decided that parents should not be allowed to interfere with the educational process in government public schools. Parents living in the district of the Ninth Circuit, “have no constitutional right . . . to prevent a public school from providing its students with whatever information it wishes to provide, sexual or otherwise, when and as the school determines that it is appropriate to do so,” according to the court’s Fields v. Palmdale ruling in 2005. Parents living in the First Circuit Court of Appeals district have the freedom to determine how their education children should be educated . . . but only if they decide to homeschool them or send them to a private schools, according to the court’s decision in a 2007 case, Parker v. Hurley.

 

The right of parents to receive notice of the presentation of material that is sexually explicit or promotes non-traditional values to their children should be sacrosanct. Yet with the LGBTQ (Q stands for questioning) push in public schools, this right is in jeopardy all across the country. One Florida school district has informed its teachers that if a student expresses suicidal thoughts, they are obligated to inform the child’s parents. However, if the student expresses concerns over his or her gender identity, the teacher is not to tell the parents, but instead is to notify the school’s LBGTQ resource representative.  

In the area of medical settings, as unbelievable as it sounds, parents can now lose custody of their child if there is disagreement between them and their doctors over their child’s course of treatment. Hospitals and doctors can charge parents with “medical child abuse” in such cases. One example is that of Justina Pelletier, a teenager who was being treated for a rare metabolic disorder (“mito,” short for mitochondrial disease) that interferes with energy production. Justina was undergoing treatment based on the plan of care provided by a metabolic geneticist at Tufts Medical Center, when she was admitted in 2013 to Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH). According to The Boston Globe, the doctors at Boston Children’s concluded, without consulting her doctors at Tufts,  that the girl’s problem was not mito, but largely psychiatric. When the parents tried to transfer their daughter back to Tufts, BCH called in the child protection agency, claiming that the parents were harmfully interfering with their daughter’s care. The juvenile court judge who heard their case agreed with BCH, and Justina’s parents lost custody of her. Sixteen months later, after spending most of her time in a locked psychiatric ward, the young girl was final returned to her parents, in worse health than when she began her ordeal.

Horror stories like this one are certainly not the norm. However, this illustrates the same attitude of elite professionals that is evidenced in the educational sphere—“We know better than you parents do what is best for your child.” That attitude must be countered with the Biblical teaching that parents are the ones who are first and foremost responsible for the welfare and nurture of their own children. In addition, given the fact that there is increasing pressure from both international agencies such as the United Nations Human Rights Council and states such as California to remove decision making power from parents and shift it to state agencies, schools, and medical professionals (see California’s proposed bill SRC 41), we should not assume this will never affect our families. We must be diligent in examining local school policies, state statutes, and Congressional actions to ensure that our rights as Christian parents to raise our children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” are fully protected.