Hilary White

Irish Children’s Rights Referendum will make children property of the state: U.S. legal expert

Hilary White
Hilary White

DUBLIN, November 5, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.comt) – A proposed “Children’s Rights” amendment to the Irish constitution will make children “creatures” of the Irish state, totally subject to the whims of state officers, who can order them adopted out to strangers without even judicial review, an American legal expert has warned.

The public is set to vote on the wording, which was described by the expert as “frightening,” on November 10th. Michael Vacca, a lawyer with the group Alliance Defending Freedom, a non-governmental organization focusing on religious freedom and family law issues, says the language places the rights of children at odds with the rights of their parents and the family, a move that is in direct contradiction to the Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Ireland is signatory.

“The Children’s Rights Referendum gives Ireland absolute control over children in Ireland, who are subjected to the fancies of the State and can be deprived of loving and caring parents without a clear showing of parental neglect or abuse.”

Vacca has written a comprehensive analysis of the proposed new wording to Ireland’s constitution in response to questions by LifeSiteNews.com. He told LSN that he hopes it will help to educate the Irish public on the threat to the family and to children posed by the government’s amendment. Recent polls show that, with millions of public and private funds being spent on the Yes campaign, and the No side coming late and underfunded to the fight, the referendum is likely to overwhelmingly pass the new wording.

Read: Why You Must Vote “No” on Ireland’s Children’s Rights Referendum on November 10th

“If this Referendum passes, Irish children will belong to the State, and parents will be powerless to protect their own children from the State,” Vacca warned.

“Ireland is legally obligated to comply with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Children’s Rights Referendum will place Ireland out of step with the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world.”

In the proposal, “The child is viewed as an isolated individual rather than as a part of the family,” Vacca said. “As a result, the child becomes a creature of the State of Ireland. Ironically, by claiming the authority of Ireland to safeguard the best interests of the child independent of parental rights, Ireland would thus violate the right of children not to have their families interfered with through the dismissal of parental rights.”

Ominously, given the current government’s growing antipathy towards the Catholic Church, Vacca warns that the ambiguity of the new wording could be used to impose a secularist interpretation of “best interests” and remove children from homes based on anti-religious prejudice.

“Whether, for example, a child’s safety or welfare is ‘likely to be prejudicially affected’ may very well depend upon the religion or culture of that child’s parents, or rather, the perception which an agent of the State has about that religion or culture,” he said.

The Irish state has claimed that the referendum will bolster protections for children according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. But Vacca has found that it is precisely the rights defined by that document that will be threatened by the proposed amendment. He points out that the Convention on the Rights of the Child “explicitly and implicitly protects parental rights” as the best means of protecting children. Despite it being the Convention’s foundational principle, any mention of protections for the family is glaringly omitted from the wording.

The Convention’s Preamble states that the family, is “the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members and particularly children,” and as such “should be afforded the necessary protection and assistance so that it can fully assume its responsibilities within the community”.

But far from protecting families, Vacca says, the government’s Committee on the Rights of the Child has “so contorted the express language used in the Convention that it has effectively interpreted [it] as a means for the State to usurp parental rights”.

The amendment’s wording grants the state the right to dissolve the family. It asserts that in undefined “exceptional cases” the “State as guardian of the common good shall, by proportionate means as provided by law, endeavour to supply the place of the parents.” It allows children to be seized by the state and adopted out to others against the will of their natural parents “where the best interests of the child so require,” with “best interests” also remaining undefined.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, however, is quite specific about the meaning of “best interests” and defines it clearly as being “intrinsically connected with the protection of parental rights based on the family,” Vacca says.

Article 3(2) of the Convention says, “States Parties undertake to ensure the child such protection and care as is necessary for his or her well-being, taking into account the rights and duties of his or her parents, legal guardians, or other individuals legally responsible for him or her…”

Vacca writes, “Lest States are tempted to think that they are the primary guarantors of the ‘best interests of the child,’ Article 3(2) makes clear that the best interests of the child standard necessarily involves the protection of parental rights.”

Further, the Convention repeats the priority of the rights of parents, saying in Article 5, “States Parties shall respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents”. According to the Convention, Vacca says, “Implicit in every child’s right, to education, to healthcare, to clothing and shelter, etc, is the right of children to exercise such rights within their family, that is, within the context of parental rights and duties.”

“There are no children’s rights which of their nature exclude parental rights because all the rights of a child should be exercised, if possible, within their respective families.”

The Convention also prohibits states from arbitrarily and unilaterally removing children from their parents’ supervision, even in “exceptional cases” where the child is subject to abuse. The determination of the State to remove children from their parents must be subject to judicial review, and courts must have the authority to return a child to his parents if that is in the “best interests” of the child. “The Convention on the Rights of the Child presumes that parents act in the ‘best interests’ of their children,” Vacca said.

Vacca says it is the proposal’s blanket permission to adopt children out without their parents’ consent that is “most frightening” because the grounds for this extreme action are left entirely to the discretion of the state to define.

The state can adopt out children when parents fail in their “duty” but this is undefined, and “in practice means …whatever the State of Ireland wants it to mean”.

“Secondly, since the ‘best interests of the child’ is determined without regard to parental rights, it is the State which unilaterally determines the ‘best interests of the child.’

“Thirdly, the period of time that parents must fail in their duty towards their child to have their child taken away from them without their consent is unspecified, and could theoretically be a very short period of time.”

Many of the amendment’s critics have pointed out that the scandals involving abuse of children in various institutions, that prompted the proposal for the referendum, occurred in state-funded and supervised institutions, not within private families. Moreover, the amendment includes no language to create a mechanism or structure to supervise state officials in their dealings with children.

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PBS defends decision to air pro-abortion documentary ‘After Tiller’

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By Dustin Siggins

Under pressure for showing the pro-abortion documentary "After Tiller" on Labor Day, PBS' "POV" affiliate has defended the decision in response to an inquiry from LifeSiteNews.

The producers of the film say their goal with the documentary, which tells the stories of four late-term abortion doctors after the killing of infamous late-term abortionist George Tiller, is to "change public perception of third-trimester abortion providers by building a movement dedicated to supporting their right to work with a special focus on maintaining their safety.” 

POV told LifeSiteNews, "We do believe that 'After Tiller' adds another dimension to an issue that is being debated widely." Asked if POV will show a pro-life documentary, the organization said that it "does not have any other films currently scheduled on this issue. POV received almost 1000 film submissions each year through our annual call for entries and we welcome the opportunity to consider films with a range of points of view."

When asked whether POV was concerned about alienating its viewership -- since PBS received millions in federal tax dollars in 2012 and half of Americans identify as pro-life -- POV said, "The filmmakers would like the film to add to the discussion around these issues. Abortion is already a legal procedure."

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"This is an issue that people feel passionately about and will have a passionate response to. We are hopeful that the majority of people can see it for what it is, another lens on a very difficult issue." 

In addition to the documentary, POV has written materials for community leaders and teachers to share. A cursory examination of the 29-page document, which is available publicly, appears to include links to outside sources that defend Roe v. Wade, an examination of the constitutional right to privacy, and "a good explanation of the link between abortion law and the right to privacy," among other information.

Likewise, seven clips recommended for student viewing -- grades 11 and beyond -- include scenes where couples choose abortion because the children are disabled. Another shows pro-life advocates outside a doctor's child's school, and a third is described as showing "why [one of the film's doctors] chose to offer abortion services and includes descriptions of what can happen when abortion is illegal or unavailable, including stories of women who injured themselves when they tried to terminate their own pregnancies and children who were abused because they were unwanted."

Another clip "includes footage of protesters, as well as news coverage of a hearing in the Nebraska State Legislature in which abortion opponents make reference to the idea that a fetus feels pain." The clip's description fails to note that it is a scientifically proven fact that unborn children can feel pain.

The documentary is set to air on PBS at 10 p.m. Eastern on Labor Day.

Kirsten Andersen contributed to this article.

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He defended ‘real’ marriage, and then was beheaded for it

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By Pete Baklinski

A Christian man was executed during the night by a high-profile ruler after making an uncompromising defense of real marriage.

The Christian, who was renowned for his holiness, had told the ruler in public that his relationship with his partner was “against the law” of God. The Christian’s words enraged the ruler’s partner who successfully plotted to have him permanently silenced.

John the Baptist was first imprisoned before he was beheaded. The Catholic Church honors him today, August 29, as a martyr and saint.

While John’s death happened a little less than 2,000 years ago, his heroic stance for real marriage is more pertinent today than ever before.

According to the Gospel of Mark, the ruler Herod had ‘married’ his brother’s wife Herodias. When John told Herod with complete frankness, “It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife,” Herodias became “furious” with him to the point of wanting him killed for his intolerance, bullying, and hate-speech.

Herodias found her opportunity to silence John by having her daughter please Herod during a dance at a party. Herod offered the girl anything she wanted. The daughter turned to her mother for advice, and Herodias said to ask for John’s head on a platter.

Those who fight for real marriage today can learn three important lessons from John’s example.

  1. Those proudly living in ungodly and unnatural relationships — often referred to in today’s sociopolitical sphere as ‘marriage’ — will despise those who tell them what they are doing is wrong. Real marriage defenders must expect opposition to their message from the highest levels.
  2. Despite facing opposition, John was not afraid to defend God’s plan for marriage in the public square, even holding a secular ruler accountable to this plan. John, following the third book of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 20:21), held that a man marrying the wife of his brother was an act of “impurity” and therefore abhorrent to God. Real marriage defenders must boldly proclaim today that God is the author of marriage, an institution he created to be a life-long union between one man and one woman from which children arise and in which they are best nurtured. Marriage can be nothing more, nothing less.
  3. John did not compromise on the truth of marriage as revealed by God, even to the point of suffering imprisonment and death for his unpopular position. Real marriage defenders must never compromise on the truth of marriage, even if the government, corporate North America, and the entire secular education system says otherwise. They must learn to recognize the new “Herodias” of today who despises those raising a voice against her lifestyle. They must stand their ground no matter what may come, no matter what the cost.

John the Baptist was not intolerant or a bigot, he simply lived the word of God without compromise, speaking the word of truth when it was needed, knowing that God’s way is always the best way. Were John alive today, he would be at the forefront of the grassroots movement opposing the social and political agenda to remake marriage in the image of man.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

If he were alive today he might speak simple but eloquent words such as, “It is against God’s law for two men or two women to be together as a husband and wife in marriage. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” 

He would most likely be hated. He would be ridiculed. He would surely have the human rights tribunals throwing the book at him. But he would be speaking the truth and have God as his ally. 

The time may not be far off when those who defend real marriage, like John, will be presented with the choice of following Caesar or making the ultimate sacrifice. May God grant his faithful the grace to persevere in whatever might come. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

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The Wunderlich family Mike Donnelly / Home School Legal Defence Association
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German homeschoolers regain custody of children, vow to stay and fight for freedom

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

One year to the day since a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, and forcibly removed all four of the family’s children, aged 7 to 14, a state appeals court has returned custody of the children to their parents.

The reason given for the removal was that parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were returned three weeks after being taken, following an international outcry spearheaded by the Home School Legal Defense Association.

However, a lower court imposed the condition on the parents that their children were required to attend state schools in order for them to be released, and took legal custody of the children in order to prevent the family from leaving the country.

In a decision that was still highly critical of the parents and of homeschooling, the appeals court decided that the action of the lower court in putting the children in the custody of the state was “disproportional” and ordered complete custody returned to the parents, according to a statement by the HSLDA.

The Wunderlichs, who began homeschooling again when the court signaled it would rule this way, said they were very pleased with the result, but noted that the court’s harsh words about homeschooling indicated that their battle was far from over.

“We have won custody and we are glad about that,” Dirk said.

“The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate—only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead. But this decision upholds the absurd idea that homeschooling is child endangerment and an abuse of parental authority.”

The Wunderlichs are now free to emigrate to another country where homeschooling is legal, if they choose, but they said they intend to remain in Germany and work for educational freedom.

“While we no longer fear that our children will be taken away as long as we are living in Hessen, it can still happen to other people in Germany,” Dirk said. “Now we fear crushing fines up to $75,000 and jail. This should not be tolerated in a civilized country.”

Petra Wunderlich said, "We could not do this without the help of HSLDA,” but cautioned that, “No family can fight the powerful German state—it is too much, too expensive."

"If it were not for HSLDA and their support, I am afraid our children would still be in state custody. We are so grateful and thank all homeschoolers who have helped us by helping HSLDA.”

HSLDA’s Director for Global Outreach, Michael Donnelly, said he welcomed the ruling but was concerned about the court’s troubling language.

“We welcome this ruling that overturns what was an outrageous abuse of judicial power,” he said.

“The lower court decision to take away legal custody of the children essentially imprisoned the Wunderlich family in Germany. But this decision does not go far enough. The court has only grudgingly given back custody and has further signaled to local authorities that they should still go after the Wunderlichs with criminal charges or fines.”

Donnelly pointed out that such behavior in a democratic country is problematic.

“Imprisonment and fines for homeschooling are outside the bounds of what free societies that respect fundamental human rights should tolerate,” he explained.

“Freedom and fundamental human rights norms demand respect for parental decision making in education. Germany’s state and national policies that permit banning home education must be changed.

"Such policies from a leading European democracy not only threaten the rights of tens of thousands of German families but establish a dangerous example that other countries may be tempted to follow,” Donnelly warned.

HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said that acting on behalf of the Wunderlichs was an important stand for freedom.

“The Wunderlichs are a good and decent family whose basic human rights were violated and are still threatened,” Farris said.

“Their fight is our fight," Farris stressed, "and we will continue to support those who stand against German policy banning homeschooling that violates international legal norms. Free people cannot tolerate such oppression and we will do whatever we can to fight for families like the Wunderlichs both here in the United States and abroad. We must stand up to this kind of persecution where it occurs or we risk seeing own freedom weakened.”

Visit the HSLDA website dedicated to helping the Wunderlich family and other German homeschoolers here.

Contact the German embassy in the U.S. here.

Contact the German embassy in Canada here.

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