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.
“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.