New Attack on Parents? Parens Patriae

No one is writing about this, but children – and the nation – are at risk of left-leaning courts and legislators making an unconstitutional end-run around parental control over our children with the so-called “Parens Patriae” doctrine – misusing it to assert state control over America’s children.

If you think this idea is absurd, ask yourself how much of what you see today was unimaginable a decade ago. We have teachers unions, rogue teachers, administrators, and politicians acting like self-appointed child-snatchers, as if they own our children, pushing hyper-sexualization of six-year-olds, transgenderism, hormone therapy, genital mutilation via surgery, often no parental knowledge.

We have legal and political challenges to parental control over America’s children, on the basis that parents resist “the state” – woke educators and politicians – indoctrinating their children politically, morally, sexually, and psychologically, directly challenging a parent’s right to raise their children.

You have – at the same time – a bizarre twist within the federal executive, parents investigated by the Justice Department, visited by the FBI, threatened with prosecution under the Patriot Act (an anti-terrorism statute) for speaking at school board meetings about public safety, aiming to protect their children from racism, sexualization, anti-Americanism, anti-religious, and transgender policies.

Now, a chorus is rising from top Democrats and in the media that implies traditional Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist views about morality, sexuality, and childrearing are wrong, and should justify activist attacks – including violent attacks. The inference is that these views should be illegal.

If you think this is overstatement, note that neither the Biden White House nor congressional Democrats highlighted the likely motivation for the deadly March attack by a transgender student on a private Christian school that does not promote transgenderism.

Stunningly, the “mainstream” media reported that attack with material omissions, one network directing reporters and anchors not to “mention” the “transgender” nature of the attacker, another systematically omitting any reference to the “Christian” nature of the private school.

Not one mainstream network noted the obvious, a link between the violent transgender student, her former attendance at the same Christian school (which did not promote transgenderism), and her killing of innocent children and teachers – likely motivated by this divergence of views.

In sync with anti-Christian, anti-traditional, anti-parent sentiment, the Biden Justice Department has disproportionately arrested and is now prosecuting peaceful pro-life protestors, while they fail to arrest those destroying and defacing pro-life pregnancy centers and pro-life churches.

Moreover, we just learned they directed Federal Marshals not to arrest the violators of 18 USC 1507 for protesting at the homes of, trying to intimidate, and physically threatening conservative Supreme Court Justices and their children, after the Dobbs draft was illegally released, in time reversing Roe v. Wade.

Meantime, anti-parent rhetoric continues to grow from Democrat activists, including national teachers’ unions, advocates at the state and federal levels of policies resisted by concerned parents.

So, this warning about abuse of “Parens Patriae” – used rarely to allow state authority over parents for egregious offenses against children – is made against an unprecedented backdrop. The idea that parents, and especially conservative parents, may be overridden by state power is not absurd.

This doctrine is reserved for highly unusual cases, when the state interest in protecting a child obviously overrides prerogatives of an abusive parent. But even that is changing, as the left redefines what makes a parent deficient, increasingly suggesting state controls the child should trump the parent.

Two examples show the evolution. First, some states have begun misapplying the doctrine – arguing not that some egregious illegality should be found but that “best interests of the child” should decide matters. This is plainly, by longstanding common law and statute, dead wrong. The Supreme Court has said so.

The other example is another use of this doctrine. Federally, courts have begun saying the state’s ability to override traditional limits should be allowed, for example allowing lawsuits to be filed by blue states against the federal government, demanding EPA regulate private companies to stop “rising seas” from “swallowing” state lands.

Net-net, the left is pushing hard to control America’ s private life. One big area is parenting, where the attempt to control and brainwash children is in high gear. Another is private enterprise, demonizing gas-powered cars, stoves, and refrigerators and energy producers. 

The trend is toward disenfranchising individuals and companies, intimidating and encroaching on parental rights – as parents fight to protect their children from the political left. Do not be surprised if the anti-parent, anti-Christian, pro-control lobby – in and out of government – begins using “Parens Patriae” to justify what is legally and morally unjustifiable.

Let’s be honest, uncompromising in stating the truth: Parents and children arguably share life’s strongest bond. The government has no right to misuse any legal doctrine to undermine that bond. Period.

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman2 for AMAC.

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