Challenges to Parental Rights Keep Expanding
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
December 16, 2021
ROCKFORD—John Jelinek is concerned for the wellbeing of families in today’s society.
 
Jelinek, Diocesan Director of Religious Education, Youth Ministry and Adult Formation, and interim director of the diocese Life and Family Evangelization Office, notes that,  “In the past several months, the legislative focus on both the State and Federal levels has targeted parents and parental rights.
 
“The legislators are increasingly saying  they have ultimate parental rights over (our) children. They are the parent and (we) have been granted custodial privileges, so long as (we) raise the children in the matter they see fit.”
 
Concerns over state and federal governmental overreach against parental rights is nothing new.
 
The Illinois Bar Association website gives information about a class action lawsuit against the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) that sought “extensive reform of DCFS investigations, based on violations of due process.” 
 
Information can be found at this website:  https://www.isba.org/committees/women/newsletter/2008/10/classaction
challengingunconstitutio (Note: the url does end as shown)
 
That lawsuit was filed in 1997 and partly settled March 9, 2007. However a second phase of “terrifying practices involving a basic question of family liberty and state authority to intervene in family life have not yet been remedied,” it says.
 
Beyond Illinois, The Hechinger Report, which describes itself as “a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education,” reports on “When schools use child protective services as a weapon against parents,” 
 
Info: https://hechingerreport.org/when-schools-use-child-protective-services-as-a-weapon-against-parents/
 
“In nearly three dozen interviews conducted by The Hechinger Report and HuffPost, parents, lawyers, advocates and child welfare officials said that schools occasionally wield this authority in inappropriate ways,” the report says, adding that “schools sometimes use the threat of a child-protection investigation to strong-arm parents into complying with the school’s wishes or transferring their children to a new school.”
 
One example cited by the report was of a mother who was threatened with an investigation after she sent her son to school in boots instead of uniform shoes on a cold, wet day.
 
A Chicago case illustration tells of “Sandra, a mother of three (who) was investigated by DCFS after her youngest son went to school with what she describes as a minor scratch he sustained from roughhousing with his brothers. 
 
“After a DCFS worker arrived on her doorstep, her entire life was thrown under suspicion. The flowers that were a Valentine’s Day gift from her husband, for example? The investigator asked if they were evidence of her husband trying to repair damage from a marital fight. Ultimately the abuse allegation against Sandra was overturned. But three years and $15,000 in legal fees later, she said she’s still reluctant to meet with or talk to school employees.”
 
A new threat is described: “As remote learning options disappear, parents uncomfortable with their schools’ Covid-19 protocols risk being charged with neglect,” if they keep their unvaccinated children home from schools that don’t provide remote learning. 
 
Info: https://theintercept.com/2021/10/25/covid-unvaccinated-kids-child-services/
 
Federal level
 
At the federal level, support for schools appears to exclude support for parents.
 
This fall the Department of Justice posted information about “the creation of a task force … to determine how federal enforcement tools can be used to prosecute (harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school board members, teachers and workers in our nation’s public schools), and ways to assist state, Tribal, territorial and local law enforcement where threats of violence may not constitute federal crimes.” 
 
Obviously there is no place for school boards, etc., to be threatened by parents. 
 
However, although  the site  gives what Jelinek calls “a hotline to report parents,” no hotline to report schools, school boards and/or child protection agencies that harass, intimidate, or threaten parents was evident on the site. 
 
Info: https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-addresses-violent-threats-against-school-officials-and-teachers
 
State level
 
At the State level are three bills that Jelinek says are examples where the “State is usurping parental status.”
 
SB 818, the “Keeping Youth Safe and Healthy Act” mandates a new sexual education standard for grades K-12 to be taught in all Illinois public schools. It was signed into law on Aug. 19.
 
One State site about the bill did not give details or topics, but it did list supportive agencies, which include: Chicago Abortion Fund; McHenry County Citizens for Choice; Comprehensive Sex Ed Now; PFLAG Council of Northern Illinois; Planned Parenthood Illinois Action; Prairie Pride Coalition; Rainbow Cafe LGBTQ Center; and Uniting Pride of Champaign County.
 
The Catholic Conference of Illinois (CCI), which has served since 1969 as the public policy voice of the Illinois bishops and lay Catholics, interacts with the state legislature, the governor’s office and all elements of state government to promote and defend the interests of the Church. 
 
“After reviewing the materials mandated in the bill that are contained in the National Sex Education Standards, the Catholic Conference feels compelled to speak about (SB 818) in order to call attention about some of the topics that will be taught to Catholics attending public schools and teachers who are Catholic required to provide instruction on these topics,” says the CCI website. 
 
“The sexual education program mandated in SB 818 must conform to standards put forth in the National Education Sex Standards. These standards developed by SEICUS — Sex Ed for Social Change are the minimal standards for grades K‐12 and we are concerned that these standards developed by a private organization can change without proper input from parents. SEICUS is an organization that, according to its website, believes that sex education has the power to spark large‐scale social change.”
 
The site lists a “few examples that concern us” that include: “By the end of the 5th grade, one of the core concepts students should be able to define is that sexual orientation is the romantic attraction of an individual to someone of the same gender or of a different gender …  By the end of the 8th grade, one of the self‐management standards is that students should be able to describe the steps to using a condom correctly.
 
“The legislation does provide for an opt‐out so parents can remove children from the mandates in SB 818, however parents may not be aware of that opt‐out and teachers who have moral objections to teaching these requirements are not given a choice to opt out,” CCI says.
 
The site also notes there are “parts of the bill that require course material and instruction to provide information about local resources where students can obtain information and confidential services related to reproductive health, gender identity and gender expression.”
 
With the repeal of parental notice of abortion (see below), “it is possible for a minor to find out at her public school how to procure an abortion without a parent ever being notified.”
 
HB 1797/SB 2190   “Repeal Parental Notice of Abortion”
 
 The repeal, passed in late October, “overrides parental rights and results in parents not being notified by the provider prior to a minor daughter receiving an abortion,” Jelinek explains.
 
“Since 2013, this law (to notify parents) has served to keep distressed young girls connected to those who love them the most. The law has also helped to ensure that those who would abuse minor girls cannot then erase the evidence of their crimes in the nearest abortion clinic,” says CCI. “Repealing this law defies public support and is contrary to the legal and moral right of parents to care for their children … ” 
 
SB 1169   “Health Care Right of Conscience Act” Amendment
 
“The HCRCA law protects people against being forced into healthcare decisions that are against their moral or religious beliefs,” says Jelinek. 
 
“The amendment states that the protections of the law do not apply to COVID-related mandates. This means parents potentially facing vaccine mandates for their children have been denied the right to decide what medical treatment is appropriate for their children,” he says.
 
On Nov. 3, CCI released a statement: “CCI opposed this bill, which amends the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act to clarify that the Act does not allow for conscience objections to be raised regarding requirements relating to COVID-19, such as vaccination requirements. 
 
“CCI argued that the Act is a significant protection of religious freedom in the area of health care and should not be amended in any way.  Further, SB 1169 is overly broad and could lead to misinterpretation and abuse of the Act.
 
“Due to procedural rules, the current bill has a delayed effective date of June 1, 2022.  We anticipate that the Illinois General Assembly will vote on this issue again in January 2022 to allow for an immediate effective date.”
 
“Regardless of someone’s political affiliation, most of us would agree that removing parents from critical and life altering decisions in their child’s life is not a good direction,” Jelinek says, noting that the criteria of “health” is being used to justify governmental intrusion into parental rights.
 
“What happens,” he asks, “when (they decide) that religion causes too much guilt in kids …  (and that the government) needs to liberate them?”
 
During a Virginia gubernatorial debate on Sept. 29 this year, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe stated, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
 
That all too well sums up the current approach to education taken by many legislators. 

 

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