A proposed constitutional amendment that would secure the right of parents to guide the upbringing of their children has been approved by the Missouri House of Representatives. House members have given final approval to House Joint Resolution 56, the Missouri Parental Rights Amendment, by a vote of 112-36. The
measure is sponsored by Representative Todd Richardson
of Poplar Bluff.
The Parental Rights Amendment would spell out in the Bill of Rights of Missouri's Constitution that "parents have a fundamental right to exercise exclusive control over the care, custody, and upbringing of their minor children."
Parents would be constitutionally guaranteed the right to make decisions "involving the discipline, education, religious instruction, health, medical care, place of habitation, and general well-being" of their children. State and local officials would be prohibited from interfering with parental decisions except in express circumstances where the life, health, or safety of a child is in jeopardy.
"My purpose here is to take an essential right that is universally recognized and enshrine it in our state constitution," Representative Richardson says. "One of the ways you protect against overreaching government is by delineating fundamental rights in the constitution."
A central thrust of the joint resolution is to provide constitutional protection to the prerogative of parents to home educate their children or place them in private or parochial schools. The amendment would prohibit the state from dictating "through rule or regulation or other
device" the content of curriculum to be used in private schools or in home education settings.
The Parental Rights Amendment would prevent the state from requiring that private schools or home educators include in their curriculum "any concept, topic, or practice" which conflicts with their religious doctrines or beliefs. This is language currently found in state law which would be elevated to the supreme law of the state constitution.
A major weakness of prior proposals to protect parental rights has been the failure to acknowledge the critical need for the state to protect the welfare of children in
legitimate instances of child abuse and neglect, including episodes of sexual abuse. House Joint Resolution 56 preserves the operation of existing state law in the areas of child welfare and juvenile justice. However, it clarifies that custody of a child cannot be modified without due process in a court of law.
Federal courts have recognized parental rights for nearly 100 years, defining them as a liberty interest conferred by the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court went even further in the 2000 case of Troxel v. Granvill
e, declaring that the privilege of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children is a "fundamental right."
In that case, the High Court said: "The Due Process Clause does not permit a state to infringe on the fundamental right of parents to make childrearing decisions simply because a state judge believes a 'better' decision could be made."
However, the parental rights principles enunciated by federal courts are not cited or referenced anywhere in the federal or state constitution, and could be weakened or abandoned by federal judges who are unsympathetic to the traditional family structure and choose to champion a "children's rights" philosophy.
The importance of preserving the instructional independence of home school families was illustrated vividly by the recent political asylum case of the Romeike family
. Uwe and Hannelore Romeike home educated their children in Germany. Government officials harassed the family for failing to enroll their children in the public schools. Punitive fines were imposed on the family, and state officials threatened to remove custody of the children from the family.
After fleeing to the United States, the family was granted political asylum by a U.S. immigration judge. However,
the Obama Administration appealed that decision in federal courts. The Justice Department disregarded parental rights precedents in federal case law, and instead argued that laws that prohibit home education "do not violate basic human rights."
The Romeike family appealed an unfavorable decision by the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case. It appeared that Uwe and Hannelore Romeike and their six
children would be deported.
At the last minute, in a surprising turnabout, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that they were granting the family "indefinite deferred action status." Michael Farris, President of the Home School Legal Defense Association, said he believed the public outcry regarding the case prompted the Obama Administration to reverse course.
Should the Missouri Senate approve House Joint Resolution 56, it would be submitted to a vote of the people on a statewide ballot. The proposition would be voted on in the November general election, unless the Governor chose to place it on the August primary ballot.
Below you will find the votes of members of the House of Representatives on the Parental Rights Amendment. You can let your state representative know how you feel about his or her vote by using this link:Your State Representative
State Representatives voting YES on House Joint Resolution 56:
Allen, Anderson, Austin, Bahr, Barnes, Bernskoetteer, Berry, Black, Brattin, Brown, Burlison, Cierpiot, Conway (Kathie), Cookson, Cornejo, Cox, Crawford, Cross, Curtman, Davis, Diehl, Dorhman, Dugger, Ellington, Elmer, Engler, Englund, Entlicher, Fitzpatrick, Fitzwater, Flanigan, Fraker, Frame,
Franklin, Frederick, Funderburk, Gannon, Gatschenberger, Gosen, Grisamore, Guernsey, Haahr, Haefner, Hampton, Hansen, Harris, Hicks, Higdon, Hinson, Hoskins, Hough, Houghton, Hurst, Johnson, Jones (Caleb), Jones (Tim), Justus, Kelley (Mike), Koenig, Kolkmeyer, Korman, LaFaver, Lair, Lant, Lauer, Leara, Lichtenegger, Love, Lynch, Mayfield, McCaherty, McGaugh, McKenna, Messenger, Miller, Molendorp, Moon, Morris, Muntzel, Neely, Parkinson, Pfautsch, Phillips, Pogue, Redmon, Rehder, Reiboldt, Remole, Rhoads, Richardson, Riddle, Roorda, Ross, Rowden, Rowland, Scharnhorst, Schatz, Schieber, Schieffer, Shull, Shumake, Solon, Sommer, Spencer, Stream, Swan, Thomson,
Torpey, Walker, White, Wieland, and Wood
State Representatives voting NO on HJR 56:
Burns, Butler, Carpenter, Colona, Curtis, Dunn, English, Gardner, Hubbard, Hummel, Kelly (Chris), Kirkton, Kratky, Marshall, May, McCann Beatty, McDonald, McManus, Meredith, Mims, Mitten, Montecillo, Morgan, Nichols, Norr, Otto, Pace, Peters, Pierson, Rizzo, Schupp, Smith, Swearingen, Walton Gray, Webber, and Wright
State Representatives who were absent with leave:
Anders, Conway (Pat), Ellinger, Hodges, Keeney, McNeil, Neth, Newman, Pike, Runions, Wilson, and Zerr