In February, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) introduced a resolution, House Resolution 854, to call for the US Senate to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (the Convention, or CRC). In so doing, she once more opened the door—or at least knocked on it—for international law to override parental rights in our country.
On November 20, 1989, the UN General Assembly approved the CRC and opened it for ratification. Within ten months, the requisite 20 nations had adopted the treaty, bringing it into force. Since then, every nation except the United States has ratified the CRC.
The United States signed the treaty under President Bill Clinton in 1995, signaling our intention to become a party to it. But it has never been ratified with the constitutionally required consent of two-thirds of the Senate as our Constitution requires, so we remain the lone holdout.
But there are three solid reasons we cannot, we must not, join the Convention.
Treaty Provisions: ‘Best Interest’ Standard
The first reason we must not ratify the CRC is the content of the treaty itself. While on the surface it appears to be a well-intentioned set of aspirations to bring freedom and safety to children around the world, the CRC contains some “poison pills” that we must not accept.
The worst of these is a provision that states, “in all matters concerning children, the best interest of the child shall be the primary consideration.”
It sounds so good. What could be better than “the best interest of the child,” right?
But for the government to make “best interest of the child” its primary consideration, it must first decide—and get to decide—what the best interest of the child actually is.
In our courts today, a judge or bureaucrat doesn’t get to make that determination without first reaching a finding that the child’s parents are unfit (abusive or negligent). Until then, American law presumes that “natural bonds of affection lead parents to act in the best interests of their child” (Parham v. J.R. (1979), emphasis added). So who decides what your child’s “best interest” is? You do, not the government.
The CRC would change that by removing this presumption that favors parents and jumping straight to the part where a judge or bureaucrat gets to decide. In every case.
There are other poison pills in the treaty, as well, such as a child’s “right to access information,” which could be used to override a parent’s efforts to protect their child from pornography or other harmful web content; or a “right to access to medical care,” which can be used to cut parents out of their child’s medical decisions even more than they already are.
But the content isn’t the only problem with the CRC.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child
The second reason we must not ratify the CRC is the Committee on the Rights of the Child (the Committee), an oversight panel set up by the provisions of the treaty. Since beginning their work in 1990, the Committee has exercised unchecked authority in deciding what the treaty does or does not mean and what nations must do to be in compliance.
Consider, for instance, the prohibition of corporal discipline. It isn’t even mentioned in the treaty. When the CRC was proposed and adopted, fewer than 10 nations worldwide had any kind of ban on the practice, and no nation expressed any concern that it violated the rights of children.
But the Committee, of its own accord and with nothing in the Convention to support it, began telling nations that they were not in compliance because they had not outlawed corporal discipline of children in every setting, including the home. As a result, dozens of nations have since enacted such laws, believing it is their international treaty obligation to do so.
Perhaps you are not a fan of corporal discipline anyway. But don’t let that distract you from the process at work here. Nations are bullied to change their laws—not to comport with the treaty they voluntarily adopted, but to please a committee that makes up the rules as they go along.
The CRC and the US Constitution
And that brings us to the third and biggest reason we must not adopt this treaty: under Article VI of our own Constitution, a ratified treaty becomes “the supreme Law of the Land.”
So ratification of this treaty, which for other nations is an aspirational statement at best (and for many, such as Iran, China, and North Korea, a mere political smokescreen), in America would have the effect of passing a massive new federal law on the family.
Today, nearly all family law is at the state level. And these statutes, as bad as some of them are, are still bound by the Constitution and our courts to respect the role of parents as their child’s first and best line of defense.
Under the CRC, those laws would become the responsibility of the United States Congress, and respect for parents would be gone. Our system—the CRC system—would then depend on judges and bureaucrats to decide what is in a child’s “best interests” as defined by Congress, and ultimately, as defined by the CRC.
No, not the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Because ratifying the Convention would leave it to that elitist, foreign committee to decide when or if our treatment of children was acceptable under the CRC.
But you and I know that parents, except in extreme cases, are the ones who love their children most and know what is best for them.
How is a foreign committee supposed to know what is best for your child better than you do?
We Steadfastly Oppose
Fortunately, there is no significant threat of the CRC being taken up by President Trump or sent to the Senate, and there is no significant threat of this Senate giving its two-thirds consent.
But as long as lawmakers like Rep. Omar want to keep bringing it back up as a great project our nation should undertake, we will lift our voice to remind them why that would be a horrible idea for our children.
Thank you for standing with us as we protect parental rights from all threats to the family, including those that come from international law.