Innocent until Proven Guilty

Innocent until proven guilty. Even elementary school students can tell you this is one of the cornerstones on which our nation is built.

So how is it parents can be added to a child abuse register without first having a hearing and a chance to defend themselves? To be listed as a sex offender, one must be found guilty of a crime in a court of law. But no such requirement exists to be labelled a child abuser. How can this be?

How is it an investigator can intrude into a family’s home with no evidence, no warrant, and only an anonymous phone call? For all they know, the caller was a teenage prankster. Or, more likely, an unhappy ex-lover or spouse.

These are rhetorical questions. We don’t need them answered; we need them stopped.

That’s why our president, Jim Mason, attended a policy summit of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) last week in Arizona.

He presented to lawmakers and other policy shapers our concerns about threats to parental rights, especially centering on these two concerns. And he took with him model language that will address both issues—due process prior to a child abuse registry listing, and eliminating anonymous hotline calls.

And we are already seeing results.

Before the ALEC conference concluded, before Jim could get on the plane to return home, a Colorado lawmaker had already contacted me expressing interest in filing family rights bills, including our model to require due process.

We’re talking with lawmakers in other states as well, including Indiana and Florida, to resume efforts to pass parental rights legislation that we started (or continued) last year but didn’t quite pass.

And we’re working alongside allies from across the aisle on these reform efforts. While the lawmaker I’ve spoken with is in the minority party, there is every reason to expect broad bipartisan support when the bills reach the legislature in January.

The Supreme Court has consistently upheld a “private realm of family life which the state cannot enter.” Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158 (1944), at 165. But that realm is no longer as secure as it once was or as safe as it needs to be.

Families in America—including, perhaps, many of yours—have experienced the trauma of an anonymous, false report, or even being added to the state registry without a hearing.

Working with allies from across the political spectrum and with lawmakers in a growing number of states, we are ready to turn the tide and see innocent families once again safe in their “private realm.”

Over the next few weeks, things will rightly slow down for the holidays—a slow down we welcome, along with many of you.

But when we turn the calendar to 2020, we will hit the ground running and continue the long struggle to preserve your family and your parental rights.

Thank you for standing with us for that “private realm of family life.”


Michael Ramey

Executive Director