A friend of mine shared forward a post about new CA legislation related to children’s rights & parental obligations. The content of the shared post (a bullet list of assertions about the legislation) may be inaccurate. After a long FB conversation on the topic, my friend came back and said, “I read the whole amended bill and I stand down.” According to my friend, parental rights are protected because the bill states, “Nothing in this section shall be interpreted to limit a parent’s rights under state or federal law.”
I have not read the legislation and the post he originally shared raised a few eyebrows for me. Meaning, I’m not surprised to find out it is likely not heavily accurate. HOWEVER, ALL OF THAT SAID…parental rights are grounded in the belief that parents are most strongly motivated to do what is best by their children. In other words, children are seen as being protected by the rights of their parents. Therefore, the rights of parents and children are not opposing rights, but rather, complimentary rights. Given this, damage done to either is likely to put children at risk. And so, let me ruminate for a moment about the danger of trusting legislation.
The things to understand is that legislation is always written for a reason. There is the letter of the law and there is the intent or casual expectation of the law. The casual expectation is what will be talked about…the positive outcomes…what we want for the kids, etc. And legislators and lobbyists will say, “This is just about __________.” Or, in this case, “this bill does not change ________ existing laws, so don’t worry.”
When they say, don’t worry…you should perk up and pay attention. This suggests they know there is a reason to worry, or else why would they encourage you to relax and look the other way?
A law may not be a danger today, but once adopted into law, it takes on power. Politics is a game of chess, and when you are check-mated, it is often because of a Bishop that was placed twenty moves ago into just the right spot, and now you are dead.
As I said before, I haven’t read this legislation, but I’m a fan of reading the actual text and I have found every single piece of proposed legislation that I’ve read to be distinctly different from how it is being promoted. In two words: Details Matter. Even further, to predict true intent, we have to look at details not as they come across to the casual observer…but as they can perform as legal tools in the future, under unexpected (or perhaps predicted) circumstances.
As yourself, why did he move his Bishop to that spot and ignore it for the next ten moves? Why is that castle sitting so very still? What about that pawn, seemingly ignored? You can take it to the bank: Politics is Chess.
There is also, of course, the concept of setting a precedent. Just because parental right laws are strong today does not mean they are not, and will not, come under aggressive attack in the near future. If an attorney can point to an existing piece of legislation that says ____________, they can say, “Clearly, the scope of parental rights need to be changed. Just look at what the people of CA voted for in 2017. They wanted guarantees for children when they passed this piece of legislation, so now, we must now bring parental rights into accordance with these publicly demanded needs and rights for children.”
I have worked with children my whole life and I want children to be protected. But, protection comes in the form of, “this is wrong.” It does NOT come in the form of, “this is right.”
We can say, “You are not allowed to beat your child.”
We should not say, “You must take parenting classes and use the ascribed methods to raise your child.”
We can say, “You are not allowed to lock your child in their home for years.”
We should not say, “You must put your 3 year old child into preschool.”
Do you see the difference between setting limits on behavior that is injurious and setting demands or expectations or requirements on how parents DO parent? That is the “dominant culture” running roughshod over the “minority cultures” within our melting pot of a country…and it’s a dangerously slippery slope.