Family Religious FreedomPrint

Calls are urgently needed to exhort Maine lawmakers to protect parental rights! A message from Scott Woodruff

Dear HSLDA Members and Friends:

Because the Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary members did not agree on what to do with LD 472 after their hearing and work session, the bill will go to the floor of both houses for debate and a vote.

Your state senator and representative need to hear from you—that you care about protecting the right of parents to raise their children!

The final vote could be very close. Your call or email could make the difference!

Action Requested

 

Please send two emails: one to your state representative and one to your senator urging them to support LD 472. In the subject line, put, “Support LD 472.”

 

Then use your own words to convey your message. Using your own words (rather than a copy-and-paste message) will make your email personal and effective. Finally, list your street and city address so they know you live in their district.

 

To find out who your senator and representative are, click here.

 

It is not necessary to identify yourself as a homeschooler because this issue affects all Maine parents equally. Keep in mind that a husband and wife are both voters—each should send an individual email!

 

Please pass this on to other parents you know!

Background

 

There are three types of citizen rights: absolute, fundamental, and ordinary. Each type gets a different kind of protection. If a right is absolute, the government can’t touch it. If a right is ordinary, the government can put virtually any restriction on it.

 

Between these two extremes are fundamental rights. When a right is labeled as fundamental, the government can restrict it only if it meets three criteria: (1) The need for a restriction must be compelling. (2) The type of restriction must be narrowly focused to meet the need. (3) And the restriction must cause the least possible actual constraint on the citizen that is required to get the job done. In the language of the courts, these three used together are called “strict scrutiny.”

 

The right to decide how your children are reared has been considered a fundamental right since at least 1925, according to the U.S. Supreme Court. (It has never been considered absolute.)

 

But in 2000, something incredibly confusing happened. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision (Troxel v. Granville) which said parental rights were fundamental but, stunningly, the Court also refused to come right out and say whether parental rights deserve the protection of strict scrutiny that all other fundamental rights receive.

 

With this deafening silence, many courts began assuming that the U.S. Constitution does not really require that a government restriction on parents pass the strict scrutiny test. Since then, more than 25 courts have refused to treat the rights of parents as deserving of strict scrutiny. In effect, those courts treated the rights of parents as if they had been downgraded to ordinary rights.

 

This “downgrading” has not happened in Maine courts—at least not yet. But as of today, there is absolutely nothing that would prevent a Maine judge from deciding to downgrade your right to rear your kids to an ordinary right and take away strict scrutiny protection. This would be a crushing blow to normal family relationships.

 

Think of how the government regulates welfare benefits, driver’s licenses, banks and insurance companies—piles and piles of regulations! These regulations are rarely overturned because they restrict rights that are merely ordinary. That is how the government would be empowered to regulate parenting if parental rights are downgraded to ordinary.

 

Scotland recently treated parental rights as ordinary—and passed a law assigning a government agent to supervise every parent-child relationship.

How the U.S. Constitution is interpreted by judges will vary over time. But the U.S. Constitution, thankfully, is not the only source of citizen rights! State legislatures can—and often do—enact their own laws to protect rights. In fact, 10 states have decided to put parental rights on the books rather than let them toss in the wind with every new judicial decision.

Now it’s Maine’s turn. LD 472 is a simple, straightforward, uncomplicated solution. It puts into black and white that the rights of parents are fundamental and deserve the protection of strict scrutiny.

Because LD 472 merely puts into law what the Maine Supreme Court has already said (in Rideout v. Riendeau, for example), its enactment would actually cause no change whatsoever. Nor is it intended to cause change. It is intended to prevent a harmful change—the downgrading of parental rights in Maine to ordinary. It’s like a seatbelt—most of the time it makes no difference, but if you are in an accident, it could save you. LD 472 protects your right to raise your kids from the “accident” of a judge in Maine deciding it’s time to downgrade parental rights.

LD 472 gives parents no new rights. Parents won’t be able to do anything after its enactment that they could not before its enactment. It won’t impact compulsory school attendance laws, child labor laws, or child abuse-neglect laws because those all pass the strict scrutiny test, as is universally recognized.

 

(A technical note: the text of LD 472 that you will currently see on websites is not the final version. The sponsor is going to amend it to fully incorporate strict scrutiny protection.)

For additional detail, I invite you to read the written testimony I submitted to the committee on May 2.

Homeschoolers of Maine is united with HSLDA in supporting LD 472. Thank you for standing with us for freedom!

 

Sincerely,

 Scott Woodruff