Kenneth Paschal: Government needs to stop hurting Alabama families

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Parental rights in Alabama are under assault. These fundamental rights are consistently treated as “ordinary” by federal and state government, which essentially provides government with unlimited power to undermine the family unit.

We all know laws and the court system are intended to protect citizens, but when it comes to families, husbands and wives, and fathers and mothers, laws and their enforcers can sometimes become harmful instigators. This harms children, parents, families and society.

Power over the family unit is best placed in the hands of the parents not government.

In 2011, Senate Joint Resolution 65 (SJR 65) was approved by the Alabama legislature, which requires proper proof of harm before the government will intervene in parental decision-making. (As acknowledged by the U.S. Supreme Court in Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972), that held, “The primary role of the parents in the upbringing of their children is now established beyond debate as an enduring American tradition.”)

The signing of SJR 65 sent a strong message to Washington. The state of Alabama acknowledged the fundamental right (God-given) of parents (meaning, granted by God and cannot be take away without compelling reason) to direct the upbringing and education of their children, is protected by the Alabama and U.S. constitutions. The Alabama Supreme Court has declared parental rights are fundamental in prior rulings; however, the Legislature has never before defined the level of protection granted to parents.

I am appreciative of our Legislature and governor for publicly announcing to citizens a defined standard in SJR 65, “the right of the parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children is a fundamental right protected by the Constitution of the United States and the state of Alabama”.

Because SJR 65 is not codified in Alabama statutes, the result of such failure to “Secure Parents’ Fundamental Rights” is allowing the courts and other state agencies to routinely over-reach their responsibilities.

Examples include a court order stating parents are not allowed to have a glass of wine during dinner; parents not allowed to send their children to church on Wednesdays; discontinuation of homeschooling of a teenager based on an argument that he needed more diversity; a 14-year-old is not required to share health information with his or her parents.

This is why Senate Bill 135 and House Bill 213 were filed this year and why they are so important to Alabama’s families. They would protect parents’ fundamental rights (God-given) in Alabama.

We need to strongly urge our Legislature to increase the protections of family values by declaring in this State, what they have already declared to the U.S. Congress, any political subdivision of the state, or any other governmental entity or institution shall not infringe upon the fundamental rights of fit parent’s to direct the upbringing, education, and physical and mental health of his or her minor child subject to strict scrutiny without demonstrating a compelling governmental interest, as applied to the child involved, is of the highest order, and the same is narrowly tailored in the less restrictive manner.

SB 135 and HB 213 have seen opposition from the divorce industry and Alabama Association of School Boards. SB 135 is assigned to the Human and Health Services committee and chaired by Sen. Gerald Dial, a Republican and a Baptist. HB 213 is assigned to the House judiciary committee and chaired by Rep. Mike Jones, a Republican, family law attorney, and a deacon of his church.

Both bills have seen support from across the state and country to include the Homeschool community and the Alabama Federation of Republican Women (AFRW). AFRW passed a resolution in support of Parental Rights in Alabama during its Legislative Days event April 1 and 2.

Citizens of Alabama have requested weekly that Dial and Jones place these bills onto their committee agenda. The Alabama citizens’ requests so far seems to fall on deaf ears. I encourage everyone reading this to write and call their members as well as committee chairmen Dial and Jones to ask them to support these bills and bring them up before the session comes to an end.

Retired Army 1st Sgt. Kenneth Paschal is the director of governmental affairs of the Alabama Family Rights Association. Information on the organization and its efforts can be found here.

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