Monday, July 6, 2009

What Can Parents Teach Their Kids?

I heard an hour-long radio commentary on an interesting court case in Winnipeg about a month ago. Here are the bare-bones of the case.

A 7-year-old girl went to school with neo-Nazi drawings and slogans drawn and painted all over her body. Provincial social services apprehended the girl that day, and put her into foster care.

In a court case now going on, the province is seeking to gain permanent custody of the girl on the basis that the parents are unfit to care for the girl - as demonstrated by the white supremacist body-work.

While the entire court case is fascinating, and raises several important questions, the key concern which I want to address is this: what are parents allowed to teach their children at home? So far as I can ascertain, neither the 7-year-old girl nor her parents (mother and step-father) have ever threatened members of other races or religions with physical harm, beyond the generic "go back to your own country" vitriol.

What I find interesting is that the province is arguing that the content of the parents' teaching at home is sufficient grounds to permanently remove the children (there is also a 2-year-old son involved) from the racist home. There has been (to my knowledge) no accusations that the mother or step-father physically, mentally, or verbally abused the girl - the accusation is that the indoctrination in white supremacy amounts to a form of verbal or mental abuse.

I would agree with the province in this: teaching your children to hate others is despicable. Teaching your children that other races are inferior, is despicable. Drawing neo-Nazi artwork and slogans on your children is both idiotic and, again, despicable. I deplore the beliefs of the parents, and their choice to display their beliefs on their daughter's body. I find it appalling.

But, I do not believe that this serves as sufficient cause to remove children from the home. IF there are other things going on, and the province can demonstrate parental negligence, or physical abuse, or that threats were being made against other people as a result of the parents' racist beliefs - then perhaps there are grounds for state intervention.

But if all the province has to go on is: "the beliefs the girl was being taught at home are deplorable and amount to mental abuse," then I'm afraid I have to strongly protest. Since when has the government taken upon itself the right (or duty) to determine what parents can and cannot teach their children? If a precedent is set with this young girl, where does it logically end?

Is it mental abuse to teach your children to believe in Santa Claus? After all, there is no such person, and teaching your children to believe in a lie could be construed as mental abuse.

Is the province justified in removing children from a home where children are taught that there is no God, that only idiots believe in Christianity, and that they should stay away from other children who go to church and talk about Jesus?

Should the province remove children from homes where they are taught to trust in a loving, redemptive God who created them and desires to be in relationship with them?

Is the province justified in removing children from Muslim homes where children are taught that non-Muslims are infidels and will burn in hell?

Should the province apprehend children whose parents teach them that God designed sex for marriage between one man and one woman?

Does the state have the right to mandate the beliefs of parents, and what beliefs can be taught to their children at home? I sure hope not.

I may agree that parents should not teach their children the hate-filled drivel of white supremacy. I may agree that such parents are bad parents. But the government does not have the right to determine what morals and values parents can teach their children. So unless they have some other grounds on which to take permanent state guardianship of these two children, I reluctantly hope the children are given back to their parents (or parent singular, as apparently mom and step-dad are now estranged).

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