Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Why The U.S. Should NOT Sign the CRC

Parenting News Network™by the Parenting News Network™

The United States stands alone among industrialized countries in the western world as well as many others in the third world, in having not signed onto the United Nations’s “Convention on the Rights of the Child” (CRC). This is as it should be. While on an unconsidered read, the idea of proclaiming the human rights of the child would seem to be unassailable, and the CRC’s language may read to the non-legally-trained eye as laudable, the United States should NOT sign on to this document.

Here are just some of the reasons:

– This document is a treaty, a law. And as a prospective law, it is not at all well-worded. Laws that are vague, overbroad, and not well-worded are dangerous. They can give rise to unintended interpretations and outcomes. Given the powerful status of the United States in the world, and also the delight with which other countries might enjoy claiming a violation of a treaty by the United States, this makes an ill-worded law extremely problematic.

– Article 1 of the treaty specifically permits variation in the laws setting forth the “age of majority”, specifically in instances in which the age of majority is attained earlier than age eighteen. While such variation is necessary and will occur, the United States cannot enter into a treaty effectively endorsing the laws of countries in which the age of majority for some purposes is set so low that young children may be married, forced to cease school and enter the labor market, or conscripted into the army.

– Article 2 calls for nondiscrimination based on “race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.” It also states that the child may not be discriminated against on the “basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the child’s parents, legal guardians, or family members.” This sounds good, but the umbrella list of items as to which a country may not discriminate is impossibly vague and overbroad. “Non-discrimination” could be argued to include the elimination of special assistance that the United States provides to some under its disability laws, but not others (because this “discriminates” against non-disabled individuals). The United States is one of the few industrialized countries in the world without universal health care or socialized medicine, so this document arguably either dictates that the United States comport with the social entitlements of other countries, or else outlaws assistance to impoverished children under welfare and Medicaid laws (because this “discriminates” against other children who are not entitled to such benefits). The United States also “discriminates” in the benefits it may provide to citizens and legal aliens versus illegal immigrants. The United States also has various laws in place for child protection, that arguably would be invalid under this Article’s proscription against discrimination against children based on the “activities” of the child’s parents (e.g. in some ways it could be said that a child is being “discriminated against” if the child appropriately is removed from a household where the parents sell drugs or engage in prostitution.)

– Commentators on Article 3 have elucidated numerous problems with this Article, including, among others, that it dictates laws that must be passed by “parties” (i.e. countries) that would violate the system of federalism under U.S. Constitution, which explicitly limits the encroaching power of the federal government in numerous areas of the law, particularly those involving the welfare and education of children, that are the province of the separate States. The United States cannot sign onto a compact as to which it would be instantly in violation. This Article of the CRC also provides that “competent authorities” (an undefined term) must set the standards for institutions established for the “protection of children.” The United States can neither be placed under the dictates of third world countries regarding what constitutes a “competent authority”, nor implicitly endorse bad ideas in numerous other countries where we hold to higher standards.

– Article 4 continues the demand for laws to be passed that pose a constitutional federalism problem for the United States, as well as calls for measures to be taken to implement the treaty “to the maximum extent of [a country's] available resources”. Given that the resources of the United States are vast compared with those of signatories such as Moldavia or Kenya, and that the United States already provides far and away more financial assistance, directly and indirectly to other countries than does any other country in the world, this apparent demand in the vaguely worded Article 4 for a potentially enormous diversion of United States taxpayer resources to “the framework of international co-operation” is unacceptable.

– Articles 5 and 6 suffer from dangerous vagueness. Article 5 requires signatory countries to elevate local “customs” to a protected right as “duties” of children’s parents or guardians customs. The United States cannot endorse a treaty that would, for example, defer to “customs” such as the mutilation of children’s bodies for religious reasons. Article 6 uses the unfortunate language that every child has an inherent “right to life”, which in the United States is a phrase already well-used in the law and public discourse, signaling the anti-abortion position.

– Articles 7 and 8 include more requirements that signatory countries pass laws, in this case, to the child’s right to “a name” (a meaningless or frivolous demand in the context of the United States), but the child’s right to a “nationality”. The badly-worded provision appears to include the rule that allows other countries to interfere with U.S. citizenship and residency laws.

– Article 9 conflicts with established laws in the United States. It is not only unneeded, but also in a badly-worded way that is at once too broad and too narrow, dictates a potential demand for changes in U.S. law based on the consensus and customs of other countries. The provision arguably endorses the removal of children from the child’s parents if that removal is considered to be “in the best interests of the child”. The examples given (of child abuse, which is undefined, or parental separation) do not limit the provision to those events. In the United States, family liberty interests are a fundamental right, and we do not remove children from their families merely because some third party think the child’s “best interests” could be better served elsewhere. The government may only intervene in circumstances in which the child’s life and health require intervention.

– Article 10 appears to permit non-citizen parents and even minor children themselves to leave the United States at whim to enter into third world countries, including countries that have not signed the Hague Convention. It also potentially directly contravenes U.S. immigration laws in that it would demand that the United States allow entry by foreign national children whenever the child has a parent illegally resident in the United States, including one being held in prison. On the other hand the same Article contravenes United States asylum laws by providing that children’s right to leave another country are “subject only to such restrictions as are prescribed by law and which are necessary to protect the national security, public order (ordre public), public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others…”, implicitly endorsing human rights violations of other countries based on their “moral precepts”.

The rest of the document is equally bad. Some of these provisions are discussed at The text of the treaty can be downloaded at{612CB07E-B43F-4605-BEFB-42F92F4CF2EE}&DE=

Whether or not you agree with this or that critic, whether or not your politics falls to the left or right, liberal or conservative, you nevertheless need to appreciate that a badly worded law, open as it is to the multiple interpretations and meanings ascribed to it by others — such as the consensus of opinions by “democratic” vote of representatives of other countries whose religious, cultural, and moral beliefs regarding what is appropriate for children may be wildly adverse to yours — is a dangerous and ill-advised thing. The United States must not endorse any compact, contract, or treaty in derogation of the Constitution of the United States and its Bill of Rights. To learn more about the U.S. Constitution, see the Legal Information Institute at Cornell University at


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