3.21.2011

Court-Ordering Public School Will Not Restore a Child's Family

Last week New Hampshire’s judicial system ordered a child to attend public school though she was thriving under home schooling. Because her divorced parents disagreed on her form of education, a NH family court intervened, and determined that the child should go to public school instead. The Republic reported: “The New Hampshire Supreme Court says a lower court acted appropriately in ordering an 11-year-old girl to attend public school after her father claimed his ex-wife’s strict Christian teachings were socially isolating the child.” A court appointed guardian ad litem and a school guidance counselor agreed, and the court followed their recommendation for termination of homeschooling for the child.

In response to the NH Supreme Court ruling ADF-allied attorney John Anthony Simmons stated that in addition to the obvious family concerns, there are serious religious liberty issues at stake in this case: “Parents have a fundamental right to make educational choices for their children. Courts can settle disputes, but they cannot legitimately order a child into a government-run school on the basis that her religious views need to be mixed with other views. That’s precisely what the lower court admitted it was doing. The lower court held the Christian faith of this mother and daughter against them. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court ignored this issue and wrote this off as a ‘parent versus parent’ issue without recognizing the very real underlying threat to religious liberty.” See the full news release at http://www.adfmedia.org/News/PRDetail/4500; and the court’s opinion is available at www.telladf.org/userdocs/KurowskiOpinion.pdf.

Because of the dispute between her parents which led first to their divorce, and now to a disruption of her education, a young girl has now become a pawn in the battle for parenting and religious liberty. When parents destroy their marriage, and the child’s family stability as a result, they invite legal intervention that can be even more damaging to a child. In this case, it has forced a student into a new educational situation. That type of court order does not restore the child, or the family.

3 comments:

  1. RE: John Anthony: “Parents have a fundamental right to make educational choices for their children. Courts can settle disputes, but they cannot legitimately order a child into a government-run school on the basis that her religious views need to be mixed with other views. That’s precisely what the lower court admitted it was doing..."

    After reading the full court opinion, it would seem they did not merely base the decision on the idea that the daughter's beliefs should be "mixed with other views" but found that the daughter lacked the ability to engage in socialization with others when faced with situations outside the training she was given by the mother.

    Though I am a stern supporter of homeschooling and the right to Christian education, I can understand the counts ruling in this issue because they were dealing with two parents who had equal rights and apposing ideas about the best educational interests of the child. In such a case, the secular court based its decision on the socialization issue, in what might otherwise be a stalemate regarding the parental tug of war in the courts--and perhaps it was right in doing so.

    First, Christians should look upon this as yet another example of the pitfalls in store for those who choose to enter into a marriage with someone who does not share the same beliefs. That being said, a public education can still be supplemented at home with religious training.

    From the opinion information, it does appear that the mother exercised a stifling degree of religious indoctrination which inhibited free thinking and fostered socialization issues.

    Call it parental intuition, but I suspect that the future of such a child would likely include a serious rebellion against her faith in the future if it becomes the source of repeated social conflict among peers.

    It's unclear to me that the court made a poor decision in this case because both parents do have equal rights, and there were finding which tilted the scale. I am hopeful that in this instance, a bright future as a socially viable individual, and a Christian, is in store for the child.

    While Christian parents are quick to respond with guttural frenzy when courts breech the sacred walls of religious training and educational rights of parents, we need to stop to contemplate whether or not such intrusion is based on religious grounds, or not. In this case, the court was clear. It was not a religious decision, but a decision based on the evidence that community socialization was lacking in the development of this child.

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  3. This decision should be reversed as it is unconstitutional. By considering the reilgion as a deciding factor the court infringed upon the mother's first Amendment rights. As the author correctly pointed out, "Parents have a fundamental right to make educational choices for their children. Courts can settle disputes, but they cannot legitimately order a child into a government-run school on the basis that her religious views need to be mixed with other views." The court should've considered other factors beside religion in making this determination. As it stands it's an unconstitutional infringement on the mother's first amendemtn rights.

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