June 12, 1995 in Nation/World

U.N. Aims To Debauch Kids? Critics Say Rights Treaty Lets Children Join Cult, Have Gay Sex, Skip Homework

Lori Montgomery Knight-Ridder
 

First, U.N. troops supposedly were coming for our guns. The latest news is worse. They’re coming for our kids.

Their duplicitous tool: the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, a 21-page international treaty, which, rumor has it, avowed child-rights advocate Hillary Rodham Clinton signed on the sly.

According to a handful of organizations representing conservative Christians, home-schoolers and other enemies of One World Government, this treaty would give your kids the right to sue you, to keep pornography, to have “homosexual sex” and to refuse to go to church.

Warning that “The New World Order Wants Your Children,” Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the conservative Eagle Forum, adds that the treaty would empower your child to refuse to do homework and to join a cult.

Federal officials and legal experts say the document would do nothing of the kind. It is a human-rights treaty that guarantees the world’s children the right to be treated fairly, they say. With some exceptions - it forbids, for example, executing children who commit crimes before they’re 18 - the treaty closely mirrors U.S. law.

But a growing drumbeat of alarming ads in Christian magazines, mass mailings and exhortations on conservative talk radio have convinced thousands of Americans that men in blue helmets are coming to usurp their parental rights.

“We see a lot of danger in this, and the media really has not covered this very much,” said Caia Mockaitis of Concerned Women for America, a Washington-based group whose founder, Beverly LaHaye, often warns listeners about the treaty on her daily show carried by about 100 Christian radio stations.

“We’ve been watching this treaty since the Bush administration days, but it wasn’t until February that the ball really started rolling,” Mockaitis said. “We knew when Bill Clinton was elected that this was something Hillary Clinton would support.”

Since the United States signed the treaty in February (by the hand of U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright, it should be noted, not Hillary Clinton), many senators have been inundated with mail and phone calls pleading with them to oppose it. Though the treaty has been signed, the Senate must ratify it before it could take effect.

Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., has logged more than 4,000 letters. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., has gotten so much mail that his staff has devoted a special mailbox to the subject, currently drawing about 150 letters a week.

And when freshman Sen. Spencer Abraham, R-Mich., took office in January, he was surprised to find this somewhat obscure treaty provoking more mail than such hot topics as proposed cuts to student loans and the nomination of Henry Foster as surgeon general.

So what is the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child?

Conceived more than a decade ago, negotiated during the Reagan administration and unanimously adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1989, the convention seeks to establish minimum standards for the treatment of children the world over.

Aimed at nations that permit child labor and look the other way when parents sell their daughters into prostitution, the convention has been signed or ratified by 180 countries, including the United States. The document is 11 signatures away from becoming the first universally accepted human rights treaty in world history. (Among the holdouts: Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Brunei and Oman.)

Nations that join the convention agree to offer their children essentially the kind of legal and social protection American kids take for granted.

The treaty says births shall be registered, children shall not be separated from their parents, children shall not face discrimination because of their race, gender, language or religion. All children under 18 will have the right to free speech, to free association, to study what they wish and to have a legitimate court hear their cases when they commit crimes or are abused or neglected.

The treaty doesn’t mean your kids can do whatever they want, federal officials said. The convention states up front that nations must “respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents … to provide … appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise by the child” of these rights.

The fear that the convention would allow your children to sue you or forbid you from teaching them at home is simply unfounded, federal officials and experts said.

“The convention is an extremely mainstream docu ment. Margaret Thatcher’s Britain and the Vatican have endorsed it,” said Jim Weill, general counsel to the Children’s Defense Fund, one of the treaty’s premier domestic advocates.

The treaty “should not be a big deal,” added Howard Davidson, director of the American Bar Association’s Center on Children and the Law. “But at a time when certain elements of the right wing are looking for targets, this is a terribly convenient one.”

Some people do have serious questions about how the treaty would work in the United States. Juvenile execution is the biggest sticking point. Half the states apply the death penalty to criminals under 18 and are unlikely to comply on what the United Nations considers a core issue.

The treaty also makes vague pronouncements about guaranteeing “child-care services” for working parents, “the right of the child to rest and leisure” and “the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health.”

No one knows quite what any of this means or how much it would cost to comply.


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