Virginia’s Religious Exemption from School, and the Rights of Parents to protect their children’s souls

I read Melissa Nix’s article about the religious exemption with great interest. The position is stated repeatedly in the article that it is the state’s responsibility or obligation to educate children. Education is the fundamental right and duty of parents, not the state. State schools exist only to help them. Charles Haynes refers to “society’s compelling interest in protecting the safety and health of its children,” as if parents are merely caretakers on behalf of society. Then, as enemies of parental rights often do, Haynes cites the extreme example of child abuse to imply that the State has the right to interfere in all parental decisions.
The precedent of limiting First Amendment rights was set by the case of Reynolds vs. United States (1879), regarding polygamy in Mormonism. Since then, advocates of the Nanny State have increasingly encroached on First Amendment rights by citing the “compelling interest” Haynes refers to. This same “compelling interest” has been used by liberal lawyers and lawmakers to try and break the Seal of the Confessional.
The problem with talking about “rights,” or even “safety” and “health” is that all such judgements require standards. As C. S. Lewis demonstrates in _The Abolition of Man_, such standards are impossible without reference to at least a binding Natural Law, if not a supernatural Lawgiver. As it is, in a pluralistic society, we are faced with the question of one person’s definition of “health and safety” versus another person’s. One of the greatest dangers in a democratic society is the “tyranny of the majority.”
For example, some people believe that having children is “selfish,” and that one of the greatest evils facing the world is so-called “overpopulation.” Others of us believe that having children is one of the most selfless acts possible, and that the epitome of selfishness is to prevent children from coming into this world just to improve one’s own standard of living.
When does this “compelling interest” over parental rights stop? If the state has the right to tell parents what decisions to make about their children’s “health and safety,” does that include forced sterilization of those of us who have genetic defects?
Nix observes, “Others say elected and school officials have abdicated their responsibility to children.” In context, she appears to mean by allowing religious exemptions. Many parents, both home-schoolers and those with children in schools, would invert that judgement.
Yes, administrators and officials have *long* abdicated their responsibilities. One need only read the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder or L. M. Montgomery to see that public schools have always been horrible, brutal environments. People talk about “social skills,” when what they mean, “Learning to disobey rules by talking in class,” or, “enduring constant bullying and ridicule from other students.”
And that is only the danger posed by other students. People make a big deal about cases of homosexual priests molesting teenaged boys, as if this is something unique to the Catholic priesthood. The percentage there is, at most, 5% (still a horribly high number). Many of the statistics used for Catholic priests unfairly encompass generations of diocesan records to make the numbers sound larger than they actually are. Many such cases, after much investigation, turn out to be fabrications.
Conversely, according to ERIC Digests, a 1993 study by the Association of University Women found that one in four females and one in four males has been sexually harassed by a school employee, but most of those students never reported the harrassment. In a 1998 Education Week study of 244 cases, only 2 were found to be fabricated. These studies only involved recent cases.
Public schools require vaccinations. Most modern vaccines are made using aborted fetal tissue. Some have ethical alternatives, but there are no alternatives (in the US) for Rubella, chickenpox or hepatitis-B. These vaccines are required by public schools, and parents who refuse them are vilified. This past summer, the Pontifical Academy for Life finally issued a statement that declares it a mortal sin for Catholics to use such vaccines, and a grave injustice for the state to force Catholics to use them (the US is the only country that does not have ethical alternatives to these vaccines). Therefore, compulsory education is now a fundamental violation of the First Amendment for at least every Catholic. Again, whose “compelling interest” takes precedence? The interest of the State in getting good attendance ratings, or the interests of the unborn babies who were murdered to produce the vaccines in the first place? What about the immortal souls of the parents and children who are going to Hell for using these vaccines?
Former delegate Jim Dillard opens up the real can of worms with his statement that, “In order to have society function as a democracy, the state needs to inculcate certain values in its children.” Again, we see the socialistic claim that children “belong” to the state. But even more clear is his assumption that, in a society based upon the free exchange of ideas, it is necessary for the state to brainwash children.
What are these “values” that politicians worry children might grow up ignorant of? Evolution? “Sex” education? Abortion? Contraception?
In “Lilies that Fester,” C. S. Lewis argues that the use of education as a tool for political power or for career advancement is one of the greatest threats in modern society. You aren’t supposed to learn mathematics primarily so you can balance your checkbook. That is merely a side-benefit. The main purpose of learning mathematics is to appreciate the order of the cosmos and delve into the mystery of God. Unless that is the primary purpose of education, then education is merely brainwashing by a secularist state.


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