Panel discussion addresses importance of parental rights

PAT CROSSLEY/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Jed Estrada, brother of William Estrada, put in an appearance at the event dressed as Patrick Henry to emphasize the importance of liberty.

The legal rights of parents to choose what is best for their children are under attack, according to the members of a panel discussion held Monday night at the Genetti Hotel. Sponsored by Social Conservatives of Pennsylvania, the panel included Williams Estrada, director of federal relations with Home School Legal Defense Association; Vickie Suarez, director for Parental Rights of Pennsylvania; and Diane Gramley, president for the American Family Association of Pennsylvania.

“It’s not a Republican issue, it’s not a Democrat issue, it’s not a white or black issue, it’s not a rich or poor issue,” according to Estrada, who works in Washington, D.C. lobbying for home-school and parental rights.

Preserving liberty for future generations was an overriding theme of the speakers. Citing a Supreme Court ruling in 2000 which ruled that parental rights were not a fundamental right, Estrada said the lower courts since then have applied that ruling.

“We’re starting to see more of an increase in cases where parental rights are being taken away,” he noted.

“There is a solution to what we can do,” he said, “and this is our single biggest issue or our offense right now on Capitol Hill and in the state capitals. It’s to put parental rights into the Constitution.”

The proposed Parental Rights Amendment provides for the “liberty of parents to direct the upbringing, education and care of their children as a fundamental right.”

Many of the 100 or so people attending the event were from the home-school community and have experienced challenges to their rights. The second section of the amendment addresses the rights of parents to direct the education of their children in choosing the setting for their education.

The amendment would also guarantee that neither the state or federal government could infringe on these rights without demonstrating that “its governmental interest as applied to the person is of the highest order and not otherwise served.”

Provisions to protect children from abuse and neglect are written into the amendment, members of the panel said.

According to Estrada, the amendment has 142 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives right now, although 290 are needed to bring it for a vote. In the Senate it only has seven of the 67 needed.

He urged those attending to contact their senators and representatives and tell them to support the amendment.

Quoting the late President Ronald Reagan, Estrada said, “Freedom is never more than a generation away from extinction.”

“We all want this freedom for our children,” he said, “or we’re going to spend our sunset years telling our children what it was like to live in the United States.”

“Is it the government’s responsibility to tell parents how to raise their children,” Gramley asked, reinforcing Estrada’s view that the Constitution does not give the government that right.

Citing various ways that the government has interfered in the rights of parents to choose even what children will eat at school, Gramley especially highlighted how schools are handling gender identity issues without input from the parents.

“The best way to protect a child is to empower their parents to make the best decisions,” she said.

Suarez echoed that sentiment in speaking about her desire to raise her children in the way she feels best.

“I love liberty and I don’t like it limited,” she said.

She rallied the audience to take action and to contact their elected officials.

“Are we not going to fight for our rights,” she said. “If the government can force parents to deny their own convictions, what else would they do?”