A bill is making its way through the Missouri General Assembly that would add the protection of certain parental rights to the state constitution. The joint resolution has passed the House of Representatives and was the subject of a Senate hearing this week. If it passes the Senate, the measure will go to the voters in November.
Specifically, the new constitutional amendment would affirm that a parent has the fundamental right to make life decisions for his or her minor child. Those decisions fairly closely follow the best interests of the child criteria applied in child custody matters: The parent would have control over the child’s education and religious instruction, over medical care and housing, over discipline — all the elements of a child’s upbringing that contribute to his “general well-being.”
The amendment would bar every level of state and local government from “denying or impairing” these parental rights. A court of law is the only authority that can modify any of those rights, and even then only in certain circumstances.
Overall, the list of circumstances where court involvement is permitted does not include any surprises. The amendment, however, makes it clear that court involvement is not mandatory. For example, “the right can be modified by a court when a parent has been found guilty of or pleads guilty to a crime of violence against a child, abuse of a child,” or a number of other crimes against children. The list also includes a domestic violence conviction and a conviction for failure to pay child support, among others.
We’ll wrap this up in our next post.
MidMissouri.com, “Missouri measure would enshrine parental rights,” March 30, 2014
Missouri House of Representatives, HCS HJR 56 text (perfected), accessed online April 17, 2014