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I’m going to start this post with a proposition:

Once (most) people find out what rights actually are ,  they absolutely hate the idea.

 I bring this up as a way to begin answering Lymaree’s question from yesterday;  why should we put up with people who use faith  healing or won’t vaccinate their children?  We already proscribe all kinds of things families do (she included “hitting,” which is actually not the case).  Don’t I think we should move against “actual abuse?”

Let’s start with a definition.

Rights are restrictions on government power, and that is all they are.

There is a lot of confusion in this country on the matter of “rights,” because we use the words in two distinct and sometimes mutually exclusive ways.

If we pass a law that says all blondes under the age of 25 will receive $100 a month until their 25th birthday, then we tend to say that blondes under the age of 25 have a “right to” $100 a month.

But this not a case of an actual right–it’s a right-in-law, or right-under-the-act.

It is a grant of benefit that can be given or taken away.

Real rights–natural rights, individual rights–can neither be given  nor taken away.  They are not granted to us by the state.  The state cannot make them cease to exist.  The state’s only choice is to recognize rights or to violate them.

Rights are also individual, and never anything else.  Rights inhere in the person, not the family, the tribe, the group, the clan, the…pick  your “community.”

And this means that we can never have an actual right to something somebody else has to give us–to claim we do (you have to pay for my old age pension! you have to treat my sciatica whether you want to or not!) is to declare that at least some human beings have no rights at all, that they are our slaves and exist of our use.

The classic formula of rights is that they consist of “life, liberty and property.”  Thomas Jefferson changed that to “life,  liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

The Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution exists as an attempt to codify rights–to limit the scope of government–by proscribing specific government actions. 

In outlining these prohibitions, the first thing the people who wrote the Bill of Rights did was to insure liberty of conscience in the widest sense.

They not only guaranteed that the US Government would not establish any particular religion, or any religion at all.

They guaranteed that the US Government would not be allowed to prohibit the free exercise of religion.

Freedom of conscience does not mean that you will simply be allowed to go off by yourself privately and “believe” things, or gather privately with a few friends to believe them, or even publish them and talk about them.

It means that the government will not be allowed to stop you from actually living by the light of your conscience.

Almost no religious person anywhere–and most nonreligious persons–can live by the light of her conscience.  In fact, in most religious traditions,  one cannot be a practicing member without raising your children in the faith.

Since minor children cannot be recognized to have natural rights until their majority–the actual situation on the ground is a lot more complicated than that, but leave it here–

Since minor children cannot claim natural rights until their majority, the question becomes:  who has the right to raise the child?

The answer to this has always been:  the parents, by the light of whatever they deem right or reasonable.

Traditionally, therefore, government has been prohibited from interfering  in the lives of families except in very, very extreme situations.

The rule has been that parents can make any decision for their children that will not most likely result in permanent and significant physical disability or death.

Note all the qualifiers in that sentence. This is a very difficult standard to meet.  In most cases, families would have absolutely nothing to fear from teachers, emergency rooms, doctors and nurses, social workers, or other “helpers” who might disapprove of the way they are raising their children.

So, am I opposed to moving against “actual abuse”?

Well, no–


a) “abuse” is defined as above


b) anybody accused of abuse has full due process rights before they are convicted of it and before any punishment is meted out because of it


c) it is understood up front that having your child removed from your home is punishment, as is being required to meet with your child only under supervision.

In other words, I’d forbid government from  making most of the regulations it has recently made concerning child abuse and neglect, and I’d require any such charges to be properly adjudicated in regular criminal courts.


Because what we have now is this:

1) complaints can be filed anonymously

2) CPS must respond to such complaints, and BECAUSE such complaints have been made–with no proof, no evidence, no probably cause–

3) They are empowered to enter your home without a warrant

4) to search through  your house, enter all rooms, open all drawers and cabinets, to go through your papers and

5) to access all your child’s medical and educational records, and also the medical and educational records of any other minor in the house

And in the meantime

1) you do NOT have the right to remain silent (this is on its way to the Supreme Court as we speak, but one of the social wo rkers in the case complained that “if we have to give people their Constitutional rights, we couldn’t do our work)

2)  you do NOT have the right to confront your accusers (not only can complaints be filed anonymously, but even if the complainant gave his name, the CPS is not allowed to release it to you or your attorneys)

3) you do NOT have the right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures

4) you do NOT have the right to a jury trial (family courts tend to be run by judges alone)

5) and  you only SORT OF have the right to know the charges against  you.  That’s because you may be charged with “abuse” or “neglect,” but the DEFINITIONS of “abuse” or “neglect” amount to “whatever the social worker says it is.” 

Before you jump in and say that that isn’t really the definition, the definition is “the best interests of the child,” I’d like to point out that the “best interests of the child” is a dodge, and nothing more.

“The best interests of the child” by what standard?

If you start from the premise that the “best interests of the child” consist of what your social work textbook said in sophomore year, then your determination will be one thing.

If you start from the premise that the “best interests of the child” consist of his following the Word of God so that he doesn’t have to endure a raging torment in Hell for all eternity, then your determination will be something else altogether.

“The best interests of the child” is just pleasant sounding jargon meant to hide the fact that what you’re trying to do is to impose your own subjective opinion on other people’s families, and to enforce it by law.

And if that all isn’t bad enough–

What happens if the complaint was a spite complaint (the estimate is that about a third are) and the worst happens?

Back in the nineties, there was a case in Pennsylania.  Defendant A lived next door to a man with whom he was having long and acrimonious boundary disputes.  This man–Complainant B–called in to CPS and accused Defendant A of sexually abusing his six year old son, Victim C.

In spite of the fact that there was no evidence of any kind that sexual abuse, or any abuse, had occurred,  social workers immediately removed Victim C from Defendant A’s care and put him in foster care.

Several weeks later, Defendant A finally managed to get the family court to admit that a mistake had been made and have Victim C returned to his own home–but it was too late.

Victim C–who, up until the time of the spite complainant, had never known anything but love and kindness and safety–had been raped in foster care, and was HIV positive.

Defendant A tried to sue and was told that Pennsylvania law shielded CPS from lawsuits.

Defendant A then took his case all the way to the Supreme Court, which decided that Pennsylvania had a “compelling state interest” in this system and that therefore the denial of the right to sue must stand.

In other words, CPS can violate every single Constitutional right you thought you had, punish you (and your child) before you’ve been convicted of anything and without any objective evidence whatsoever, destroy your family and finally disable your child for life or even kill him–and you can’t even sue.

(By the way–CPS can also violate your right to free speech and free press.  It’s fairly common, in cases where they are forced to admit that they’ve made a mistake, for the family judge to impose a gag order on the defendants as a condition of return of custody.)

So, yes, I do know we already outlaw all kinds of things in families, and my response is that I don’t think we should. 

I not only want the right of parents to decide for themselves whether to vaccinate or to use faith healing to stand, I want to cut back the state’s ability to regulate most of the child-family behavior they now regulate.

But in this case, the simple fact is that the system is endangering far more children than it is protecting,

And in the cases of faith healing and vaccination, government strong arming would prevent almost no harm at all. 

In most years, the number of children who die because they have not been vaccinated or because their families chose faith healing is zero.

Most unvaccinated children never catch the diseases they have been vaccinated against, and in the few cases where they do, they don’t usually die from them.  What’s more, if YOUR child has been vaccinated, he won’t catch even a very communicable disease from such an unvaccinated child unless the population of the unvaccinated in your area has reached a critical mass that is actually quite high.

The only time I ever heard of that even possibly  happening was in an upscale, high-educational-attainment community in Colorado about ten years ago.  And in that case, in spite of the fact that the critical threshhold was assumed to have been reached, there were no deaths and seem to have been no serious illnesses in children vaccinated or not.

If you think about t his, it only makes sense.  In the early days of vaccination, the chances were good that if you got vaccine at all, you were one of the very few in the community who did so.  If vaccination didn’t work more often than not even under those conditions, we’d have given up the practice as a bad job a couple of centuries ago.

So yes, there is more danger in forbidding these practices, or trying to regulat them, than there is in accepting that every once in a while, an individual will be hurt by them.

We are all of us hurt, and badly hurt, when we give yet another excuse to the people who are out there trying to curtail and deny individual rights–and they are always out there, and they never need much of an excuse.

Accepting rights means accepting the fact that they will protect people who are doing things you think are morally wrong and completely abhorent–and that you have no right to intervene and stop them,  no matter how you feel.

Written by janeh

July 10th, 2013 at 8:13 am

Posted in Uncategorized

9 Responses to 'Right'

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  1. Well, I admit I”m a little bit confused.

    I did not advocate any definition of abuse that differs from yours. What I do object to is non-treatment of children who are in danger of death, from diabetes, cancer, infectious disease, etc. I agree that any religious shit short of that is the parents’ business, not the state’s. I too decry the lack of due process involved in the whole CPS debacle. Too many children are taken, and still somehow it’s the wrong ones, with some left to die of neglect or active abuse, with CPS insulated against any consequences of malfeasance.

    My question was, do you advocate letting parents NOT treat in the situation of imminent death?

    Here’s the thing…you’re asking the same society who wants to regulate the life of any fetus to ignore the lives of actual children. The cognitive disconnect (in society) there is pretty dramatic.

    We limit religious practice too, when it conflicts with the needs of society. Rastafarians aren’t supposed to use ganja in their ceremonies, and Santeria practitioners aren’t supposed to sacrifice animals. If someone’s religion requires they kidnap mystery authors and cut their throats during services, we’d say, “um, no. Sorry. Can’t do it.” Free exercise of conscience be damned.

    I don’t see why “let my children die because God” should be excused from that. We don’t let non-religious parents neglect their children to death. That’s the limit, for me. Imminent death.


    10 Jul 13 at 11:53 am

  2. Well, in the first place, we DO let the Rastafarians smoke ganja and the Santeria sacrifice chickens. The Santeria won their court case and there’s actually a federal law, the Religious Freedom Rsetoration Act, that allows for the use of controlled substances in religious ceremonie.

    Second, what ever is going on with faith healing parents, it is in no way neglect. These people honesty believe not only that standard .edicine doesn’t work, but that it’s actively harmful physically as well as spiritually. And they go to enormous trouble and expense to treat their children’s illness in the way they trust.

    And I would gladly make an exception for i..inent physical death IF we could restrict it to that. But I don’t think we can, an freedom of conscience will always come first for me.
    ‘t think we can,


    10 Jul 13 at 12:14 pm

  3. You’re no fun! There is no money and no sense of lording it over your fellow citizens in natural rights. After all, life, liberty and property mostly involve the government not doing anything–or, at best, maintaining police and courts to restrict theft and murder.

    But “Four Freedoms” type rights, or the “Second Bill of Rights” calls for lots and lots of legislators and bureaucrats to pay off friends–and enemies–and give people things they get to take from someone else. By the time you’ve established a right not to be offended there’s just no limit to what the ruling class can claim authority over.

    Which is why “life, liberty and property” are for a moment, but “bread and circuses” will be with us to the end of time.

    The man who called economics the dismal science must have believed the study of political history to be an art.


    10 Jul 13 at 2:21 pm

  4. Here in Oz, we have something called the “Human Rights Commission”, created allegedly in response to some UN resolution to which Australian bureaucrats bound the Australian Government and the Australian people without reference to either.

    It has developed (at warp speed) into an overweening, activist, left-wing bureaucracy intent on finding and enforcing new artificial “rights” and to suppressing or abolishing all our natural rights.

    When the current Australian government recently tried to introduce punitive legislation to control the “evil Murdoch hate media”, something that would have virtually destroyed the concept of a free press in this country, our Human Rights Commission was nowhere to be seen or heard. Leftists love it.

    (Lest it not receive the widest distribution it deserves, here’s Delingpole on the Brits’ current anti-Murdoch pogram: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/author/jamesdelingpole/ . Tools indeed.)


    10 Jul 13 at 11:08 pm

  5. Mique

    11 Jul 13 at 12:44 am

  6. What is the “correct” way to respond to a terminal disease? To take every option modern medicine has to offer? To follow alternative medicine? To pray leave the outcome up to God? To commit suicide/murder to prevent oneself/one’s child from going through the natural disease process? Or some combination of these, or others I haven’t thought about?

    This decision has to be made by the individual or, for a child or someone who cannot communicate or decide, by the person responsible – parent or guardian. There has to be protection against actively causing death, since enabling each individual to decide whether or not to kill another is dangerous to the entire fabric of society. To force an individual to take a particular route to stay alive is, well, less clear. I think myself that the difficult situation we have now in which it takes a court case, really, to force medical care on a child who doesn’t want it, or who is too young to have an opinion and whose parents don’t want it. Most such cases should be left to the judgement of the parents.

    And, yes, some children will die who wouldn’t have if they’d been born to parents with different beliefs. Choosing to participate in a vaccination program means that some parents – very few, admittedly – allow their children to die or at least risk death for their (the parents’) beliefs about the value of vaccination.

    Some situations are tragic and there are no win-win conclusions. It’s horrific that a child should die from a disease that is usually treatable, but the alternative – having someone outside the family or the individual decide on the appropriate treatment and response and then enforce it – is worse. Far worse.


    11 Jul 13 at 9:35 am

  7. You know those stories where someone gets to choose to have a perfect society if one child gets tortured to death? I always have said it’s not worth it.

    It’s not worth it to me for people to be allowed to exercise the kinds of beliefs that let children die in screaming agony from meningitis, or whooping cough, or cancer, or even feel like crap and sink into coma from diabetes or leukemia.

    So you (impersonal) think it endangers their immortal soul to permit medical treatment? They’ll have the rest of their lives to deal with it and seek forgiveness. To let a child suffer and die where there is a proven, often very easy treatment is a terrible sin in my book.


    11 Jul 13 at 11:24 am

  8. Well, two things.

    First, a lot of these beliefs have nothing to do with religion.

    The anti-vac movement is entirely secular, as far as I can see. And people other than religious people are convinced that one treatment or the other is not helpful or actively harmful.

    The issue is not religion, but who has the right to make decisions for the child. If the parents are to be allowed to make only those decisions the state approves of, then the state by definition “owns” the child and the parents are allowed custody only on sufferance.

    If that is the case, then the state may take the child and destroy the family any time it wants to for any reason whatsoever.

    It will not stop–it has NEVER stopped–at the hard cases. Harm WILL be continually redefined until it comes to mean anything the state doesn’t like.

    Consider the family that lost custody, back in the 1990s in Florida, because they refused to allow their children to watch television.

    I’m not looking for a perfect society.

    I’m looking for a MINIMALLY ACCEPTABLE society, and such a minimally acceptable society is not possible on the conditions you’re proposing.

    You want to exchange one or two hard cases a year for literally thousands of families destroyed and lives ruined.

    And that seems to me a far bigger sin.


    11 Jul 13 at 11:36 am

  9. And forcing vaccination when you know that some children will be disabled or dead from side effects isn’t effectively allowing one child to die for the creation of a better society? Admittedly, side effects to most vaccines are usually minor, but the one child in a million or so who dies does so for the sake of the greater good of most children in the society.

    There are no good and easy answers to these issues. No solutions that don’t end up with really bad outcomes in some cases.


    11 Jul 13 at 3:29 pm

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