Yet again, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the summoning of Paul BeliÃ«n to a local police station are being used to whip upÂ fear in the United States.Â This time, according to the headline, it’s not just homeschooling that’s at risk, but the United States Constitution itself that is in danger.
- WorldNetDaily, Medford, Oregon,Â 12 August 2006, Constitution threatened by homeschool caseÂ Â Â Â
A couple in Brussels has been threatened with criminal neglect for schooling their children at home, and a U.S. expert on the issue told WorldNetDaily the case actually could pose a threat to the sovereignty of the U.S. Constitution.Â Â Â
That’s because if the basis for the legal arguments being made by Belgian prosecutors ever were accepted inÂ – or imposed uponÂ – the United States, that fact would make the U.N. protocol equal to the Constitution.
That’s a pretty big ‘if’ considering that the United States has not yet ratified the Convention (and the signing took place in 1995).
To try to better understand the perceivedÂ problem, I went looking for information on international law, UN conventions, and the United States Constitution, to see if anything obvious popped up.
The most promisingÂ article I found is from a Kenneth Anderson whoÂ is a research fellow at the Hoover Institute.Â Â (Both Mr. Anderson and the Hoover Institute lie on the conservative side of the political spectrum, just so’s you know.)Â Mr. Anderson’sÂ essay is titled, Foreign Law and the U.S. Constitution, and it was carried in the June/July 2005 issue of the Hoover Institute’s magazine, Policy Review.Â The essay cites the U.N. Convention, andÂ Mr. Anderson’sÂ opinion of it is:
- The only two states that have not ratified are the United States and Somalia. The Convention is a pastiche of reasonably sensible provisions governing matters of obvious transborder significance, such as trafficking in children, on the one hand, and many more which aspire to regulate, as a matter of international law, the most intimate relations between parents and children by inserting the state between them, on the other. The treaty as a whole reflects a profoundly anti-parent, pro-state view of child-raising and has been widely criticized and, indeed, ridiculed for its many bizarre provisions. These include (among many examples) that the state shall use the “protection of the law” (as against parents) to ensure that “no child shall be subjected to arbitrary . . . interference with his or her privacy . . . or correspondence.” International law prohibiting arbitrary parental interference in a childâ€™s letter-writing? This is the international agreement from which the Court draws, which (sic) such sententiousness, evidence of universal opinion regarding the juvenile death penalty? At the least, a Court honest about its deployment of sources would have found it necessary to square the Conventionâ€™s supposedly universal views on juvenile capital punishment with its views on juvenile letter-writing.
Other U.N.Â “private internationalÂ laws”Â that the U.S.Â has various relationships to are listedÂ at the U.S. State Department site:Â Family Law.Â It doesn’t appear thatÂ our country is in any rush to join these international agreements.
Private International Law is explained as, “treaties in force for the United States, other international instruments, and information on current negotiations and projects …”
Now, back to the World Net Daily article.
- What terrifies U.S. homeschool education experts is the authorities’ decision to cite the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as a legal argument.
Terrifies?Â WhyÂ are the actionsÂ of the Belgian authorities terrifying U.S. homeschool education experts?Â Belgium is ‘there,’ the U.S. is ‘here.’Â Belgium’s decision to prosecute General Tommy Franks under its law of universal jurisdictionÂ fizzled, so why are homeschool experts in the United States quaking in their boots because a controversial Belgian citizen got in dutch with the local cops?Â
I did a search for Mr. BeliÃ«n and his accuser, per the World Net Daily article, Mr. Frank Vandenbroucke.Â Â The first Flemish (Dutch dialect) result was from De Standaard Online; itÂ wasn’t on the firstÂ page of results from Google — those were all in English, apparently from the land of the free and the home of the … brave?
Babelfish’s opinion about the text was:
- The police force knocked Wednesday again in vain at huize [the house]Â of publicist Paul Belien and Flemish importance belang-politica Sandra Colen [his wife]. They wanted question Belien concerning possible racist Article that he wrote for the webmagazine brusselsjournal.com. this way compared he among others the immigrants with, carnivore ”. , apparently someone has lodged complaint from Ghent against me. I have said the agent that I refuse justify to come itself for an anonymous complaint. ‘ we live in the Soviet Union ‘, said I him (…) if the police force wants question me, they must me but to come arrest ”, says Belien on its Internet site.
And the comments?
- And right is he
- correction: he compared a certain group immigrants (certain young people) with carnivore. Nevertheless an important nuance, nietwaar [true, no?]? The title will improve also ‘the police force summon Paul Belien from’ to be called.
- Interestingly to read, this [same Kenneth AndersonÂ from above -- comments are interesting] Verblogen Americans are address a letter to the embassy of Belgium in the US.
- Gooi him but in the deepest kerker. We can such insecten missing as the plague.
- As those Kenneth Anderson real professor-in-recht [law]Â is, then I hope for him that it is [his daughter]Â which on its lap sits (photograph on its blog)…
(The Kenneth Anderson duplication was a surprise.Â I didn’t know there would be a connection until I read the blog at De Standaard.)
A second Flemish-language mention is at Blokwatch.Â The text for Peiling [Survey] 1 – Peiling 3 appears to be a recap of survey results for the Vlaams Blok [Flemish Block] political party, and the Onderwijs [Education] part is a mention of Mr. Belien being summoned to the police station.Â The cartoon reads, “Distance-learning with the Belien-Colen family.Â Â [speech balloon] Nevertheless further not looked at then your nose long is?”
AnÂ entry after the cartoonÂ is interesting.Â
- “5. Education (2) Flemish minister Frank Vandenbroucke (SP. a) has healthy aversion of the distant learning and put suffered three years a new education decree in, where obliges the parents of children who follow at home education, become sign a declaration where them recognising their children to educate in the spirit of Vn-Conventie [U.N. Convention]Â concerning the rights of the child. The family BeliÃ«n-Colen refused this sign conventie. Colen are not parliamentary inviolable, but BeliÃ«n. He came recently still in opspraak with its notorious Article ‘ gives our weapons ‘.
Despite the odd literalÂ translation syntax, it appears that perhaps Ms. Colen, as a member of parliament,Â is protected from police summonses, but Mr. Belien is not.Â “Colen is parlementair onschendbaar, maar BeliÃ«n niet.”Â That negativeÂ “niet” applies to Mr. BeliÃ«n, not Ms. Colen.Â Â Mr. BeliÃ«n’sÂ summons to the police stationÂ sounds political.
Another link to a site from the Google search using Mr. BeliÃ«n’s name brought up an interview in which one of the participants compared Belgium to the former Czechoslovakia, now theÂ Czech Republic and Slovakia.Â Partition of Belgium isÂ a concern of many Belgians, especiallyÂ because ofÂ the economic differences betweenÂ the better-off area of Flanders and the economically-depressedÂ Wallonia.Â
- Still a state reform, or a complete revision of the state structure. Tsjecho-Slowakije [Czecho-Slovakia] are from each other passionate, fortunately in a non-violent manner, by the enormous economic differences between the two country parts.’
And, from a homeschool-neutralÂ observer:
- Dalrymple’s Diaries, Part IVÂ Â Â Â Â
We found a hotel and I asked in French for a room. The receptionist replied in English and this wasnâ€™t because of my accent: she spoke to my wife, a Parisian, in English too. This was our introduction to Flemish nationalism, which proves that no country can be too small for national separatism.Â Â Â Â
Belgium is two thirds Flemish-speaking and one third French. Flanders (Flemish-speaking) is much richer than Wallonia (French-speaking), and resents the subsidies it pays to its linguistically-snobbish but economically depressed step-sibling. The Royal family is French-speaking, but is almost the only symbol of Belgian nationality. Many think the country will go the way of Czechoslovakia (not Yugoslavia): there will be an agreed separation.Â
These Flemish-language links about Mr. BeliÃ«n, though, did not appear in the first page of results.Â They didn’t appear until the second or third pages.Â Just as when the story was first reported by Mr. BeliÃ«n and his wife, the first-page results were all in English.Â
Two months after the initial report about Mr. BeliÃ«n summons, there stillÂ does not appear to be a homeschooling crisis in the Flemish-speakingÂ part of Belgium, much less a Constitutional crisis in the United States, despite the World Net Daily report of the opinionsÂ of Mr. Klicka of HSLDA, andÂ Ms. Colen (not Cohen).
- Klicka noted that even if the Senate never ratifies the protocol, it could be dumped on the United States by the ruling of an activist judge.Â Â Â Â
“The fact that virtually every other nation in the world has adopted it has made it part of customary international law, and it means that it should be considered part of American jurisprudence,” Cohen (sic) wrote.
King’s X.Â We didn’t ratify.
This sounds like a manufactured crisis for Americans.
It is true that that Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy citedÂ The U. N. Convention on the Rights of the ChildÂ inÂ the case ofÂ Roper v. Simmons in March of 2005, a case about the proposed execution of a juvenile offender.Â However, importing a homeschooling crisis fromÂ abroad in case an as-yet-uninvolvedÂ judge in a nonexistent legal case might citeÂ an unratified ConventionÂ because BelgiumÂ ratifiedÂ a U.N.Â Convention is a stretch worthy of Gumby.
Expatica providesÂ a look at the Belgian situation:
- Expatica, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 19 July 2006, Expats and home-schoolingÂ Â Â Â According to official figures, in 2004, 94 percent of home-schooling parents who were inspected received a positive decision compared with 70.5 percent of all inspected elementary schools.Â Â …Â Â
Other expats, who home-school their children, say they have had no problems with the authorities.
So, should American homeschoolers ignore developments in this country that lean in the direction of greater social control of children by government bureaucrats?Â Of course not.Â But let’s be sensible about it, and raise the alarm only when there is something to be authentically alarmed about.Â In any case, what are we supposed to do about it?Â Not vote for the Belgian lawmakers?