Friday, May 22, 2009

The Rights of the Child

On February 16, 1995 Madeleine Albright, then US Ambassador to the United Nations, signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. To date only Somalia and the United States have failed to ratify this Convention.

One of the more controversial stipulations of this international treaty is expressed in Article 14 Part 1 which says "States . . . shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion." This provision has no doubt been one of the main sticking points for conservative members of the US Senate who are charged with ratifying the CRC. Citing inconsistencies with the Constitution, balking Senators appear on the surface to have reason to reject the accord. Impinging on its sovereignty is after all something our country takes very seriously. Nonetheless, it is an embarrassment that the United States is virtually alone in its rejection of this Convention.

Parental rights groups claim the CRC would usurp their responsibilities and disavow many of their rights, among them the right to bring up children in the religion of their choice. Granting children redress for being forced into a life of superstition and dogma holds the threat of denying religious institutions an advantage they have long possessed. What better way to swell the ranks of your church with obedient soldiers than to indoctrinate them as children before they can grant their informed consent? In addition, the crude practice of squelching a child's natural tendency toward independence of thought is central to this fallacious process.

The very first issue of FREE INQUIRY (Winter 1980-81) published the following from the Secular Humanist Declaration:
We do not think it is moral to baptize infants, confirm adolescents, or to impose a religious creed on young people before they are able to consent. Although children should learn about the history of religious moral practices, the young minds should not be indoctrinated in a faith before they are mature enough to evaluate the merits for themselves...
So deeply rooted into the fabric of our culture is the practice of inculcating children in the religious ways of their guardians, it is considered entirely normal and acceptable to do so. As long as children are denied the rights enumerated in the CRC, religious ideology will maintain its stranglehold on the minds of the very young, a stranglehold many are only too happy to perpetuate.

1 comment:

  1. We did not baptize or give communion or confirm our second child. For by this time in our lives we had become 'Recovering Catholics'.

    But when our first child was about a year old our lives were not going so well, mostly financially. So my husband who was a devout atheist thought God was trying to punish us. HUH?!

    But I did not want to ruffle his feather for he was grabbing at straws. Do I regret baptizing my son? Yes and no. Am I happier I did nothing for my daughter? You darned tootin' right.

    For now she can make her own decisions. We have never not discussed religion, in fact we welcome discussions about it and man do they get interesting.

    We always said that if any of our children ever decided to embrace religion we would not stop them, but thus far neither one of them has doen so. I do not see either of them heading down the road to religion, for they, my daughter at least, seems to ask the same questions we do, and you know what? None of her Christian friends have any answers to her questions. Or at least answers that a sound person would accept.

    Thanks for a brilliant post Bill.