Key Facts: The Need to Protect Parental Rights

At Focus on the Family, we believe that children are a cherished gift from the Lord—and that parents are the ones primarily responsible for guiding and preparing them for a life of service to God and to humanity. Parents have a God-ordained right and responsibility to determine what is best for their children.

In the majority of cases, parents and legal guardians are the ones who are closest emotionally, mentally and spiritually to their children and the most in tune with their needs. Given their intimate knowledge of their children, they should have the protected ability to direct and give guidance concerning their children's educational experience.

This includes the ability to determine when, how and if their children are introduced to controversial sexual topics—as well as other educational philosophies that may conflict with families' deeply held Judeo-Christian values and principles.

Protecting parents' rights in education also protects a self-governing society by safeguarding against an intrusive government school system that could eventually infringe on religious freedom.

We also recognize that these rights have limits, and we would never condone the abuse of any child—whether verbal, physical, sexual or emotional—or parental neglect.

We believe these principles are rooted in legal history, social science data and Judeo-Christian traditions.

Judeo-Christian Tradition

Scriptures, such as these, remind us of parents' spiritual responsibility to guide and protect their children:

  • Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it."
  • Psalm 127:3 proclaims, "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of a womb a reward."
  • Malachi 2:15 asks, "Has not the Lord made them [a husband and wife] one? In flesh and spirit they are His. And why one? Because He was seeking godly offspring."

Legal History

  • The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the "liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control" (Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 1925).
  • The Court declared that a child is not "the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations" (Pierce v. Society).
  • It also recognized that "choices about marriage, family life, and the upbringing of children are among associational rights this Court has ranked as ‘of basic importance in our society' " (M.L.B. v. S.J.J. , 1996).
  • The high court stated: "The history and culture of Western civilization reflect a strong tradition of parental concern for the nurture and upbringing of their children. This primary role of the parents in the upbringing of their children is now established beyond debate as an enduring American tradition" (Wisconsin v. Yoder, 1972).

Social Science Data

Research has shown that parents are one of the most influential factors in a child's academic success. Read more.