Posted by: L. E. Barnes | June 9, 2010

UNCRC: Good, Bad, or Useless?

It appears I need to follow up on my previous post about the case of a German family seeking asylum in the US because in their country homes schooling is forbidden by law. The article I quoted, from The Catholic World Report, claims that Article 13 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (which only the US and Somalia have not ratified) allows for the prosecution of parents that try to interfere with their children’s freedom of access to information/media. One reply I received argues that Article 13 never says any such thing. And in fact, it doesn’t. Article 13 reads as follows:

1. The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child’s choice.

2. The exercise of this right may be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:

(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; or

(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.

However, the UN itself asserts that the UNCRC is legally binding on those states that have ratified it:

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the first legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rights—civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights….

By agreeing to undertake the obligations of the Convention (by ratifying or acceding to it), national governments have committed themselves to protecting and ensuring children’s rights and they have agreed to hold themselves accountable for this commitment before the international community. States parties to the Convention are obliged to develop and undertake all actions and policies in the light of the best interests of the child.

And again, The Catholic World Report article points out that some courts have in fact invoked the UNCRC in their rulings; such was the case when a Swedish court ordered that a 7-year-old boy who was being home schooled be taken from his parents. So even if the UNCRC doesn’t explicitly say parents can face prosecution (and I wish the news article had not claimed that it did), it is nonetheless being used to justify such actions. Granted, the problem may lie not so much in the document’s language but in the way it is being interpreted and applied. But as I looked over the document (you can read the full text here), I became concerned that parts of it seem quite vague and therefore open to all kinds of interpretations. For instance, consider part 3 Article 14:

Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

I can’t help but wonder what constitutes legitimate limitations under this provision. Who decides what is “necessary to protect public safety, order…”? For example, I’ve heard of cases in Muslim countries where courts have ruled that allowing people to leave Islam for other faiths would be detrimental to their society (?!?!). And what does it mean by limitations that “are prescribed by law”? Does it mean each country can decide for itself what limitations should be prescribed by law? If so, this document is probably nothing but a “toothless tiger” that sounds noble on the surface but is so hazy that it ultimately becomes impotent.

The Home School Legal Defense Association and other groups in the US level criticism against the CRC, complaining that it infringes on parents’ rights and obligations:

Article 3 subsection 1 provides that in all actions concerning children, all decision-makers need to employ the legal standard known as the best interests of the child. What this means is that the government can substitute what it thinks best for that of the parents in every situation.

Article 12 subsection 1 declares that the child’s views must be taken into account in every situation. When we read further, it means, taken into account by the government, because they’re the ultimate decision-makers.

In two very important areas of parental choice—religion and education—the CRC interferes with parental choice and elevates a child’s wishes over that of the parent. Realistically, it is neither parents nor children who make the final decision in the case of conflict—it is the state that has the power and duty under the CRC to make ultimate choices for kids.

I’ve known of conservatives who seemed to think that the UN was part of some diabolical plot to usher in the Antichrist. On the other hand, there have been others who seemed to think that the UN was going to usher in a golden age. Obviously, either view is unrealistic. Yet I do have concerns that UN conventions or declarations or other international agreements could be used to undermine the rights we enjoy in my country, and I’m not convinced it would be in my country’s best interests to ratify the UNCRC.

Again, I welcome any comments.



  1. […] UNCRC: Good, Bad, or Useless? […]

  2. I must agree with you, Evan. There is a movement afoot in this world to have governments dictate far too many things. The right to educate and train our children is being infringed upon by Germany. It is neither the right nor the duty of the state to force sex education on children. That belongs to the parents. Incursions on the God-given rights of individuals will eventually result in complete tyranny.

    Because of numerous inadequacies and the move towards fostering Islam, I personally would like to see the UN moved to Dubai as soon as possible. But I am really sick of politics in general. The culture of death is so overwhelming.

    • I understand. It seems that Islam pretty much gets a free pass while leftists won’t hesitate to excoriate Christians. I remember a novel in which the narrator referred to politics as an “odious subject.” Indeed. But a necessary–and unavoidable–evil.

  3. I urge you and any of your readers to please visit for more information about the UNCRC and the threat it poses to parental rights here in America. also proposes a solution – a Parental Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution to specifically protect parental rights. very clearly spells out the issues, and it has a frequently asked questions section that answered many of my questions. As I have found out by asking folks in my community, people are simply NOT aware of what’s going on with regard to this treaty. We cannot judge this book by its cover/title (Convention on the Rights of the Child). Please visit and get involved.

    • Thanks for stopping by and sharing with us.

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