IT’S NOT A ROUGH DRAFT…. Conservative leaders in Congress, led in part by Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), apparently have a new constitutional amendment they’d like to see ratified. It has something to do with the United Nations and spanking.
Hoekstra last week introduced a bill in the House to amend the U.S. Constitution to permanently “enshrine” in American society an inviolable set of parents’ rights. The bill had 70 co-sponsors, all Republicans, including Minority Whip Eric Cantor and Minority Leader John A. Boehner.
The bill, said Hoekstra, is intended to stem the “slow erosion” of parents’ rights and to circumvent the effects of a United Nations treaty he believes “clearly undermines parental rights in the United States.”
The treaty to which he refers is the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, a 20-year-old document signed by President Bill Clinton in 1995 but never ratified. The treaty sets international standards for government obligations to children in areas that range from protection from abuse and exploitation to ensuring a child’s right to free expression.
The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child isn’t, or at least shouldn’t be, especially controversial. In fact, there are a grand total of two countries in the U.N. that have not ratified the treaty — Somalia and the United States. Both President Obama and Ambassador Susan Rice have stated publicly they’d like to see this change.
But this, in turn, has only encouraged far-right Republican lawmakers and their allies to push a new constitutional amendment to protect “parental rights” from protections for children. One GOP activist, Michael Farris, who helped craft Hoekstra’s proposed constitutional amendment, said the right of parents to “administer reasonable spankings to their children” must be protected.
Putting aside just how foolish this is, I can’t help but notice the right seems to want quite a few constitutional amendments. Hoekstra’s measure comes shortly after Rep. Michele Bachmann’s proposed constitutional amendment to ensure the U.S. doesn’t adopt some imaginary “global currency.” And that measure came just a couple of months after several high-profile Republicans renewed an effort to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution.
What’s more, just over the last few years, conservative officials have also pushed for, and even voted on, amendments on flag burning, abortion rights, and gay marriage. There was some talk about a “Victims’ Rights Amendment” for a while. Three months ago, Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) even introduced an amendment on school prayer.
Aren’t conservatives supposed to support conserving our constitutional traditions? Granted, none of these amendments are going anywhere, but this push to treat the Constitution as a rough draft strikes me as odd.