31 GOP Senators Oppose U.N. Children's Rights Convention

Kids with autism spectrum disorders, including Asperger's syndrome, may be so focused on what's going on inside their minds (thoughts of dinosaurs, space travel, etc.) that they can't focus on what's going on in the classroom. iStockPhoto

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Thirty-one Republican senators are cosponsoring a resolution opposing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, according to the conservative group ParentalRights.org, which is pushing the resolution.

The resolution, which you can read here, states that the convention "undermines traditional principles" of U.S. law and calls efforts to sign on to the treaty "contrary to principles of self-government and federalism." It says the convention should not be put before the Senate for a vote.

As Mother Jones reports, the legally-binding U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child was issued in 1989 to establish rights across country lines for citizens under the age of 18. The only members of the U.N. not to have signed on are the U.S. and Somalia, though the latter plans to ratify it this year.

American conservatives have long opposed ratification out of fear that it will impinge on their right to raise their children as they see fit. Among the complaints on the ParentalRights.org website, which is led by homeschooling advocate Michael Farris, is that under the treaty parents "would no longer be able to administer reasonable spankings" to their kids.

Former UNICEF executive director Carol Bellamy argues that the United States' decision not to sign the treaty has undermined U.S. leadership when it comes to protecting children around the world.

How, she asks, "can the United States persuasively convince other governments to address sexual exploitation of children or hazardous child labor when those same governments can point to the US' failure to ratify the Convention as evidence of US hypocrisy?"

Two-thirds of the Senate would have to ratify the treaty, which is why ParentalRights.org has set a goal of getting 34 cosponsors to its resolution. It is also pushing a Constitutional amendment called "The Parental Rights Amendment" to fend off "the attack on the child-parent relationship" and "ensure that the courts of our nation protect the fundamental right of parents to raise their children."

Seven Republican senators have signed on to the amendment, the group said, led by South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint.

There is no sign that Senate Democrats are poised to bring the convention to the floor for ratification during the current session.

You can read the entire convention here. The claim that it would outlaw spanking is grounded in the provision that "No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment," according to ParentalRights.org.

According to University of North Carolina School of Medicine researchers, however, only 24 countries have banned all forms of corporal punishment at school and at home, while 193 countries have signed onto the treaty.

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