Friday, September 15, 2006

UN Convention vs. Belgian Homeschoolers

Remember back in May when I expressed concern over homeschooling rights in the U.S.? The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has never been ratified here, yet the Home School Legal Defense Association had stated that activist judges could still use UNCRC to restrict Americans' rights to educate their own children by citing it as international law.

Well, a family from Belgium has run afoul the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child by homeschooling their child. They, in fact, had already successfully homeschooled their first four children who are now studying at a university. Only one remains at home. Previously, Belgium had been tolerant of homeschooling, but in 2003, the government "decreed that all homeschoolers are obliged to sign a document in which they promise to rear their children along the lines of the UN Convention".

Mrs. Belien writes on their blog, The Brussels Journal, about their situation:
The document the homeschoolers are made to sign also states that government inspectors decide whether families comply with the UN’s ideology. Furthermore, it contains a clause in which the homeschooling parents agree to send their child to an official government recognized school if the inspectors report negatively about them twice.

We refused to sign this document. Not only do we object to the imposed UN ideology, but we would never put our signature under a document that forces us to send our children to government controlled schools simply because two bureaucrats decide on the basis of arbitrary criteria that we are not in
compliance with the imposed philosophy. Last week my husband was questioned by the police. He was informed that, because we refuse to sign, our children are not being schooled or brought up adequately, i.e. along the lines of the UN Convention. Hence, we are committing a criminal offence. The authorities are threatening to prosecute us.

Mrs. Belien explains that even the public schools are not held to these standards. The schools in Belgium are required to respect the religious views of their students and their families, yet homeschoolers are being required to teach philosophies contrary to their beliefs.

She continues:
In a free society, which Belgium apparently no longer is, citizens do not have to allow two strangers into their homes who come to make judgements about their religious or philosophical beliefs and their children’s attitudes, and then assess the quality of their education on those grounds. The Belgian Constitution specifies that “everyone is entitled to respect for his private and family life” and that “this right is guaranteed by law.” Parents cannot be obliged to sign away this basic constitutional human right.

If the Belgian authorities decide to prosecute us we think we can win in court – at least if the court bases its verdict on the Belgian Constitution. In order to prepare for court cases we have established a Vlaams Centrum voor Huisonderwijs (Flemish Home Education Centre), which can be contacted here. There is, unfortunately, always the possibility that activist judges will rule that the UN Convention overrules the Belgian Constitution. If this is the case, the consequences are far-reaching. Not only for us. In effect it would mean that the laws, and even the Constitution, of our lands are no longer decided by the people of the land, but by the UN, i.e. the international club of states that includes members such as North Korea, China, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Iran,...

And that's why we should be concerned here in the U.S., apart from an altruistic interest in seeing justice done for homeschoolers in Belgium. What happens there really can affect what happens here. Imagine if activist judges in the U.S. got ahold of a ruling like that. We could indeed see them citing a Belgian court's decision to outlaw homeschooling as contrary to the UNCRC as precedent in international law and therefore, in their minds, binding on us. Will we remain free?

Hat tip: Spunkyhomeschool via Carole of Mt. Pleasant Classical Academy

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