By Wayne Hoffman | Watchdog Opinion
Parents have rights, by golly, and state lawmakers are working tirelessly to uphold those rights. Well, sort of. Truthfully, state lawmakers would like you to know parents have rights.
Except for when they don’t.
The state House of Representatives voted 37-31 Wednesday in favor of House Bill 113, which says parents and legal guardians have rights to make decisions about their kids. Says the bill, “Parents and legal guardians who have legal custody of minor children have a fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, education and control of their children.”
You’d think legislation like that would win wide support of Idaho’s lawmakers, the ones you’ve been told are uber-conservative. But it didn’t. Such a lukewarm vote doesn’t bode well for the bill as it arrives in the Senate for consideration.
But it gets worse.
Earlier in the day, many of the same legislators who debated valiantly in favor of parents voted in favor of a separate bill to curtail parental rights. House Bill 177, which passed the House Health and Welfare Committee unanimously, says parents don’t have rights when it comes to kids and tanning beds. It’s the same concept that lawmakers have debated in Idaho the last three years. And lest you think this bill comes from liberal Democrats, actually it is sponsored entirely by Republicans.
The bill takes Idaho’s nanny state prohibition on youngsters getting piercings and tattoos and extends it to include tanning beds. Kids younger than 14 won’t be able to use them at all. Children between the ages of 14 and 18 will need a signed parental permission slip.
The sponsors of that bill argued that there are no real health benefits from spending time in a tanning booth. The sponsors further argued that excessive UV expose is dangerous, so, therefore, the government has a compelling reason to protect children from excessive UV exposure.
Naturally, I disagree. If government has a compelling reason to protect children from excessive UV exposure, then doesn’t that mean it has a compelling reason to protect children from excessive UV exposure wherever it may be found?
And will the government be making other unilateral decisions about our children? Perhaps lawmakers will next target childhood obesity—also highly deadly—and ban kids from chugging soda or eating fast food. Maybe a Big Mac should require a parent’s signed permission slip.
The tanning bill, very troublingly, substitutes the judgment of lawmakers for the judgment of parents, and suggests that their judgment is superior. Lawmakers justify this by saying it’s not uncommon for the state government to ban children from certain activities, such as smoking or drinking.
But perhaps you’ll note that prohibiting children from smoking and drinking also doesn’t work. Kids still illicitly smoke and drink. Worse, government is telling kids what’s right and what’s wrong in place of trusted grown-ups. How is that good for children?
In the next few days, the House will vote on House Bill 177, curtailing parental rights. And I predict it will pass the House by a greater margin than the bill which supposedly protects parental rights. Because parental rights are sacred. Except for when they aren’t.
This piece was first published by the Idaho Freedom Foundation.