Apr 5, 2008

Train up a child in the way he should go...

I have been following the decision of the 2nd Appellate Court in California last month.   In the case against a home-schooling family, the court ruled that the family must either enroll their children in a public school or in a "legally qualified.. private school.   The ruling has sent shock-waves through home-schooling families in California.   I am intrigued because the ruling opens up a fundamental question:   "Who is ultimately responsible for children, the parents or the community?..


On one side of the argument are those who believe the community has a fundamental right in protecting children.   If a child is being abused at home, the community has the right to remove the child from the abusive situation.   The argument that everyone has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is a powerful one and is included in many state constitutions.


On the other side of the argument are those who believe parents have the fundamental right in deciding what's best for children.   If the parents want to raise the children with a particular world-view or religion, the state has no power to interfere.   Here, the separation clause of the First Amendment comes in handy.   In fact, in matters of religious training, the United States has long-held that the parents are the final authority... so long as it doesn't abuse the children.


There have been many cases in the United States where parents have denied their children medical attention because they believed that it was against their religion.   In those cases, the community is almost powerless to intervene.   And in some cases, tragically, the children have died.  


But what, exactly, constitutes "child abuse..?   The virulent atheist, Richard Dawkins, believes teaching religion is child abuse.   In the future, will someone be thrown into prison for teaching the Ten Commandments?


In Deuteronomy, 6:6-7, God says, "These [Ten] Commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up...   In Matthew 18:6, Jesus said, "If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea...


In Matthew 22:21 Jesus says "render to Caesar that which is Caesar's...   Can this scripture be used to demonstrate that the community has some control over religious (or non-religious) training?   It would be a stretch.   But scripture is abundantly clear that in matters of faith development, parents have the ultimate responsibility.   They are to teach their children about God and not put stumbling blocks before them.   That is God's command.



Pastor David Hook

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