The 2024 legislative session is in full swing in 40 states, so it’s not surprising that several of them have already introduced bills to address parental rights. In this email, I will focus on a few of these that already demand our attention.
Good Indiana Bill Faces Opposition
In Indiana, SB 46 would add a new section of law on Parental Rights and Responsibilities. This act would protect as fundamental the right of parents to direct the upbringing, religious instruction, education, and health care of the parent’s minor child, and prevent the government from substantially burdening this right without a compelling governmental interest met by the least restrictive means.
This is the very definition of “strict judicial scrutiny,” the highest, most protective level of scrutiny recognized and applied by our courts.
Unfortunately, opposition has arisen to the bill. An association of judges has claimed that the bill’s right of private action, by which a parent whose rights are violated can sue the governmental entity causing the violation, would threaten judges’ decisions. This seems disingenuous, however; surely the judges know that judicial immunity protects them, and that their decisions cannot be the basis of a lawsuit even if this bill were to pass.
The bill would allow parents to file suit against child abuse investigators, public schools, or law enforcement officers who violate parental rights, but would not apply to decisions made by judges in their appropriate legal capacity.
If you are in Indiana, please contact your senator today and urge their support for SB 46 to preserve parental rights. They should know that judicial immunity would not be affected, but that countless innocent families would be protected by this act.
Dangerous Virginia Bill Must Be Opposed
In Virginia, HB 27 and SB 39 would rob families of vital due process protections when a parent is accused of abuse or neglect. The bill purports to provide supports to relatives who take in family members to keep them out of official foster care. Instead, it would rob families of crucial due process protections by allowing the child abuse investigators to decide for themselves what child is “at imminent risk of being removed from his home,” without any judicial oversight or charges of abuse or neglect being filed.
All over the country, hundreds of thousands of children every year are taken into this “hidden foster care,” where parents are bullied into “voluntarily” sending their children to live with relatives to avoid child removal to foster care. Once the parent signs the agreement, the agency has tremendous power over them, always at threat of removing their child or even terminating their parental rights. The Virginia bill would do nothing to address these concerns, but rather would codify them as Virginia’s official position.
Such practices have already fallen under court scrutiny in Pennsylvania, which found them to be a violation of parents’ fundamental constitutional rights, and in North Carolina, where the use of such policies resulted in more than $50 million in settlements for violations of due process rights.
Virginia does not need the expense of bringing such legal challenges to their state due to bad legislation. Instead, this bill needs to be amended to preserve parents’ rights.
Help Us Monitor Additional Bills Elsewhere
These are the immediately pressing bills this week, but we are also following legislation in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, and West Virginia (as well as legislation in Virginia not highlighted here). If you are aware of additional legislation in your state, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. Use the subject line “Legislation in [Name of your state].”
Thank you for standing with us as we work to protect children by empowering parents through solid parental rights legislation around the country. Together, we can preserve these rights and keep our families safe.