"Ask a child no questions, the child will tell you no lies. "

United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children

The major media underreported the fact that on Feb. 23 President Clinton signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children. This grave act deserved front-page headlines, for it represents the most blatant move yet toward big government meddling in family relationships.

Backers of the treaty, which is awaiting Senate ratification, claim its main purpose is to end economic and sexual exploitation of children in underdeveloped nations. A closer look reveals otherwise. The treaty requires that each signatory nation create and enforce laws pertaining to a long list of obligations pertaining to children's "rights.'' A sampling:

Article 3 says "States Parties undertake to ensure the child such protection and care as is necessary for his or her well-being . . . and shall take all appropriate legislative and administrative measures.'' Not the responsibility of parents, mind you, but the state.

Article 12 grants children "the right to express views freely in all matters.'' One can envision a law that prevents parents from restricting their children from getting tattooed, wearing provocative clothing or saying what they please to authority figures.

Article 15 guarantees "freedom of association.'' This implies parents would not be allowed to restrict a child's choice of friends. If your 14-year-old daughter wants to date an 18-year-old dropout with a police record, who are you to say she can't?

Article 16 establishes that children have a "right to privacy.'' Does this mean a teen has a right to lock his parents out of "his'' room?

Article 19 states that government "shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation. . . . " While the goal of attempting to prevent child abuse is laudable, the wording is so vague it plays into the hands of "child savers'' who wish to greatly expand current definitions of child abuse. Given what some "helping'' professionals consider inappropriate discipline, this might well include spanking or confining a child to his room.

Article 27 recognizes the "right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development'' and directs signatory nations to take steps to guarantee such a standard for every child. This sounds suspiciously like a mandate for more taxpayer-supported entitlements.

Article 43 sets up an international body of 10 child and family "experts'' to make recommendations to signatories regarding compliance. In January, this committee admonished the United Kingdom for insufficient welfare spending, allowing spanking by parents, and for plans to incarcerate hard-core juvenile criminals. In short, the U.K. is being told to raise taxes to support more socialism and to coddle kids - the worse the kid, the more the coddling.

This same committee has recommended that schools develop programs to educate children concerning their rights under the Convention. In other words, American parents would pay taxes to support schools that would teach children when and how to challenge their parents' rules.

The treaty charges governments to "assist parents in performing child-rearing responsibilities'' by establishing "institutions, facilities and services for the care of children.'' In other words, the federal government would be "obligated'' to help you make decisions concerning how you rear your children and who takes care of them.

As it stands, the treaty has been tabled by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is chaired by Jesse Helms, a gentleman with pronounced disaffections for such things as U.N. committees that presume to know what's best for American families.

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