STOP the War on Children

July 17, 2011

Supreme Court: 7-Year-Olds Free to Buy Violent Video Games

By Karen Gushta                                                                                                                          

Parents are having a hard time understanding Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s recent opinion. Scalia, writing for the majority, gave the High Court’s reasoning for upholding a federal appeals court decision, which threw out a California ban on the sale or rental of violent video games to minors.

Scalia and his wife Maureen have nine children and 28 grandchildren.  What was he thinking?

Perhaps one explanation is the fact that the Supreme Court justice left most of the child-rearing up to his wife. When it came to attending the children’s soccer games or piano recitals, Scalia told Lesley Stahl in a 60 Minutes interview in 2008, “You know, my parents never did it for me. I didn’t take it personally… He has his work. I got my softball game. Of course, [Maureen] was very loyal. She went to all the games.”

Referring to the Stahl interview, Jamie Heller noted on the Wall Street blog, The Juggle, “perhaps the more compelling point here is the clear division of labor that seemed to exist between these spouses. Nino had the workplace career. Maureen raised the children.”

So does this excuse Justice Scalia’s taking the position he did in siding with the majority in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association? Rebecca Burgoyne, legislative analyst for the California Family Council, says “The Supreme Court has basically done an end-run against parental authority and said that children have the right to have access to these video games, despite what their parents may think or say.”

As Burgoyne told OneNewsNow, the danger posed to children by excessively violent video games is the fact that children are simulating violent behaviors, such as shooting people—or worse—and “rehearsing these behaviors over and over again.”

In his opinion, Justice Scalia wrote, “No doubt a state possesses legitimate power to protect children from harm. But that does not include a free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed.”

Agreed. That type of restriction is already in place in our government controlled schools where intelligent design and creation science are dismissed out of hand. But the issue here is not the “ideas” that children are being exposed to, but the “behaviors” that they are imitating and acting out in a simulated environment.

Some of those behaviors were described by Justice Alito in his concurring opinion. “In some of these games,” he wrote, “the violence is astounding. Victims by the dozens are killed with every imaginable implement…dismembered, decapitated, disemboweled, set on fire, and chopped into little pieces. They cry out in agony and beg for mercy. Blood gushes, splatters, and pools. Severed body parts and gobs of human remains are graphically shown.”

Justice Scalia, however, compared the video simulation of such horrific and gory acts of violence to the violence children and teenagers are exposed to in literature such as Grimm’s Fairy Tales or Homer’s Odyssey or even William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. “Grimm’s Fairy Tales, for example are grim indeed,” he opined.

Although he concurred with the majority, arguing that the California law should be struck down because it was too vague, Judge Alito did caution, “The Court is far too quick to dismiss the possibility that the experience of playing video games (and the effects on minors of playing violent video games) may be very different from anything that we have seen before.”

And that is precisely what the “vague” California law was intended to take into account. The author of the bill is state senator Leland Yee, a 61 year old Democrat from San Francisco who is also a child psychologist. As Joan Biskupic reported in U.S.A Today, Sen. Yee’s concern in crafting the bill is the interactive component of video games. This interactivity makes them much more dangerous in their effects on gamers compared to the effects a violent movie might have on a viewer or a violence filled book has on a reader. The child psychologist claims that participating in video games that simulate killing or maiming of human beings is harmful to the psyches of young players and can even lead to violence.

Yee also points out that parents who want to screen violent games have difficulty doing so because the scenes of slaughter and brutal violence may only come after hours of strategic play. “No parent can just play the game and know everything in it.”

According to Biskupic, the Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association case generated a large number of friend of the court briefs—26 of 30 opposed the California law. Included among these was the  U.S.A Today,. The foundation argued that violence has always been part of children’s literature, and fairy tales are replete with stories in which the witch is burned alive or a grandmother devoured by a wolf.

But such arguments again miss the point. Children recognize that fairy tales are fantasy—they are stories of imaginary characters, and that is what makes them frightening, but ultimately safe.

Video game simulations, on the other hand, are appealing to young gamers precisely because they allow them to participate in a “virtual reality” in which they become one with the characters who act out the fantasy. The avowed aim of game designers is to blur the line between fantasy and reality in order to make their games more compelling and captivating.

The Supreme Court’s decision flies in the face of both common sense and good sense. The Court even ignored its own past decisions that had bearing on this case, such as the court’s 1968 Ginsberg v. New York decision in which the court upheld a law that regulated content that was deemed harmful to children because it was obscene.

Ultimately the good sense and the constitutional sense in this case came from the two dissenting Justices—an unlikely pair—Justice Thomas, known as a court “conservative”  and Justice Breyer, known as a “liberal.”

As Mark Walsh noted in Education Week, “Justice Thomas cited the history of parental control of children from the early days of the Republic and said, ‘The freedom of speech, as originally understood, does not include a right to speak to minors without going through the minors’ parents or guardians.’”

Justice Breyer said that the California law “imposes no more than a modest restriction on expression. This case is ultimately less about censorship than it is about education.” “Sometimes,” Breyer added, “children need to learn by making choices for themselves. Other times, choices are made for children—by their parents, by their teachers, and by the people acting democratically through their governments.”

By their decision the Supreme Court has made sure that seven-year-olds are now free to make the choice themselves whether to purchase games like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, regardless of what their parents may say.

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About Karen Gushta

Dr. Karen Gushta is research coordinator at Truth in Action Ministries, author of The War on Children, and co-author of Ten Truths About Socialism. As a career educator, Dr. Gushta has taught from kindergarten to graduate teacher education in both public and Christian schools in America and overseas. She has a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education and Masters degrees in Elementary Education and in Christianity and Culture.

April 8, 2011

Protect Parents’ Rights—Support Senate Resolution 99!

By Dr. Karen Gushta


The United States is the only member of the United Nations that has not ratified a treaty called the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). That troubles the Obama administration and transnationalists who want to place family law in America under the control of international courts.

The provisions of the UNCRC are so egregious that a constitutional amendment to stop it has been submitted in Congress. The Parental Rights Amendment would protect the right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children. It also declares that “No treaty may be adopted nor shall any source of international law be employed to supersede, modify, interpret, or apply to the rights guaranteed by this article.”

So what’s the problem with the UN treaty? Should the U.S. continue to hold out against it?

As OneNewsNow reported, “The treaty would control virtually all political decisions about parents and children in America.”  That’s because our Constitution requires that any treaty ratified by the Senate supersedes or replaces in power and authority all state and federal laws on the matter. If ratified, the UNCRC would virtually become the supreme law of the land governing family policies.

In The War on Children, I discussed the dangers of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. “As our federal government is enlarging itself by gaining control of more and more sectors of society, we face threats to our children not imaginable a generation ago. Of all the initiatives on the horizon, the most serious threat to families is the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

 

Attorney Michael P. Farris has posted a legal analysis of the treaty’s provisions at ParentalRights.org. Here are some of the UNCRC’s most offensive provisions:

 

  • Allowing parents to opt their children out of sex education has been held to be out of compliance with the CRC.
  • Children would have the right to reproductive health information and services, including abortions, without parental knowledge or consent.
  • A child’s “right to be heard” would allow him (or her) to seek governmental review of every parental decision with which the child disagreed.
  • The “best interest of the child principle” would give the government the ability to override every decision made by every parent if a government worker disagreed with the parent’s decision.

 

As an example of how the “best interest of the child principle” would impact court decisions in settling family disputes, one has only to look to a recent New Hampshire Supreme Court decision. The court decided that it was in the “best interests” of a homeschooled girl to attend a “public” school so that she would be exposed to a greater diversity of viewpoints than her mother’s homeschool instruction provided her.

 

Mr. Farris points out that the “best interest” principle is one of the most significant parts of the treaty. Article 3(1) of the treaty states: “In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.” [emphasis added]

 

The insidious assumption of this article is that public agencies, courts, and legislatures have a better grasp of what is in the “best interests of the child” than do the child’s parents. The proposed Parental Rights Amendment counters this assumption, stating in Section 1: “The liberty of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children is a fundamental right.”

 

In addition, ratification of the treaty would impact Christian schools all across our nation. According to the American Bar Association’s Center on Children and the Law publication: Children’s Rights in America: UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Compared with United States Law, Christian schools that refuse to teach “alternative worldviews” and teach that Christianity is the only true religion “fly in the face of article 29” of the treaty.

 

Getting a constitutional amendment passed is, with good reason, a slow and tedious process. If it weren’t, we’d have even more misguided amendments than the ones we now have—such as the 16th amendment, which gave us the income tax.

 

With this in view, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) introduced Senate Resolution 99 on March 10, 2011. The resolution urges the President not to send the UNCRC treaty to the Senate to be ratified. So far 34 Senators have signed on to this resolution. This is the required number to block the treaty, since treaties require 67 Senate votes for ratification.

 

Nevertheless, as ParentalRights.org, which is keeping tally of the co-signers, has pointed out, given the nature of politics, this does not ensure that none of the co-signers will not be turned by the opposition.

Liberal-progressives like Hillary Clinton have pushed for Senate ratification of the UNCRC since it was signed in 1995 by Madeline Albright, then Ambassador to the United Nations. The Bush administration was opposed to ratification of the treaty, but the Obama administration supports it.

 

In June of 2009, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice stated that the Obama administration was discussing “when and how it might be possible to join” other nations in ratifying the treaty. She declared that it was a disgrace to stand with Somalia as the only two nations still opposed to the treaty. Since then, Somalia too has signed the treaty, leaving the United States as the only hold-out.

 

As noted above, if ratified, the UNCRC treaty would supercede all United States federal and state laws now governing family policy. In contrast, the majority of those nations that have signed the UNCRC are not bound by such constitutional requirements. Many have chosen to ignore sections or have simply failed to implement them.

 

Thus, the importance of Senate Resolution 99 cannot be overstated. If both your Senators have not signed on to co-sponsor the resolution urging President Obama not to press for ratification of this reprehensible treaty, call them and tell them, “Support Senate Resolution 99!”

Dr. Karen Gushta is research coordinator at Coral Ridge Ministries and author of The War on Children: How Pop Culture and Public Schools Put Our Kids at Risk. Dr. Gushta is a career educator who has taught at all levels, from kindergarten to graduate level teacher education, in both public and Christian schools in America and overseas. Dr. Gushta served as the first international director of Kid’s Evangelism Explosion. She has a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education from Indiana University and Masters degrees in Elementary Education from the University of New Mexico and in Christianity and Culture from Knox Theological Seminary.

Request The War on Children: How Pop Culture and Public Schools Put Our Kids at Risk, by Dr. Karen Gushta.

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