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What is the Biblical Basis of Parental Rights?
The biblical basis of parental rights exists upon the family’s foundation–the first institution established and ordained by God. When parents come together and marry and then decide to have children, the parents are the primary teachers of their children concerning education, moral guidance, and ethical values within their family. Children also learn to co-exist with others inside the family, hopefully leading to co-existence with others in public. The biblical basis of parental rights is upon the foundation of marriage and family.
In Genesis 2:24, Adam says, “For this reason, a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Eve, as a wife, complements–and fulfills–Adam.
Genesis describes the purpose of marriage–for man and woman to unite to become husband and wife. The second reason marriage exists is that the husband-wife relationship supplements childbearing. As the family initially lived, this partnership was male, female, and God– three persons cooperating to produce a child or multiple children. It is still that way now. God approved the family and its natural authority when He created a helpmate–Eve for Adam. The family was the primary social institution with natural rights to direct itself and its children.
The Church–Catholic and Protestant traditions–still consider the family the original social institution. Catholic social doctrine teaches, “The Church considers the family as the first natural society, with fundamental rights that are proper to it and places the family at the center of social life.” The family possesses a specific and original social dimension. It is the principal place of interpersonal relationships–society’s first and most essential cell. Thus, the family, the first natural community in which human social nature is experienced, makes a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the good of society. The family is–or at least should be–prioritized over society and the State, meaning society and the State should encourage people to get married and have children. Support for the family should come before support for society and the State. The family possesses unaltered rights and finds legitimacy in human nature, not in the State’s recognition. The family does not exist for society or the State; society and the State exist for the family.
The original unit of society was not the individual. The fundamental cornerstone of our society is the family–where men, women, and children receive their first formative ideas about truth, goodness, and love and learn what being a person means. The family was the first pre-political institution created by God. Family authority–parental rights and how parents raise their children existed before political power. The governmental power and authority began after the flood in Genesis 9, when God told Noah, “Whoever sheds human blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made mankind” (Gen. 9:6).
Herman Bavinck notes in his book, The Christian Family, that,
“Family, state, and church each share this feature, that each is independent of the other, each has its own origin and purpose, and none came forth from the other. They differ, however, in the fact that the family is the oldest institution and came into existence immediately with the creation of the first human couple; the state and the church, however, were instituted after the Fall and in such a way that the church owes its existence to special grace, while the state owes its existence to common grace.”
Imago Dei and Our Identity
Where does our identity come from? Our uniqueness came from being created in the imago Dei– in the “image” and “likeness” of God. God created man in his image and likeness– “male and female, he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Our soul generally refers to the essence of our life. Our soul signifies our spiritual principle– the innermost part of who we are–our most significant value as a gift from God, having been created in his image. Our creation, in God’s “image” and “likeness,” means our moral, spiritual, and intellectual composition is similar to His.
God created Adam to share in His life. God gave Adam creational dominion over what God made, meaning God created Adam and us for his glory. Isaiah. 43:7 says, “Everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made.” We are to glorify God himself, which is our fundamental purpose. Since God created us, the attitude of a Christian’s heart is rejoicing in the Lord and the lessons that He provides us.
God created us in his image, which means that man is like God and represents God. The Hebrew word for image is tzelem, the inner part of the soul. The soul is man’s immortal spiritual and metaphysical characteristic, which lives on forever. The soul can, therefore, qualify as being “in the image of God.” The Hebrew word demut means “likeness,” something that resembles or is similar to but not identical to what it represents.
Being created in God’s “image” is the foundation of dignity and equality for men, women, and children. We maintain our dignity because God created man and woman to reflect Him. Objectively, men, women, and children are “someone” because God fashioned us after himself. Having been created in God’s image means that, as children mature, men and women are capable of knowledge, agency, possession, direction, and morality, meaning men and women can freely interact with others. Man, like God, can reason and know good from evil.
For Christians, being created in God’s “image” and “likeness” is part of our identity–though not our complete identity. Our identity also resides in Jesus because he redeemed and renewed us– leading to a nascent recovery of God’s image in us. Our redemption in Jesus Christ means we gradually grow into the likeness of Jesus in this life. As we gain and recover knowledge of God, his Word, and his world, we begin thinking more and more like God. Our redemption in Jesus means we restore our understanding. In our thinking, we become more like God and gradually change back into his likeness (the Greek word eikon means image). It also means that we grow and recover our Christian spiritual maturity, which allows us to be more like God. This regeneration and redemption in Jesus will enable us to grow into the likeness of Jesus concerning our character, which means that we conform to the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29).
Being created in God’s likeness and renewed by Jesus is our identity. Christian parents will acknowledge the reality of being created in God’s image and redeemed in Jesus. This renewal is essential because, as we will see, secular ideologies attempt to convince us that our identity resides in our race or our choice of gender.
Duty of Parents to Educate Children, Including Moral Foundation
The biblical basis of parental rights comes from the union between men and women and their desire to produce and raise children. Our identity comes from being fashioned in God’s image and renewed in Jesus Christ. The duty of parents to educate their children and provide a moral foundation–the foundation of parental rights–comes from the Fifth Commandment, or the Fifth Declaration, in Exodus 20:12. The Commandment or Declaration states,
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”
Another commandment is similar, found in Leviticus 19:2-3, which says,
“You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy. Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father.”
Parental authority starts here. According to the family’s beliefs, parents have the fundamental right to direct their children’s upbringing, care, education, health, and moral foundation. Parents have a consequential right to do this. Children honoring and revering their parents demonstrate the sacrifices and the educational and moral development parents impart to their children.
Parents have the most enduring influence on their children. Parents play primary roles in their children’s lives and are responsible for shaping their morality, character, and, eventually, the adults they become. Parents know their children best and can lead and protect their children’s physical and mental health, ethical standards, and welfare. Parents’ actions confirm how to be husband and wife, mother and father, man and woman, and they must shape their children’s education and ethical morality.
The duty of parental rights is indispensable because the development of the conscience spans one’s lifetime. When a child is young, parents awaken the child to the knowledge and the practice of education and the importance of virtue. The obligation of parents to teach integrity is to liberate their children from internal slavery– that which constitutes sin and evil. Moral education teaches goodness—morality curbs selfishness, pride, resentment, and human weakness. Moral education also overcomes ignorance. When we refuse to learn what is good, we are malevolent.
In the Torah, Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home, walk along the road, lie down, and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” The Shema is the declaration of the Jewish faith.
However, Christian parents should teach their children to love God with all their beings. Parents must teach their children God’s commandments as much as possible–so it becomes their primary nature. But these verses also recommend parental roles and duties for the development of children.
The Hebrew Bible stresses that children should honor their parents. Likewise, “revering” one’s parents also includes never contradicting one’s parents in public nor siding with an opponent of one’s father or mother. Reverence goes further, meaning forgoing a dispute with a parent unless a parent suggests to the child that they break a religious law. If one disagrees with a parent, one should do it reasonably, respectfully, and privately. Parents should remember not to make it impossible for their children to obey, honor, and revere them. Children should not curse their parents– doing so demonstrates disrespect for them. Honoring and revering one’s parents shows respect for the parental duty, rights, and obligation to educate their children.
The Duty of Parents
Several verses demonstrate how parents should raise their children. The one that lends itself to the foundation of parental authority is “Honor your father and your mother.” Honoring parents expresses respect for what they have done for us.
Proverbs 22:6 states, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” This verse articulates how to raise one’s children morally and ethically. Parents repeatedly teach their children to behave appropriately toward their parents and neighbors. When they are older and have children of their own, they can instill the same morality in their children that their parents gave them.
Here, one can read this verse as educating a child according to his way. Parents should treat their children with love. However, children have different personalities and are unique individuals. Parents should not treat their children similarly. Parents must show they understand their children’s emotional state and treat them in a way that recognizes their characteristics. When parents do not consider their children’s individuality, they ignore who their children are. Educating a child in a specific way is understanding that one’s child is distinct from his brothers and sisters. Parents must appreciate how each child is different and then find ways to educate them, including imparting moral vision that merges with their personalities.
Ephesians 6:4 states, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by how you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” For the father, this verse is an essential parental duty. Repeatedly provoking children to anger may lead them to reject the command to honor and revere their parents. Discipline refers to the training process, but its emphasis is on punishment.
Proverbs 22:15 says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.” Additionally, Proverbs 13:24 makes clear that “He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” This verse reinforces the duty of parents to discipline their children and teach them morality.
How are the Rights of Parents to Fulfill Their Duties Violated?
Meaning of Parental Rights
For nearly 100 years, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that parents have the fundamental right to direct their child’s upbringing, care, health, and education following their family’s values and beliefs. Our country’s history and tradition have demonstrated that parents are the primary leaders of their children, responsible for shaping their morality and character – and, eventually, the adults they become. It is parents who have the most enduring influence on their children. The men and women we become often reflect the men and women our parents are–or were.
Threats to Parental Rights
Despite our nation’s historical protection and recognition of parental rights and parents’ critical role in leading and guiding their children’s lives, public schools and state and federal government policies have increasingly questioned and undermined parental rights. Parents bear a duty and a corresponding constitutional right to direct their children’s upbringing, education, and care. Parents love and know their children best and can lead and protect their children’s physical and mental health, moral upbringing, and overall welfare. But both state and federal policies in education are undermining these parental rights by introducing destructive, ideologically-driven curricula into schools – Gender ideology, antiracism, and Critical Race Theory.
Ideological indoctrination undercuts parental rights in schools. Teachers should be surrogates for the parents, reinforcing the education and moral foundation the parents have instilled in their children. Increasingly, more teachers see themselves as hostile to the moral values parents have invested in their children–especially if they are religious.
Two issues undercut parental rights. The first is Gender ideology, which uses transgender pronouns according to the sex the child chooses rather than how God made them. Schools around the country are now deliberately hiding critical information concerning the social transition of children from their parents – and even using different names and transgender pronouns in secrecy while children are at school. This concealment undermines parental rights and authority. This concealment prevents parents from playing an active role in the lives of their vulnerable and impressionable children.
People are born with either XX chromosomes, meaning they’re girls who become women, or they’re born with XY chromosomes, meaning they’re boys who become men. When schools socially transition children and affirm a different gender identity without parental knowledge or consent, they are crippling parents’ fundamental rights and deceiving children. It not only obstructs the parental rights to raise children the way parents see fit but harms children when people tell them they can change from one sex to another.
Doctors often give younger, pre-pubertal children who are struggling with gender confusion off-label puberty blockers, which temporarily shut down the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Gonadal (HPG) Axis responsible for the production of the estrogen or testosterone, which leads to the development of secondary sexual characteristics during puberty. Again, doctors and activists claim such experimental hormonal interventions only “pause” puberty and have no enduring effects, but there is evidence that they are also not reversible.
Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD) is an adolescent onset where the development of gender dysphoria observed begins suddenly during or after puberty in an adolescent or young adult who would not have met the criteria for gender dysphoria in childhood. This dysphoria happens to young, naïve, and impressionable children–many experiencing emotional or social difficulties. Children are rushed and encouraged to pursue an alternative gender identity without questioning why and without an adequate assessment of whether underlying mental or emotional issues are contributing factors. Here, psychologists and psychotherapists should be compassionate and try to overcome the mental health issues contributing to gender dysphoria rather than being a cult member regarding transgender-identified people.
The U.S. Department of Education, the National School Board Association, and many school districts treat parents with skepticism and suspicion, which is dishonest. These groups are openly hostile to the religious and moral values parents teach their children at home and are against the need for parents to know what’s going on so they can engage their rights as parents. They are implementing policies and curricula, including controversial and divisive ideologies about race and gender, over parents’ objections.
When Schools Usurp Parental Rights, They Endanger Children
When teachers “socially transition” a student to a different gender identity with pronouns and names associated with the child’s desired gender, they take the child down a dangerous path. Parents need to know this information. There can be several contributing factors to a child’s struggle with gender identity, including the influence of social media, underlying mental health conditions, and the phenomenon of “social contagion” – when one or more children in a friend group express the desire to identify as the opposite sex or mind-body imbalances. Parents have the right and need to know what is going on with their child at school so that they can help their child understand and effectively navigate these challenges.
Critical Race Theory Harms Children
The other crucial ideological issue impacting parental rights and harming children is Critical Race Theory (CRT). During the George Floyd riots in May 2020, CRT advocates reintroduced CRT to American society. CRT propagandizes children in “critical race theory,” “critical pedagogy,” or antiracism. These racial worldviews see everyone and everything through the lens of race. Rather than focusing on how to seek practical justice and interpersonal reconciliation, CRT and antiracism ideologies foster racial division, racial stereotyping, and racial hostility. These racialized ideologies deliberately treat students differently based on race. First, it assigns immorality to white children based only on their skin color and attributes a noble victim status to Blacks, Hispanics, and people who identify as homosexual or transgender.
This divisive ideology classifies all individuals into racial groups and identifies them as either perpetually privileged oppressors or constantly victimized members of the oppressed. Specifically, it attributes to white children the titles of victimizer or oppressor based only on the fact that they were born white. For black children, CRT ascribes to them the titles “victimized” or “the oppressed” because defenders of CRT feel that Blacks- will never be able to transcend “systemic racism” or “institutionalized racism.” CRT assumes that racism incurably infects all of our social institutions, requiring their dismantling. It imputes racism not only to those who consciously discriminate based on race but also to white boys and men, in particular, who do not actively participate in the prescribed dismantling of these social institutions. The inevitable result is that it denies agency –the thoughts and actions individuals take to express their power– to white children and adults and also to black children and adults.
CRT has redefined racism. It’s not that anyone can be racist or that it’s an evil or sin that affects all people. From the perspective of CRT, all institutions and dominant or elite people groups are inherently and irrevocably racist. CRT claims that racism marginalizes and oppresses “people of color” based on a socially constructed racial hierarchy rooted in white privilege. This claim of racism ignores entirely the notable moral progress our county has made since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. CRT suggests that the Judeo-Christian worldview is inherently racist, sexist, and chauvinistic, which teachers reject. Teachers indicate that CRT clashes with parental rights because the parents’ decisions regarding religious training are wrong and detestable.
CRT violates parental rights because it undermines the human worth of all children as it divides them based on race. School districts increasingly teach students to evaluate their peers by their skin color rather than the moral content of their character. Those who believe the biblical view of creation–that God created us in his image and likeness cannot think that one race is superior to another or that one race deserves certain privileges that others should not receive. Schools should teach children who they can be and what they can become instead of who they cannot be and what they cannot become because of their race.
Ideology challenges parental rights. It teaches that our identity resides in our racial or ethnic composition rather than being created in God’s “image” and “likeness.”
For black and Hispanic children, it creates a sense of nihilism, which rejects moral values and society’s valuation of people, objects, and life. Nihilism demonstrates extreme pessimism and a radical skepticism that condemns their existence. A true nihilist would have no loyalties and purpose other than an impulse to destroy through self-destructive behavior, given that life is ultimately meaningless. Black and Hispanic children internalize a sense of nihilism resulting from CRT’s suggestion that whites will always oppress Blacks and other minority groups.
Parental rights come from marriage and the family, which God blessed in Eden. Our identity and uniqueness come from being created in God’s “image” and “likeness.” We are renewed and redeemed in the image and likeness of Jesus. Parents must educate their children and provide a moral foundation for them. Ideological indoctrination in schools undermines parental duties and rights. Ideological indoctrination undermines the sense of morality, values, well-being, and education the parents have provided their children, especially if they are religious. When schools teach children to see everything and everyone through the lens of race – or when schools hide a child’s struggle with gender identity from their parents – the parents’ fundamental rights to direct their children’s upbringing, education, and care are undermined. Parents know and love their children best, and we must all do our part to promote and preserve parental duties and rights to protect our nation’s future.
 The Compendium of The Social Doctrine of The Church: Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, (Bloomsbury, New York, 2004), 110.
 Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree Apostolicam Actuositatem, (1966), 848.
 John Paull II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 39 AAS 83, (1991), 841.
 Herman Bavinck, The Christian Family, (Christian’s Library Press: Grand Rapids Michigan, 2012).
 Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Zondervan Publishing House; Grand Rapids Michigan, 1994), 443.
 Systematic Theology 440.
 Systematic Theology, 441.
 Systematic Theology, 442.
 The Book of Jewish Values, 180-182.
 The Book of Jewish Values, 345.
 The Book of Jewish Values, 346.
 The Book of Jewish Values, 190.
 The Book of Jewish Values, 190.
 The Book of Jewish Values, 413.Published in