UN-Defined Ethics

Many Christians dismiss the United Nations as a distant international entity hardly worth their attention. Among their ranks, it is almost a cliché that the UN is engaged in a relentless effort to dismantle the family and attack Judeo-Christian values. Less well-recognized is just how precisely the UN does this and how encompassing the implications of this are — not only for Christians, but for millions of others.

It is no exaggeration to say that the UN, through its pervasive international policies and initiatives, works to keep underdeveloped countries in permanent poverty, mercilessly bullied by the wealthy, politically leftist countries that are conspiring to dismantle the traditional values on which their societies are built. A visit to UN headquarters also reveals how the UN mocks parliamentary procedures and turns the policymaking process into a free-for-all dominated by petty leftists, tyrants, and liberal bureaucrats.

Conservative criticisms of the UN’s role in high politics are well known. The UN’s ineffectiveness in fulfilling its mandate to maintain world peace, coupled with its tendency to favor anti-Americanism, aggressors, and even terrorists has left its political operations largely discredited.

More hidden is the UN’s extensive social and increasingly sexual agenda. Added to its longstanding attempts to promote abortion — undertaken without any mandate from member countries — the UN has now launched campaigns to undermine parental authority and promote sex (both heterosexual and homosexual) among children. It is pushing programs on “sexuality education” that are little less than pornography for children and adolescents and that convey a strange blend of sexual indulgence with political indoctrination.

Throughout the year, the UN holds “meetings” sponsored by bodies like the Commission on the Status of Women, the Commission on Population and Development, and Commission for Social Development. These meetings involve mostly the same people gathering to pass repeated and never-ending “resolutions.” While these might seem to be mostly talk, the aim is to enunciate principles and create buzzwords (“sexual rights,” “reproductive health”) that can then be incorporated into treaties and other international instruments, as well as imported into the domestic legislation and court decisions of member nations. All this bypasses the democratic processes of open government and ethical policymaking recognized by free governments throughout the world.

Perhaps most striking even to those well-informed about the issues is the peculiar chaos of the proceedings. UN negotiating sessions are a free-for-all where documents are amended and modified without limit. Few clear rules or orderly procedures limit or regularize debates or ensure that different voices are heard fairly. Votes and other formal procedures are almost unheard of. When time runs out (as it invariably does), the chairman of a negotiating session can seize control and decide the wording of a resolution largely by fiat.

This reflects larger irregularities that appall the most cynical veterans of the parliamentary processes of Capitol Hill or Westminster. The UN has few firm rules to distinguish members of official delegations from those who represent ideological interests or “non-governmental” organizations. This allows powerful pressure groups to exert influence as if they were governments and upstage the official representatives of less powerful countries. No sharp distinction separates those who make policy (politicians) from those who implement it (civil servants), so nothing prevents bureaucrats from being pressured, bribed, threatened, or otherwise politicized. In fact, UN bureaucrats actively lobby at public expense for measures that give themselves more power and money. The UN thus operates largely as a patronage machine, with jobs and perks passed out for political (or other) favors.

As Marcia Barlow of United Families International outlines, this chaos favors those who can control the proceedings because they have the largest numbers and the biggest budgets, those who can wear down their opposition through endless meetings and paperwork, and those most willing to bully their opponents with despotic methods.

What may be most startling in all this, and most underappreciated by Christian and conservative critics, is how the issues being pushed — sexual license and decadence — are inseparable from the political methods used to promote them and the consequent corruption of policymaking ethics. Sexual and political virtue are intertwined, along with their deterioration. This is precisely what Plato predicted, and it is what the Bible teaches us, perhaps most explicitly in the writings of the prophets.

A small contingent of Christian groups works valiantly at the UN, reminiscent of the army of Gideon or the Spartans at Thermopylae, holding out against overwhelming numbers: Family Watch International, National Right to Life, Concerned Women for America, C-Fam, and a few others are engaged mostly in “damage limitation.” Occasionally they are assisted by college students. Patrick Henry College recently sent a small group to join them for the meeting of the Commission on Population and Development, hoping to identify issues and strategies in which they might collaborate in the defense of families and parental rights.

So while a strong argument could be made that Christians should avoid active participation in a global enterprise that, many agree, works irresistibly and malevolently against the virtues we share, we should not refuse to engage with it. Citizens of the United States have a God-given opportunity to influence the UN that others throughout the world can only envy. Peter Smith of Britain’s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children points out how difficult it is for most people in the world to come to New York to affect decisions that will profoundly alter their lives and their countries for generations. This is especially true of poor countries that are fighting to preserve their traditional values such as family and religious faith. “What goes on in that negotiating room,” he says, “will be forced on the rest of the world whether they want it or not.”


Stephen BaskervilleStephen Baskerville is IAI’s Senior Fellow in Political Science and Human Rights. He is Associate Professor of Government at Patrick Henry College and Research Fellow at the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society and at the Independent Institute.

This article was originally published on American Roundtable website on June 21, 2011.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute.

The Family Crisis and the Future of Western Civilization

Read below Stephen Baskerville‘s’ essay “Freedom and the Family:  The Family Crisis and the Future of Western Civilization,” originally published in the scholarly journal Humanitas.

Stephen BaskervilleStephen Baskerville is IAI’s Senior Fellow in Political Science and Human Rights. He is Associate Professor of Government at Patrick Henry College and Research Fellow at the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society and at the Independent Institute.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute.

Family Takeover

Imagine a law in America that could set children against their parents, centralize power away from the states toward the federal government, mandate increases in government spending regardless of taxpayer wishes, bypass the House of Representatives, and abrogate constitutional limitations on government power. Such a measure may soon come up for ratification by the US Senate: the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

Children have become today’s favorite political weapon. From gun restrictions to mandatory seat-belts, the way to neuter opposition to intrusive government measures is to present them as being “for the children.” But the first casualties in the politicization of children are parents and therefore the family. Professionals who advocate for other people’s children inevitably do so at the expense of those whose first responsibility is their own children.

The CRC illustrates how radically human rights law has turned from its fundamental purpose, to be a shield protecting individuals from government intrusion, to being used as a tool of government intrusion. As Geraldine Van Bueren, a law professor and one of the drafters of the CRC, approvingly observed in a 1999 article in the Human Rights Quarterly, these laws are not about protecting political prisoners or dissenters from repression, but about redistributing power and wealth among social groups:

International human rights law is a peaceful but powerful instrument of change. In essence, human rights is about peacefully redistributing unequal power. . . . The essence of economic and social . . . rights is that they involve redistribution, a task with which, despite the vision of human rights, most constitutional courts and regional and international tribunals are distinctively uncomfortable.

She bluntly states that “the CRC provides an ideology for state intervention” into social and economic life. It is not a limitation on state power but a rationale for expanding it.

Subverting Sovereignty

Indeed, human rights conventions like the CRC can even transform the very nature of treaties, especially in the United States. At the time of the American founding, treaties were forged between sovereign states and were clearly limited to matters of foreign policy, such as alliances and trade. That is why the Constitution provides for them to be concluded by the president and Senate alone, without the participation of the more democratic House of Representatives.

Modern human rights conventions, however, increasingly govern not just nation-states but also sub-national groups and even individuals. Whereas in most countries treaty enforcement is carried out as part of a nation’s foreign policy, in America a ratified treaty becomes by constitutional stipulation the “supreme law of the land,” equal to the Constitution itself. That means that domestic courts are automatically required to enforce its provisions, without recourse to international tribunals.

Treaty-making thus presents a loophole through which various interest groups can effectively legislate American domestic policy while bypassing the people’s elected lawmakers in the House of Representatives and in state legislatures. “Other nations preserve their right of sovereignty and the people’s right to self-government,” says Michael Farris of the Home School Legal Defense Association. “The U.S. is unique in forfeiting the right of self-government to ratified treaties.”

The CRC thus contributes to the dissolution not only of national borders but also of boundaries between national and local governments. Areas of jurisdiction now constitutionally forbidden to the federal government would be subject to mandated federal intervention. Moreover, the federal government itself would become the marionette of a UN committee. At a stroke, the CRC would undermine every authority below the UN: parents and the family, state governments, and the national government. The entire federalist principle—the original justification for the United States Constitution itself—would become worthless.

Anyone who doubts this need only glance at the family policy of the European Union. The EU has no legal authority to legislate in areas of family law or policy, which theoretically are left to national governments. Yet in practice, the EU sponsors many activities that undermine parents and traditional families. Driving much of this activity is EU collaboration with the CRC.

One should also note the recent, innovative use by American courts of the concept of “customary international law” to incorporate treaty provisions into their rulings, even when the relevant treaty has not been ratified by the United States. In Lawrence v. Texas (2003), for example, the Supreme Court invoked international law in striking down a Texas sodomy law. Since then, the Court has twice cited the CRC itself to decide a case: one involving the death penalty (Roper v. Simmons, 2005) and one involving life sentences without parole (Graham v. Florida, 2010). If courts are doing this even before ratification, imagine what will happen afterward.

The Dubious “Best Interest” Standard

One seemingly unexceptionable requirement of the CRC is that governments ensure the “best interest of the child.” In fact, however, the “best interest” standard is highly destructive of parental rights, because it allows government officials to decide the “best interest” of other people’s children, usurping that prerogative from parents.

Traditionally, legal authority over children has been recognized as residing with their parents, unless they somehow forfeit it. In Parham v. J. R. (1979), the Supreme Court recognized “that natural bonds of affection lead parents to act in the best interests of their children.” As Justice Potter Stewart observed in that case, “For centuries it has been a canon of the common law that parents speak for their minor children. So deeply imbedded in our traditions is this principle of law that the Constitution itself may compel a State to respect it.”

This principle has been so eroded in American domestic law that it is now the norm to assume precisely the opposite: that “the child’s best interest is perceived as being independent of the parents,” as family law practitioner Robert Williams writes, “and a court review is held to be necessary to protect the child’s interests.”

The CRC would place additional international pressure on this principle. According to Professor Van Bueren:

Best interests provides decision and policy makers with the authority to substitute their own decisions for either the child’s or the parents’, providing it is based on considerations of the best interests of the child. Thus, the Convention challenges the concept that family life is always in the best interests of children and that parents are always capable of deciding what is best for children.

Perhaps most extreme is Article 9, which permits children to be removed from their parents on the simple judgment by the government that it is necessary “for the best interests of the child.”

More Dubious Provisions

Then there is Article 12, which provides that signatory governments

shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

This provision essentially institutionalizes the right of children to rebel against their parents’ authority and puts the state on the side of the child, with the backing of international law. “The Children’s Convention potentially protects the rights of the child who philosophically disagrees with the parents’ educational goals,” writes Van Bueren.

Any parent can recognize the threat. What makes the disagreement “philosophical”? What is the difference between a child who “philosophically” disagrees with his parents and one who simply doesn’t want to do his homework?

Consider also the provision regarding children’s “privacy.” Article 16 says that “no child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home, or correspondence” and that “the child has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.” But against whom is the child’s privacy being protected? His parents?

Ironically, authorizing the state to protect a child’s “privacy” justifies massive state intrusion into family privacy. This illustrates how the concept of privacy—while valid (and in my view undervalued by many family advocates today)—is meaningless outside the context of the family.

These types of provisions might be innocuous when used to protect adults against government repression. But when applied to children, they have the effect of abolishing parental and all other authority between children and the state. This starkly illustrates how the family is essential to freedom, and how the state, when it claims to be protecting “freedom” and “privacy” and “rights”—without the mediating authority of the family—is the fox protecting the henhouse.

Out of the Mouths of Lawyers

The CRC’s provisions allow government officials to pose as the mouthpieces and defenders of other people’s children, children they do not know and do not love. The altruism of these officials is assumed without question, while parents are depicted as selfishly promoting their own interests, which are cast as contrary to those of their own children.

This mentality was expressed by Linda Elrod of the Washburn University School of Law in a 2007 paper in the Pace Law Review:

The interests of the child should be at the center of any decision-making. If the child is capable of articulating a perspective, the child should have client-directed counsel to get that voice before the court and the court should seriously consider it. Even if the child is unable to articulate a view, the child’s attorney can offer a child-focused assessment of the child’s needs. Because the child’s best interests may be different than one or both of the parent’s interests, the child should have a voice.

Elrod goes on to claim that “giving the child a voice, however, does not necessarily ‘conflict.’ Listening to the child does not mean not listening to the parents or others involved in the dispute. The key is to add the child’s voice to the voice of others being presented.”

However, in practice, this “child’s voice” comes out of the mouth of a lawyer or some other government official. The parents’ “voice” is just one among several, which officials may heed or ignore as they please. Indeed, it is difficult to see how the CRC can have any other purpose than to marginalize parents, a process that effectively abolishes the family.

Michael Farris remarks that “the child’s wishes seem to get special attention only when the parents want something different from the wishes of the government.” For example, he points out, “No criticism was leveled against either Ireland or the UK for failing to consider the child’s viewpoint in those cases where the parents left the child in the sex education classes.”

Payoffs & GONGOs

The CRC also allows UN and government officials to demand that expenditures be made to implement certain of its policies. One UN report cites Moldova for “inadequate financial support out of the state budget . . . for the implementation of the rights recognized in the Convention.” The Committee has also criticized Austria, Australia, Denmark, the UK, and other countries for not spending enough on social welfare programs. Thus, under the guise of “human rights,” the UN is trying to control the spending priorities of sovereign nations.

This paves the way for patronage payoffs to favored clients, in this case groups professionally involved in child welfare. The UN demands that Moldovan taxpayers fund pressure groups and “provide financial and material support to NGOs [non-governmental organizations] working for the protection and promotion of children’s rights.” Here UN officials are attempting to funnel Moldovans’ money to their cronies, who become extensions of the government.

This creates what some call “GONGOs” or oxymoronic government-organized non-governmental organizations. “At what point does government funding of NGOs make them no longer NGOs?” asks ParentalRights.org, an organization opposing the CRC. “If Moldova were to accede to the UN’s wishes and fund these non-government organizations, just how ‘non-government’ could they hope to remain?”

In their origins, writes philosopher Pierre Manent, “the protection, and first of all the recognition, of equal human rights was strongly tied to the construction of the sovereign state.” If we allow “human rights” to become a grab-bag for anything we choose to put on the political agenda—to the point of undermining the very institutions we have cultivated over centuries to both exercise and protect our rights—then not only will our freedoms become subject to exploitation by any number of cynical interests but so will everything else that is dear to us—including, in this case, our children.

Stephen BaskervilleStephen Baskerville is IAI’s Senior Fellow in Political Science and Human Rights. He is Associate Professor of Government at Patrick Henry College and Research Fellow at the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society and at the Independent Institute.

This article was originally published at touchstonemag.com on February, 2011.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute.

The Rape of Justice

Rape seems to pervade our politics these days: IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi—all have been accused of rape. Justice Minister Kenneth Clark was recently pilloried for politically incorrect statements about rape. The Daily Telegraph says Britain’s rape law is a ‘disgrace’ but does not say why. It is not just the great and powerful who are committing faux pas over rape. The words of a humble policeman were ‘insensitive’ enough to send the women (or at least the feminists) of Toronto and other cities into the streets in a series of ‘slut walks.’

One woman wore a sexy outfit with the words “rape me” written on herself. Clearly someone must be punished for all this rape, even if no one has actually been convicted of anything. Conspicuously absent from all these accusations is any presumption of innocence or recognition that in a free society crime is supposed to be adjudicated case-by-case according to due process of law, with protection for the rights of the accused and weighing of evidence by a jury. Instead, we see mob justice at its most incendiary, driven by political ideologues demanding arrests and convictions regardless of evidence. The National Organization for Women called for Strauss-Kahn’s head on the presumption of his guilt. ‘NOW will closely monitor how law enforcement, the courts, and the media handle the Strauss-Kahn case,’ the feminists warned.

‘What harm can it do?’ we all asked back in the 1960’s when the sexual revolution began and we declared that recreational sex between ‘consenting adults’ was nobody’s business. Well, we are now seeing precisely what harm it can do. Ideologues and the wielders of state power have turned our fun into a crime and are using our license to destroy our freedom, with hardly a word of opposition.

As usual, the cost will be paid not by the high and mighty but by those ordinary people not protected by the glare of media publicity or by Strauss-Kahn’s French Socialist Party, who loudly reminded the world of the ‘presumption of innocence’ but whose feminist cadres grant no similar presumption to lesser men hauled up on fabricated rape charges. If there is justice in this humiliation of the powerful, it is not that of the criminal justice system, which has been seriously corrupted by Stalinist feminism, but of a God who ensures that ‘the postman always rings twice’.

The presumption of guilt against those who cannot afford Strauss-Kahn’s seven-figure defence is apparent in the attack on Clarke, who dared to hint at the unmentionable truth that rape charges today are a massive miscarriage of justice. It is manifest in the ‘slut walks,’ where sexual display becomes nose-thumbing at men spending decades in prison on trumped-up charges.

Dressed in sexually provocative clothing and with signs proclaiming ‘Slut Pride’ and ‘Proud Slut,’ marchers revealingly proclaim their intent to ‘take back the word “slut”.’ ‘Sluts and Allies, Unite!’ declared a speaker. These unseemly displays of sexual anger were ostensibly set off by a policeman’s incautious but hardly inflammatory remarks to a handful of women that enticing clothing may be unwise. ‘While we are proud of our sexuality,’ one speaker declared oddly, ‘it is by no means an invitation to violence.’

Of course no one ever said that it is. The policeman’s words (at a safety forum) were no more than what a father might advise his daughter. Would he be ‘blaming the victim’ and deserving of feminist invective or concerned about her safety? Indeed, any father of a daughter will recognize the adolescent sartorial rebellion on display in Toronto and elsewhere.

The harmless words became the occasion for a huge tantrum of undress in at least four countries. Far from suggesting that all this alleged rape might be reason to encourage some sexual restraint, we see women marching in their underwear, defiantly proclaiming their right to ‘be sexual,’ and celebrating sex as a virtue to be indulged for its own sake with no consequences.

As with ‘Gay Pride’ demonstrations, this public exhibitionism is far out of proportion to any political point such as protecting women, who in industrial countries are the safest people in history. What we are seeing is the unleashing of deeper passions coupled with the ancient and uniquely feminine power to use sex for political manipulation. People who instinctively understand that this saturation of the public discourse with sex cannot possibly be healthy, have trouble articulating precisely why. The reasons are very concrete. What is going on here is the blending of sexual and political radicalism in a dangerously authoritarian mix. The rationalization behind this sexual-political anger is that encouraging modesty is ‘blaming the victim’ for ill-defined but allegedly widespread and tolerated sexual ‘violence’. But no evidence supports this hysteria. It is not a defensive measure to prevent ‘violence against women’; it is an aggressive grab for, as the feminists say, ‘power and control’.

Here too the presumption of innocence is simply ignored and instead we see mob justice fuelled by sexual energy. What chance will a man accused of rape have for a fair trial in Toronto or any other city that has witnessed an angry mob of screaming, half-naked women—especially with officials subject to politically doctrinaire ‘sensitivity training’ that the Toronto Police Department say they have implemented? That training includes the feminist insistence that rape is ‘political’ and therefore the accused are always guilty.

The feminist principle that ‘women never lie’ about rape is unchallengeable in the media, academia, and the criminal justice system itself. ‘Although it may not be “politically correct” to question the veracity of a woman’s complaint of rape, failing to consider whether the accuser may be intentionally lying effectively eradicates the presumption of innocence,’ writes forensic examiner Bruce Gross. ‘This constitutional right is especially significant when dealing with allegations of rape, as in most jurisdictions sex offences are the only crimes that do not require corroborating evidence for conviction.’

The few scholars brave enough to research rape objectively have demonstrated that the epidemic of false rape charges is now out of control and that innocent men are routinely railroaded into prison. ‘Any honest veteran sex assault investigator will tell you that rape is one of the most falsely reported crimes,’ says Colorado prosecutor Craig Silverman. Purdue University sociologist Eugene Kanin found that “41 per cent of the total disposed rape cases were officially declared false’ during a 9-year period, ‘that is, by the complainant’s admission that no rape had occurred and the charge, therefore, was false’. Unrecanted accusations certainly put the actual percentage much higher.

Yet innocence is no excuse. ‘Now people can be charged with virtually no evidence,’ says Boston sex crimes prosecutor Rikki Klieman. ‘If a female comes in and says she was sexually assaulted, then on her word alone, with nothing else—and I mean nothing else, no investigation—the police will go out and arrest someone.’ Almost daily we see men released after decades in prison because DNA tests prove they were wrongly convicted. And they are the fortunate ones. While DNA testing has righted some wrongs, the corruption of the rape industry is so systemic that, as demonstrated in the 2006 accusations against Duke University lacrosse players, clear evidence of innocence is no barrier to prosecution and conviction. ‘A defendant who can absolutely prove his innocence—most obviously Reade Seligmann in the lacrosse case—can nonetheless still be convicted, based solely on the word of the accuser,’ write Stuart Taylor and K C Johnson in their book on that case.

High profile cases are the exceptions that prove the rule. Even with intensive media coverage, prosecutors charge men they know to be innocent, such as the Duke lacrosse players, and feminist prosecutors pursue cases, like Julian Assange, where everyone knows that no rape took place. Most cases are ignored altogether. “Nobody dependent on the mainstream media for information about rape would have any idea how frequent false claims are,’ write Taylor and Johnson. ‘Most journalists simply ignore evidence contradicting the feminist line.’ Almost all the cases investigated by various projects involve rape. To the rape industry convicting people of crimes is a virtue for its own sake. ‘The real scandal, when it comes to rape, is that only 6 per cent of rapes reported to the police end in a conviction,’ writes Christina Patterson in The Independent. Regardless of the evidence? Perhaps it is because so many of the reports are fabrications to begin with. Why have trials and juries and due process of law, when Ms Patterson knows they are guilty?

Perhaps it is only when we stand in the dock ourselves, faced with trumped-up charges and Ms. Patterson’s demand that our verdict be used to create politically acceptable statistics, that we begin to see through the optical illusion concocted by ideologues. In The Prison and the Gallows, feminist Marie Gottschalk attributes our rapidly expanding ‘prison state’ not to law-and-order conservatives but to rape and domestic violence campaigns. Gottschalk demonstrates how feminists have long been our most authoritarian pressure group, ‘uncritically pushing for more enhanced policing powers’.

So the moralists’ cliché that sexual license undermines civilization turns out to be true. Sexual indulgence has debilitated our willingness to defend freedom and left us all—left, centre, and right—acquiescing in an authoritarian ideology with an insatiable thirst for incarceration. We thump our chests in triumph over Osama bin Laden but cower in impotence before women in high heels. The licentiousness of every radical regime from the Bolsheviks to the Nazis shows where this leads, but we are the first to elevate sexual decadence to the top of the political agenda.

Stephen BaskervilleStephen Baskerville is IAI’s Senior Fellow in Political Science and Human Rights. He is Associate Professor of Government at Patrick Henry College and Research Fellow at the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society and at the Independent Institute.

This article was originally published in the Autumn 2011 issue of the Salisbury Review..

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute.