In which I respectfully disagree with Melissa McEwan December 17, 2008Posted by Evil Bender in bigotry, constiutional issues, Morality.
If you’ve been paying attention to teh inter-nets recently, you’ve no doubt seen the story about the idiotic and bigoted parents who named their kid “Adolf Hitler.”
Melissa McEvan, over at Shakesville (one of my favorite bloggers), had this to say:
I suppose it’s too much for which to hope that Child Protective Services sees the story (along with the accompanying photo galleryof the Campbell’s Nazified home) and removes those poor kids now while they only need a decade of intensive therapy.
This is really hard for me to say, because I’m about to disagree with Melissa and (partially) defend the rights of these bigoted asshole parents, but I think it needs to be said: I don’t think CPS should take away these kids just on the basis of their parents being racist pieces of shit. While I absolutely loathe the kind of person who would raise their kids to be bigots, the kind of people who would name their child after perhaps the greatest villain in history, I’m not at all certain that bigotry really rises to the level of child abuse.
There’s two reasons for my position here. The first is that the CPS and the courts need to be very cautious in actually removing children from their homes. That is because, in general, it is best for children to stay with their families. We (rightly) tend only remove them in cases of abuse or neglect, because we know that the foster care system is horribly sub-optimal, and that breaking up families is a decision that should only be made with great care. Removing children from their parents comes at a high emotional cost to the family, and further strains an already hard-pressed foster care system.
But even with that said, it’s clearly okay to remove children from their parents or guardians care when abuse is present, so why not just name bigotry as a form of abuse? Because it sets a bad precedent, and one that’s not sustainable. What if us progressive types honestly tell our children that, in our opinion, religions that teach hatred for GLBT people are disgusting, bigoted institutions? What if we call out Fred Phelps? Could we be charged with bigotry and have our children taken away?
For that matter, should evangelical Christians lose their children for telling them that gay people are horrible sinners who are going to hell? As odious as I find that position, I don’t think so: the government must be very careful about telling parents what they can and cannot teach their children. Obviously there are limits to this thinking: it’s clearly not okay for parents to teach their children to commit crimes or to force their children to engage in dangerous behaviors, or to deny their children necessary medical care for religious reasons. But do we really want the government deciding which tenants of our belief are acceptable?
If, like me, you believe in freedom of thought and expression, then I’d argue that you have to conclude that so long as these racist parents are not abusing their children, the children should stay with them. Not because they’re good parents, but because once the government is in the business of telling us which ideas are acceptable and which are not, no one’s ideas are safe. Defending freedom means even defending the freedom of disgusting bigots.
Or so I’ll argue. I’d love to hear my readers thoughts on this matter.