By Jonathan Lange, columnist
Promises made between husband and wife are exchanged in weddings all over the world as a public declaration of the bond of love. Families, communities, lawmakers and churches are called to support and help in the keeping of these vows. The marriage bond is at the very heart of communal life.
There is another bond of love that is equally at the heart of community life. This bond comes into existence whenever a new human being is conceived. This bond between parents and children, however, does not enjoy the same public celebration and ceremonial declaration as the marriage bond. It is unspoken, but just as obligatory.
One result of the unspoken nature of the promise to our children is that families, communities, lawmakers and churches are not as conscientiously aware of their role in helping to keep the promises. Sadly, many children face serious harms as a consequence of forgotten promises.
In an effort to raise public awareness and to stand for America’s children, a new coalition of community leaders has stepped forward. “Promise to America’s Children” wants to make explicit the promises to which every child is entitled. It is a partnership of eighteen national organizations and scores of state advocacy groups.
PromisetoAmericasChildren.org articulates the promises made to children both by parents and by the communities that support them. It addresses three aspects of a child’s existence—mind, body, and relationships. In all these areas, political and ideological agendas should take a back seat to the real-world needs of children. This means three promises that parents make toward children.
First, parents promise to nurture and honor young minds as they grow, protecting them from harm, instilling values, and providing the best opportunities for success. Second, they promise to develop and protect young bodies as they grow, affirming the dignity and worth of bodies that have been “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14). Third, they promise to honor and uphold the parent-child relationship, recognizing the infinite worth of their children and caring for them with unconditional love.
Communities also have obligations toward children. The village does not raise children—particular parents do. Nevertheless, the village is obligated to support parents and children in this sacred undertaking. Policy makers, in particular, should promise to set aside any agenda that would undermine their obligations to children.
“Promise to America’s Children” enunciates ten specific promises that government officials should make. They oppose anything that would undermine a community’s obligation to children. Their promises also fall under three headings.
“PROTECTING CHILDREN’S MINDS” means, among other things, that “Every child deserves to be protected from being used in or exposed to pornography, graphic sexual content or activities as well as from being exposed to it in media and on the Internet.” Therefore, “all public-school sexual education programs should be opt-in, voluntarily chosen by parents.” Also, “Every child deserves the right …to affirm or not affirm messages or ideas that violate their beliefs or conscience.”
“PROTECTING CHILDREN’S BODIES” means that “Every child deserves safety and privacy in sex-specific spaces.” Likewise, “Every child deserves the opportunity to participate in fair and safe athletic competitions.” Most especially, “Every child deserves the opportunity to be affirmed… in their biological sex, and to be supported as they mature through puberty and other normal adolescent changes that shape their maturity and reproductive capacity.”
Finally, “PROTECTING CHILDREN’S RELATIONSHIPS WITH THEIR PARENTS” is foundational to the care of both body and mind. Adoption laws, foster care, and assisted reproductive technologies should be regulated with the full acknowledgement that “Every child deserves a relationship with his or her mother and father.”
Furthermore, “Every child deserves to have his or her parents informed of and involved in important life decisions. Authority figures (including teachers, counselors, or medical professionals) should not withhold information about a child’s sexual activity, development, or identity from parents or take any action that undermines the parents’ role in guiding the child in these areas.”
By these simple promises, policy makers can protect Wyoming’s children from the ravages of the culture wars. So long as American citizens disagree on the most fundamental aspects of society, the least that legislators can do is to prevent adults from using children as cannon fodder. This is done by empowering their parents, who love them most of all.
The “Promise to America’s Children” was launched barely a month ago. Already Senate President Dan Dockstader (R-Afton) and Vice President, Larry Hicks (R-Baggs) have given their pledge to Wyoming’s children to support and protect them in Wyoming law. It would be well if all ninety of our legislators and all five of Wyoming’s executive officials joined them. Their promise to America’s children would make Wyoming a better place.