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14 - Christianity and the rights of children: an integrative view

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

† Don S. Browning
Affiliation:
Emory University
John Witte, Jr
Affiliation:
Emory University, Atlanta
Frank S. Alexander
Affiliation:
Emory University, Atlanta
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Summary

I address two questions in this chapter: how should we conceptualize and ground the rights of children, especially with reference to the rights of parents? And what can Christianity contribute to an adequate answer to the first question? I primarily address what should be law's prima facie answer to these questions. I also show why Christianity, and the tradition of natural law which it carries, emphasizes yet also relativizes the biological relatedness and marriage of a child's parents as central to children's rights – both legal and religious. This suggests that law and religion should cooperate in guiding adults to exercise their reproductive rights in ways that guarantee that children will be raised by the parents who conceive them and that this happens within a legally institutionalized marriage.

I argue for an integrative view of children's rights. This perspective is only slightly visible in contemporary family-law theory in the United States. It is more prominent, however, in the major documents of the international human rights tradition, especially the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), as well as the deeper intellectual tradition, significantly influenced by Christianity, that fed these statements. This tradition has held that natural parents have the prima facie right to raise their own offspring and that children have a right to be raised by the parents who conceive them, unless there are contingencies that make this impossible or negative for the well-being of the child.

Type
Chapter
Information
Christianity and Human Rights
An Introduction
, pp. 283 - 301
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2010

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References

Glendon, Mary Ann, The Transformation of Family Law: State, Law, and Family in the United States and Western Europe (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989)Google Scholar
Obi, M., ed., Family and the Law in the 21st Century (Toykyo: Hogakushoin Publishing Co., 2007)

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