Reformed Seminary, College, Free Sermons, Scholarly Resources, and Overseas Missions Opportunities
Article 3 — Family Government
Parents are endowed with the original right to care and discipline their offspring and minor legal dependents. Parents are free to secure one or more agents of their choice to assist in the exercise of this right. No law shall control, regulate or alienate this right, including any law relative to when, where, by whom or in what manner children are to be cared for or disciplined, except with respect to criminal acts which may constitute a forfeiture, but none shall be worked except by due process. Nothing herein shall be construed to permit parents to retain the civil government as their agent in the exercise of their right.
Building on Sections 1 and 2, this section acknowledges that children are a gift from God, granted to parents. I Timothy 5:8 indicates that "If anyone does not provide for is relatives and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." The rule cannot be stated more clearly. Though parents are free to contract with a third party (excluding civil government) to carry out this duty, they are nevertheless responsible to God alone for its faithful execution. Such a contract does not violate Genesis 2:24 like a surrogate contract would.
Civil government is barred as a matter of jurisdiction from serving as an agent of parents or from assuming the duty in its own right. Civil government's purpose is not to love, but to wield the sword against criminal acts. Parental discipline is not of this character.
Provision is also made for the state to employ the procedural mechanisms whereby a parent can be judged guilty of a criminal act with respect to their children and which requires forfeiture. As care and discipline are within the realm of actions, forfeiture is a possibility whereas in Section 2 it is not, as that section (education) deals in the ream of ideas, not actions. In no instance may parents be subject to forfeiture for non-criminal actions even though they be admittedly unwise, imprudent or contrary to societal norms. This rule is based on parental self-government and is not to be infringed.
Lastly, with respect to parents withholding lifesaving medical treatment from their children as a function of their religious beliefs and whether such an action is criminal and therefore may trigger a forfeiture of parents rights, the rule is two-fold: 1) the duty of parents is to preserve the life of the child, and 2) the means they employ to preserve the life of the child must be calculated to preserve the life of the child.
Civil government may not look to the adequacy of the means, only its presence. lf parents choose medical assistance, the question is did they employ a means calculated to preserve the life of the child? The civil government may not look to the number of doctors, visits, etc., to determine if the duty has been discharged, but only to the presence of the means, which is a fact question.
If parents choose non-medical assistance, the
question is did they employ a means calculated to preserve the life of the
child? The civil government may not look to the number of prayers or clergy,
etc., to determine if the duty has been discharged, but only to the presence of
the means, which is a fact question.