Jewish World Review Jan. 21, 2004 / 27 Teves 5764

Wendy McElroy

Wendy McElroy
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A Man's (and Woman's) Home Is a Castle | The story of Anthony Bars -- the 4-year-old boy who was starved and beaten to death in Indiana by foster parents with a criminal record of child abuse -- continues.

Due to media and public outrage, the caseworker who recommended removing Anthony from an earlier, loving foster parent is facing charges. Denise Moore is accused of official misconduct and of falsifying reports in an adoption proceeding: misdemeanor offenses.

Sadly, Anthony is just one in a long list of children neglected or abused by Child Protective Services in state after state. In his case, the press is still pounding on why child welfare officials never disciplined Moore for her actions and cited state confidentiality laws at almost every question asked.

Emerging scandals and conflicts in Indiana and elsewhere should not be allowed to distract from more fundamental questions: When should a third party have the terrible right to separate a child from its parents? By what right do civil servants enter your home and threaten to remove your children if you do not answer accusations of abuse -- often accusations made anonymously -- to their satisfaction?

The increased power of child welfare agencies to do so comes from legislation dating back to the Mondale Act of 1974. That act established huge financial incentives for state agencies to uncover abuse, without providing checks or balances to protect those wrongfully accused. It also virtually immunized child welfare workers and false accusers from liability.

But a power is not a right. If it were, then everything you have the power to do would also be proper for you to do.

What, then, are rights?

A right is an enforceable claim that an individual has against all other people; it carries a corresponding duty to respect those rights in others. For example, your right to freedom of religion comes with the corresponding duty to respect the right of others to reach their own conclusions. Rights and responsibilities are two sides of the same social coin.

Otherwise stated: Every peaceful human being has a moral jurisdiction over his or her own body and property that no one else can justly violate.

Few acts symbolize this moral jurisdiction more clearly than the right to close a front door behind you and lock out the world. This act dramatizes the difference between the private and the public spheres.

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"A man's home is his castle" is a phrase coined by civil rights attorney Clarence Darrow. It means people are rulers within their own homes, which others have no right to enter without permission.

The concept is embedded within the Bill of Rights, specifically the Fourth Amendment:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation ..."

This concept is a line of defense for the individual and family against unwarranted intrusion by government.

What constitutes warranted intrusion? A credible and specific reason to believe the rights of people within that house are being violated. It becomes proper for third parties to break down a door for the same reason it is proper for them to stop a mugging on the street: to protect the victim. If a parent uses violence against a child, he or she has abandoned the responsibility to respect the rights of others. He or she can no longer demand an automatic and similar respect from others.

In short, the Fourth Amendment is not a blank check to engage in violence under the guise of privacy. But it is a clear and compelling demand that any individual or agency who breaks down a door must do so on credible evidence, not anonymous tips, and that everyone accused must receive due process. Moreover, any third party who is later found to have acted from malice or other gross misconduct should be legally liable for those actions.

The fact that parents accused of child abuse are not currently accorded due process -- indeed, they are "guilty until proven innocent" -- reflects a 180 degree change in society's attitude toward the home and the family. The family used to be viewed as a private realm into which the law entered with extreme caution.

Since the '70s, however, the family per se has been under attack as a breeding ground of domestic violence, child abuse, and other brutality. This change in attitude is largely rooted in a brand of feminism that arose in the '70s: gender feminism, which has exerted great influence over laws concerning women and children. Gender feminism views men and women as separate and antagonistic classes, with the family being another expressed of gender conflict.

Accordingly, a closed door in-and-of-itself is reason to suspect the presence of violence. Warrants, probable cause, and oaths are no longer deemed necessary.

They should be.

And, without them, front doors in North American should slam shut and remain closed.

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JWR contributor Wendy McElroy is the editor of She also edited Freedom, Feminism, and the State (Independent Institute, 1999) and Sexual Correctness: The Gender Feminist Attack on Women (McFarland, 1996). She lives with her husband in Canada. Comment by clicking here.


12/17/04: The Conservative Cookie Rebellion
11/26/03: Zero Patience for Zero Tolerance
10/22/03: Killing the Good Samaritan
10/08/03: Collective western guilt burdens today's children
10/01/03: Families pay price for government spending
09/24/03: Do Poor Fathers Deserve Debtors' Prison?
08/29/03: Going to extremes
08/23/03: The Marriage Strike
07/30/03: University Students Deserve Human Rights
07/09/03: The PCspeak of Diversity
07/02/03: Rebuttable presumption of joint custody
06/18/03: A Conscientious Objector to the Gender War
06/04/03: Gender issues impacted by masculinists
05/28/03: The value of error
05/21/03: U.S. to Fund Gender Feminism in Africa?
05/14/03: Cut men: Do they not bleed?
05/07/03: Women with guns fight back
04/30/03: No oil for food
04/28/03: The Great Lie
04/16/03: War may redefine gun control
04/09/03: Why we must discuss a post-war U.S.
04/02/03: Leftist feminists using war as podium
03/26/03: Laying down 'the white woman's burden'
03/19/03: Iraq War may kill feminism as we know it
03/13/03: A woman to replace Saddam
02/19/03: Elder abuse demands family solutions
02/13/03: Iraqi women brutalized by Saddam
01/29/03: There ought not to be a law
01/22/03: Gambling with race and gender cards
01/02/03: The future of fatherhood
12/26/02: U.N. complicit in forced sterilizations
12/20/02: Compassion, kindness killed by fear, paranoia
12/11/02: Affirmative action insults immigrant contributions
12/04/02: Stand up for yourself
11/27/02: Feminist fighting: Aren't we all women?
11/20/02: Rights & responsibilities
11/14/02: Feminist "urban legends"
11/06/02: Equal access does not guarantee equal outcome
10/24/02: Battered Women's Syndrome: Science or sham?
10/17/02: I demand a civil society that respects the individual and acknowledges the existence of honest disagreement between human beings of good will
10/09/02: Abortion debate is about to be ratcheted up yet again
10/02/02: 'Restorative justice' offers battered women more options
09/25/02: Why is prez promising to embrace UN radical social engineering programs?
09/18/02: Dirty dealings kill men's panel
09/11/02: Taking back your power
09/05/02: Calm down, Hootie!
08/21/02: Will Congress empower a group of radical feminists to oversee money slated for Afghan women?
08/14/02: Empower the U.N. with power to sculpt American laws and institutions into the image of gender feminism!?
08/01/02: Practicing 'intellectual virtue'
07/24/02: All male, bad. All female, good: Your tax dollars at work
07/11/02: Put Up or Shut Up
07/03/02: NOW they've done it, again!
06/19/02: A dark cloud shades U.N. Women's Treaty
06/10/02: This Father's Day, send justice
05/31/02: When good women do nothing
05/28/02: Feminists claiming motherhood as liberal cause
05/20/02: Wounds in health care system are self-inflicted: Or, why "my son the lawyer" makes more sense
05/10/02: Are parents boycotting public schools?
05/03/02: Women can't be gun-shy about defense
04/25/02: The Bill of Intellectual Rights
04/19/02: World Bank or World Government?: The World Bank is blackmailing impoverished nations
04/12/02: Victims From Birth: Engineering Defects in Helpless Children Crosses the Line
04/05/02: The professor made me cry, now I will make him pay!
03/31/02: Doctors and teens --- parents be on guard
03/22/02: I was born, now I'm suing you!
03/15/02: The 21st Century is knocking at the barricaded door of feminism
03/08/02: Fun and games at the Ms mag Bulletin Board
03/01/02: Andrea Yates, NOW, and Feminist Jurisprudence
02/22/02: Lady, Your Slip is Showing
02/14/02: 'Abusing' Valentine's Day
02/11/02: Is NOW Pro-Choice or Pro-Abortion?
02/01/02: Are 'fathers' rights' a factor in male suicide?
01/25/02: Is the U.N. Running Brothels in Bosnia?
01/18/02: 'Freedom' at another's (moral) expense
01/11/02: Feminists hit Ground Zero with WTC funds grab
01/04/02: Males winning "diversity discrimination" cases is good?
12/21/01: Good will toward men
12/14/01: "Boss Tweed" feminism
12/07/01: Call me 'anti-woman'

© 2001, Wendy McElroy