Jewish World Review Dec. 20, 2004 / 8 Teves, 5765

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Consumer Reports

Judges to parents: Mind your own business! | Just in time for the holidays, the Washington State Supreme Court has ruled that children have an expectation of privacy at home and parents cannot eavesdrop on phone conversations.

The case involved a 17-year-old boy who told his 14-year-old girlfriend that he mugged an old lady, knocking her to the ground and stealing her purse. The mother of the girl, Carmen Dixon, was listening on another phone line and called police.

Oliver Christensen was subsequently convicted of a felony and served nine months in prison before the judges overturned the conviction, saying, "The right to individual privacy holds fast even when the individuals are teenagers." The court also said the mother was acting as an agent for the police.

So now parents in Washington cannot snoop around, even if a child is having a phone conversation with a mugger, dope dealer or child molester. Listen up, Seattle parents: You have no right to know.

The Associated Press, no bastion of conservative analysis, called the ruling "a victory for rebellious teenagers."

Of course, the American Civil Liberties Union loves the ruling. ACLU Attorney Douglas Klunder filed a brief saying, "I don't think the state should be in the position of encouraging parents to act surreptitiously and eavesdrop on their children."

Of course not. Why would any parent want to know their 14-year-old daughter was chatting up a 17-year-old criminal? Parents shouldn't be proactive in scrutinizing their children in this age of Internet sex, drug dealers in school hallways and alcohol-fueled sleepovers. Better to let the teens crash and burn, instead of keeping a close eye (or ear) on them, right ACLU?

This is yet another intrusion by the American courts into the parent-child relationship. Traditionally, the state ceded all child-raising responsibilities to parents except in cases of child abuse and neglect. But that is changing. Now your offspring have rights, and you'd better not violate them.

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Interestingly, it is the totalitarian societies that historically have interfered with the parent-child relationship, something the ACLU might want to ponder. In Nazi Germany, parents were encouraged to turn their kids over to the "Hitler Youth." In the Soviet Union, Red China and Cuba, children were taught in school to inform on parents who spoke disparagingly of the government. Breaking down parental influence makes it easier for the state to "persuade" young people to be loyal.

This case is yet another example of how American society is changing rapidly and drastically. Judges in liberal areas like western Washington often have a social agenda and make rulings based upon their vision of a "just" society. No longer can we count on the courts to uphold traditional law or even to respect the intent of the law. Now we are faced with rulings that come down to "improve" the law.

Today, American children are subjected to more temptations at an earlier age than ever before. Machines filled with harmful material dominate their lives. Instant messaging and cell phones have created opportunities for mischief only dreamed of in years past.

But don't you listen to any of that. The Washington State Supreme Court says you can't.

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JWR contributor Bill O'Reilly is host of the Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," and author of, most recently, "Who's Looking Out for You?" Comments by clicking here.

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© 2004 Creators Syndicate