Protecting The Family.
There was a very interesting Irish news story last week which, at the time of writing, has not been covered by any of the main Irish national media outlets. The story is of great interest to Catholic families and to families in general and it confirms what we in Catholic Voice and The Lumen Fidei Institute have been saying for years. The traditional family is under severe attack and the threats are coming from many directions including from those who have a legal duty to protect families.
The story in question concerns a young married couple, Nicholas & Catherine Sunshine, sincere Christians and parents to three children aged 9, 8 and 4. Nicholas and Catherine decided that they would like to home school their children as they believe that this is best for their children. They are law abiding citizens and they therefore wanted to register their children as being home schooled.
On the 9th December 2016, they wrote to the ‘Child and Family Agency’ (CFA) also known as ‘TUSLA’, stating that they wished to register their eldest child as home schooled. They had checked the relevant legislation, the Education Welfare Act 2000, which required them to submit their application is writing in order for a preliminary assessment to begin.
TUSLA contacted them and insisted that they fill out application Form R1 before an assessment could be made. Catherine and Nicholas have a difficulty with this form in that it asks for ‘consent’ to be granted which does not appear to have any constraints and could therefore be open to abuse. The form states:
“I/We hereby give my consent for the Child and Family Agency to have an Authorised Person conduct assessments of the education in place or proposed for the child above.”
This seems straight forward at first glance but there is no limit to the amount of possible assessments. It is a blank cheque of consent given by the parents which has certain legal ramifications. Nicholas and Catherine were not happy with this form and they also felt that the provisions of this form, including a compulsory requirement for the child’s birth certificate, which has no basis in law, go beyond the legal requirements of the Education Welfare Act 2000 for those who wish to home school their children. They indicated to TUSLA that they would not fill out the form and again requested the preliminary assessment which they felt was their legal right as they were complying with the law.
TUSLA refused this request and then told the family that they would close the application file for registering the child in question, unless Form R1 was completed.
There were letters going back and forth and the parents, in May 2017 insisted that, “this assessment shall be conducted through written means only and all correspondence must be sent to our solicitor Mr Ken Smyth”.
Catherine was open to modifying these requirements and agreed to meet personally with a representative of TUSLA but this did not happen. Neither she nor her husband wanted the case to end up in court. Nicholas and Catherine eventually asked TUSLA to provide the legal basis for their insistence on them completing Form R1.
TUSLA Accuses Parents of Breaking the Law.
On the 24th of November 2017, TUSLA served a ‘School Attendance Notice’ on the parents in accordance with section 25 of the Education Welfare Act 2000. In other words, TUSLA, a state agency, sought to indict these law-abiding parents and brought criminal charges against them. They took the parents to court. TUSLA, the agency which is charged with looking after children and families, threatened to imprison a young married couple, who simply wished to provide what they believed was the best educational option for their children, in accordance with Ireland’s laws, unless they followed TUSLA dictates.
On the 20th of December 2018, Nicholas and Catherine Sunshine were found guilty of a criminal offence by the district court justice. They had contacted various state representatives, to no avail, to highlight the fact that there was another provision in the Education Welfare Act 2000, under section 17 which “excuses a child from attending a recognised school when that child is already on the register set up under section 14, where an application pursuant to section 14 has not concluded, or where “there exists some other sufficient Couse for (the child) not so attending”.
In other words, it was impossible for them to have committed the crime they were accused of by TUSLA, because they had an ongoing application to have their child registered which was not concluded. They were, therefore, exempt from sending their child to school.
Authority in the wrong hands or when it is misused, can be a very dangerous thing, especially when it is wielded by a well-funded state agency with unlimited legal power at its disposal which is paid for by the taxpayer. It can be very difficult and daunting for a young couple to challenge the might of a state agency. They must sacrifice their time and their limited financial resources in order to have their rights vindicated. Miscarriages of justice can and do occur.
It is interesting to note that whilst Nicholas and Catherine are not Catholic and have nothing against Catholic schools, they were ordered to send their children to a local Catholic school.
Article 42:3:1 of the Irish constitution provides that:
“1° The State shall not oblige parents in violation of their conscience and lawful preference to send their children to schools established by the State, or to any particular type of school designated by the State.”
Catherine told me that she has no problem with the local Catholic school and that she did not want to make an issue of this, but she said that she could have if she wanted to.
On the 21st of December 2018, Nicholas and Catherine Sunshine lodged an appeal to the circuit court regarding their case. The case was heard on the 8th of July 2019, and the judgement was delivered on the 26th September 2019. The concluding judgement stated that:
“14. For these reasons, I am satisfied that the prosecuting authority is incorrect in asserting that full completion of Form R1 is a necessary prerequisite to the Preliminary Assessment.
15. With regard to the summonses, these are brought pursuant to section 25(4) of the Act for contravention of a requirement in a School Attendance Notice. It is the Prosecution case that such Notice was valid by reason of a contravention of section 17(2)(b). With regard to that provision, it is my finding that an application has indeed been made in respect of the child in question and duly served on the Board; it is my further finding that the Board has not made a decision in relation thereto; accordingly, the School Attendance Notice is not valid in law.
16. I therefore allow the appeal is in full, and dismiss the summonses.” (Excerpt from the Judgement of South Eastern Circuit Court September 2019).
The judge also noted that Nicholas and Catherine Sunshine are “persons who manifestly are responsible and caring parents who want what is best for their son”. What kind of ideology blinded TUSLA to this very important observation and led them to seek to criminalise these responsible and caring parents? One must also wonder, are there many other similar cases to this one where TUSLA have falsely accused parents and where the parents have not been able to defend themselves for some reason or another?
Thank God these brave young parents were vindicated in their fight for justice. They never sought to disobey the law or to have the law changed. It was the state agency TUSLA and its employees who acted in contravention of the law. You can be guaranteed that none of them will face a prosecution or be branded as criminals, like Nicholas and Catherine were falsely branded.
The courage of this young couple should be an inspiration to those of us who seek to protect the rights of the traditional family from the encroachment of state agencies. It should also serve as a warning to us as to what can happen if we fail to stand our ground. Our rights will be taken from us and we will become powerless in the face of a growing totalitarian state if we cower in fear and become too docile.
There is no law against asking questions of state agencies and demanding that they uphold the law. Yet in the case of this family, they applied to TUSLA for an assessment in December 2016, in accordance with their legal rights, and now, almost three years later, that assessment still has not been carried out.
Think of the harm caused to the children of this family who had to be told that their parents may end up in jail. The years of their innocence were breached. Too soon, they found out that their parents are not invincible. Too soon, they found out that the State can become a menace unless it is kept in check by its citizens.
Remember that it is our constitution which allows us to place these necessary restrictions on our governors and remember also that our governors, led by the Fine Gael party, without opposition from any of the other political parties, have begun watering down the power of our constitution by inserting clauses which give the government absolute power to legislate in certain areas without having to come back to the electorate by way of a referendum. They seek to continue this process through the sham, government controlled ‘citizens assembly’. We have been warned but let us stand with Nicholas and Catherine and let us demand the return of real power to Irish citizens from these elected usurpers who do not have our children’s best interests at heart.
The problem in our society is not TUSLA and other government agencies ‘per se’, the problem is that our society has lost the vision of what constitutes goodness. Our government does not proceed based on morality, but on what is popular. Our government also takes an ideological stand when it comes to human sexuality which is not based on factual and scientific evidence, particularly where this factual and scientific evidence accords with Catholic Church teaching. Catholic Church teaching on human sexuality is firmly based not just on faith but on the basis of scientific reasoning and truth.
I recently did something which I do not normally do which highlighted this point for me. I turned on the radio in my car and tuned into RTE Radio 1 one morning whilst driving to a local town. A Maeve Lewis from the organisation ‘One in Four’ was speaking about how they are finding it difficult to provide services for sex abuse victims and sex abuse survivors due to a shortage of funds. Whilst I may not agree with all that this organisation has come to stand for, there is a need for counselling services to help victims of sexual abuse and there is also a need to help offenders.
The government said that there were no extra funds available even though this organisation can no longer take on new clients for counselling. Yet the government can commit €500,000 to a plan to increase community awareness of HIV which includes providing hundreds of thousands of condoms to university students for free. The Irish government is encouraging an attitude to human sexuality which may lead to increased rates of sexual abuse. Speaking of the young male abusers who come on their counselling programme, Maeve Lewis said the following.
“It is disturbing that so many of those young men who come on the programme started their pathway to offending through downloading images of child abuse online, becoming sexualised to those images and then going on to commit contact offences.
I think it is a big wake up call for us as a society as to what our children are looking at. Are we aware what they are looking at online and how easy it is to access those types of images which can lead to such tragic outcomes, for the victims obviously, but also indeed for those young men?” (Maeve Lewis speaking to Seán O’Rourke on RTE 1)
It is not the duty of children or teenagers to regulate the internet. The Irish government has done nothing to stop the spread of internet pornography even though the negative effects of porn addiction are well known. As we pointed out in our Lumen Fidei submission to the NCCA, the solution is quite simple.
“The government should make it illegal to broadcast pornography on the internet and should pass legislation with very stiff penalties for the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who permit access to pornography on their networks. If China can block access in their country to ‘google’, then Ireland can block access to pornography, but there must be both an incentive and a strong deterrent in order to force compliance. If the Irish government really cares about the damaging effects of pornography on children, then one can only wonder why this solution has not already been considered.”
But the Irish government operates based on a false ideology when it comes to human sexuality which is not based on a moral view of society. They believe that adults should be allowed to watch pornography, if they so choose, even though pornography is degrading to men and women, because our government don’t want to appear moralistic.
I can and have almost completely blocked pornography from entering my home network (no system is 100% fool proof), therefore it is perfectly feasible for Internet Service Providers to block pornography on their networks thus protecting children and adults from this vile evil which has a corrupting influence on society. But pornography is a multimillion-dollar industry. Our government takes tax revenue from pornography providers, and there is also the advertising revenue generated online by internet pornography. So, the Irish government sits on their collective hands and establishes committees when it comes to regulating the internet, but they have done nothing concrete to protect children and young people from internet pornography. They must be held to account for this failure to protect our children.
The Irish government should enforce a complete ban on internet and other pornography because it serves no useful purpose, causes huge harm and is gravely immoral. The Irish government should not be spending taxpayer’s money to encourage and subsidise the immoral sexual exploits of many college students, by providing free condoms at taxpayer’s expense. As is the case with smoking and drink driving, the government should be tackling the immoral sexual behaviours that cause these societal problems, not encouraging sexual promiscuity in the name of a false ideology as this only increases the problems.
May God bless you.