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Pro-Family vs. Elian's Family

Why are conservative family sites keeping mum about Elian Gonzalez?

By Terry Krepel
Posted 4/14/2000

L. Brent Bozell of the Media Research Council kicks off his April 6 column by attacking the “liberal Children’s Defense Fund” for having “nothing to say” about the plight of Elian Gonzalez. NewsMax laments that Miami's religious community won't take a stand on Elian.

They may want to check with their fellow conservative family groups, because they haven’t said much more.

If you thought that all conservatives were in lockstep in pushing to terminate Juan Miguel Gonzalez’s parental rights over his political beliefs, you’d be wrong. The websites with a “pro-family” focus are saying little about the case.

Searches of five leading conservative pro-family websites on April 10 using their respective site search engines for “Elian” turned up the following:, operated by Focus on the Family: Two articles, a copy of an AP wire story about the case, and a teaser for a story in its print magazine, Citizen, on what a nasty guy Fidel Castro is: “Castro said he wanted Elian Gonzalez reunited with his father. Yet Cuba's communist dictator is notorious for separating families.”

American Family Association: A story from that day’s news briefing about criticism of the United Methodist Church for raising money to help pay for Elian’s father’s attorney.

Family Research Council: Two articles, the most recent dated Jan. 27 criticizing the National Council of Churches, which was playing a mediation role in the case, for “a history of left-wing activism that is rarely reported by the media.”

Independent Women's Forum: No hits at all.

Eagle Forum: The only site to advance an opinion about the case. Phyllis Schlafly writes in her Jan. 26 column (the only hit on the site) in favor of letting Elian have his day in court and of terminating Juan Miguel Gonzalez’s parental rights. She cites a newspaper in Madrid, Spain, as reporting that Juan Miguel had wanted Elian to go to America. Otherwise, the article is your basic anti-Castro diatribe but adds that because we’re dealing with communists here, “the arguments about father’s rights and family unity are phony when it comes to Elian’s predicament.”

Why such silence? Perhaps because these conservative organizations have spent a lot of time pushing for parental rights and don’t want to look hypocritical in calling for a family to be split up. Enter “parental rights” into these sites’ search engines and the hits go into three digits.

A good example of these groups’ stand on parental rights comes from an article from the Family Research Council, “Parental Rights: Who Decides How Children Are Raised?” After an unusual opening in which Plato is linked with “modern-day utopian thinkers and totalitarian states.” the article advances the view that “respect for the autonomy of the family is as central to the democratic ideal as popular soverignty.” Following are several examples of courts upholding parental rights, including the right of Amish parents to withdraw their children from school after the eighth grade

The article notes that “while it is indisputable that children have rights, parents traditionally have been considered the proper custodians of the rights until their children reach adulthood.” This launches the citing of several examples of the “brazen tendency” of public schools substituting their judgement over for that of the parents.

The article then moves on to legislative efforts to strengthen parental rights, including a proposed constitutional amendment that reads: “The right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children shall not be infringed.” The crux of the issue is seen as this: “The clash over parental rights proposals begs the fundamental question: Are ordinary parents generally competent to raise their children or should parents defer to elite authorities backed by state power?”

This article and others like it make the issue clear in the view of conservative pro-family groups: Short of abuse beyond “reasonable corporal discipline,” parents have the fundamental right to raise their children as they see fit. As long as the children’s physical well-being is not endangered, parents can do what they want. Even, perhaps, live in Cuba under Castro.

As the FRC article concludes: “Recognizing the irreplacable role of parents is essential to keeping the power of the state in check, revitalizing citizenship and ensuring that children receive the love, protection and guidance only a parent can provide.”

It seems that some conservatives fear the solution for Elian’s situation that other conservatives are pushing.

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