Do parents have the right to decide which friends or extended family their children will spend time with?

On Jan. 12, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider this question when it hears oral arguments in the case of Troxel v. Granville. “The case’s larger issue is whether or not the Supreme Court will reaffirm that the principle of individual rights includes the right to raise one’s own children,” said Thomas A. Bowden, a Baltimore-based lawyer and a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute.

At issue in the Troxel case is the constitutionality of a State of Washington law that permits judges to order visitation by outsiders against a parent’s express wishes if it is deemed “in the best interest of the child.”

“The premise underlying this free-floating asserting of governmental power is that, contrary to justice and precedent, children are fundamentally creatures of the State, which grants parents permission to raise their children so long as the State’s notions of what constitutes good parenting are satisfied,” said Bowden.

“But the right to determine a child’s best interests belongs only to its parents, by virtue of the crucial fact that it is their child, not society’s or the State’s.

“In the absence of demonstrable physical abuse or neglect, parents, including single parents, have the exclusive right to decide what their children will eat, where they will attend school, which morality they will be taught, and with whom they may associate.”

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Chris Wolski

The author is a contributing writer to Capitalism Magazine.