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On the Requirement to Raise Children as Muslims

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Feb 22, 2013

The agreement between the governments of Spain and Morocco requiring Spanish adopters of Moroccan children to raise them as Muslims is both troubling and, in the end, wrong. The agreement will include a monitoring system to ensure that no Moroccan child converts away from Islam before the age of 18.

I grant that this is a sensitive issue. One recalls the grave concern expressed in recent years about Catholics who adopted Jewish children during the Holocaust period, because they generally baptized them and raised them Catholic. Insofar as the child’s birth parents are still alive, and the birth parents did not give up their children voluntarily, this is an especially difficult issue. But in theory, the process of adoption is supposed to make the adoptive couple real parents to the adoptive child. This is not like foster care. And it is difficult to conceive how real parents, motivated by love, can fail to encourage in a child the growth in those beliefs which the parents understand as most conducive to the fullfilment of the obligatory human commitment to the true and the good.

As if this does not complicate things enough, one can certainly question how any parents can successfully raise a child in a religion they do not believe. The idea is ludicrous. A child who is loved and sees his parents as exemplars, adoptive or otherwise, ought to want to live how his parents live, and to believe as his parents believe. This may shift as a child progresses into adulthood, and is beset either by temptations or legitimate doubts. But it is a natural and, holistically speaking, an important component of being a happy child.

If those who screen potential adoptive couples wish to try to match them with the religious desires of the birth parents, and the screeners have no strong religious commitments of their own, I have no profound objection. This makes a certain kind of sense. But if an adoption agency is committed (for example) to Catholic principles, and the child is very young, it would seem to be the better part of love to seek parents who are likely to raise their adoptive children in the Catholic Faith.

In any case, to allow a couple to become the parents of a child, which is not possible without significant sacrifice on their part, and then to require that they attempt to raise the child in a religion in which they do not believe, is not only a clear violation of the very parental duties and rights which are supposed to be established by adoption, but also an impossible task. And to reach out across years of love and growth with the long arm of the law to ensure that no child converts before the age of 18 is surely a significant violation of human rights. It is the parents, not the ministers of the State, who ought to play a role in that decision.

Thus this new agreement enshrines three evils into law. First, we see the theocratic pretensions of Islam, which constantly places Islamic states in the position of violating the human right, within due limits, to seek the truth and to honor God according to the dictates of conscience. The due limits in question arise from the obligation of government to maintain public order within the parameters of the natural law.

Second, we see the totalitarian tendencies of the modern State in seeking to usurp from parents their sacred and inalienable rights and duties with respect to children. It is not the State’s job to ensure that every citizen is raised “just so”. The family is prior to the State. The State depends on the existence of healthy families. It does not create them; in fact, insofar as the State enterferes, its influence is more frequently deleterious than otherwise.

Third, we see the modern contempt for the inescapable interior connections among spirituality, goodness, and happiness. Based alternately on the myth that belief can be coerced (which I would tend to ascribe to Morocco) and the myth that religion is irrelevant (which I would tend to ascribe to Spain), this contempt manifests itself in the proposition that a person can put on religion like a suit of clothes, and just as easily take it off again, and all without any more impact on his humanity than the changing fashions of the day.

People who make such rules do not understand what religion really is; nor do they grasp the fundamental duty of religion which inheres as a matter of both justice and love in every person. As such, they should not be making any rules in religious matters at all. One understands that government has a legitimate reason to concern itself with adoption, to ensure that there is nothing that can be construed as “trafficking” in the acquisition and placement of children. But there are some responsibilities which government simply does not have, some duties which government is completely unsuited to exercise, and some intimacies of heart and soul which government is unfit to experience.

Contrary to a raft of modern ideologies, parenting is one of them.

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