Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

Licensing of Parents: Totalitarianism Reaches For the Whole Human Race

by Frank Morriss


Frank Morriss discusses the intrusion of the State into the life of the family.

Larger Work

Forum Focus



Publisher & Date

The Wanderer Forum Foundation, Inc., Fall, 1998

Totalitarianism, as the word suggests, is the full control of the totality or of major facets of the lives of those subject to it. The ultimate control would be of life itself, enabling the controllers to reach their goals through determining who should be born and who should be denied birth. As shall be shown below, organized promotion of just such totalitarianism has long been present in our midst, and still is at a time when genetic manipulation and other technologies more and more render such control possible.

The totalitarian ideal, of course, antedates by centuries such technology, and was early applied by methods of force and terror. Certain tribes killed weaklings at birth. It has been used as a population control measure. Children have been used as sacrificial victims. Military regimes such as that of Sparta dispatched male children who lacked promise of ability in arms. All such measures were used with some argument that they served the good of the family or the tribe or of worship or of the state or nation.

Modern refinement of the method of control of human life itself has not changed the argument basically, but only the subtlety or refinement with which it is advanced. Successful totalitarians always craft their arguments to appeal to the mentality and culture of the time. Yet at its root, totalitarianism is unchanged, despite attempts to conceal its vicious and anti-human character.

Further, totalitarianism is not determined by the means by which it comes to power. Hitler was put in place by the prevailing legal process. He was appointed chancellor in recognition of his party's success at the polls (though achieved in some degree by intimidation), and then used his political power to amass full control of all civic affairs, but never without a coloration of legality. His experimentation with control of human life itself through scientific eugenics was conducted, therefore, with a claim of mandate from the citizens of the Third Reich.

His partner in Italy, Il Duce, also came to power through the established political process, and remained in power until events stripped him of popular support. It can be said that the totalitarianism of both these leaders was achieved within the existing constitutional framework, as much as that may be poisoned by pressures on its normal functioning.

This is important, for the totalitarianism being proposed, and in fact, already present in today's democracies, such as the United States, Great Britain, and the European nations, is corning about with the appearance of constitutional process, albeit abused and manipulated. Totalitarian control of unborn and birth-in-process human life was given to mothers and their doctors by the judicial process in the Supreme Court, manipulated by totalitarian-minded justices. Totalitarian control of life was given to citizens of Oregon and their physicians when voters approved the legality of assisted suicide.

Thus should the final control — state determination of who is allowed to be born — be achieved as it is now being proposed, and it will arrive via some recognized political or judicial process. A coup d'etat or revolution will not be required, for such will be unnecessary. The constitutional process itself has been invaded by the totalitarian mentality to the extent that abortion, assisted suicide, and euthanasia (even when practiced outside existing legality, as for example by Dr. Kevorkian) are not recognized as totalitarian.[1]

One of the stealth corps leading an invasion of the political, academic, and cultural establishments in the United States is the American Eugenics Society (AES).[2] Large amounts of Rockefeller family money supported the aims of this society as early as the 1930s.[3] These aims were set by a circle of elite, and may be summarized as attainment of a population minimal in number and optimal in productivity of wealth which would enrich the elites who are selling the science of eugenics.

Frederick Osborn, who died in 1981 at the age of 92, is described by freelance investigator Mary Meehan as "grand strategist" of the AES from the 1930s to the 1970s.[4] A friend of the Franklin Roosevelts and the Rockefellers, Osborn founded the Population Association of America, the American Society of Eugenics, and the Population Council, which he administered as a Rockefeller enterprise. He helped persuade Wickliffe Draper to finance the eugenics foundation called the Pioneer Fund, which Osborn led for years and which still exists. Osborn helped establish Princeton University's Office of Population Research, where he and fellow eugenicist, Frank Notestein, developed plans for population control in poor nations. Notestein helped design U.S. post-war policy, suggesting use of eugenics in emerging nations to slow population growth.[5] The shadows of both Osborn and Notestein can be detected in the current policy of the United States linking population limitation to modernization of economics. Certainly forced limitation of conception and birth as practiced, for example, in Communist China, is fully compatible with and complementary to the eugenics agenda.

Now enter the intellectual elite who are taking the eugenics agenda to a next step where total control of not only the numbers but also the character and understanding of the human race can be controlled. The rationale is always "improvement of the race," but the cost of such "improvement" is clearly a root totalitarianism that the elites keep concealed.


The proposal for a "health" identification code for every American, with a from-cradle-to-grave health database is ominous, especially joined to the plan for parental licensing. One purpose offered by the Clinton administration for this is "scientific study." This would present the eugenics lobby with an in-place means for judging who might be licensed to have children and who might be denied it.

Would, for example, all considered obese be denied a license; those who smoke; those who lack excellence of genetics; all the imperfect, i.e., all who might in the future be dependent because of ill-health?

The totalitarian quality of such a proposal is obvious. But the fact that a US executive administration could propose such a thing reveals that it is relying on a new acceptability of totalitarianism. If that is correct, the indifference to being enslaved has surely come about by subverted education and perverted elitism.

Only an outcry against the dangerous implications of such a scheme to keep a health file on every US citizen led to its withdrawal (at least for the moment) by the Clinton administration.


It is now 18 years since the essay, "Licensing Parents" appeared in the quarterly. Philosophy and Public Affairs. The author, Hugh LaFollette, calling himself a "children's rights" activist, argued that since parenting is an activity potentially dangerous to others, it should require a state license. His basic arguments had nothing to do with children's rights, but struck rather at the belief that "parents own, or at least have natural sovereignty over their children." Proving the broader goal of controlling culture and society, LaFollette saw licensing of parenthood as a means to "prepare children for life as adults." But this could result only from the state replacing the parents in the rearing of children — as totalitarian a goal as has ever been attempted. Thus licensing of parents would not only determine who should bear children, but who should educate them. Licensing would only be the first step in what would amount to confiscating the children by substituting the state as the real parent with the authority once conceded to parents in virtue of their natural role of bringing about new human lives.

Indeed, that role was formally recognized in the case of Pierce v School Sisters[6] Oregon had passed a law requiring every child be educated through eighth grade in a public school. In striking down that law, the US Supreme Court said that the "child is not the creature of the state." However, the licensing proposed for parenting would do just that — deliver the child from conception to the will of the state.

In 1981, Gene Stephens, associated professor of criminal justice. University of South Carolina, picked up the idea of licensing parents and carried it further. In an article in The Futurist[7] entitled "Crime in the Year 2000" Stephens foresaw that by that year "the movement to license or certify parents may be will underway." Stephens proposed that whereas some would be licensed "to breed," others would be licensed to rear such children, turned over to those so granted state permission. This would all be clearly in fulfillment of eugenic presumptions — that proper "biology" in producing children would result in "fewer biological reasons for crime," and proper rearing "could lead to better development of their (children's) egos, and thus of their capabilities."[8]

These ideas remained in the relative obscurity of the limited-circulation journals in which they appeared. But seeds thus planted are often nurtured in secret until a time deemed ripe. Thus in 1994, a book was published by the New York-London house Insight Books entitled, "Licensing Parents: Can We Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect? The author is Dr. Jack C. Westman, professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Though the title of his book suggests, and Dr. Westman insists, that the goal is child protection, he gives away the true totalitarianism behind it when he says, "(The) integrity of society itself depends upon the competent parenting of its children."[9] (emphasis added) Hitler might well have said the very same thing, and he in fact is reputed as saying something quite similar — "Give me your children today, and I will give you the world tomorrow." Dr. Westman further reveals the motivation beyond the welfare of children when he writes that "the overall objective of childrearing in the United States is the development of each individual's potential to function competently within our evolving, democratic society."[10]

Behind the proposal for licensing children is the goal of producing a population that conforms to the goals of the secular society. It is more ominous when this idea comes from the area of psychiatry, which has its own norms for mental health and social stability.

The Westman manuscript found enthusiastic endorsement even before its publication. Its Foreword was written by Judge Charles D. Gill of the Connecticut Supreme Court.[11] Gill believes licensing parents is necessary in the "struggle of our democracy" against crime, drugs and dysfunctional families. In fact, he considers millions of children as being born to and reared by "criminals who are their parents." In Gill's view, the totalitarian complexion of licensing for parents is too small a part of "the issue" to outweigh the pragmatic need for such a step.[12] This ignores the fact that every totalitarian system in history has relied on the argument of necessity to justify its oppression of human rights.

The family as a cradle of crime was picked up in a 1995 book by another professor of psychology, David Lykken of the University of Minnesota.[13] Lykken considers being on welfare as evidence of incompetence to bear children, apparently because children of welfare recipients are exposed to an environment of crime. He likens it to having children in a "plague area."[14] This psychologist is frank about the methods to be used in licensing of parents. Licenses would be checked in hospital maternity wards. Those unlicensed would have their babies taken away from them immediately — and permanently. "Repeat offenders might be required to submit to an implant of Norplant as a way to keep them from having another baby for five years."[15]

All of these advocates for licensing of parents are enthusiastic supporters for the UN "children's rights convention." Further, the National Task Force For Children's Constitutional Rights, co-founded by Judge Gill, proposes a constitutional amendment that would give the state the right to intervene in the home for the "best interests of the child." The Judge is frank about the implications of all this: "The (UN) convention makes a total break from previous approaches to children's rights. Previous 'rights' were paternalistic, whereas the convention makes the state directly responsible to the child."[16] In other words, the child indeed is the "creature" of the state, which by these constitutional or extra-constitutional processes ousts the rights of parents to their own children.

Judge Gill makes no bones about that: "National groups, with their feet in the trenches . . . are demanding that the government take direct responsibility as a matter or right, the children's right. The National Committee for the Rights of the Child, Defense for Children International, the National Education Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the National Task Force for Children's Constitutional Rights make this point in varying degrees."[17]

The quotation above is taken from Judge Gill's rebuttal of suggestions it is beyond state capacity to take direct responsibility for the child. Indeed, Gill and those who advocate for so-called "children's rights" with him, envision administration of such "rights" by the state within the home. Thus the state becomes a sort of "super-parent" within the very domain where parents once carried out their natural roles.


The National Education Association (NEA), mentioned by Gill as among supporters of his child licensing rationale of the state's right to direct intervention in matters of parenting, came close to disclosing the truth of its position with the following 1992 resolution:

"C-24 — Student Stress. The Association supports stress management programs that address the needs of children within both school and community settings and that provide follow-up support."

No wonder psychologists are so fervent for parent licensing and intrusion into the home for the "benefit" of children — both ideas would mean employment of and reliance on swarms of psychologists and psychiatrists, paid by the state or "community" to determine who are fit for parenting, and which condition in the home might overstress children and need remedying, if not outright confiscation and placement elsewhere of children already born who are suffering psychological trauma.

The NEA is only a step outside "parental licensing" and fully within direct state responsibility in place of parents in this resolution the same year (1992):

B-lEarly Childhood Education. The National Education Association supports early childhood education programs in the public schools for children from birth through age eight. The Association further believes that early childhood education programs should include a full continuum of services for parents and children, including child care, child development, appropriate developmental and diversity-based curricula, special education and appropriate bias-free screening devices."

The resolution continues to advocate federal legislation funding such programs and making them mandatory with compulsory attendance starting with kindergarten.

That licensing of parents is an immediate threat can be seen in the fact Professor Lykken anticipated testifying in favor of a bill in the Minnesota Legislature in 1997 that would subject unlicensed parents to "periodic visits by child-protection case workers who will do an annual audit of each child's physical, social, and educational progress." Lykken, however, felt "by the time my own grandchildren have grown up" the children of unlicensed parents would be seized "before bonding occurs" and put for adoption or care by "professionally trained and supervised foster-parents."[18]

This bold advocacy of substitution of the state for the parent faces a long history of court decisions defending parental rights. Pierce v Society of Sisters was followed by the Yoder case, in which the Supreme Court upheld the right of an Amish father to withhold his children from the public schools.[19] In Deburgh v Deburgh,[20] Judge Roger Traynor wrote:

"The family is the basic unit of our society, the center of personal affections that ennoble and enrich human life. It channels biological drives that might otherwise become socially destructive; it ensures the care and education of children in a stable environment; it establishes continuity from one generation to another; it nurtures and develops the individual initiative that distinguishes a free people."

Even more pointedly, the Supreme Court upheld parental rights in the case of Meyer v Nebraska in which was challenged a state law forbidding teaching of any language but English in all schools, including even parochial ones. The high court turned to the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to overthrow the conviction of a teacher in a parochial school who taught German:

"Without doubt, it (the 14th Amendment) denotes not merely freedom from bodily restraint but also the right of the individual to contract, to engage in any of the common occupations of life, to acquire useful knowledge, to marry, establish a home and bring up children, to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and generally to enjoy those privileges long recognized at common law as essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men."[21] (emphasis added)

With the corruption of traditional culture by a totalitarian elitism, these early decisions, unfortunately, cannot be relied upon to bar confiscation of children and the right to bear them in the cause of either biological or intellectual eugenics. Parental rights are under assault from the highest levels of authority, particularly the executive branch of the US government.


A subtle undermining of the parental rights defended in the cases discussed immediately above was undertaken by Hillary Rodham (later to be First Lady) as early as 1973 in a Harvard Educational Review article:

"The significance of early education cases in regard to children's rights, however, rests more on what the court did not consider than what it did consider in its deliberations. 'These cases never mention rights or interests of children involved. Since they rest entirely on a doctrine of parental rights, the question whether the parent may not be loyal to the interests of his child is not discussed."'[22] (The internal quote used by Ms. Rodham is from Andrew Jay Kleinfeld in his "The Balance of Power Among Infants, Their Parents, and the State, Part II." Family Law Quarterly, Dec. 1970).

Advocates of "children's rights," of course are raising the questions of such rights as departing from and over and against parental rights. The future first Lady pointed out:

"The most striking characteristic of children's law is the large degree of discretion permitted decision-makers in enforcing community norms. When intervention must occur, bureaucratic discretion replaces familial discretion. The statutes authorizing state intervention implicitly accept that the state's representative will know what children need and should not be strait-jacketed by legal technicalities."[23]

To be fair, the young Ms. Rodham thought "capriciousness" resulting from this state of affairs would be avoided by "establishing children's rights." But she seems unconcerned about the implication of her advocacy of intervention against parents when experts judge children are at serious risk of "severe emotional deprivation or psychological damage."

Those like John Rawls and Victor L. Worsfold of Harvard would make adults (including parents) "more accountable to children."[24] When parenting becomes subject to the judgment of welfare workers, psychologists and Utopian futurists, obviously the traditional family is in danger, and parental rights are all but overthrown.

Indeed, a Futurist magazine book reviewer (Lane Jennings, May/June, 1995 issue) faults Westman for retaining concern for the nuclear family even with his parental licensing proposal. Lane Jennings seems to suggest replacing the nuclear family with "communal households" in which there are multiple "adult caregivers," a situation he says is common in Asia and Africa. This alternative suggestion seems to be prompted by Jennings' recognition that licensing of parents is not likely to win acceptance easily.

That, of course, is fortunately true. But Robert A. Gordon, Johns Hopkins University sociologist may be correct in saying (in Society magazine) a proposal for licensing parents could well come about by processes of deliberative democracy."[25] Unfortunately, the deliberation is often dominated by educators, academics, and other elites who hold tradition in contempt and know little of and care nothing about the natural law and its absolute rights.

Still, the opposition to licensing of parents from those such as William A. Donohue and Howard G. Schneiderman, and Eli Ginzburg is welcome. Ginzburg, director of the Eisenhower Center for the Conservation of Human Resources at Columbia University, blames the absences of fathers from the home as the cause of failure of proper maturation of many sons. Schneiderman blames much of society's problems on the high divorce rate and the growing number of unmarried mothers. He is professor of sociology at Lafayette College. About the licensing proposal, he says:

"The idea of licensing parents ignores the problems of keeping alive democratic values as state control replaces social control."[26]

Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, calls the licensing proposal "a draconian step in a democracy," and one that would not help anyone except lawyers and bureaucrats.[27]

In fact, the opposition to the idea is welcome even from those who feel it is not drastic enough, such as William M. Epstein, author of several books about the dysfunctional society. "Sociopathy may be the result of broad cultural failure" he writes.[28]

Natural law adherents, though unable to agree with much else he writes, can agree with that diagnosis. The answer lies in establishment or restoration of a decent culture. And what is needed for that is something even more radical than licensing parents — it is conversion of society to love of God and neighbor. That is what once rescued society from barbarism, and there is no reason it cannot do so again. It is religionless, valueless, absolutely secular culture that is the enemy of both liberty and decency. That culture has been fastened upon this country (and others of the world) by the very types who now offer totalitarian solutions to the very problems they have brought about.

Parent-directed schools and home schooling provide a degree of protection against this culture, and can contribute to cultural reform. But such a reform cannot be successful if we concentrate only in guarding or holding on to values. Genuinely religious schooling, whether in classrooms or in homes, must provide a cultural leaven such as originally rescued the nations that replaced the Roman empire. Culture is the historical environment in which a civilization exists. If the culture itself is religious, then civilization will enjoy the values that religion recognizes. The education that can bring about such culture must be understood in the broadest way — a drawing forth from the people of their highest, most noble, and most human potentials. Such education must be evangelical, if not immediately and directly, at least in its final end, or what scholastic philosophy calls final cause.

If the truth about this is spoken about often and convincingly enough, the totalitarians shall fall and the morally sound will rise. The question is, can it happen soon enough to save the world from a new barbarism worse than the old.


1. "The creation of a new social value in the United States goes through a process of identifying and discussing an issue in organizations and the media. Persuading arguments in the form of editorials, essays and political policies shape the issue so that it assumes the specificity of a value. Then education promulgates the need for the value. Finally, legislation embeds the value in our society." (emphasis added) Jack C. Westman, advocate of licensing parents, here outlines the process of selling even a totalitarian concept. This is excerpted from his "The Rationale and Feasibility of Licensing Parents," Society magazine, November/December, 1996, p. 47-48.

2. Vide, Mary Meehan, "Eugenics and the Power Elite," Social Justice Review, Vol. 88, no. 11-12, November/December, 1997.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. 268 US 510, 1925.

7. Cited by William Norman Grigg, Freedom on the Altar, American Opinion Publishing, Appleton, WI, 1995, p. 71-72.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.

10. Ibid. Vide also Society magazine, cited in note 1 above.

11. Grigg, op. cit., p. 77-79.

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid., p. 79-80. Vide also Society magazine, note 1.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid.

16. Ibid., p. 82, quoting Gill's "Essay on the Status of the American Child, 2000 A.D.: Chattel or Constitutionally Protected Child Citizen?" in Ohio Northern University Law Review, 1991.

17. Ibid.

18. David T. Lykken, "Psychopathy, Sociopathy, and Crime," Society magazine, vide., note 1.

19. Wisconsin v Yoder, 406 US 205, 1972.

20. Deburgh v Deburgh, 250 P.2nd 598, 1952. Both Yoder and Debergh cases are treated thoroughly by John W. Whitehead and Alexis Irene Crow in Home Education: Rights and Reasons, Crossroads Books, Wheaton, IL, 1993.

21. Cited in Whitehead and Crow, note 20 above.

22. Reprinted in The Rights of Children, Harvard Educational Review, Cambridge, MA, 1974.

23. Ibid.

24. The Rights of Children, above.

25. Gordon's recommendation is that such solutions to sociological problems presented by irresponsible parenting be approached by a "civil exchange of reasons" made possible by the processes protected and practiced in a democracy — apparently meaning free speech, free publication, etc. Unfortunately, ideologues use such processes in a democracy to establish an undemocratic monopoly for their opinions.

26. In Society magazine, vide note 1.

27. In Society magazine, vide note 1.

28. In Society magazine, vide note 1. Epstein seems to accept Hugh LaFollette's argument that there is no inherent or unconditional right to bear children, an argument the natural law contradicts. The natural law recognizes the purpose for which sex is given us — the procreation of children. Epstein's only objection is that the idea of licensing parenthood, especially if it had sanctions to make it work, will not be accepted by the people. But it can be agreed with Epstein that it is a dysfunctional culture in which the responsibilities of parenthood are cast aside, creating problems that a properly functioning family would overcome.

(The NEA resolutions in this monograph are from The Phyllis Schlafly Report, Vol. 27, No. 2, September, 1993.)


This is an actual parent licensing bill introduced (dated Dec. 11, 1995) in the Minnesota State Legislature. Though it was not adopted, it clearly shows the totalitarian nature of such proposals, disguised as concern for child welfare. It would in effect have made agencies of the State of Minnesota surrogates in place of the parents over everyone given birth in that state.

. . . relating to family law; providing for licensure of parents; imposing sanctions; proposing coding for new law in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 257.

Be It Enacted By The Legislature Of The State Of Minnesota: Section 1. (257.001) (Parental License.)

Subdivision 1. (APPLICATION; REQUIREMENTS.) Parents resident in Minnesota who expect the birth of their biological child after the effective date of this section shall apply to the court administrator of the district court in the county in which one or both of them reside for a parental license. Requirements for licensure are:

(1.) both parents must have reached their 21st birthday;

(2.) the parents are legally married to each other;

(3.) the parents can demonstrate that they are now, and can be expected to continue to be, economically self-supporting;

(4.) the parents can provide the assurance of a licensed physician that neither suffers from a disabling mental disorder; and

(5.) a search of police records reveals that neither parent has been convicted of a felony.

Subd.2. (EXEMPTION.) Parents who do not meet one or more of the requirements in subdivision 1 may apply to the district court in their county of residence for an exemption. The burden of proof is on the parents to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the court that their custody is in the best interests of the child.

Subd. 3. (VIOLATION.) Failure of the parents to apply for a parental license in a timely fashion, or the birth of a child to unlicensed parents, shall establish both biological parents to be in violation of this section and subject to its sanctions for the violation.

Subd. 4. (SANCTIONS.) A woman found to be in violation of this section shall be required to identify the possible fathers of her unlicensed child. A male resident of Minnesota so identified, unless he acknowledges paternity in writing, shall submit to blood testing to establish paternity. The biological father shall pay any costs to the state or county that result from the violation of this section, including the costs of maintaining the child until it reaches the age of 18 years.

Subd.5. (HOME VISIT.) Within one month of the birth of a child to an unlicensed mother, the child protection agency of the county of residence shall conduct a home visit and survey of the custodial arrangements made for the child. A detailed report of this visit must be submitted to the department of human services which shall open and maintain a file on that child until the child's 18th birthday.

Subd. 6. (PHYSICAL EXAMINATIONS.) On or before each of the child's first and subsequent birthdays, the mother shall arrange for the child to be examined by a physician and for a written report of that examination to be provided to the department of human services.

Subd. 7. (ANNUAL HOME VISIT AND REPORT.) On or about the first and each subsequent birthday, the county child protection agency shall conduct an annual home visit to survey the child's progress and custodial arrangements, A detailed report of this survey, including an audit of the father's support payments during the prior year, must be forwarded to the department of human services.

Subd. 8. (SCHOOL REPORT.) When the child begins attending school, a report of the child's educational progress and school adjustment must be obtained from the school by the child protection agency and included in an annual report on the child's status to be submitted to the department of human services.

Subd. 9. (REPORTING BY PHYSICIANS.) Any physician practicing in Minnesota, upon learning of the unlicensed pregnancy of a woman resident of this state, shall report that fact to the child protection agency of her county of residence within one week of discovery. That agency shall, upon receiving such a report, immediately investigate the situation and, if the mother-to-be does not meet the requirements for parental licensure, institute the actions called for in subdivisions 4 to 8.

FRANK MORRISS is co-editor of Forum Focus and a contributing editor and columnist for The Wanderer newspaper. He has served as news editor for the Denver Catholic Register and the National Catholic Register and has been an active journalist and author since 1950. A graduate of Regis College and holder of a law degree from Georgetown University, he has also been a college professor and the founder of a private Catholic school. His full-length book, A Little Life Of Our Lord, is available through the Forum Focus Series listing on the inside back cover.

© Forum Focus, Wanderer Forum Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 542, Hudson, WI 54016-0542.

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