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Bill establishing parental rights as “fundamental rights” stalls in House

Rep. Ernie Yarbrough, R-Trinity, said the far left supports parental rights when “chemically castrating children” but not for parents to know what material is being taught in school.

Rep. Kenneth Paschal, R-Pelham, speaks to attendees at an event of the ALGOP Outreach Coalition.
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A bill to codify into Alabama law that parental rights are “fundamental rights” and prohibit government interference unless there is a “narrowly tailored” and “compelling state interest” stalled in the House Tuesday.

Critics accused Rep. Kenneth Paschal, R-Pelham, of bringing the bill due to a “personal situation” and questioned whether the bill could affect child custody.

“This bill is not about child custody,” Paschal said. “This bill is to acknowledge the simple fact that … kids are a gift from above, God. So we have God, parents and the government, and you have to put them in order.”

Paschal filed legislation in 2022 that would require courts to consider joint custody as the best option for children outside of certain extenuating circumstances.

The Alabama GOP  has supported the bill since Paschal pre-filed it in January.

“Both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Alabama Supreme Court have recognized that parental rights are a fundamental right, and it’s time state law reflected that,” said ALGOP chairman John Wahl. “Parents know their children and their needs better than the government. Codifying this in state law will prevent the government from overreaching and overriding parental decisions.”

But critics say the language is confusing and worry it could be used to target classroom curriculum or the parents of transgender children.

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“Where is the smoking gun that says we need this bill?” Rep. A.J. McCampbell, D-Gallion, asked Paschal.

Rep. Ernie Yarbrough, R-Trinity, said the bill is important because “these rights are under attack.”

“There is much afoot at work today to destroy the sovereignty of the family,” Yarbrough said. “The far left is arguing parental rights when it comes to transgender-affirming care and chemical castration. But then the same people will turn around and argue that parents don’t have the right to know the educational material of their children. That they don’t have the right to direct hands-on their values, their faith, their morals in their education.”

After about an hour of debate on the bill, the House voted to carry the bill over at the call of the chair. It could come back up on the calendar again.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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