Folks gather and organize, fearing ‘evil’ forces within the government are plotting to undermine families
by Delen Goldberg / The Post-Standard
Thursday August 20, 2009, 7:14 AM
The rain had just cleared Tuesday as a group of about 40 people filtered into the parking lot of Terry’s Transmissions in North Syracuse.
They carried flags and umbrellas and set up lawn chairs as the song “God Bless the USA” played over a loudspeaker. Homemade signs reading “No More Lies” and “Parents decide, not government” lined a podium.
The group, made up of grandfathers, soccer moms and teens, had gathered to hear speakers talk about two federal bills: The once-named GIVE Act, which establishes voluntary community service programs for students, seniors and veterans (and was signed into law by President Obama in April) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which guarantees civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights for children (and is still pending in Congress).
The patriots, as they call themselves, rallied against both, bolstered by fears that the bills would allow the government to indoctrinate their children and take them away. The crowd instead supports a proposed Parental Rights Amendment to the Constitution, which they say would counteract the U.N. treaty and guarantee parents the right to raise their kids as they see fit.
“Evil people will do anything evil you allow them to,” said speaker Eric Lansing, a recent college graduate from Purcellville, Va., who is regional coordinator for ParentalRights.org. “They’ll take advantage … until you stand up.
“The problem is, they (supporters) have not been exposed to the full text of the bill,” Lansing continued. “We happen to know what’s in the best interest of your children.”
The speakers cast their opponents as misguided and misinformed, but a good portion of the information they provided was incorrect.
Jennifer Blount, of Skaneateles, likened Obama’s community service groups to Nazi youth camps and slavery. In reality, the programs will be completely voluntary.
The GIVE Act, renamed as the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, authorizes about $6 billion in spending over the next five years to expand the number of AmeriCorps positions from 75,000 to 250,000 and create new community service programs for middle- and high-school students, senior citizens and other Americans. In return for service, volunteers will receive academic credits, educational stipends or other financial awards. Service would not be required for students taking school loans, another common misconception.
Lansing said the service bill Obama signed “was not as bad as it could have been, but there are still some awful things in there.” He correctly pointed out that service would not be mandatory, but added: “That could come.”
When asked by an audience member what “awful things” were included in the bill, Lansing deferred.
“I’m not sure about specifics,” he said. “It was a long time ago that I studied the bill.”
Dave Brewster Sr., of Canastota, characterized the bill as a way for the government “not just to control people, but to own them.” Brewster, who founded the conservative group, “United Strength of America,” also called Obama “our gangsta president” and a “street thug from Chicago.”
Several attendees worried out loud that the U.N. agreement would allow the United Nations to take away their children. But the agreement allows no such thing.
Article 5 reads: “Parties shall respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents or, where applicable, the members of the extended family.”
Article 9 reads: “Parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will.”
Instead, the convention is a legally binding international treaty that covers protection from abuse and exploitation and rights to adequate food, shelter, clean water, education and health care. Only two nations — the United States and Somalia — have yet to sign on.
The demonization of the two measures has been promoted by rightwing Web sites and talk radio that have stoked anti-tax tea parties and health-care town hall disruptions nationwide.
The people attending said they found out about the event through word of mouth, blogs and e-mails. Many took notes during the speakers’ lectures, and at least a few passed around printed material from conservative Web sites.
The patriots said they have put in requests for meetings with several local elected officials, including Rep. Dan Maffei, D-DeWitt, and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., to try to gain their support for a Parental Rights Amendment.
“We are sane people,” explained Lee Deyulio, of Baldwinsville. “We are not a bunch of rightwing nuts. We are not the enemy. We are just trying to save our country.”
Delen Goldberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 470-2274.