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Michele Bachmann's parental rights theme is an old one

Michelle BachmannOne of the highlights of Monday's GOP presidential debate -- at least in terms of point-scoring -- was Rep. Michele Bachmann's attack on Gov. Rick Perry for ordering the vaccination of Texas schoolgirls against a virus that causes cervical cancer. Bachmann sounded as if vaccination were as horrid as a vampire's bite, but her real point was that Perry encroached on parental rights.

Whatever you think of her politics, Bachmann was being faithful to a theme enunciated by the Supreme Court. In a 1925 decision upholding the right of parents to send their children to private schools, the court said, "The child is not the mere creature of the state." Thirty states have recognized spiritual healing as an alternative to medical treatment, in deference to Christian Scientists and other groups (though in extreme cases -- the death of an untreated child, for example -- courts have intervened).

Even Perry's executive order had an opt-out provision. Bachmann said it should have been an opt-in.

Parental rights is a major theme in social conservatism, which overlaps the "tea party" movement to an extent not always acknowledged. It is seen in the home-school movement and in the opposition of some parents to having their children taught evolution. In other countries this deference to parents' rights might seem quaint, but it's alive and well in the United States, as Perry discovered.


Live coverage: GOP debate, round two

GOP debate's winner, loser, survivor and comeback [ round two]

GOP debate: Biggest winner, loser and missed opportunity [round one]

-- Michael McGough

Photo: Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn, during a Republican debate Monday in Tampa, Fla. Credit: Chris O'Meara / AP Photo


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