Alfie Evans and the UK’s paternalistic subversion of parental rights
Religion & Liberty Online

Alfie Evans and the UK’s paternalistic subversion of parental rights

Alfie Evans’s father wanted his son to remain on life support and be allowed to go to the Bambino Gesù Hospital in Rome for additional treatment. Earlier today, though, the UK’s Court of Appeal—the highest court within the Senior Courts of England and Wales—denied that request and upheld a previous ruling removing life-support for the British infant. (Rev. Ben Johnson wrote about “The trial of Alfie Evans” yesterday.)

In this story sounds eerily familiar, it’s because it’s similar to the situation last year with another British infant—Charlie Gard. Charlie’s parents also wanted to take their child to Bambino Gesù Hospital, but the British court’s refused. In an Acton Commentary last year Anne Rathbone Bradley explained why this was an intrusion into parental rights:

The state is not a legal guardian of people, an entity that assigns rights and dignity. Quite the opposite: The state is a construct that we use (often not very effectively) to protect rights and dignity that we already have. The biggest concern we should have with the state is that it has a strong tendency to violate its position, and history is a powerful reminder of this tendency. The state in fact, has no dignity, only people do.

As such, the family is the most important societal mechanism for protecting and defending the rights and dignity which come from our Creator. Where the family or community cannot do this, we employ the state, bounded by the rule of law and respect for individual rights, to protect those rights.

When the state crosses that boundary and assumes the role of parent, we can only expect that the natural role of families, churches, and communities will be eclipsed, and this will erode our natural rights and dignity. Parents must be the ones to make the choices about the care of their children. This is why Charlie’s legal battle matters so much.

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Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).