Chapter 11, "Fundamentally Incompetent: Homophobia, Religion and the Right to Parent,"
It is widely assumed that adults who engage in procreation with a view having children that they intend to raise have a presumptive moral claim to serve as the custodial parents of the children they create. The moral right to parent grounded in ‘ordinary’ procreation of this sort in turn provides justification for legal rights of parents. Indeed, in most cases, legal guardianship of children by parents flows more or less directly from successful procreation by a couple. Adults who become parents in this way typically acquire a special set of rights and responsibilities. Parents have responsibilities to protect and secure many important interests of their children but they also enjoy many special prerogatives to shape and control many facets of children’s lives. The moral right to parent extends to parents a good deal of authority over children and affords parents protections from outside interference with respect to a wide range of matters that affect the upbringing of children. Thus parents have wide discretion to make decisions about their children’s diet, education, cultural influences, language, and religious identity. The moral right to parent is not, of course, absolute. Parental authority must be exercised in ways that are compatible with the rights of children. Moreover, acquiring and maintaining the moral right to parent is conditional on satisfying a threshold of competency. Would-be parents need not be perfect but competent parents must be able to identify and promote at least their children’s basic interests. So the right to parent is jeopardized when parents violate or threaten to violate the basic welfare of children through various kinds of physical, sexual or emotional abuse. Similarly, though somewhat more controversially, adults who seek to indoctrinate children with noxious ideologies or who deprive their children access to conditions hospitable to the development of normal moral capacities may be denied or may forfeit the right to parent.