Do parents have a right to control the upbringing of their children, especially when it comes to what their children should be exposed to in terms of sexual practices and intimate relationships?

That question goes to the heart of the battle being played out in school districts and courts across America right now over parental rights and whether parents essentially forfeit those rights when they send their children to a public school. On one side of the debate are those who believe, as the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, that "the child is not the mere creature of the state" and that the right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children is a fundamental liberty interest protected by the U.S. Constitution. On the other side are government officials who not only believe, as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Fields V. Palmdale School District PSD (2005), that "[s]chools cannot be expected to accommodate the personal, moral, or religious concerns of every parent," but go so far as to insist that parents' rights do "not extend beyond the threshold of the school door."

A recent incident in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, clearly illustrates this growing tension over whether young people, especially those in the public schools, are wards of the state, to do with as government officials deem appropriate, in defiance of the children's constitutional rights and those of their parents. On two separate occasions this year, students at Memorial Middle School in Fitchburg were administered surveys at school asking overtly intimate and sexually suggestive questions without their parents' knowledge or consent. Students were required to complete the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) at school, a survey that asks questions such as "Have you ever tried to kill yourself?", "Have you ever sniffed glue, or breathed the contents of spray cans, or inhaled any paints?", and "With how many people have you had sexual intercourse?" Older students were also given the Youth Program Survey, which asks true/false questions about a student's beliefs about contraception ("I feel comfortable talking with any partner I have about using a condom") and sexual activity ("I have had oral sex at some point in my life").

"[Jesus] was surely one of the great ethical innovators of history. The Sermon on the Mount is way ahead of its time. His 'turn the other cheek' anticipated Gandhi and Martin Luther King by two thousand years. It was not for nothing that I wrote an article called 'Atheists for Jesus' (and was delighted to be presented with a T-shirt bearing the legend)." - Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (2006)

For those who profess to be Christians, the week leading up to Easter is the most sacred time of the year, commemorating as it does the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet while Jesus is a revered religious figure, he was also, as atheist Richard Dawkins recognizes, a radical in his own right whose life and teachings changed the course of history.

Too often today radicalism is equated with terrorism, extremism, and other violent acts of resistance. Yet true radicalism, the kind embodied by such revolutionary figures as Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King Jr., and Gandhi, actually involves speaking truth to power through peaceful, nonviolent means. Separated by time and distance, Christ, King, and Gandhi were viewed as dangerous by their respective governments because they challenged the oppressive status quo of their day.

"It's called the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it." - George Carlin

"There's a reason education sucks, and it's the same reason it will never, ever, ever be fixed," said comedian/social commentator George Carlin in 2005. That's because, according to Carlin, "the owners of this country don't want that." And by owners, he's referring to the wealthy who "own everything." Warming to his rant on the American Dream, Carlin continued:

"They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They've long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the statehouses, the city halls. They've got the judges in their back pockets and they own all the big media companies, so they control just about all of the news and information you get to hear. They got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying - lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else."

If things keep progressing as they have been, however, there won't be much left for the rest of us in terms of wealth, power, or resources. As it now stands, the upper 1 percent of Americans already control 40 percent of the nation's wealth and take in nearly a quarter of the nation's income. Included among these very rich and powerful are mega-corporations such as General Electric that manage to rake in obscene profits while paying little to nothing in taxes. For instance, despite pulling in more than $14 billion in 2010, GE not only paid no taxes, but it also managed to claim more than $3 billion in government tax credits. All the while, more and more Americans are struggling to find jobs, keep jobs, and stop the banks from foreclosing on their homes.

"The child is not the mere creature of the state." - United States Supreme Court, Pierce V. Society of Sisters

Not only is Alford V. Greene the first major case involving child protective services to go before the U.S. Supreme Court in 21 years, but it is also one of the most important parents' rights cases ever to reach the court. If it goes the right way - i.e., to bolster parents' rights - it will mean that state agents will have to obtain a court order to question a child at school. If it goes the wrong way, however - which the Obama administration is advocating, along with 40 state attorneys general, law-enforcement agencies, social workers, prosecutors, and defense attorneys - it will be a serious blow to parental rights as well as the rights of children in the public schools.

The particulars of the case are egregious enough, but they pale in comparison to the government's effrontery in insisting that parents essentially forfeit their rights when they send their children to a public school.

"The minute the FBI begins making recommendations on what should be done with its information, it becomes a Gestapo." - J. Edgar Hoover

The history of the FBI is the history of how America - once a nation that abided by the rule of law and held the government accountable for its actions - has steadily devolved into a police state where laws are unidirectional, intended as a tool for government to control the people and rarely the other way around.

The FBI was established in 1908 (as the Bureau of Investigation) by President Theodore Roosevelt and Attorney General Charles Bonaparte as a small task force assigned to deal with specific domestic crimes, its first being to survey houses of prostitution in anticipation of enforcing the White Slave Traffic Act. Initially quite limited in its abilities to investigate so-called domestic crimes, the FBI slowly expanded in size, scope, and authority over the course of the 20th Century.

Before Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, unleashed full-body-imaging scanners and "enhanced" pat-downs on American airline passengers, she subjected Arizona drivers to red-light cameras. In August 2008, Napolitano, then the governor of Arizona, instituted a statewide system of 200 fixed and mobile speed and red-light cameras, which were projected to bring in more than $120 million in annual revenue for the state. She was aided in this endeavor by the Australian corporation Redflex Traffic Systems.

Two years later, after widespread complaints that the cameras intrude on privacy and are primarily a money-making enterprise for the state (income actually fell short of the projections because people refused to pay their fines), Arizona put the brakes on the program. And while other states - including Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, West Virginia, and Wisconsin - have since followed suit, many more municipalities, suffering from budget crises, have succumbed to the promise of easy revenue and installed the cameras. (Davenport began using red-light cameras in 2004.) As the Washington Post notes: "A handful of cities used them a decade ago. Now they're in more than 400, spread across two dozen states. Montgomery County started out with 18 cameras in 2007. Now it has 119. Maryland just took the program statewide last month, and Prince George's is putting up 50. The District started out with a few red light cameras in 1999; now they send out as many automated tickets each year as they have residents, about 580,000."

"At the time of their adoption, the Bill of Rights represented the high point of a courageous struggle to pass on the relatively new idea that rule of law must forever stand as a check upon governmental power." - Bernard Swartz

The Bill of RightsOn September 17, 1787, the final draft of the Constitution was adopted by members of the Constitutional Convention. It was a momentous occasion in our nation's history - one that we continue to pay tribute to today - and yet it pales in significance to the adoption of the "Bill of Rights." Without those 462 words of the Bill of Rights, there would be little standing between average citizens like you and me and governmental tyranny.

"A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence against foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home." - James Madison

The U.S. government has a history of commandeering military technology for use against Americans. We saw this happen with tear gas, Tasers, and sound cannons, all of which were first used on the battlefield before being deployed against civilians at home. Now the drones - pilotless, remote-controlled aircraft that have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan - are coming home to roost.

Drones, a $2-billion cornerstone of the Obama administration's war efforts, have increasingly found favor with both military and-law enforcement officials. "The more we have used them," stated Defense Secretary Robert Gates, "the more we have identified their potential in a broader and broader set of circumstances."

Now the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is facing mounting pressure from state governments and localities to issue flying rights for a range of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to carry out civilian and law-enforcement activities. As the Associated Press reports, "Tornado researchers want to send them into storms to gather data. Energy companies want to use them to monitor pipelines. State police hope to send them up to capture images of speeding cars' license plates. Local police envision using them to track fleeing suspects." Unfortunately, to a drone, everyone is a suspect because drone technology makes no distinction between the law-abiding individual and the suspect. Everyone gets monitored, photographed, tracked, and targeted.

Let me tell you about 56 men who risked everything -- their fortunes and their lives -- to take a stand for truth. These men laid everything on the line, pledged it all -- "our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor" -- because they believed in a radical idea: that all people are created to be free. They believed that freedom is a spiritual concept in that the rights we possess are, in their words, given to us by the Creator. Let me emphasize: At the heart of these rights is a radical freedom, the freedom to speak, to dissent, to protest, and to seek relief, if necessary, against an unjust government -- that is, one that won't listen to the people.

"No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots." -- Barbara Ehrenreich, The Worst Years of Our Lives: Irreverent Notes from a Decade of Greed

Recently, I was invited to speak to a group of affluent, upper-middle-class retirees. The host's estate was extensive, his home was airy and spacious, original art graced the walls, and the guests ranged from dignitaries to activists from the civil-rights era.

I had been invited to lead a discussion on ways to minimize political polarization and find common ground, and I agreed, hoping that these people -- who are well-educated, well-connected and well-to-do -- would want to get involved in the freedom struggle and effect change within their spheres of influence. Instead, I came face-to-face with those I've been writing about for years: materially comfortable, disconnected from reality, and totally oblivious to what's been going on in the American government as far as the erosion of our civil liberties and the amassing of power by the federal government.

I quickly realized that what these people call "polarization" is actually Americans challenging the status quo, especially the so-called government elite. To my surprise, I found myself on the receiving end of a group lecture in which I was reprimanded for being too negative in my views of the government. I was also informed that I need to have "faith" in our leaders and refrain from criticizing our president because Americans still live in the best country in the world. In other words, my patriotism was called into question.

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