A rapidly growing national parents' movement is fighting in courts and legislatures for recognition of A "fundamental right" to raise children without government intrusion.

Clashes between parents and government agencies--particularly public schools--have intensified recently over issues such as sex and values education, condom distribution, AIDS testing, abortion counseling, home schooling, and corporal punishment. As these conflicts have grown, conservative Christian activists have moved to the forefront, and the courts and legislatures have already become a battleground.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of Massachusetts parents who objected to a graphic AIDS education program in the public school. The program, which included profanity and a depiction of oral sex, was led by a woman affiliated with an organization called Hot, Sexy and Safer Productions. The parents claimed their rights had been violated by school officials who required students to attend the program without parental notification or approval. Lower courts ruled against the parents.

GRASSROOTS LEGAL MANEUVERING: Arguing that family concerns are too often overridden in such conflicts, an expanding grassroots movement is urging new legislative affirmation of "parental rights." During the next few months, action on parental rights proposals is expected in the U.S. Congress and in at least 29 states.

"It comes down to one fundamental question," says Betsy DeVos, national cochair for Of the People, a three-year-old parental-rights group in Arlington, Virginia. "Who decides what's in the best interests of the child--the parent or the government and its institutions?"

Using the slogan "Where Limited Government Meets Family Values," Of the ...

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