Human rights declarations are usually flowery expansive documents that assert our common humanity and enumerate rights that have been trampled on or forgotten altogether.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Abridged for Youth) is one such document. It claims to be about rights but UDHR for Youth is disturbing for several reasons…First, it claims to be about rights, but UDHR lays claim on some wooly areas. For example. Consider the following sample from UDHR:
We all have the right to a good life. The right to an education. Primary school should be free. We Should learn about the United Nations and how to get on with others.
We all have a right to affordable housing, medicine, education and childcare, enough money to live on and medical help if we are ill or old.
If we are frightened or badly treated in our own country, we all have the right to run away to another country to be safe.
Of course, if you read all 30 points in the Abridged for Youth UDHR, you’d realize, not all of these are rights. They are hopes and policy prescriptions. And of course, the question becomes who is teaching this and why is it in our public schools?
Last week a friend handed me a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Abridged for Youth. He said his daughter, a fifth grader in Wake County Public Schools, had brought home a copy of the document. From the titling on the document it looked like it was part of a specific lesson in a Grade 5 curriculum.
UDHR is produced by Youth for Human Rights International (YHRI). YHRI was founded, staffed and largely financed by members of the Church of Scientology.
If you hadn’t heard already, the Church of Scientology occupies a questionable and controversial place in American religion and society. There are more than enough examples to establish Scientology’s place as a religious oddity, even a cult, according to some (see here, here and here). Some skeptics question Scientology’s credentials for being a church at all and say it’s merely a real estate company masquerading as a religious organization.
YHRI says its goal is to teach tolerance and cooperation and educate young people about their rights. Mary Shuttleworth, a Scientologist founded YHRI is 2001. Although there are no obvious references to Scientology on the YHRI web site, Shuttleworth is not shy about talking about the connection between Scientology and YHRI. This theme is also expanded at Scientology.org.
The Executive director of YHRI is Tim Bowles, Bowles served as General Legal Counsel for the Church of Scientology. Bowles also serves as an advisor to the Scientology’s Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights.
The Church of Scientology is listed on YHRI web pages as an “international collaborator.” YHRI has grown into a global movement, including hundreds of groups, clubs and chapters around the world. YHRI creates and sponsors videos, materials and events to further YHRI and Scientology.
If you think this sounds like an uncomfortable combination, you’re not alone. This is not the same as a traditional religious organization asking WCPSS to distribute materials in the schools. Rather it’s an organization with a troubled tax history and called anything from a cult to an international business. Another red flag is the clandestine nature of YHRI’s relationship with The Church of Scientology.
Considering these incidents, plus the negative perception of Scientology in the public’s mind, it makes one wonder: Why is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for Youth being taught in Wake County Public Schools?