Dystopia begins here: parents would need a licence to raise children to screen out homophobes, transphobes and racists

A handful of philosophers through the years have trotted out the idea that parents should be required to get a license to raise their own children. After all, doctors and plumbers get licenses. Why not license the most important job of all: Parents. But Connor Kianpour, a doctoral candidate at the University of Colorado Boulder, has just taken the idea a bold step further.

In his article, in the latest issue of Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy, “The Kid’s Aren’t Alright: Expanding the Role of the State in Parenting,” Kianpour cuts to the chase. He writes: “Individuals have no right to rear their biological children, nor do they have any interests weighty enough to justify a right to rear children generally. Since these rights do not exist, regulated parenting policies cannot be said to jeopardize them.”

He explains that since there is “no fundamental right” for parents to raise their children, then “no special justification needs to be offered to permissibly enforce a parental licensing scheme.”

Kianpour reaches this eyebrow-raising conclusion based on a line of logic that an acrobat would have difficulty manoeuvring. But having reached this conclusion, he is unabashed in his near-total disdain and disregard for parental rights (though he does grudgingly concede that parents could be offered visitation rights to their children after they are given to more suitable people).

Kianpour claims that children’s rights are inherent but parental rights do not exist. While most of modern humanity agrees that children do indeed have rights, most people believe (based on reams of social science data, common sense, and the experience of billions of people) that the best way to maintain children’s basic rights is to maintain their parents’ stewardship over them. This does not protect every child in every situation, but evidence shows that children do best when raised by their own parents. Our laws not only recognize parents’ rights but require parents to care for their own children.

But Kianpour insists some parents must be excluded from their child’s life (possibly from birth!) even if they love the child, can afford to support the child, and have exhibited no violent tendencies whatsoever. What is it, then, that would disqualify parents from claiming and raising their own children?

Unfit to raise children

Kianpour explains, “Certain individuals are unfit to rear children because they are objectionably intolerant of certain backgrounds and ways of life.” He then gets more specific: “Strongly homophobic individuals are unfit to rear children.” He says, “Parental licensing offers the best solution to the problems that befall children who are victims of a distinctive, insidious form of bad child-rearing—childrearing by those who are strongly homophobic, racist, sexist, and the like.” According to Kianpour, any person who is “objectionably intolerant” to certain lifestyles and characteristics should be barred from raising children.

“Strong homophobia”, according to Kianpour and his colleagues, “consists in belief in the moral wickedness or depravity of gay sexuality and identity” which “gives rise to attitudes of contempt, disgust, disrespect toward gay people.” He says the reason “strong homophobes…are unfit to rear children is that they would be unlikely to provide affective care to gay children, and there is a nontrivial chance that a homophobe’s child could be gay.”

Who decides?

So, who would get to decide which parents qualify as “objectionably intolerant” and should be denied a parenting license? Kianpour says “public officials” should “determine standards for parental competency, evaluate whether particular individuals meet these standards, and prevent those who do not meet these standards from rearing children.”

And how would a public official correctly diagnose parents as homophobes?

Kianpour suggests they use an instrument called the “Index of Homophobia.” This psychological assessment invites test subjects to answer statements like, “I would feel uncomfortable if my neighbour was homosexual.” Subjects are given a score between 0 and 100 and those who receive a score of 75 or above are classified as “high grade homophobics.”

He also suggests background checks be conducted “to determine whether prospective parents have been…convicted of a hate crime or successfully sued for employment discrimination.” He adds, “Background checks might also be used to determine if prospective parents are affiliated with organizations that would give us reason to believe they are objectionably intolerant.”

One begins to wonder if people of religious faith might be singled out disproportionately as unfit parents due to their affiliation with certain organizations.

But wonder no longer because Kianpour then drops this bomb: “An example of a proverbial ‘red flag’ in this regard would be prospective parents who are active members of the Westboro Baptist Church.”

Wow, that’s specific. Anyone who is a member of the Westboro Baptist Church should be flagged as a potentially unfit parent? I wonder if my church or your church is on the list.



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The implications

Before we dismiss Kianpour’s arguments as armchair lunacy, he does make a crucial point. He says, “My arguments have significant implications for how philosophical debates concerning child welfare policy should be conducted.” This is true. If taken seriously, Kianpour’s ideas could seismically disrupt the functioning of families and therefore, the functioning of the world. And the thing is, we are not light years away from something like this being enacted. In fact, a potent version of this scheme is already being propelled forward by transgender activism.

You may remember California’s recent Assembly Bill 957 which invited judges to “weigh parental affirmation of a child’s gender identity or expression along with the young person’s health, safety and welfare when determining visitation and custody arrangements.” Governor Newsom ultimately vetoed the bill, but the California legislature passed the bill by a wide margin. Newsom said one reason he vetoed the bill is that “judges are already required to consider parents’ views on a child’s gender identity as part of any judicial evaluation of their health, safety and welfare.” So, the political will to limit or revoke parents’ access to their children on grounds that parents do not embrace certain ideologies is strong and getting stronger.

California is not alone in pushing the narrative that parental custody should hinge on acceptance of transgender ideology. Legislation across the nation reflects a willingness and almost a hunger to remove children from the care of their parents in the name of children’s rights. This should scare the heck of any thinking person.

Innocent until proven guilty?

One final point. Kianpour says that one of the best things about licensing parents is that it would “protect children from abuse and neglect before it takes place,” whereas in old fashioned parenting a parent must commit a crime against a child before the parent’s custody is brought into question. While it is tragic that any child would suffer abuse, this way of thinking—engaging a willingness to restrict and revoke freedoms based on what a person might do in the future—channels a disturbing vibe that strikes at the very heart of free society.

Remember the 2002 Tom Cruise thriller, Minority Report? The movie depicted a future in which crimes could be predicted before they were committed, which allowed people to be arrested for crimes they hadn’t committed yet. Kianpour’s parental licensing scheme is eerily similar; parents would be denied custody of their children from birth on the grounds that they might commit an offense against their child someday. This is a road we do not want to go down.

Children and parents inherently belong to each other—not as a matter of ownership, but as a matter of anatomy, reality, and love. The love of parents for their children is the very thing that holds the world together. We would be wise to think long and hard before we smash it to smithereens.

Watch Connor Kianpour defend his ideas here.  

Kimberly Ells is the author of The Invincible Family. Follow her at Invincible Family Substack.

Image credit: Pexels 


Showing 31 reactions

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  • Claudia Minnich
    commented 2023-11-11 08:22:53 +1100
    Taking away parents’ right to raise their children according to their beliefs—-which may be different from yours—-is crazy! How can you require a license for something that has too many variables? It’s impossible. We do not live on an evil planet where every child (or parent) has to bounce the ball to the same beat to keep the planet from falling apart. Evil is evil. A license to parent does not keep evil things from happening. I will continue to pray for all—-even those who live a lifestyle different from mine.
  • Peter Faehrmann
    commented 2023-11-09 14:28:40 +1100
    Isn’t Connor Kianpour reinventing the wheel. Didn’t the Soviets take children from their parents, to be educated (ie. indoctrinated) by the State to become good communists.
    Besides who says Kianpour is right? Is pluralism dead? Who decides what is morally right or wrong? Is subsidiarity a failed concept? What is the cost to the economy in deciding that biological parents are unsuitable to raise their own children? Does the State love my children more than me?
    Is Kianpour’s sexual preferences at the heart of his philosophy? Was Kianpour rejected by his own parents?
    Is this nothing but utilitarianism taken to an extreme?
    The idea of licensing parents begs more questions than it answers.
    BTW comparing parenthood to a licence to drive a car is a false analogy.
  • Rob McKilliam
    commented 2023-11-07 12:09:43 +1100
    Paul Bunyan:
    Yes you are quite right: true forgiveness is very hard to do – which is why many people cannot do it. However it is the only way to be finally free of your Dad’s toxic influence on your life.

    And, I suspect you are also right: insincere forgiveness may be toxic. But true forgiveness is always possible and will always be quite the opposite of toxic.
  • Paul Bunyan
    commented 2023-11-07 10:45:27 +1100
    My apologies, Michael.

    Rob, Keith, would you forgive someone who locked you in a basement for 15 years? It’s easy to say something, but much harder to do it.

    Sometimes, forgiveness can be toxic. Especially if it’s impossible for one to be sincere.
  • Michael Cook
    commented 2023-11-07 10:36:33 +1100
    Civility, please, gentlemen.
  • Rob McKilliam
    commented 2023-11-07 10:34:53 +1100
    Paul Bunyan
    I think it may be time for you to forgive your Dad, forgive yourself and move on. Then you will be free to fully enjoy and marvel at this wonderful, extraordinary life we have been privileged to experience – with all its ups and downs.
  • Paul Bunyan
    commented 2023-11-07 08:59:17 +1100
    Keith, you have no empathy or compassion. I was a slave. I had no free time AT ALL.

    I would have more freedom in prison (I could read books in prison).

    I would have much preferred to be working in a sweatshop. For free. At least that way, I would be contributing something of value to society.
  • Keith Wilson
    commented 2023-11-07 08:57:37 +1100
    Paul Bunyan,
    Wow! Being forced to play tennis and golf! What a galley to row!

    Thankfully childhood is relatively short and you can shuck off your “oppression” in a few short years when you reach the age of majority.

    You sound like a spoiled brat.
  • Rob McKilliam
    commented 2023-11-04 19:58:26 +1100
    Paul Bunyan:
    Oh my gosh! I am very very sorry to hear that. It must have been absolutely dreadful for you. I was very lucky with my parents.

    I fully understand your concerns. You are obviously very keen to try and ensure the same thing does not happen to any other kids.
    I’m afraid I can’t offer any really satisfying solutions other than to lamely suggest that your father probably loved you but had no idea how to show it and may have had problems of his own.

    I think it is a bit different today – there are lots of resources for parents on the internet that were not available in earlier times.
    Also, my experience as a volunteer mentor for troubled kids suggests that schools are generally aware of potential issues and have processes in place to try and catch them early.
  • Paul Bunyan
    commented 2023-11-04 19:18:08 +1100
    No, I do not have children. But I did have a father who treated me like a slave. On the weekends, I was forced to practice sport for 20 hours (golf and tennis). I was expected to get straight A’s on top of this, which was, of course, impossible.

    Sport certainly wasn’t going to be on any school exams, but they did cause me to contemplate s*icide almost 24 hours a day.
  • Rob McKilliam
    commented 2023-11-04 19:08:08 +1100
    Paul Bunyan:
    I’m guessing you have not had kids of your own. Am I right?

    “Tiger moms and sports dads treat their children like slaves.” = really??

    “Shouldn’t children be allowed to decide on the extra-curricular activities that make them happy?” – Of course they should.

    “If children choose not to participate in any sport, what’s wrong with that?” – Not much. But team sport is excellent training for social co-operation in a team environment.

    “If you force children to do things they hate, they will consider them to be “work.” – Yes. You shouldn’t force kids to do things they hate, unless it is for their own safety.

    “And they’ll be more likely to take their own lives than to excel in sports or academics.” – Not sure about that. A bit extreme I think.

    “If you want children to study, then the first thing you should do is give them time to study.” – I would say time to ‘play’ is extremely important for kids.

    “And since children can’t study or do their homework on the football field…”. – I don’t think life is all about study.

    I used to (semi) joke that I thought God had given me kids so that I could teach them something. As time progressed I realised that God had actually given me kids so that they could teach ME something.
  • Paul Bunyan
    commented 2023-11-04 14:14:38 +1100
    Tiger moms and sports dads treat their children like slaves. Shouldn’t children be allowed to decide on the extra-curricular activities that make them happy? If children choose not to participate in any sport, what’s wrong with that?

    If you force children to do things they hate, they will consider them to be “work.” And they’ll be more likely to take their own lives than to excel in sports or academics.

    If you want children to study, then the first thing you should do is give them time to study. And since children can’t study or do their homework on the football field…
  • Rob McKilliam
    commented 2023-11-04 12:24:01 +1100
    Paul Bunyan:

    It is your focus on ‘rights’ not ‘responsibilities’ that worries me.

    What do you think is a ‘balanced life’? What gives you the right to enforce your idea of a ‘balanced life’ on others?

    Perhaps ’tiger mums’ and ’sports dads’ are simply loving their kids and meeting their responsibilities the way they think is best? Perhaps that is what will help their particular kids lead their best life?

    What gives you the ‘right’ to say that you are right and they are wrong?
  • Paul Bunyan
    commented 2023-11-03 19:40:52 +1100
    Responsibilities are crucial. I don’t know how you concluded that I thought otherwise.

    My point was that without proper regulation, there’s no way to hold abusive parents accountable until it’s too late.

    Some forms of harm are insidious, and last for years. “Tiger moms” and “sports dads” are two examples. The former doesn’t let children rest and expects academic excellence. The latter places too much emphasis on sports at the expense of academics. Neither allows children to have a balanced life.

    But unless children are starving or have visible injuries, abuse is often ignored.
  • Rob McKilliam
    commented 2023-11-03 19:32:06 +1100
    Paul Bunyan:

    I understand and totally sympathise with your concern for children. However I think your solution of parent regulation is extremely dangerous for many reasons. I think it will take us far too long to resolve this issue to our mutual satisfaction.

    Hopefully I answered your original query on the meaning of my first post about too much focus on ‘rights’ and not enough focus on ‘responsibilities’. You clearly do not accept that responsibilities are important.

    I think we must just respectfully agree to disagree.
  • Paul Bunyan
    commented 2023-11-03 19:04:30 +1100
    1. No, it’s better to prevent child abuse by regulating parenthood. No one can just walk into an orphanage and walk out the same day with a child. Similar regulations should be in place for biological parents.

    2. What makes you think religion will encourage responsibility and lead to better parenting? Seth Welch was a very devout Christian. And if you read the bible, it endorses corporal punishment (spare the rod, spoil the child). All that does is teach children to use violence to solve their problems.



    “Perhaps surprisingly, says Cuartas, spanking elicits a similar response in children’s brains to more threatening experiences like sexual abuse. “You see the same reactions in the brain,” Cuartas explains. “Those consequences potentially affect the brain in areas often engaged in emotional regulation and threat detection, so that children can respond quickly to threats in the environment.””
  • Rob McKilliam
    commented 2023-11-03 18:38:14 +1100
    Paul Bunyan. OK:

    1. If you want to force someone to do something against their will (ie not have babies) then someone has to do the enforcing. ’Society’ can’t enforce things. Only government employees can enforce things, which brings in its own set of problems. Far better for ‘Society’ to encourage a sense of personal responsibility don’t you think?

    2. You are correct, you cannot undo child abuse or murder. But encouraging a sense of responsibility can help mitigate. Your solution is: regulate parenting, backed up by enforcement. But again, this will only mitigate the problem not eliminate it. Far better to encourage a sense of personal responsibility don’t you think?

    Interestingly, I think a large part of Religion’s job is to encourage a sense of responsibility. Unfortunately, ‘Society’ has abandoned religion.
  • Paul Bunyan
    commented 2023-11-03 14:35:56 +1100
    I think “society” would be the answer to both your questions. And, unfortunately, “responsibility” won’t undo child abuse. Nor will it bring murdered children back to life.
  • Rob McKilliam
    commented 2023-11-03 12:18:30 +1100
    Paul Bunyan: With respect, you still have not fully answered my questions.

    1. My first question is: "WHO says individuals have no right to rear their biological children”, not "WHY should they have no right to rear their biological children”.

    2. My second question is: “Who has the right to say they have no right’. Your answer suggests that everyone has the right to say that individuals have no right to their biological children. This will of course cause a clash with those who do want to have children.

    The end result of your thinking is that the ultimate authority for kids being brought into the world rests with the Government. No-one has any responsibility except the Government.

    I think you have too much faith in Government. I would prefer to put my faith in God and nature and people accepting responsibility for their own actions.
  • Paul Bunyan
    commented 2023-11-03 07:23:48 +1100
    1. Why should people be prohibited to have children? Because they haven’t (yet) demonstrated their competence to do so. If they aren’t qualified to do so, then they’ll harm the child, and, by extension, harm all of society.

    2. I would say everyone has the right (and a vested interest) in seeing that only qualified people become parents. Everyone has the right to be protected against future serial killers and burglars. They best way to do this would be to regulate parenting. Parents who wish to adopt are subject to rigorous screening. There are no reasons why biological parents shouldn’t be subjected to similar screening.
  • Rob McKilliam
    commented 2023-11-02 22:25:01 +1100
    Paul Bunyan:

    Q 1 – Who says they have no right?
    “Common sense” is not a person or group of people.
    I think your response is actually addressing my suggestion that parents have a RESPONSIBILITY to rear their children. In Australia the ‘Family Law Act 1975’ focuses on the rights of children and the responsibilities that each parent has towards their children. I understand there are consequences for failing these responsibilities.

    Q 2 – Who has the right to say they have no right?
    You have not answered this question.
  • Paul Bunyan
    commented 2023-11-02 20:04:05 +1100
    Who says they have no right?

    Well, I would think common sense would mandate restrictions on parenting. If parenting is indeed the most important job, then only the most qualified individuals should be doing it. You wouldn’t want unqualified pilots or taxi drivers, would you?

    What was your second question? I could only find one question among your comments.
  • Rob McKilliam
    commented 2023-11-02 19:59:45 +1100
    Paul Bunyan: Thank you for your observations. It is a very emotional topic and your concerns are quite valid. Please can you answer my two questions and respond to my suggestion before I comment any further.
  • Paul Bunyan
    commented 2023-11-02 18:03:48 +1100
    It’s simple, Rob. Not everyone is qualified to raise children. Not every parent deserves a child.

    Have you heard of the Turpin family? Or Seth Welch, who starved his 10-month-old daughter to death?

    Those tragedies could’ve been avoided if we had a system in place that screened them out. Seth and the Turpins all had biological children.



    And if we prevented homophobes and racists from raising children, society would be much more loving and kind. Are you against love and kindness?

    Some parents have children only to receive the additional government benefits. That is not a good reason to have children. Parents should be motivated by love, not money.

  • Rob McKilliam
    commented 2023-11-02 17:24:09 +1100
    Paul Bunyan: 2nd para of article:
    “Individuals have no right to rear their biological children, . . . . etc.”

    Who says they have no right? Who has the right to say that they have no right. I suggest they have a responsibility to rear their biological children.

    I also suggest that biological parents would do a much better job of living up to their responsibilities than some government department.
  • Paul Bunyan
    commented 2023-11-02 14:08:14 +1100
    I’m not sure I follow you, Rob. Would you please care to elaborate?
  • Rob McKilliam
    commented 2023-11-02 12:51:59 +1100
    Too many people focus on ‘rights’ not ‘responsibilities’. This is the cause of many problems.
  • Marty Hayden
    commented 2023-10-31 00:19:01 +1100
    Connor Kianpour is nothing more than an party apparatchik. The totalitarian party. In a world tumbling toward total government control, Kianpour has hastened its inevitability by neatly summarizing the pretext for the utter destruction of the family. Make no mistake about it. This is unabashed evil and needs to be labeled as such.
  • Paul Bunyan
    commented 2023-10-30 16:57:01 +1100
    Another sub-group that should be screened out: parents who value sports over education.

    Children can’t do their homework on the football field, and if they suffer irreversible brain damage due to physical trauma, their chances of reaching their full potential are essentially zero.

    Sports aren’t really social gatherings. They’re exercise. And children who don’t enjoy sports are going to view it as “work.” They’ll want to be compensated via opportunities for leisure activities.

    And, most importantly, they will deserve to be compensated.

    Parents who want children so they can “live out their dreams vicariously” or because “they want someone to look after them in their old age” should be likewise prohibited from parenting.

    Those reasons are pure narcissism.
  • Paul Bunyan
    commented 2023-10-30 16:43:50 +1100
    Parenting licenses make perfect sense to me. We regulate guns, driving and teachers. Requiring competent biological and adoptive parents would have immense benefits.

    It would make future Ivan Milats and Martin Bryants far less likely