The family is God’s first beautiful gift to us. Because each one of us came into this world as the fruit of a mother and a father’s love.This married love is the heart of every true family. In this love, we see the heart of God who is Love. The Spanish missionaries who brought the faith to this country made paintings depicting the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph being watched over by the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The family on earth is meant to be a mirror of the Trinity, God’s divine “family” in heaven. God intends the family to be our first school of love, holiness and commitment. In the family, we learn who we are — and who God has created us to be. The family is vital in God’s plan for our personal lives. And the family is vital for our country.America is not only a nation of individuals. Every individual comes from a family. The family is the original human community. Blessed John Paul II liked to call the family “the vital cell of society.” America needs strong families to nurture the values and virtues we need to live as a free and just people. But last week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that will make it harder for American parents. The Court’s decision in Brown vs. Entertainment Merchants Association involved a 2005 California law that banned the sale of violent video games to minors. The Court said the law violated video game makers’ rights to freedom of speech. That may be true. However as a pastor, I found myself more sympathetic to Justice Clarence Thomas’s dissenting opinion. Justice Thomas said that America’s founders would find it “absurd” to say that freedom of speech includes “a right to speak to minors … without going through the minors’ parents.” He puts his finger on a big problem in our society today. Young people are often treated as a “target audience” for corporate and media messages that by-pass parents and undermine parental authority and moral values.Young people are often treated as a “target audience” for corporate and media messages that by-pass parents and undermine parental authority and moral values.In his dissent, Justice Thomas offers a kind of “mini-history” lesson. He explains how important the family was in the thinking of America’s founders. He explains how our government has always respected the role of the family and worked to strengthen parents’ authority and rights.Unfortunately, trends in our country — and in our state — seem to be moving in the opposite direction. Right now, there are two bills in the California legislature that our state’s bishops believe represent a dangerous government intrusion into parents’ rights. The first, Assembly Bill 499, would let children 12 and under decide for themselves to get vaccines or take other medications to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. This would undermine parents’ duty to educate their children in moral values. It also violates parents’ rights to be responsible for their children’s physical and spiritual well being.By passing this bill, in effect, government would be encouraging young people to engage in activities that are contrary to their parents’ moral values — and then to lie about it or keep it secret from their parents.Children are not mature enough to think through the consequences of complicated medical decisions. This legislation would have children face these decisions without parental guidance — and under pressure from adults and corporate interests that have financial and other motives to promote these medications. A second bill, Senate Bill 48, would require school textbooks to teach about the sexual orientations of figures in American history. This amounts to the government rewriting history books based on pressure-group politics. It is also another example of the government interfering with parents’ rights to be their children’s primary educators. The California State Catholic Conference is urging that both of these bills be rejected. As we pray for one another this week, let us commit ourselves to promoting the God-given rights of parents and families in California and in our country.   Let us work to become a people who no longer resort to abortion, birth control, in vitro fertilization and divorce. Let us build a future for our nation in which children grow up in families based on God’s law and the natural law.And let us ask Mary, the Queen of the Family, to help us win the grace we need to stand up for parents and the family in our day. To learn more about AB 499 and SB 99, see the California Catholic Conference’s “Action Alerts”at: Archbishop Gomez at: