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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    What’s really in a name? Maybe nothing at all

    In mid-December Heath and Deborah Campbell went to their local ShopRite grocery store with the intention of purchasing a birthday cake for their 3-year-old. They left empty-handed as the store refused to decorate the cake with the inscription they wanted: Happy Birthday Adolf Hitler.

    In the ensuing month and a half, the Campbells have been in the eye of a media hurricane. Outraged at the store’s refusal, they sought out all media outlets to tell their story to the world. Instead of gaining sympathy, they were met with cries of bigotry and contempt. On Jan. 14, little Adolf Hitler and his two sisters, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie, were removed from their home by New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services. No reason was given.

    This case has been the subject of countless analyses searching for an answer to the legal and social implications of both the parent’s choice of names and the state’s interests pertaining to the well-being of the three young children. Hoping to use the media to their advantage, the Campbells have perhaps done a minimally good job at improving the chances of recovering their children. The first response of readers may be to assume that the parents are inherently racist and hope to indoctrinate their children with the same sentiments of prejudice.

    The numerous interviews they have given paint the picture of two ignorant and illogical, but not hate-filled, people. Clearly, they feel as if they are the victims of a cruel witch-hunt. However, they have shown a clear inability to realize the consequences of their name choices. It is easy to say “”they are just names,”” as both of them claim, but that conclusion seems a little more far-fetched when the speaker also says that swastikas are “”symbols of peace and balance.”” The Campbells may not be the ideal parents, but where do the actions of the state leave the realm of child protection and enter into state sponsored kidnapping?

    According to the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services, its mission is “”to ensure the safety, permanency and well-being of children and to support families.”” Within this one sentence lay questions that have not been answered in the past, but must be accounted for in due time.

    The first and foremost precursor to the removal of children from a home is the evidence of abuse, defined by New Jersey DYFS as “”physical, sexual or emotional harm or risk of harm to a child.”” While there have been no claims of physical abuse, the most glaring possibility is the risk of emotional harm to the children. Saddled with such names, these children are at risk of social isolation and degradation from the moment they enter the outside world.

    It may be easy for the parents to claim that names are just names, but there are predictable consequences that may impair the social development of the children. It is reasonable to assume that there will be nearly impenetrable barriers to achieving basic needs throughout the children’s lives. From making and keeping friends early in life, all the way to gaining and maintaining employment in adulthood, these children will live their lives burdened with a weight like no other.

    Jeopardizing the “”permanency”” of the children, the State’s decision to remove them from their home may be the first step in establishing a legal precedent that lies at the intersection of free speech and child welfare. Without a current legal basis for the children’s removal, however, the actions of the State must be construed as illegal. If the State has determined their names to be a form of abuse or neglect, the parents deserve nothing less than a complete hearing to fight the allegations in court. More importantly, removal of the children prior to any type of hearing constitutes a de facto guilty verdict for a “”crime”” that isn’t even a crime.

    Yes, any person can make assumptions about the harm, mental and potentially physical, that could come to the children as a result of their names, but our legal system is based on established laws and burden of proof. With neither of these to support the State’s actions, all three children should rightfully be returned to their parents immediately.

    – Daniel Sotelo is a political science junior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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