Reason Roundup

Parents Face Criminal Charges Over Children's Tattoos

Plus: a nationwide injunction on student loan forgiveness, Tyson and Holyfield team up on marijuana edibles, government needn't save risky crypto investors from themselves, and more...


Should you let your child get a tattoo? Maybe not. But should the state arrest you just because you do? Definitely not. And yet that's exactly what's happening in New York state and elsewhere.

In Highland, New York, Crystal Thomas was arrested after giving her 10-year-old son permission to get his name tattooed on his arm. In New York, it's illegal for anyone to mark "the body of a child less than eighteen years old with indelible ink or pigments by means of tattooing." And parents who allow it can—like Thomas—be charged with child endangerment.

New York is not alone. Laws vary by state, and a number of others states "mirror New York's strict over-18 rules," notes The New York Times. Meanwhile, "some permit tattooing with parental consent for people as young as 14 years old. About a dozen, including Ohio, West Virginia and Vermont, allow it with parental blessing and do not specify any minimum age."

Nor is Thomas alone in facing arrest for allowing her child to get a tattoo:

  • In North Carolina, an over-18 state, a mother was charged with child endangerment after she tattooed a heart on her 11-year-old daughter's right shoulder in 2012, according to a local news station. "She asked me to do it," she said.

  • Two years earlier, a Georgia couple were arrested after they tattooed crosses on six of their children, ages 10 to 17, just like their own tattoos. State law there limits tattoos to people 18 and older. "I'm their mother," Patty Jo Marsh, the mother, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, at the time. "Shouldn't I be able to decide if they get one?" The charges against the couple were dropped, according to court records.

In 2012, a mom was arrested in Georgia for letting her 10-year-old son get a tattoo commemorating his brother who had been killed in a car accident. She was charged with child cruelty and being party to a crime.

In 2017, a Georgia mom was arrested for letting her 12-year-old get a "Jesus Loves" tattoo and the tattoo artist was also arrested.

In 2018, an Ohio mom was charged with child endangerment and contributing to the delinquency of a minor after letting her 16-year-old son get a tattoo. (The person who did the tattoo was also arrested.)

Arrests of parents may be relatively rare—it's hard to tell, since not all such arrests might make the news. But when they do happen and get publicity, it kicks up a debate about which many have strong feelings.

Understandably, many express consternation or even horror at the idea of letting a child get a tattoo. This is, after all, something they will be stuck with for life.

But feelings about minors getting tattoos can shift depending on what the tattoo is and the age of the child. A 17-year-old getting a tattoo is different than a 10-year-old getting one. A marker of religious or cultural identity or something honoring a dead relative may be seen as more permissible than something purely decorative.

Since tattoos vary in meaning across families, communities, and cultures, any attempt to police the boundaries of permissible tattoos for minors will necessarily infringe on people's parental rights and freedom of conscience.

Besides, there is nothing inherently harmful about a tattoo, which makes it a huge bit of government overreach to criminalize parents who permit a minor to get one. Just because some parents might think it unwise doesn't mean other parents should be put in jail for it. Parents make all sorts of debatable decisions—letting kids play football, get their ears pieced, eat junk food, or watch violent movies, to name a few—and we don't substitute the judgement of the state for parental judgement here.

That isn't to say that tattooing a child could never be considered child abuse—obviously, there are situations in which it could and denying this is absurd. But to consider it always child abuse is equally absurd.


Court issues nationwide injunction on student loan debt relief plan. A few days after a federal judge in Texas found Biden's student loan forgiveness plan unconstitutional and blocked it, a federal court in another jurisdiction has followed suit. In response to a lawsuit brought by several GOP-led states, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit granted an emergency nationwide injunction against the program, in effect until further order from the 8th Circuit or the Supreme Court.

"This is a significant ruling in what is likely the most serious legal challenge filed against the Biden initiative," writes Jonathan Adler at The Volokh Conspiracy. "Among other things, the argument for Article III standing, which is based upon the impact of harm to the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MOHELA) on the state of Missouri, appears to be significantly stronger and more substantial than the arguments for standing put forward in other cases."

"Whatever the eventual outcome of this case, it will affect the finances of
millions of Americans with student loan debt as well as those Americans who pay
taxes to finance the government and indeed everyone who is affected by such far-
reaching fiscal decisions. As such, we approach the motion before us with great
care," wrote the judges in the 8th Circuit's order. More:

We conclude that, at this stage of the litigation, an injunction limited to the
plaintiff States, or even more broadly to student loans affecting the States, would be
impractical and would fail to provide complete relief to the plaintiffs. MOHELA is
purportedly one of the largest nonprofit student loan secondary markets in America.
It services accounts nationwide and had $168.1 billion in student loan assets serviced
as of June 30, 2022. See Rodgers, 942 F.3d at 458. Given MOHELA's national role
in servicing accounts, we discern no workable path in this emergency posture for
narrowing the scope of relief. And beyond Missouri, tailoring an injunction to
address the alleged harms to the remaining States would entail delving into complex
issues and contested facts that would make any limits uncertain in their application
and effectiveness. Although such complexities may not counsel against limiting the
scope of an injunction in other contexts, here the Secretary's universal suspension
of both loan payments and interest on student loans weighs against delving into such
uncertainty at this stage.


"If I was on cannabis, I wouldn't have bit [Holyfield's] ear!" Mike Tyson told HuffPost. Twenty-five years later, it looks like Evander Holyfield has forgiven him for that. Holyfield and Tyson are releasing new THC- and Delta 8 THC-infused edibles called Holy Ears (a follow-up to Tyson's original ear-shaped marijuana Mike Bites).* Tyson's cannabis company will follow up in 2023 with a whole line of Holyfield products, according to HuffPost.


Risky financial ventures needn't be regulated financial ventures. In the wake of cryptocurrency exchange FTX imploding, the White House has cited financial risk as an impetus for new cryptocurrency regulations. But the risk with FTX seems to come from fraud, not something inherent in cryptocurrency. Of course, crypto investments can indeed by financially risky. But creating new regulations to save crypto speculators from risk is a bad idea, Scott Sumner writes:

1. It's perfectly legal for Americans to invest in all sorts of extremely risky ventures, such as biotech start-ups. Most of these firms fail, while a few achieve great success. To use the terminology of administration officials, "Americans get harmed" when risky biotech start-ups fail. Yes, investors understand that biotech is risky, but I'd say the same about crypto.

2. It's perfectly legal to lend money to high-risk businesses, where the loans may not be repaid. Remember junk bonds?

3. Fraud is already illegal.

So what's the argument for new regulations of crypto? Surely not the fact that Bitcoin prices have plunged by 75%? Surely not the fact that creditors to FTX are going to lose their money? Surely not that fact that there are accusations of fraud in the recent FTX collapse? These are all either normal parts of our financial system, or are already outlawed by regulation. So what is the specific argument for additional regulation of crypto? To "protect crypto investors"? Why would we want to do that? To protect the banking system? I've seen no evidence that crypto threatens the banking system.

More here.


• "Last week, one of the largest repositories of pirated books and articles available on the Internet went dark—seemingly for good," reports Vice. "A series of Z-Library domain names were seized by the FBI and the main pages now have the stamped seals of the Department of Justice to prove it."

• Crime panic is fueling a turn toward authoritarian tech.

• Amazon is reportedly planning to lay off around 10,000 employees.

• "It's not anyone in the senate's job to save Twitter from Elon Musk," writes Mike Masnick.

• "Federal agents and prosecutors have come to believe former president Donald Trump's motive for allegedly taking and keeping classified documents was largely his ego and a desire to hold on to the materials as trophies or mementos, according to people familiar with the matter," reports The Washington Post.

*CORRECTION: This post has been updated to reflect that Holy Ears are for sale now.