About 20 years ago a friend of mine who had never seen an episode of the animated sitcom "The Simpsons," was shocked to hear Bart, the 10-year-old troublemaker, disrespect his father by calling him by his first name Homer.

Looking back, that lack of respect for a parent by a brat like Bart seems tame by today's standards.

There are a few voices in the media, like FOX commentator Bill O'Reilly, who have warned that the destruction of the family will also mean the collapse of the community and the country. O'Reilly cites a number of statistics to support his claim that the traditional family is in trouble:

Ÿ Seventy-two percent of African-Americans are born out of wedlock;

Ÿ Nearly half of American children who live with single mothers live in poverty;

Ÿ Fatherless boys are more likely to become gang members and end up in jail;

Ÿ 56 percent of jail inmates grew up in a single-parent household or with a guardian.

A recent case in the news did not involve an African-American family but Rachel Canning, a spoiled 18-year-old from a family in an affluent New Jersey neighborhood. Her father is a retired police chief and her mother is a legal secretary.

News reports indicate that Rachel was a spoiled brat. Yet the Morris Catholic High School senior charged that her parents threw her out of their home two days before her 18th birthday last October, and filed a lawsuit against them seeking financial support.

Her parents said Rachel left home voluntarily because she didn't want to abide by reasonable household rules, such as being respectful, keeping a curfew and doing some chores. The abusive and profanity-laced messages by Rachel to her mother were disgusting enough to make Bart Simpson look like a choir boy.

Thankfully, Family Division Judge Peter Bogaard denied the lawsuit, saying some of the claims could lead to teens "thumbing their noses" at their parents, leaving home and then asking for financial support.

The judge believed that allowing the lawsuit would create a potentially slippery slope, opening the gates for 12-year-olds to sue their parents for anything from an Xbox to an iPhone. He said the parents were correct in their discipline and had the right to set up rules.

He made the right call.

By Jim Zbick

editor@tnonline.com