Update: Lawsuit Filed Against Doug Phillips by Lourdes Torres-Manteufel

By the HA Editorial Team 

On Monday, Spiritual Sounding Board published an update on the lawsuit filed by Lourdes Torres-Manteufel against Doug Phillips and Vision Forum Ministries. SSB reports that the lawsuit is proceeding in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas and in Texas state court.

Assurance Company of America, an insurance company, filed the federal lawsuit against Doug Phillips, Vision Forum and Lourdes Torres-Manteufel in order to avoid obligations to compensate Torres-Manteufel for any damages she may be rewarded. The case is set for trial in July 2015.

The original lawsuit filed by Torres-Manteufel now includes three additional defendants: Don Hart, Scott Brown, and James Zes. All three were members of the board of directors at Vision Forum. The case is set for trial in March 2016.

This is the latest update on the events following Doug Phillips’ resignation from Vision Forum Ministries in October 2013, due to what he called “an inappropriate relationship.” In April 2014, Lourdes Torres-Manteufel filed a complaint against Phillips in Kendall County District Court in Texas, accusing him of using her as a “personal sex object.” She worked closely with the Phillips family for a period of several years, caring for their children, helping out on their family farm and working for Vision Forum Ministries in various capacities.

Statements made by Torres-Manteufel and her attorney, David Gibbs, alleged that Phillips used her close relationship to his family to groom her as a victim and his status as her employer to coerce her into a non-consensual intimate relationship.

When A Stay-At-Home Daughter Rebels: Reumah’s Story, Part Three

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Pseudonym note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Reumah” is a pseudonym.

< Part Two

Part Three: Escape

This roller coaster I was one wouldn’t stop. Me, hesitatingly trying to make a step forward, my parents instantly pushing me back. I bought a little pallet of eye shadow one day – my parents told me I looked like a whore. I bought a skirt with a hemline just at the knee. My parents said I was pushing their standards. I desperately wanted a job. My father sat me down and told me how I was actually losing money by taking a job outside the home….and that my skills were better utilized under his roof.

I finally got the job I so coveted, at the age of almost 21.

I must have looked completely lost, walking into the store that first day in a long skirt, unsure of how to behave or what to say in this unfamiliar environment. Over the next six months, I would meet so many new people that would open my eyes to the oppression that I was living in. I made so much progress in that six months, but my parents could only see the negative influences that the “world” was having on me. I had to lie, sneak around, and pretend to be someone I wasn’t to keep the peace in my household.

One morning when I came down for breakfast wearing my favorite pair of jeans, my father told me that he was ashamed of my immodest clothing, and that I wasn’t allowed to wear those jeans ever again in his house. As a 21 year old woman who’d tasted just enough independence to understand what she was missing, I was livid. I started keeping the jeans at work, and changing into them as soon as I left my parent’s house. My days of quietly obeying my parent’s directives were quickly coming to an end.

I applied for, and miraculously received, a full ride scholarship to a distinguished university completely across the country from my parents. I remember my Dad, sitting on the couch in our living room, telling me he would never approve of one of his daughter’s leaving his home to attend college. That he would never allow it. Would never give his blessing.

I remember crying in the living room, desperate for an escape from my prison.

My friends at work told me I had to go. Those women at my first little retail job were instrumental in helping me ease into the real world, and open my eyes to the fact that I NEEDED to move on with my life. Yes, it would be hard. Yes it was scary, especially without any support from my family. But I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to spend 4 years across the country from my family, becoming my own person. Because after so many years living my parent’s beliefs and being told what was right and wrong, I didn’t know who I really was.

After an agonizing summer, I went.

My parents, insistent that they would move the family across the country so I could stay under their roof, drove me out to my new college with the promise that they would be there within a semester. I secretly hoped their plans to move would fall through. Thankfully, they did.

I fell in love with dorm life instantly, and loved the absolute freedom I had over my life. My future opened up before me. Endless opportunities and freedom met me at every turn. I met so many wonderful people who were kind, helpful, selfless, and genuine. I marveled when I met folks who weren’t devout fundamentalists and had never heard of patriarchy, and yet were still amazing people. These students – most of them had been to public school, had been raised in normal American culture; and yet they weren’t raging pagans, criminals, and devils in disguise. How could this be? Maybe my parents had been wrong.

Fast forward almost three years to the present day. It’s been a long road.

The first year of college life was incredibly difficult. I couldn’t keep up with any of the conversations my peers were having. Pop culture references went straight over my head. I hadn’t seen any of the movies people talked about; I didn’t get the jokes my friends made. People were shocked when they learned I’d never had a boyfriend and never been kissed; horrified when they learned I’d never gone to high school, played a sport or gone on a sleepover. I didn’t know who the Backstreet Boys were, had never listened to a Michael Jackson song, and didn’t know the Disney Channel even existed. Eventually, I started leaving those details of my life out of conversations. I created a completely new “me”, and many of my friends never even knew of my life before college.

My relationship with my family is rocky these days. I now stand for everything they’ve ever been opposed to….done everything they always wanted to protect me from. They’re convinced that college has corrupted me in a thousand ways. They don’t approve, support, or accept the person that I’ve become over the past 3 years since I left the movement. On the surface, they’re friendly. They feign interest in my activities, and we talk on a regular basis. But deep down, they can’t stand what I’ve become.

My siblings are still at home, lost in the life from which I’ve escaped. Fortunately, one of my brothers decided to leave too, and he’s now traveling around Europe making up for lost time.

I’m incredibly proud of how far I’ve come. But I have a lot left to go.

While I don’t dwell on my past, it does shape the person that I am today. I still find traces of my upbringing from time to time. My boyfriend is constantly dispelling my twisted views of life, family, relationships, and myself that are still left over from my dysfunctional upbringing.

And it’s overwhelmingly difficult to know that I don’t have the support of my family.

And yet,

“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow.”  ~ Thomas Paine

End of series.

When A Stay-At-Home Daughter Rebels: Reumah’s Story, Part Two

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Pseudonym note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Reumah” is a pseudonym.

< Part One

Part Two: Trapped

I was trapped.

As I’d gotten older, my parents had gotten stricter, more isolated, and more focused on minute details of our lives.  We spent our mornings listening to my father read the Bible to us and decry the evils of the world, the culture, and anything he associated with it.  We weren’t allowed to watch films in the movie theater.  My brothers weren’t allowed to participate in organized sports, or watch football games; it took them away from family time and smacked of worldliness.  The only music in our home was hymns or peaceful praise songs. Even Christian radio was out of the question.    Dating was completely off the table…my parents were firmly entrenched in the values of courtship, and any potential relationship would be controlled completely by my father.

As time passed, I became less and less content with my life as a home maker in training. I’m not sure what changed. Perhaps it was just the passage of time, or perhaps it was the endless monotony of my days as they ran into each other. Getting up, weeding the garden, fixing breakfast. Washing the endless amounts of dishes, watching my little brothers, putting in laundry. Fixing lunch, lying around most of the afternoon on the internet or reading a book, then sluggishly helping put together dinner and going back to my computer to entertain myself until it was time for lights out. I didn’t have any friends, and nothing with which to break up my days.  I didn’t have anything to look forward to, and the glorious prospects of winning the culture war and raising a family of warriors for Christ began to seem a little bleak.  I began to envision the reality of the future I had willingly committed to, and it wasn’t a prospect I liked at all.

Yet, in spite of my growing restlessness, I was trapped.  No, I wasn’t being forcibly held at home.  My family loved me, and I loved them. But I slowly began to see the bars of the invisible prison into which I had unknowingly walked.

I was stuck. 

I had no discernible skills.  As a home school student, I hadn’t participated in any extra curricular activities, teams, or competitions for fear of being corrupted by worldly influences. I’d never held a job outside of my family, and didn’t have any means of getting one without a vehicle.  I’d briefly brought up the prospect of perhaps a part time job at our local library or a little boutique, but my father had quickly shot that down with a reminder about the Biblical role for women, and had placated me by piling on lots of mundane tasks he needed done for his own business. To him, I already had a job.

Without my father’s approval and permission, I wouldn’t be allowed use of the family vehicles to get to a potential job. So that was out of the question.  Without a job, I had no income.  And without income, I was powerless.  The money I did have came from my parents; wages I ‘earned’ for helping out around the house or for balancing my father’s checkbooks each month. I searched for ways to fill the void that wouldn’t clash with my parent’s ideals. I looked for ways to volunteer (online, of course), and tried to start a web based business. I explored the idea of beginning online classes in business; starting my college education was grudgingly allowed as long as I did it from the comfort and safety of my bedroom.  And, it was made clear, any post high school education would only be for the purpose of preparing me to be a better home schooling mother and a more helpful and supportive wife. Somehow, this didn’t sound very appealing.

I started blaming my situation on our location.  If only we would move to a different place, it would all be better. I would find friends. More importantly, I would find a husband.  Prince Charming, my future husband, would be the key to freeing me from my prison.  But after years of staunchly backing the patriarchal movement and spewing my legalistic views on Biblical womanhood to everyone who would listen, I felt embarrassed when I started questioning my long held ideals.

This inner turmoil haunted me for over a year and a half.  A constant battle between what I knew I “should” believe, and what another part of me was starting to explore.  I was curious about the world beyond the four walls of my home.  I caught snatches of secular music at the grocery store, and didn’t hate what I heard.  I saw commercials for TV shows that were well below my age level, yet I was still captivated with what I saw.  I noticed happy college students, books in tow, walking freely along the streets close to the campus of a nearby university, and harbored a quiet jealousy for the opportunities they had.

I started to resent my parents and their rules, and I started to resent myself for having trapped myself into a prison from which I saw no escape. I became angry for the time I had lost, the things I had never experienced, and the life that I saw slipping away from me.  I secretly resented my church, religion, and eventually the God I had believed in for so long.

The God who would send me to hell if I didn’t do what he wanted. 

Part Three >

When A Stay-At-Home Daughter Rebels: Reumah’s Story, Part One

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Pseudonym note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Reumah” is a pseudonym.

Part One: Return of the Daughters

My parents represented typical suburbia during my early child hood; my Dad with his upper middle class corporate job, and my Mom puttering around the house taking care of us and making our lives happy and healthy.   We had the brick three bedroom ranch-style home you see in the magazines; two or three cars in the garage, money in the bank, a good circle of friends, and a cute little church with a steeple we attended religiously on Sunday mornings.  Church services were always followed by lazy afternoons where my Dad grilled out on the back porch while we children played in the fading sunlight.

My parents had always been good Christian people. They raised us in the church, took us to Sunday school, taught us about Jesus and the Bible at home.  Christianity was a fundamental pillar of my early childhood. It fit comfortably into our lives, right along with everything else we held dear.  But sometime around my eleventh birthday, my parents transitioned from mainstream Christianity towards something more radical, conservative, and polarizing.

My parents became exposed to the teachings of organizations and individuals such as Doug Phillips (Vision Forum), Bill Gothard (IBLP), Geoff Botkin (Western Conservatory), and Mike & Debi Pearl (No Greater Joy). On the surface, these people seemed like admirable champions for morality, truth, and wholesome family values.  What could be better? My parents wholeheartedly subscribed to their teachings, and eventually steered the direction of our family away from mainstream Christianity and into the ditch of these extreme right wing fundamentalists.

These organizations promised the world if you followed their “Biblical” teachings; perfect families, obedient children, protected daughters, reprieve from all heartbreak, answers to every problem you could imagine. These God-like men fiercely taught the tenets of patriarchy; they eschewed all forms of feminism; paraded the perfection of male authority and total female submission; warned of the great dangers of the world, and lauded those who welcome as many children as humanly possible into their families.  After all, we were at war with the culture, and we needed to out-number them.

We left our mainstream church with the friendly steeple and started a “home church” with two or three families who felt the same way as my parents did. Home church consisted of singing hymns at home on our couch, while one of the fathers “preached” on the dangers of the world and how we needed to be protected from it lest we be corrupted.  Gender roles were strongly emphasized and the liberal agenda was held up as the devil of our age; something we needed to defeat lest the homosexuals, abortionists, feminists, and the government take over the world.

But my 11 year old mind couldn’t wrap around these concepts.  All I knew was that my parents were happy; they’d found the answer to their problems and the solution to all future familial woes. They taught us the principles they believed in, and as children we knew no different.

 We took to this new patriarchal fundamentalist culture like bees to honey; it was easy, we knew what the rules were, and it made us feel better than the rest of the lazy Christians our friends talked about.

But little did I know where these teachings and philosophies would lead our family, my parents, and myself.  How could I have known? I was just a kid, doing what I was told and learning what I was taught by my well-meaning parents.  How could I have foreseen the heartache, the lost time, the lost opportunities, the emotional bondage, and the dreams I would have taken from me before they even had a chance to develop?

Fast forward to 2008 – my excitement was palpable as I unwrapped the most recent birthday gift from my well-meaning parents; Vision Forum’s newest DVD release “Return of the Daughters” promoting Biblical womanhood and a return to the supposed woman’s role in the home.  I turned over the shiny DVD and read the beautifully crafted summary on the back;

“This highly-controversial documentary will take viewers into the homes of several young women who have dared to defy today’s anti-family culture in pursuit of a biblical approach to daughter hood, using their in-between years to pioneer a new culture of strength and dignity, and to rebuild Western Civilization, starting with the culture of the home.”

Christian patriarchy taught that the woman’s role was in the home.  Her purpose in life was to further the vision of her husband by supporting and obeying him.  Women were to be under the protection and authority of their father until they married, and the time after high school graduation didn’t include college or jobs outside the home. These were deadly distractions that would only corrupt our innocent minds and hearts with feminism and the liberal agenda.

To my innocent and sheltered sixteen year old mind, this sounded like the ultimate ideal. Controversial? Check. Counter cultural? Check. Revolutionary? Check. These ideas all sounded so exciting to me, post high school and bored as I was.

After graduating from high school at the age of seventeen, I hadn’t given college a second thought. According to the teachings of Christian patriarchy, college was no place for the Godly woman. Modern day institutions of higher learning, I was taught, were bastions of liberal thought and hatred for God, and no good could ever come of me leaving my father’s protection for such a place. If higher education was to even be considered, online classes in herbalism, nursing, teaching, or other such womanly arts were the only options I had available to me. But I was far from being deprived by my parents – I’d been taught these ideals for so long that I was the one vehemently asserting that I would never attend college.

My place was at home, waiting for Prince Charming to come along and sweep me off my feet.

So, there I was; post home school high school, insanely bored, and more sure of what NOT to do with my life than what TO do with it. The Botkins’ revolutionary documentary Return of the Daughters was just the fanatical fodder I needed to fuel my ever increasing disdain for modern ideals of the woman.

By this time, we’d joined an actual church that sadly subscribed to all the same beliefs as my parents. One Sunday, in lieu of a sermon, this stomach churning documentary was shown in church. Looking back, the thought of all the little girls (and boys) sitting in those pews watching a film teaching them that girls weren’t mean for education, experience, or college life makes me sick to my stomach. But back then, it was the norm. I watched in awe as my female ideals, Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin, looked into the camera with their poised grown up demeanor and proclaimed their truth; that feminism was all a lie. An evil ploy by secular humanists to destroy the family and take women away from their God given sphere. A Communist plot to chip away at the fabric of Christian society. That by going to college, holding down jobs, and leaving our father’s protection, we were unwittingly playing right into their hands and helping them destroy God’s design for families. And what’s worse, is it all sounded so plausible. So righteous. So moral. And I ate up every word.

As a home schooled sheltered child, I’d never been exposed to anything different. Anything resembling a feminist idea had been quickly removed from our home, and we’d been consistently taught that women were to be in submission to men. That by submitting to our father, we were practicing for the day when we would be submitting to our future husband. According to the Bible, our job was to support and obey our husband. Our sphere was the home; cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and raising the children while our male authority figure went out to do battle with the real world. Anything not directly supporting this God given mission, we were told, was only the world’s attempt to draw our attention away from our purpose in life.

With this background, I had no trouble swallowing what Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin were all too eager to dish out. In their documentary, they portrayed graceful young women in their early twenties busily staying at home helping their mothers, teaching their young siblings, cooking delicious dinners for daddy, and sewing modest clothing just like the Proverbs 31 woman.

They made it all look so important. So purposeful. Godly women were submissive. Godly women were graceful and modest. Godly women respected and revered their fathers. Godly women spent their days being a servant to their family, without thought to their own wants or desires. And one day, if we were Godly enough and obedient enough, we would be rewarded with a husband of our own – the ultimate goal for a stay-at-home daughter.

I embraced my mission in life vehemently. I cooked, cleaned, and ironed with a passion. I crocheted blankets, sewed skirts, baked bread, copied recipes for my own collection, and washed dishes. After all, I didn’t have to worry about where to go to college, or how to survive on my own as an independent woman. I didn’t have to worry about finding a job, or picking a career. Money wasn’t my problem…..I would be provided for by my future husband.

But my personal version of paradise wouldn’t last.

I was trapped.

Part Two >

Doug Phillips Excommunicated From Boerne Christian Assembly

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Kirk Cameron and Doug Phillips.

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Doug Phillips, the former president of Vision Forum and one of the leading advocates of Christian Patriarchy within the Christian Homeschool Movement, was publicly excommunicated today from his former church, Boerne Christian Assembly (BCA). In a statement released today on BCA’s website, BCA elders Jeff Horn and David Fry declared the following:

“After much prayer and careful deliberation, and having fully communicated to Doug Phillips his Biblical responsibilities and our concerns, regarding sins, arising out of his public confession, there has not been a response we deem satisfactory. Therefore, the Elders of Boerne Christian Assembly have moved to excommunicate Doug Phillips from the Body of Christ. In doing so, we have sought in good faith to follow diligently the process set forth by our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 18:15-17. This has been a process in which BCA has demonstrated great longsuffering and patience, has offered many and earnest appeals, and has sought much counsel from men of other churches.”

This statement comes several months after BCA revealed in July of this year that Doug Phillips had left Boerne Christian Assembly and had become a member of another Church “without a letter of transfer from Boerne Christian Assembly” — a requirement affirmed by Phillips himself while he was an elder at BCA. Phillips left after BCA “sought to exercise oversight and accountability” on account of allegations that Phillips had groomed and sexually assaulted a young woman.

You can read Boerne Christian Assembly’s full statement here (or archived as a PDF here).

** Update: The Phillips family has fired back against the BCA. In a statement posted on Doug Phillips’s wife’s Facebook page, Beall Phillips alleged that,

“Today, Boerne Christian Assembly, a church with no jurisdiction over any member of my family, and with about six remaining active member families which includes the three recently elected leaders, (some of whom are personally entangled in controversies and conflicts of interest related to a highly publicized lawsuit) has chosen to dismiss BCA’s historic principles of church government, ignore the Scriptures, and reject their duties to honor civil jurisdictions.”

Read the Phillips’s statement here as a PDF.

God’s Plantation: Vision Forum and the Old South

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About the Author: Jonathan Wilson is a Ph.D. student in American intellectual history at Syracuse University. An earlier version of this article was posted in November at The Junto: A Group Blog in Early American History. It is reprinted in a modified version here with permission.

Late last year, Doug Phillips, the president of Vision Forum Ministries, publicly admitted to an inappropriate extramarital relationship and resigned. Shortly afterward, the Vision Forum board of directors decided to shut down the San Antonio ministry. In the months since then, World Magazine has reported additional terrible details about Phillips’s alleged behavior toward a woman under his care.

The story made even secular news. For years, Vision Forum and Doug Phillips had enjoyed oversized influence in homeschooling circles as leaders of the “Quiverfull” movement, encouraging Christians to have (and homeschool) large families as a way of exercising influence in the world.

Vision Forum providential historyThey were champions of “biblical patriarchy,” the principle that family life (and ultimately society at large) should be organized under the authority of divinely ordained fathers and husbands. According to one manifesto prepared by Vision Forum, “the erosion of biblical manhood and leadership,” caused by modern ideologies that undermine God’s authority, “leads to the perversion of the role of women, the destruction of our children, and the collapse of our society.”

To be fair, Vision Forum’s view originated in a specific theological tradition to which most members of the “Religious Right” probably do not belong. And it leads to some conclusions that many Christian conservatives find repellent. Yet some of Vision Forum’s teachings have been disproportionately influential in the American homeschooling movement. And they are especially important for understanding the movement’s relationship to the painful history of American racism.

*****

What sorts of conclusions did Vision Forum draw from its theology? First, there are the obvious ones.

Vision Forum advocated very well-defined gender roles. Through its for-profit merchandise catalog aimed at homeschooling families, it distributed books like an updated version of William Gouge’s Of Domesticall Duties, a 1622 treatise on family life. (A sample of the original wording: “Mildness in a wife hath respect also to the ordering of her countenance, gesture, and whole carriage before her husband, whereby she manifesteth a pleasingness to him, and a contentedness and willingness to be under him and ruled by him.”) The online store sold a two-DVD set called “Tea and Hospitality with Michelle Duggar,” inviting viewers to “celebrate the fruit of the womb with [mother-of-nineteen] Michelle!”

Vision Forum outdoor adventureVision Forum also sold homeschooling families highly gender-specific toys like an “all-American boy’s crossbow” and a “Princess Virginia” dress meant to encourage a girl as she “identifies with Mommy and experiences how unique and wonderful it is to be a girl, to be a daughter of the Most High King—to be His little princess!” Vision Forum’s entire merchandise catalog encouraged as much differentiation as possible between boy leaders and girl followers.

Interestingly, there was also a pronounced nationalistic dimension to gender in this catalog. Vision Forum boys and girls were always American boys and girls. Although many evangelical bloggers and journalists have been highly critical of Vision Forum’s attitudes toward gender, they have often overlooked this.

Vision Forum promoted American nationalism on the basis of their brand of Calvinist covenant theology, which implied that an authoritarian family structure would regenerate God’s special covenant with the United States of America. Yet militant identification with the United States—and especially with its early history—is evident everywhere in Vision Forum’s catalog, especially in its merchandise for boys.

*****

Even more important, however, is that Vision Forum promoted a vision not just of male leadership in the family and the nation, but more specifically a vision rooted in an ideology of white male mastery. And it promoted not just American nationalism, but Southern nationalism—the nationalism of the Confederacy.

To be clear, Vision Forum was not an avowedly racist organization. It did not directly or consciously advocate white supremacy. But it did deliberately promote nostalgia for the white supremacist social order of the Old South.

In fact, one of Doug Phillips’s first books, published in 2003, was a short edited collection of writings by Robert Lewis Dabney, a Southern Presbyterian theologian. Its subtitle is The Prophet Speaks. Dabney, though technically an opponent of secession, was an enthusiastic defender of southern slavery. He served in the Confederate army as a chaplain and as an aide to Stonewall Jackson, and after the war, he published A Defence of Virginia, and through Her, of the South. This book defended human slavery, endorsing the notion that God instituted black slavery through the “curse upon Canaan” after Noah’s flood. Dabney also published an admiring Life of General Jackson and later a pamphlet denouncing racial integration in Presbyterian churches.

None of this meant that Doug Phillips consciously endorsed white supremacy. In his collection, instead, Phillips printed excerpts of Dabney’s later diatribes against public education and feminism. Yet Phillips was clearly enamored of Dabney as a person and as a cultural figure.

“Perhaps no Christian leader of the nineteenth century,” Phillips wrote about Dabney, “filled the role of prophet with greater proficiency.” He even wrote that “for those individuals who long for the days in which a gentleman could hold the door for a lady without some indignant feminist snorting at him, Dabney’s writings will seem refreshingly virile.” As for Dabney’s pro-slavery views? Phillips just coyly asked his readers to consider “the context of the War itself.”[1]

Indeed, the depth of Phillips’s personal admiration for Dabney—and for Stonewall Jackson—was evident in several of the items for sale by Vision Forum. They included a reprint of Dabney’s biography of Jackson, a collection of Jackson’s letters, and even a doll meant to remind girls of Stonewall Jackson’s “godly wife.”

Vision Forum doll collectionWith this doll, Vision Forum strayed deep into what I call “Plantation Chic”—nostalgia for the prewar, slaveowning South. “Stately homes, horse-drawn carriages, and beautiful dresses were special delights for Southern young ladies,” sighed the catalog. “Now you can attire your doll in the feminine and delightfully flouncy styles of the mid-1800s!”

Even more revealing was the Vision Forum “Beautiful Girlhood” doll collection. It featured four dolls—two black and two white. The white dolls were both named after the ideal of freedom; Vision Forum called them Liberty and Jubilee. One of the black dolls was simply named Abigail. And the other black doll? Her name was Fidelia, helpfully translated as “Faithful One.”[2]

*****

Meanwhile, Vision Forum sold various history books and audio albums that discussed the Civil War itself. The online descriptions were vague, but these materials had the usual earmarks of what historians call the “Lost Cause” interpretation of the war—the discredited claim that secession was not about slavery, that the North was oppressive, and that most African Americans actually preferred to be slaves.

For example, Vision Forum’s books sometimes referred to the war as “the War between the States,” a term preferred by many Confederacy defenders. They fixated on the supposed nobility of southern “Christian warriors” like (of course) Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. And they seemed to imply that slavery’s role in the war was not what most historians say. (One blurb in Vision Forum’s print catalog warned that “most of what we ‘know’ about it is actually revisionist history.”)

As an American historian, I can say with confidence that Vision Forum was wrong about this. In the 1860s, Confederate leaders said without any hesitation that their goal was to protect slavery.

According to its official secession declaration, South Carolina left the Union because northerners called slavery “sinful” and had elected a president (Abraham Lincoln) “whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery.” My home state seceded because its leaders thought the federal government was “destroying the institutions of Texas and her sister slave-holding States”—specifically, the institution of slavery. Mississippi seceded in order to defeat “negro equality,” declaring that “our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery.”

Confederate leaders talked a lot about how the federal government was supposedly taking away their rights. But the key right they had in mind, according to their own words, was the right to own black people. They insisted that white men had this right not only in their own states but also in free states and territories, even if the whites there objected. To protect this “right,” they not only decided to leave America but also deliberately fired on a U.S. military post. In the American Civil War, the Confederacy formed to defend slavery, and then it fired the first shot.

Vision Forum Fidelia dollBut Vision Forum’s pro-Confederate position probably shouldn’t be surprising, given Vision Forum’s close resemblance to (and relationship with) the better-known ministry of Idaho pastor Douglas Wilson.

Douglas Wilson, an unbelievably prolific writer, may be the best-known advocate today of a conservative Calvinist vision for patriarchal family life and gender roles. He is still quite influential in the homeschool movement. He’s also notorious for writing two books on slavery, Southern Slavery: As It Was and Black & Tan, both of which are available online.

These two books about the Old South include condemnations of racism. But they deny that slavery is wrong. “Was slave ownership malum in se, an evil in itself?” Wilson asks at one point in Black & Tan. “The answer to that question, for anyone who believes the Bible, is that it was possible for a godly man to own slaves, provided he treated them exactly as the Scripture required.” Wilson also calls proslavery theologian Robert Lewis Dabney a “virtually prophetic” man, just as Doug Phillips did. Wilson acknowledges and condemns Dabney’s racism, but he apparently has almost nothing to say about Dabney’s views on slavery itself.[3]

*****

All of this leaves us with an important question. Why would Christian homeschooling advocates who claim not to be racist promote this kind of nostalgia for the antebellum South? Why would they encourage us to idolize the Old South’s slavery-based plantation culture, its slaveowning white men, and its self-serving views about the federal government?

Oddly enough, it seems fairly clear that racism isn’t the place to start. Although fondness for the antebellum South often does result from racism, I don’t think it would be helpful to assume that’s the key reason for Vision Forum’s views. There is little direct evidence that Vision Forum was consciously racist, and there’s quite a bit of evidence that they didn’t want to be racists. If nothing else, blaming racism is the least interesting thing we could say about what was going on in their ministry.

But we need to recognize that in real-life America, slavery is inextricable from racism, and so is the history of the Confederacy. The association between slavery and racism isn’t accidental or irrelevant. When you claim the right to own an entire category of people as slaves, you cannot see them as equal human beings.

And we also need to see that Vision Forum’s nostalgia for a white slaveowning society was directly related to its nostalgia for an authoritarian code of sexual ethics. The right to own slaves may not have been the point of Vision Forum’s preaching, but the nearly absolute authority of the male householder, commanding all other members of the family, certainly was.

No amount of talk about “complementary” roles for men and women can conceal what Vision Forum was actually eager to announce: that its key concern was patriarchy—a system of governance, not just a distribution of responsibilities. From that perspective, the Old South represented a convenient image of white manhood and womanhood. To Vision Forum, the Confederacy’s fate served as perhaps a hint of why authoritarian manhood seems endangered today.

In addition, the failure of the Confederacy may be a convenient explanation for the supposed decline of Christian civilization in what Vision Forum claims was a providentially founded Christian nation. For them, the Civil War can serve as the moment when God chastised his people in America (just as he did the ancient Hebrews) for straying from their appointed course. It also seems to represent what can happen when a society fails to cohere—when its authority structures, and thus its values, fail. It explains what went wrong in God’s own nation.

We need to recognize that this authoritarianism is a vision of slavery and death. We can empathize with people who yearn for a lost culture. We can try to understand their anxiety and alleviate their fears. But we must call their vision what it is and offer another way.

_________________________

  1. See the introduction, especially pages 8-10.
  2. Though this name has highly offensive proslavery implications, Vision Forum seems not to have realized it. In fact, the doll seemed to be designed with freedom in mind. Fidelia, the online catalog said, “can brave the voyage to New England as Priscilla Mullins, help Lewis and Clark find the Northwest Passage as Sacagawea, serve tea at the White House as Dolley Madison, and stroll the deck of the Titanic as Nan Harper.”
  3. Here’s Wilson’s comment in fuller context: “The issue is whether a Christian man could have lawfully owned a slave in 1850 America without being necessarilyguilty of a moral outrage. Was slave ownership malum in se, an evil in itself? The answer to that question, for anyone who believes the Bible, is that it was possible for a godly man to own slaves, provided he treated them exactly as the Scripture required. In a sinful world, slave ownership generallyis sinful, and it is a system that invites abuse. Over time the gospel will overthrow all forms of slavery. But again, the kingdom arrives like yeast working through the loaf, and not like a coup de main. In the meantime, to have the likes of the abolitionist Charles G. Finney (who said that it is impossible to be on the right side of God and the wrong side of the slavery issue) hurling his taunts at Abraham and Philemon is a bit thick.” Douglas Wilson, Black & Tan: A Collection of Essays and Excursions on Slavery, Culture War, and Scripture in America(Moscow, Idaho: Canon Press, 2005), 69. For Wilson’s remarks about Dabney, see pp. 79-94.

Beall Phillips, Wife of Doug Phillips, Accuses HSLDA’s Michael Farris of “Gross Error,” “Bully Pulpit”

Beall Phillips, wife of disgraced homeschool leader Doug Phillips. Photo source: Facebook.

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

In a curious turn of events, Beall Phillips — wife of disgraced homeschool leader Doug Phillips, who was accused of sexual assaulting his family’s nanny — has come out swinging against HSLDA’s Michael Farris. Yesterday Farris released his white paper “A Line in the Sand,” where he criticized both Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard, saying, “The philosophies of Gothard and Phillips damage people in multiple ways.” The white paper got the attention of both WORLD Magazine and Shawn Mathis at the Examiner.

Earlier today, however, Beall Phillips left both a public comment on HSLDA’s Facebook page as well as a public status on her own Facebook page accusing Farris of nothing less than lies and misrepresentation. (This is not the first time Beall has gone to bat for her husband. In April of this year she appeared on a local television show with her husband, declaring that, “I think God wanted to draw us together and do something much bigger than us or our family’s story.”) Beall argued there were “gross errors” in Farris’s accusations, such as:

(1) Doug Phillips never taught “that women in general should be subject to men in general,” Beall says, pointing to the fact that, “For about the last 6 years, you and I have sat around the same table for board meetings. Yes, you and I (a woman) were on the same board.”

(2) Despite Michael Farris claiming that patriarchy teaches “Women should not vote,” Beall says, “I have voted as my conscience dictated since I was 18. So do my sons and so will my daughters.”

Here is the full text of Beall’s statement (which, note, is apparently “part one” of a series of statements):

Well, Mike, your article about Doug was, at the very least, in bad taste, and your representation of what Doug and I believe and what we have taught through Vision Forum was rife with gross error.

I have known you for 23 years. I have seen you in many circumstances, some admirable, some not admirable. For about the last 6 years, you and I have sat around the same table for board meetings. Yes, you and I (a woman) were on the same board. You came to Doug’s dad’s funeral in April 2013 with some kind words. Somehow I missed the letter of compassion and concern for my family this year. You have my email address and phone number.

I know, it’s so much faster and easier and cleaner to publish an article and put it on the Internet for how many thousands of people?

How much courage does it take to kick a man who is out of business, out of ministry, and publicly humiliated?

Your caricature of our views would be humorous if it were not so grossly offensive.

Let me help you with a couple of things. I have voted as my conscience dictated since I was 18. So do my sons and so will my daughters. I’m glad for Vickie that she is not under Dennis Rodman’s authority. And I am glad that I am not under your authority. I would choose my husband again any day.

Maybe we can discuss all the other concoctions in your article over coffee sometime. My daughters might want to join us to speak for themselves. If you will sit and listen to them.

Until then, please take my family off your membership list immediately. I do not think you are qualified to represent my children or me in any capacity.

Doug has chosen not to respond, but I will not sit idly by while you use your bully pulpit to malign and misrepresent my husband, my company (yes, I, a woman, was an employee of Vision Forum) my family, and myself.

Please note, this is part one of my response as well.

(You can view a PDF of the statement archived on HA here.)

This conflict — bordering on drama – ironically goes to show the utmost importance of what people like Libby Anne and myself have been saying: Michael Farris does not understand patriarchy and that actually matters. It matters a whole hell of lot.

When someone like Farris constructs straw men of people like Doug Phillips, that helps no one. It obfuscates the real issues and alienates through misrepresentation the people that need to see the damage that their ideas have on people. It also raises the suspicion that Farris is not actually interested in dismantling patriarchy and is more interested in throwing under the bus people who are already down or those against which he already has vendettas.

Straw men do not help homeschool kids or alumni — and they do not help Farris, either, especially when someone like Beall Phillips calls his bluff. In fact, it makes our job of helping homeschool kids and alumni that much harder.

Doug Phillips on the “Yin and Yang” of Marriage

yinyang

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

I was reading “The Big Box Series” over at Scarlet Letters, a blog exploring the Christian homeschooling subculture, the Christian patriarchy movement, and women’s and gender issues within Christianity. I came across a post featuring one of Doug Phillips’s lectures, entitled “How to Evaluate a Suitor,” on marriage and being “unequally yoked.” Scarlet Letters makes interesting connections between Phillips, Rushdoony, and implicit racism; the post is worth a look. But what I was most intrigued by — since my M.A. focused on Eastern philosophy and religion — was his truncated and highly inaccurate understanding of Eastern philosophies and religions. Take a look:

There is no relationship in the entire earth in which agreement is more necessary than marriage. It is the most heightened level of agreement that is necessary in marriage, because two people become one. It’s the only relationship that we have in which two become one, physically and spiritually you become one. And so if one is at complete differences with the other, you’ve got a formula for disaster. That’s the Buddhist philosophy of yin and yang. Good and evil coexisting together, both in a constant state of war to create a one. That’s Buddhism, that’s Daoism, that Confucianism. It’s not Christianity. We don’t believe in yin and yang. We believe the two should be one, they need to be in agreement.

I mean, my main reaction is just: LOL.

My more detailed reaction would be:

1) “Good and evil coexisting together in a constant state of war to create one” is not the Buddhist philosophy of yin and yang.

2) “Good and evil coexisting together in a constant state of war” is more of a Hindu concept, which for some reason didn’t even make it onto Phillips’s list of religions.

3) Relating “good and evil” to yin and yang is a American/Westernized thing; it’s not a faithful interpretation of yin and yang in their cultural and historical contexts.

4) Buddhism is not the same as Daoism.

5) Daoism is not the same as Confucianism.

6) Confucianism is not the same as Buddhism.

7) When “yin and yang” is properly understood, Christianity actually does express similar sentiments.

I will not bore my readers with a detailed explanation of Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism. But I would like to at least explain “yin” and “yang” briefly, because — hey, I rarely have the opportunity to apply my M.A. directly in my work with HA. I might as well take advantage of this rare opportunity.

So here we go:

Both yin and yang are traditional Chinese characters. Here’s yin: 陰. Here’s yang: 陽. If you notice, on the lefthand side of each character is the same “mini-character”: 阝. 阝signifies a mound or hill.  When combined with 侌, which signifies “cloudy,” you get what we think of as “yin,” which signifies the cloudy or shadowy side of a hill. On the other hand, when 阝is combined with 昜 (which signifies “bright”), you get “yang,” which signifies the sunny or bright side of a hill. Thinking of a hill is probably the easiest Intro to Yin and Yang I could give you: it’s the same hill, but it has two sides: a cloudy side and a sunny side. The sides aren’t “in a constant state of war”; rather, they’re two sides of the same coin and — despite unique characteristics and personalities — work together in harmony.

Which, if you think about it, is an interesting metaphor for marriage.

I am absolutely fascinated by the foundational Daoist text, the Dao De Jing. So here’s the main passage (Chapter 42) in that text that discusses the traditional Daoist understanding of yin and yang:

Tao gave birth to the One; the One gave birth successively to two things, three things, up to ten thousand. These ten thousand creatures cannot turn their backs to the shade [yin] without having the sun [yang] on their bellies, and it is on this blending of the breaths that their harmony depends.

To be orphaned, needy, ill-provided is what men most hate; yet princes and dukes style themselves so.

Truly, “things are often increased by seeking to diminish them and diminished by seeking to increase them.” The maxims that others use in their teaching I too will use in mine.

Show me a man of violence that came to a good end, and I will take him for my teacher.

Most every chapter in the Dao De Jing begins with some universal principle and then applies it to how a ruler ought to govern. In my opinion, the Dao De Jing is primarily a political treatise about the nature and application of power; it’s not a religious statement. To put it in “Christianese” terminology, it’s about “living in the tension.” In this case, it’s political tension: a wise ruler knowns how to non-violently embrace and marshal opposing political elements to his own advantage. (Which, again, is an interesting metaphor for marriage, albeit Machiavellian.)

But that’s just Daoism — and that’s just one interpretation of one Daoist text written by one Daoist. How Daoism (as well as Buddhism and Confucianism) thinks about and applies the idea of yin and yang is as diverse as how American Christians think about and apply the idea that humans are made in God’s image. It’s completely sloppy (and unfair) to just group all those religions and their denominations together and make sweeping generalizations. For example, some American Christians think the “humans in God’s image” concept necessitates we accept and love LGBT* individuals; other American Christians think the same concept justifies bigotry and discrimination. If American Christians wouldn’t like being made into unfair caricatures, they ought not make unfair caricatures of other religions and people groups.

Making unfair caricatures of other religions and people groups is a serious problem in the Christian homeschooling subculture and American Evangelicalism in general. (It’s also a problem that plagues other cultures. No uniqueness here.) I have talked about this previously in my “How I Learned to Stop Being Afraid and Love Other Religions” series. When I realized that curriculums and ideas created and advocated by everyone from David Noebel to Ken Ham to Worldview Weekend to James Dobson was passing on nothing but soundbites and straw men of other people’s beliefs, I felt upset. And confused. If homeschool leaders actually want to raise up a generation that is taken seriously in the public square, they owe that generation the truth. They owe it an accurate and generous understanding of opposing viewpoints: whether those viewpoints be Buddhist, Daoist, Confucian, or even atheist.

When homeschool leaders (or former ones like Doug Phillips), throw everything from Buddhism to Confucianism to Daoism into one box and cannot even understand a basic concept like yin and yang, how is that any different from Richard Dawkins throwing those same religions — but also Christianity — into the same box and declaring, “A plague on all your houses”? Remember Jesus’s Golden Rule: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.”

Which, incidentally, Confucius said 500 years prior: “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.”

The Skeleton in Doug Phillips’s Closet Is Now in the Creation Museum. Literally.

Andrew Snelling, Ken Ham and Michael Peroutka (L-R) stand in front of Ebenezer the Allosaurus. (Photo: Answers in Genesis)
Andrew Snelling, Ken Ham and Michael Peroutka (L-R) stand in front of Ebenezer the Allosaurus.
(Photo: Answers in Genesis)

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

In case you missed the news, the Creation Museum — labor of love par excellence of Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis — acquired some dinosaur bones. Those bones, belonging to 30-foot-long, 10-foot-high Ebenezer the Allosaurus, are valued at $1 million. According to Ham, Ebenezer is named after the “stone of help” that the Hebrew prophet Samuel set up to honor his God. Ebenezer was unveiled to the public on May 23 of this year.

There has been a healthy debate over the significance of Ebenezer when it comes to the Creationism vs. Evolutionism debate. Ham believes Ebenezer will “expose the scientific problems with evolution” and “help us defend the book of Genesis.” In contrast some have argued that, depending on how much or little data was collected during its excavation, Ebenezer might be “useless scientifically.”

But there are other — and maybe more significant — debates buried underneath the surface. Just this last week there’s been widespread discussion over whether the Creation Museum should have accepted the gift of the bones in the first place. The bones were donated by the Elizabeth Streb Peroutka Foundation, a foundation that focuses primarily on “putting an end to the catastrophe of abortion.” The catch is that Michael Peroutka, the man who runs the foundation (along with his brother, Stephen Peroutka), appears to be a white supremacist sympathizer.

Michael Peroutka is currently a debt collection lawyer and a Republican candidate in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. He is more known, though, as the presidential candidate for the Constitution Party in 2004. (The Constitution Party was started in 1992 by Howard Phillips, the father of Doug Phillips — disgraced former HSLDA attorney, president of Vision Forum, and homeschool celebrity, now being sued by his nanny on charges of molestation.) During Peroutka’s 2004 presidential campaign, he ran as “the home-school candidate.” This image wasn’t helped, however, by revelations that he “had disowned two teenage stepdaughters who accused him of abuse.” (One of his daughters claimed he sexually abused her, though she later retracted that claim.)

Also during his 2004 campaign, Peroutka was endorsed by the League of the South — a  white supremacist and nationalist organization and Neo-Confederate hate group. The League’s founder, Michael Hill, has expressed his organization’s white supremacy quite blatantly, describing American slavery as “God-ordained” and calling for a hierarchal society composed of “superiors, equals and inferiors.” In 2013, Peroutka joined the Board of Directors of the League of the South. (You can see Peroutka’s name on the League’s website in this December 2013 archived screen capture.)

But even more curious that Peroutka’s disturbing connections with white supremacy is the actual history of Ebenezer the Allosaurus. The Creation Museum, Ken Ham, and Answers in Genesis have all conveniently neglected to mention this history. And I say “convenient” because they are all entirely aware of that history.

See, Ebenezer the Allosaurus is the dinosaur that Doug Phillips lied about and stole.

You won’t find this in many of the news articles about Ebenezer. (Except for Right Wing Watch and io9. Props to them for connecting the dots.) Somehow this origin story has been forgotten. So let’s review:

Answers in Genesis geologist Andrew Snelling says that Ebenezer was “found in the Morrison Formation of North America (specifically in northwestern Colorado).” And in their October 2013 press release first announcing the dinosaur donation, Answers in Genesis said the following:

One blessing in getting the allosaur was that the Creation Museum did not seek it out. Ten years ago, the Elizabeth Streb Peroutka Foundation bought the specimen and housed it. Thousands of hours later, the bones of this magnificent fossil are almost completely cleaned and restored thanks to the DeRosa family of Creation Expeditions.

Ah, yes. The DeRosa family of Creation Expeditions. That rings a bell.

And here is how Michael Peroutka explains the situation, as quoted in the Capitol-Gazette:

Peroutka said his foundation is a small family charity he and his brother, Stephen, established and named after their mother. It was meant to give financial aid to groups “dedicated to ending the holocaust of abortion,” he said.

But the organization’s mission took a “slight detour,” Peroutka said, after a meeting with the DeRosa family of Crystal River, Fla., during a home-schooling excursion.

He said the family told him they were part of a group that discovered a dinosaur specimen in Colorado and that there were competing claims over its ownership.

Peroutka said his foundation purchased the fossils “to settle those claims.” It’s unclear how much the charity originally paid for them.

The skeleton was excavated about 10 years ago on private property owned by a Christian woman near the town of Dinosaur, Colo., museum representatives said.

So we have several indicators of what allosaurus this is:

1) Northwestern Colorado

2) The DeRosa family

3) A home-schooling excursion that ended with “competing claims” over ownership

Well, there’s only one allosaurus that fits that description. And we’ll let WorldNetDaily circa 2002 handle this one:

A dinosaur fossil expedition for home educators has excavated a large, rare, intact allosaurus, a discovery that organizers say helps debunk the theory of evolution… Under the leadership of Doug Phillips, president of Vision Forum and an adjunct professor of apologetics with the Institute for Creation Research, and Peter DeRosa, a veteran archaeologist and paleontologist with Creation Expeditions, the team of 30 home schoolers spent a week earlier this month hunting for and excavating fossils in a privately owned location in the Skullcreek Basin of northwest Colorado.

Yes, the allosaurus that Peroutka’s foundation bought — which has now been donated to Ken Ham’s Creation Museum — is the very same one “discovered” by Doug Phillips and his homeschooling paleontologist stars over a decade ago. This was the subject of Phillip’s so-called “documentary” Raising the Allosaur.

Except that, you know, Doug Phillips lied about all of it.

In 2004, Terry Beh (former writer for Promise Keepers and Focus on the Family) and Mary Gavin (home-school parents of five children and nine grandchildren) wrote a blog post titled, “Villainy Behind the Mask of Virtue: Vision Forum Unmasked.” In that post, Beh and Gavin call Doug Phillips and his documentary out for “grossly violating” Christian ethics, in particular ethics against stealing and lying. Basically, a group of individuals discovered Ebenezer and did the hard work of extracting the bones, and then Doug Phillips swooped in and completely rewrote the history about what happened — and then sued the original people involved in order to claim full credit. Here’s an excerpt from Beh and Gavin’s post:

The controversy surrounds the excavation of an allosaurus discovered in northwest Colorado by landowner, Dana Forbes. Forbes, who originally found the allosaur in October 2000 and is featured in the beginning of Phillips’ film, was not given credit for the discovery. The Forbes abandoned both their land and their dream of blessing the creation community through tours and scientific studies on the land through the deceitful actions of Doug Phillips.

Vision Forum deceived and bullied many parties involved in order to profit from the exciting discovery. Chief among them is Joe Taylor, who owns perhaps the largest creation fossil museum in the world which is located in Crosbyton, Texas. Taylor, the lead site manager for the allosaur excavation [and part owner of the allosaur], is not featured in Phillips film at all.

Tom DeRosa, president of Creation Studies Institute and Mike Zovath, field representative for Answers In Genesis [presently vice-president of AiG] were part of the original dig. When the Vision Forum group came to the Forbes property in May of 2002 to film “Raising the Allosaur” over three partial days of digging, all that was left of the allosaur was the end of the tail, which had been plaster cast the year before to protect it from erosion.

By the time the Vision Forum group (composed primarily of homeschool families that paid $999.00 per person) had departed, the skull had not yet been found. This is why there is no footage of it being excavated in the film….

Legal demands and threats were made against Taylor to surrender the bones. Under threat of a lawsuit, and believing it wrong to sue a brother, Taylor reluctantly let them have it. The bones were taken to a makeshift “lab” owned by Doug Phillips. Consequently, Taylor suffered devastating financial losses and has had to shut his museum down several times as well as sell his museum displays just to survive.

Another account about Doug Phillips’s unethical and bullying behavior regarding Ebenezer the Allosaur can be found on Under Much Grace. Joe Taylor was also sued by the DeRosa family for speaking out against Doug Phillips’s film. (The DeRosa family were the stars of the film.)

Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis are well-aware of this history. Their field representative, after all, was present during the original dig. However, neither Ham nor his organization have ever called out Phillips’ attempts at deception and theft, despite being asked to in 2007. Instead, Ham eagerly accepted Vision Forum’s “George Washington Award Man of the Year” from Doug Phillips, saying Phillips was a “ministry friend” and he was “honored” to accept the award. Ham and Phillips continued to speak together over the following decade at homeschool convention after convention, all the way through last year, when both were the keynote speakers at the 30th Annual CHEA Homeschool Convention in California, along with HSLDA’s Elizabeth Smith. (This was mere months before Phillips resigned due to his sexual abuse of Lourdes Torres-Mantufuel being discovered.) Then again, Ham’s silence in this case proved to benefit him: he was the one who ended up with Ebenezer, a $1 million boon to Ham’s creationist empire — an empire built by Ham’s own history of him bullying others, much like Doug Phillips.

Q: What Do Doug Phillips and Bill Clinton Have in Common? (Besides the Whole Preying-on-Women Thing.)

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

A: They both supported Michael Farris’s efforts to pass the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the law at the heart of the recent Hobby Lobby case before the Supreme Court.

You’ve probably heard about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). It’s at the core of the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. Supreme Court case, which (on a 5-4 decision) held that,

As applied to closely held corporations, the regulations promulgated by the Department of Health and Human Services requiring employers to provide their female employees with no-cost access to contraception violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

If you’ve been following the Hobby Lobby case, you probably have a strong opinion one way or another about whether the case was appropriately decided. You’ve also probably heard your “liberal” friends on Facebook mourning the fact that RFRA exists or your “conservative” friends trying to rub RFRA’s existence in their liberal friends’ faces by saying something like, “Bill Clinton signed it! Chuck Schumer signed it! Ha!”

But whatever side you take, and however liberal or conservative you might be, one salient fact stands out: a Democrat president might have signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law, but it was master-minded by none other than Michael Farris, president of HSLDA. My source for that claim? Michael Farris himself.

The day the Hobby Lobby decision came out, Farris wasted no time in claiming credit for it on his public Facebook page:

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Relevant text is:

Hobby Lobby wins 5 to 4.!!This victory was based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. I was the person who named the Act and was the Chairman of the group of lawyers who drafted RFRA.

Really, Farris is being modest in just saying he named the RFRA and supervised the drafting of his text. The fact is, he also “organized a broad coalition of groups to support it” and worked to assuage “pro-life groups” who “feared that the RFRA would extend women’s legal rights to get abortions.” Farris’s work immediately payed off, as HSLDA was able to capitalize on the RFRA in homeschool legal cases and then-HSLDA attorney (now former) Jordan Lorence used it to champion explicit housing discrimination against an unmarried couple.

Historically speaking, it is ironic that the RFRA is now being championed by “conservatives” as a “conservative” piece of legislation. Almost 2 decades ago, libertarian groups were criticizing the RFRA, contending it was unconstitutional because it “exceeded Congress’ power to regulate state and local government” and was merely “Congress’s attempts to redefine constitutional rights via the enforcement clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” (In fact, the Supreme Court partially agreed, striking down parts of the RFRA, with Justice John Paul Stevens declaring it was a “law respecting an establishment of religion’ that violates the First Amendment to the Constitution.”) Legal scholars similarly argued it “establishes an across-the-board scheme that deliberately singles out religious practices, en masse, as a congressionally favored class of activity.”

(Of course, if you are familiar with Michael Farris’s actual legal theories and not just his rhetoric, none of this should surprise you. Farris is a far cry from actual conservatism and a far cry from federalism. He is more of an opportunistic expansionist. This is evidenced no more humorously in the fact mentioned above: that the Supreme Court struck down part of a law Farris oversaw the drafting of because it was an unconstitutional expansion of the federal government’s powers over and against states’ rights. Nonetheless, HSLDA continues to praise the RFRA.)

But here’s the best part, for all you homeschool trivia buffs out there: After Farris got to name the RFRA and chair the group of lawyers who drafted it, and after it passed the House and Senate and was sent to then-President Bill Clinton to sign, Farris was unable to make the signing ceremony. So who did Michael Farris send in his stead, to be there on this momentous occasion and celebrate one of his crowning political victories?

Doug Phillips.

Yeah, that Doug Phillips.

I’ll let HSLDA tell its own story, since they already did in the 1993 November/December Court Report:

Religious freedom regained significant protection on November 16, as President Clinton signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA). Home School Legal Defense Association president Michael Farris was one of the original drafters of the bill. HSLDA had worked diligently over a three year period for RRFA’s passage.

Among those in attendance at the ceremony for the signing of the RFRA in the White House Rose Garden, was Doug Phillips, Director for Government Affairs for the National Center for Home Education. Phillips attended in the place of Farris, who was out of town and unable to attend. After the signing, President Clinton spoke with Phillips and extended his gratitude for the role Farris played in the RFRA drafting and coalition-building process. “Tell Mike, I really appreciate the work he did drafting [the RFRA],” President Clinton told Phillips.

It’s interesting how all these so-called “fringe” individuals — individuals like IBLP’s Bill Gothard and Vision Forum’s Doug Phillips — keep popping up in cases of immense national import. Gothard directly influenced the ideology of the Hobby Lobby owners, the ideology that inspired Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. And Farris, Phillips, and HSLDA ensured the success of the RFRA, the law that ensured Hobby Lobby’s legal success. So fringe, you know?

“Fringe.”

You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.