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.
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.
(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?
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?
You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.
With Bill Gothard’s ceaseless emphasis on authority, obedience, and chain-of-command, it should be no surprise that he is compulsively attracted to men (and more rarely, women) whom he perceives to be in a position of power. He believes without question that his organization has answers that can solve the problems faced by any public official, if they can only work together to promote Gothard’s vision.
This characteristic has resulted in an extensive mycelial network whereby Gothard silently influences public policy across the country.
Its reach is difficult to measure, however. While Gothard loves to privately advertise his latest affiliations, he always exaggerates their scope or significance. And he frequently drops an old project when something shinier comes along.
Below I list some of Gothard’s better-known political alliances*. Since I left the organization in 1999, there are undoubtedly more fibers of connection now than I am able to trace here. As time passes, however, we can also see more clearly whether his “new approach” has yielded “lasting solutions” for those who have advocated them.
*There is no doubt that Gothard favors conservative political causes. I once heard him describe Rush Limbaugh as “our man on the radio”.
During his two terms as mayor of Indianapolis, Stephen Goldsmith partnered with Gothard to create the Indianapolis Training Center, selling a city-owned building to IBLP for a token $1 around 1993. During Goldsmith’s unsuccessful bid for Governor, ITC staff (many of them minors, most from other states, some salaried by the non-profit IBLP and others paying for the educational opportunity of working there) assisted the mayor’s campaign, running a mailing center from the top floor of the hotel and handing out campaign literature at polling places on Election Day. Some even registered to vote in Marion County to support him.
George W. Bush later made Goldsmith his chief domestic policy adviser.
Goldsmith “helped formulate the president’s ‘faith-based initiatives’, which give tax dollars to churches.” In 2010, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg chose Goldsmith to be his deputy mayor of operations, a position which included oversight of law enforcement agencies.
Goldsmith’s domestic policy came into question when he was arrested for assaulting his wife, Margaret in their home. Though Margaret later recanted her story, Goldsmith was pressured to resign. According to Mr. Bloomberg, “I think that domestic violence is a phenomenally serious scourge on our society. We work very hard to attack the problem of domestic violence and the implication — the accusation — unfortunately made it untenable for him to continue to work for the city.” Stephen Goldsmith filed for divorce earlier this year.
Back in Indianapolis, Margaret Goldsmith had worked for juvenile court judgeJames Payne, who used his court to send delinquent Marion County youth to the Indianapolis Training Center as an alternative juvenile detention facility. Despite investigations into allegations of child abuse at the ITC, Judge Payne was made Director of Indiana Department of Child Services, a post from which he resigned last year after charges of interference with a DCS neglect case involving his grandchildren.
With support from followers Rep. Steven Wise (R-Jacksonville) and now-CongressmanDan Webster (R-Orlando), Gothard considered opening a similar youth training center in Jacksonville, Florida in 1997. Though that never materialized, Jacksonville children were sent by the court system to the correctional residential program at ITC.
Delinquent youths were designated “Leaders-In-Training” and spent their days studying the Bible, watching Bill Gothard lecture videos, doing the chores necessary to run a hotel, filling in homeschooling workbooks from Accelerated Christian Education, memorizing character qualities, and dressing up for dinner. Denim, television, and rock music were strictly forbidden. Discipline reportedly included solitary confinement in “prayer rooms” and spanking without parental notification.
According to The Cult Education Institute, former Florida governor Jeb Bush “implemented Gothard’s controversial character education program, Character First!, at his charter school in Liberty City.
The governor also publicly encouraged the Palm Beach County School Board to approve Character First!, which is also listed as a model program in state law.” (Watch for more on the Character Training Institute in a future post.)
For years, Gothard cultivated close ties to Huckabee, an alumnus of Gothard’s “Basic Seminar”, and to Jim Dailey, mayor of Little Rock. With encouragement from Mayor Dailey, Gothard opened his Little Rock Training Center in an empty VA hospital purchased by Hobby Lobby and donated to Gothard’s Institute.
Despite Gothard’s grandiose vision, the enormous structure was in poor repair and was never utilized as fully as the Indianapolis facility. Still, it served as a base for the Institute’s prison ministry. Gothard quotes Governor Huckabee’s support for conducting his seminars for Arkansas inmates: “I am confident that these are some of the best programs available for instilling character into the lives of people.”
Having gotten his foot in the door in Arkansas, Gothard combined forces with CCA, the nation’s largest operator of privatized correctional institutions, to promote his intense lecture-based seminars inside more prisons.
Gothard was enthusiastic about character education being made mandatory in Arkansas schools and visualized schools restructured into age-integrated “learning teams” instead of age-segregated classrooms. The Institute also operated a secretive character-building Eagle Springs program for youth in rural Altheimer, Arkansas. (The Eagle Springs program was later moved to Skiatook, Oklahoma. Many allegations of corruption and abuse have been made by girls who participated in the program involuntarily.)
Another Gothard devotee is Jim Bob Duggar, a Springdale Republican who served two terms in the State House, now best known for the reality show “Nineteen Kids & Counting“. Not only are the Duggars enrolled in Gothard’s homeschooling program, the Advanced Training Institute, their family website links to at least twenty Institute programs and calls Gothard’s organization their “#1 Recommended Resource“. Jim Bob and wife Michelle are featured speakers at ATI national conferences.
Though Duggar lost his last two election bids, he hasn’t abandoned politics. During the 2012 presidential primary, Jim Bob and his well-known family campaigned for candidate Rick Santorum. Duggar’s oldest daughter has worked closely with the current IBLP indoctrination program for girls, while his oldest son now directs political lobbying for the conservative Family Research Council.
The Family Research Council was founded by Jerry Regier* in 1983. He was succeeded as president by Gary Bauer and eventually became a versatile member of Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating’s administration. Regier was Keating’s Cabinet Secretary of Health and Human Services as well as Acting Director of the State Department of Health, tasked with reinventing “the scandal-ridden” agency. Like Mayor Goldsmith in Indianapolis, he is a proponent of partnerships between government departments and the faith community. Under his leadership, Oklahoma became inundated with materials from the Institute’s character training program, which was largely created at Gothard’s training center campus in the heart of Oklahoma City.
According to an article in the St. Petersburg Times, “Regier brought Character First! management training to the Department of Juvenile Justice [in Oklahoma]. In this program, employees are recognized on their anniversaries and birthdays for certain character traits they exhibit. He encouraged the use of several of Gothard’s programs with juvenile offenders before a U.S. Senate subcommittee in 1996, including a “log cabin ministry” that places juvenile offenders in cabins in the wilderness with peers who are trained by Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute.”
Like the Indianapolis Training Center, the Oklahoma building was formerly a hotel. It was purchased by Kimray, Inc. and leased to IBLP for $1 a year. Kimray is run by Tom Hill, who served on Gothard’s Board of Directors for over a decade and piloted the secular adaptation of Gothard’s “character qualities” in his company.
Gothard gathered support from numerous state and local officials prior to establishing operations in Oklahoma. A 1994 news article lists several:
Several local officials wrote letters to Mayor Ron Norick supporting Gothard’s program, including state Rep. Carolyn Coleman, R-Moore, and Sen.Howard Hendrick, R-Bethany. Both joined other local officials in a visit to Gothard’s juvenile education center in a renovated Indianapolis hotel last spring.
With them were Richard DeLaughter, assistant Oklahoma City police chief, and John Foley, director of Oklahoma County’s juvenile division.
DeLaughter said… the facility emphasizes the Bible “so it obviously is not for every kid and every family. ” “I don’t think anybody thought it was the end all and be all answer for every one of our juvenile problems,” he said. “As an option, it was pretty good. “
Rep. Joan Greenwood (R-Moore) was a homeschooling mom who used Gothard’s curriculum. Howard Hendrick later served as Director of Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services. At Hendrick’s retirement, he was replaced by former Oklahoma City prosecutor Wes Lane, who has been a speaker at Gothard’s “Character Cities” conferences. On the DHS Commission, Lane was responsible for investigations into cases of child abuse and neglect.
Congresswoman Mary Fallin (now Governor of Oklahoma) joined Tom Hill and Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett in welcoming attendees at a Character First! conference. That 2009 conference was held at the refurbished hotel where I served as an ATI student volunteer in 1999. I remember the character posters on the walls in the lobby, and reciting Bible passages to one of the “adults” (I was in my twenties) before dinner–the only meal offered on Sundays–was served in the dining room.* (Governor Keating later recommended Jerry Regier for a post in Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s administration. When Bush made Regier his Secretary of Children and Families, Regier quickly implemented the CharacterFirst! program within the department. Regier now works in the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.)
Decades ago, I cross-stitched a scripture motto for my parents from Psalm 127, the favorite psalm of large families.
“Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.”
The psalmist goes on to say: “As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them…”
The term “quiverfull” is now used as both a noun and an adjective to describe a theology and lifestyle that glorifies human fertility while maintaining that God will provide the resources to raise as many children as he allows a couple to conceive. Contraception is held to be “playing God” and a violation of the command to be “Be fruitful and multiply”. The ideal Quiverfull couple are always open to “more blessings”, regardless of financial situation, health concerns, housing limitations, or needs of existing children.
I’m not certain when my parents decided that contraception was immoral. As a high schooler, Mom was an advocate of zero population growth and intended to adopt rather than bear children. A few years later, she graduated from a strict Catholic nursing school and married my dad. I was born a year later, my brother two years after that, and so on for the next 20 years.
Mail would arrive periodically from the Couple to Couple League and my parents had a couple of books by Catholic authors John & Sheila Copley explaining the practice of abstinence and/or breastfeeding as a means of birth control. Of course, even “natural family planning” (NFP) sounded too much like the evil “Planned Parenthood” so it was usually referred to as “child spacing”. Somewhere along the line my parents abandoned NFP (turns out it’s not all that effective at preventing pregnancy!) and the babies began to come even closer together.
Certainly Mom was influenced by Mary Pride’s 1985 book The Way Home, a story of the author’s journey from feminism to what she calls “reality”. Mary had just three young children when she wrote the book, in which she blasted away at contraception, lingerie, Marabel Morgan’s The Total Woman, and even Christian schools.
“All forms of sex that shy away from marital fruitfulness are perverted. Masturbation, homosexuality, lesbianism, bestiality, prostitution, adultery, and even deliberate marital barrenness–all are perverted.”
“Since the word used for female is connected so strongly with the idea of nursing babies, whereas it has no connection at all with the idea of sexual activity, I believe that God is saying here that when women exchange their natural function of childbearing and motherliness for that which is ‘against nature’ [that is, trying to behave sexually like a man], the men tend to abandon the natural sexual use of the women and turn to homosexuality. When men stop seeing women as mothers, sex loses its sacredness. Sex becomes ‘recreational’, and therefore the drive begins to find new kicks.” (Mary Pride, The Way Home, 1985)
(Pride’s position against family planning was more extreme than even the Catholic Couple-to-Couple League’s, prompting a correspondence between her and John Kippley, president of CCLI, and leading Pride to grudgingly endorse NFP in some situations in her sequel to The Way Home.)
Pride went on to birth six more babies and became a powerful force in the new homeschooling movement. My mom used to share The Way Home with all her friends and donated it to church libraries when she could. (When she encouraged me to read it, I was confused. Especially by the story about the lady wearing saran-wrap. Sexually naive young women raised in patriarchal, homeschooling isolation were definitely not Pride’s target audience.)
Mary Pride’s views fit rather well with the teachings of Bill Gothard–a middle-aged bachelor who handed out plenty of sexual and parenting advice at his seminars and encouraged couples to have surgeries to reverse previous vasectomies and tubal ligations. One of Gothard’s books informs us, “Labor in childbirth… was given to the woman for her spiritual benefit…” and points out that the God of the Old Testament “cursed several women by closing their wombs.” Attendees of Gothard’s conferences learned to associate infertility with God’s judgement. A full quiver, on the other hand, was a sign of God’s favor, a spiritual status symbol.
In 1990, a Nebraska couple published A Full Quiver: Family Planning and the Lordship of Christ. In this book, Rick and Jan Hess (homeschooling parents of ten) invite the reader to imagine a world where no one has ever had more than two or three siblings, effectively eliminating many historical figures. This exercise concludes with visualization of a future where enormous families are normal and God provides spacesuits for a missionary family moving their brood to evangelize a colony on the moon. My parents had this book, probably purchased at an IBLP seminar and still available on Gothard’s website.
Then there was Nancy Campbell’s occasional magazine for moms, Above Rubies. Nancy is a fierce promoter of anti-feminism from her compound in Tennessee. Her website includes multiple articles by women who felt guilt and regret over “the biggest mistake” of their life. After they repented, they went on to expand their families by four, five, six more babies. What mistake is reversed by more pregnancies? An abortion, perhaps? No, as it turns out, the biggest mistake of these women’s lives was a tubal ligation. Nancy also sells a book,A Change of Heart, encouraging couples to have surgeries to reverse both vasectomies and tubal ligations.
Vickie Farris, whose husband Mike is president of the Home School Legal Defense Association, homeschooled their ten children and lived to write a book about it. She encourages other women to reject birth control methods and embrace motherhood. Quiverfull women like Farris, and Michelle Duggar of “Nineteen Kids and Counting”, have built their lives on the mantra “God won’t give anyone more than they can handle”, sometimes phrased as “What God orders, he pays for”.
My parents were opponents of both birth control and sterilization. They even encouraged some of their friends to have reversal surgeries, resulting in many more babies. My mom had eleven children over 24 years, including ten [unassisted home]births. Pregnancy was not easy for her–she often referred to herself with the phrase from St. Paul, “a living sacrifice”. She spent most of my childhood breastfeeding, diapering, potty-training, and homeschooling on top of that. I understood that this was not culturally normal, but sought to convince myself that God was pleased with this self-sacrifice. I spent my teen years watching my mom’s body swell and deflate, and changing thousands of diapers.
In my twenties, as I waited for my turn to become a wife and mother, I quietly ticked off how many children I could have in x years. I may have been ideologically persuaded that contraception was wrong, but I didn’t want to spend twenty years lactating either. When I got impatient for God to bring me a husband (no boyfriends on the horizon), I consoled myself by guessing how many fewer children I would bear in a shorter window of fertile sexual activity.
Fortunately, when I did get married, my husband and I quickly began to realize that many aspects of Quiverfull thought and practice were contradictory to our values. Not before taking NFP classes from a Catholic certified trainer, though. When we got pregnant anyway, we were told the method worked fine–we’d just had sex when [it turned out!] we were actually fertile. Well, what do you know?
I think my relationship with the Quiverfull movement finally ended a few years ago as I was perched on the end of an exam table in my doctor’s office. Looking up from my chart, she compassionately observed, “You’ve been raising kids for a long time,” and I burst into unexpected tears.
These days, stories of ex-Quiverfull moms and their “quivering daughters” are multiplying on the Internet like rabbits in the spring. The fruit of the movement has not turned out to be sweet; we deal with health problems, poverty, anxiety, depression, PTSD, eating disorders, cutting, sexual abuse, emotional incest, and divorce. (You can read far more than you want to know at the Homeschoolers Anonymous blog.)
In spite of these firsthand horror stories, Quiverfull continues to enjoy wide support in America and is gaining traction in other nations. Earlier this year, the BBC reported on the movement’s growth in the United Kingdom. You can listen to more, including scary-sounding clips from Nancy Campbell, here.
Meanwhile here in the States, Hobby Lobby and Catholic hospitals gnash their teeth over their employees’ rights to use birth control. Texan teenagers are taught that contraceptives don’t work. (The result? Texas has more than 10% of America’s teen births.) And TLC continues to profit from shows like “Nineteen Kids and Counting”, promoting Quiverfull ideology to some unsuspecting viewers.
The show should include a disclaimer: For your own safety, don’t try this at home.