By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator
In 2009, an exclusively male group of conservative Christian leaders in the homeschooling world descended upon Indianapolis, Indiana. The event was the Men’s Leadership Summit. While its purpose was to draft a unifying vision for what they called “the Christian home education movement,” it included speeches on a variety of topics that were part of the vision.
These topics included the necessity of patriarchy: girls needing to have an entirely home-focused education, the need to defeat “feminism” in homeschooling, and the concern that “the female sin of the internet” (framed as equal to “the male sin of pornography”) was blogging. Indeed, blogging could be the kryptonite to the homeschool Superman, the patriarchal Ubermensch. Men needed to take back their rightful place as head of their own households and as members of churches and homeschool groups through a new vision. Speakers at the summit claimed that, in doing these things, they could change the world. To the end of world-changing, submission of women and children was mandated and homeschooling was to be reframed as “discipleship,” the specific tool to accomplish world-change for generations to come.
This post is long and detailed and will include all of the information currently available about the Men’s Leadership Summit. This post will also focus on how this event’s goals transcended the narrow confines of entrenching Christian male superiority in the homeschooling world. In fact, it extended to their dream of ending public education entirely and and implementing their expansive conception of “parental rights.” It was at this summit that a former HSLDA attorney articulated a disturbing call: a call to end child protection as we know it. This call places the recent controversy between Libby Anne, the HSLDA, and Homeschoolers Anonymous’ #HSLDAMustAct campaign into an entirely new and much more urgent context.
A Brief History of the 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit
The Christian Home Educations of Colorado (CHEC) is a state homeschool organization founded in 1985. Directed by Kevin Swanson since 1999, CHEC hosted a “National Leadership Summit” in 2006. This was a men’s only event, described by Generations With Vision as “a men’s leadership meeting…for home school leaders across the nation, in order to encourage home school dads to fully embrace the vision, and to launch a vision for the future of a movement.” There is nothing of particular interest on the Internet about this first summit. The same, however, cannot be said about its sequel.
In December 12, 2008, Kevin Swanson announced on the Generations With Vision blog a new summit, a “National Leadership Summit with Kevin Swanson, Doug Phillips, Chris Klicka, Voddie Baucham, Dr. Brian Ray.”
According to CHEC, this event — even though it was in another state — was officially hosted by the Colorado organization: “CHEC host[ed] a 2nd National Leaderhip Summit in Indianapolis.” It was allegedly co-sponsored by HSLDA, but I cannot find any verification of that from the little original source material that is available. The Men’s Leadership Summit had five headlining speakers, according to Generations With Vision: “Chris Klicka (HSLDA), Dr. Brian Ray (NHERI), Douglas Phillips (Vision Forum), Voddie Baucham, and yours truly [Kevin Swanson].”
Swanson believed this summit to be remarkable because, “We have [never], in the history of the movement drawn so many visionary leaders into one room at one time to discuss the home school vision.” Furthermore, he says, everyone is attending on their own accord, because they want to: “Every leader represented (including speakers) are volunteering their own time to this meeting.”
And what was the purpose of this historical summit of exclusively male homeschooling leaders? Swanson says, “The objectives of this 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit are first, to define a vision for the future of the Christian home education movement.” Not just a “vision,” though. There is another, more important objective of the summit: “the development of a Christian Education Manifesto statement.”
This, then, should be the most important, defining moment in the entire history of the conservative, Christian homeschooling movement. All of the movement’s visionary leaders will be there, he says, and they will be creating the movement’s very own vision and manifesto. As that is the explicit, publicized purpose of this summit, all these speakers — Klicka from HSLDA, Phillips from Vision Forum and previously from HSLDA, Ray from HSLDA’s NHERI, Baucham, and Swanson — will be attending to (1) create a vision and (2) create a manifesto.
It is curious, however, that — up until two days ago — I never heard of this summit. Even more surprising is that, apart from some serious digging, this seemingly most-important homeschooling summit of all time barely exists on the Internet. The website for the event, 2009leadershipsummit.com, no longer exists. There are no recordings, no mentions of this summit on Generations With Vision (save the one I just cited), or Vision Forum, or HSLDA. I had to go a good, old fashioned web archive service just to view archives of the original event website.
To save you the hassle of finding the right archive, I will detail what the now-expired 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit website said. But I will also provide links to the archived versions for your own perusal.
The 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit was held on March 5-7, 2009. It had a mission statement: “Defining a Vision for the Christian Home Education Movement.” The website’s home page explicitly stated the purpose of the event:
“In March of 2009, Christian Home Educators of Colorado will host homeschool leaders from around the country at a national gathering in Indianapolis. The Purpose? To lay out a vision for home education in the 21st Century.”
The About page of the website goes into further detail about the summit’s “vision”:
The homeschooling movement has entered challenging times . . .Challenging times require extraordinary leadership . . .Extraordinary leadership requires dynamic vision.
The time has come to define the vision. With the explosion of school choice and the increased accessibility of state-funded options for home educators, the time has come to define the vision that characterizes the Christian Home Education movement, thus unifying both national and state leadership and solidifying the vision for generations to come. As George Washington said at the Constitutional Convention, “Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair; the event is in the hand of God.”
For Such a Time as This, in a Changing Political and Socio-Economic Climate . . .
Home education is poised to bear significant effects on the how we do education, economics, church, and politics in the years to come. As leaders, we feel it is important that we be self-aware of the direction we are headed.
The goal of the 2009 Leadership summit is to define a vision for the future of the Christian home education movement. Together, we must lay down a rock-solid, biblically-based vision for home education that will withstand the attacks of our current generation and preserve this precious vision for future generations. To accomplish this goal, we are assembling the key national leaders, authors, researchers, speakers and advocates who have framed the homeschool vision over the past generation (1979-2009).
Another objective for the leadership summit will be the development of a Christian Education Manifesto statement.
The speakers listed are identical to what Kevin Swanson said on the Generations With Vision blog: Chris Klicka, Doug Phillips, Voddie Baucham, Brian Ray, and Kevin Swanson.
Finally, the accommodations: As already stated, even though the Men’s Leadership Summit is “hosted” and “sponsored” by a Colorado organization, it is interestingly held in Indianapolis. Even more interesting is where: it is not held a normal convention center. Rather it is held “at the Indianapolis Training Center in Indianapolis, Indiana,” a facility “owned by the Institute for Basic Life Principles.”
Yes, the Men’s Leadership Summit was held at one of Bill Gothard’s IBLP/ATI training centers. Specifically: Indianapolis Training Center, 2820 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208. Although now that center appears to be a new IBLP project, the “Verity Institute,” a college created by Gothard and ATI’s Trent Thompson to “help students obtain a college degree without…losing their faith.”
So in 2009, an exclusive group of male homeschool leaders got together at a conference held at Bill Gothard’s training center, to be inspired by talks by frequent HSLDA guest Kevin Swanson, then-current (now deceased) HSLDA attorney Klicka, former HSLDA attorney Phillips, current HSLDA-affiliated researcher Ray, and Heritage Defense ally Baucham. And all of this was to culminate in one thing: a grand vision, or manifesto, for the future of what they themselves term “the Christian Home Education Movement.” And none of these organizations ever mention it happening.
Shall we take a look at what happened, then?
The “Manifesto” of the Men’s Leadership Summit
There is very little primary source material available for determining what happened. However, two bloggers — John Holzmann and Karen Campbell — have preserved a few items, which are extraordinarily important.
A Manifesto for Christian Education
The first item is “A Manifesto for Christian Education,” which was handed out by Kevin Swanson at the end of the summit. That manifesto, as recorded by Campbell, is as follows:
A MANIFESTO FOR CHRISTIAN EDUCATION
The Basic Elements
The beginning of wisdom and knowledge in the education of our children is the fear of God.
All education assumes and presents a basic worldview, and Christian education is based on a biblical, God-centered worldview.
The primary purpose of education is to equip our children to live to the glory of God.
It is the family – not the state or the church – whom God has assigned the responsibility and attendant rights to educate their children.
Parents are the principal and primary instructors for their children.
The training in humility -and fear, faith and character is preeminent and inseparably integrated in the intellectual development of a child.
The Core Curriculum
The Word of God is the primary textbook for our children’s education.
Therefore, we affirm that education is discipleship, and Christian Education is Deuteronomy 6:7. And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. Deuteronomy 6:7
The main observation to be made about this manifesto is that, according to Swanson, education should utilize the Bible as its primary textbook. Not science books, history books, or mathematics books, but the Bible. Education equals discipleship. This demonstrates that education should not only be primarily religious, but — it seems — exclusively so. Children are also to be trained in “humility” and “fear.” And making one’s children humble and fearful is a task God has assigned not to state schools or private schools (or even church-based private schools) but to parents.
Cindy Kunsman from Under Much Grace has a good summary of this “Manifesto”: “I think it’s been another lesson in the wisdom of Solomon that there is nothing new under the sun, and there is nothing really new in patriocentricity and the Vision Forum driven CHEC…The MCE is essentially an outline of major points already contained in the Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy.”
Transcripts of Swanson, Baucham, and Phillips presentations
The only copies of speeches from the Summit, that I can find, are preserved on John Holzmann’s blog. The Summit’s site is not up anymore; HSLDA, Vision Forum, and Generations With Vision do not have audio recordings or transcripts. At one point in time, there was a website — Resounding Voice — that sold the original audio recordings of the talk. (Resounding Voice is run by Joshua Erber, a homeschool graduate and Patrick Henry re-enactor.)
Holzmann purchased the recordings of the presentations of the Summit. He then linked to Resounding Voice so that others can also obtain the recordings. However, the links to the recordings now lead to “database errors.” And if you go on Resounding Voice’s website, there are no mentions of a Men’s Leadership Summit, there are no talks by Phillips or Ray or any of the speakers from the Summit, and — of especial note — there is not a single recording from Chris Klicka on that site in general.
So all we have to go off of to determine what was said at the Summit are presentations by Swanson, Baucham, and Phillips transcribed by John Holzmann. These presentations are divided into five parts. I will summarize Holzmann’s findings under each part’s link:
2009 Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC) “Men’s Leadership Summit,” Part I
In Part One, Holzmann summarizes some of the themes throughout the conference: the Reformation; fathers are responsible for family discipline; homeschoolers should use “home discipleship not home education,” because “we out not be preparing our children for Harvard… but (instead for heaven”; gender roles via “biblical manhood and womanhood”; countering the rise of “feminism” in not just the culture at large but also within the homeschooling movement; the need to integrate religion into every school subject; the need to train daughters to be moms and supportive spouses, not leaders.
Of particular concern is this observation: “In an open forum Friday night, one of the participants at the conference asked three questions of Doug Phillips related to this obvious missing piece. One of the questions specifically asked for Phillips’ views concerning a woman’s ability to have a career in addition to being a great mom and a great spouse. Phillips’ response indicated that he believes it is unbiblical for a woman to have a career.”
Holzmann ends Part One with this: “Bill Roach, CHEC’s president, introduced each speaker at the Summit. According to my source, before he introduced Kevin Swanson for Thursday Evening Session I, he said, ‘This weekend is to define what Christian Home Education is and to strategize our next moves.'”
CHEC “Men’s Leadership Summit,” Part II–“For Such a Time as This — The 1000-Year Battle Over the Hearts and Minds of the Next Generation”
Part Two is Kevin Swanson’s speech, “The 1000-Year Battle Over the Hearts and Minds of the Next Generation.” Swanson begins his speech by referencing the Father of Reconstructionism, RJ Rushdoony, and then claiming that the “Pillars of Homeschooling” — Harris, Klicka, and Farris — were the foundation for what he is about to say:
Let’s thank God for the men and women who went before us–the R.J. Rushdoonys, the Gordon Clarks, the Cornelius Van Tils–who created the materials that we are using today. I’ve also read some great materials written by Gregg Harris and Chris Klicka and Mike Farris. These guys were writing things in the 1980s that we are saying today. . . .
We here, today, stand on the shoulders of guys who went before us 20 and 30 years ago who started The Reformation of the 20th Century.
Swanson then goes to detail the problems with our world, including gems such as, “Men are not being men.” He also then says that the “Manifesto” — which, remember, was the point of this whole thing? — was going to be “put off.” But it is still necessary, for some rather bleak reasons:
By the way, we are going to put off the publishing of the Manifesto. We’re not doing it this week, because we don’t think we have cultivated it enough. We’re going to give you an outline, a preview of that Manifesto…
I think it’s about time we had such a manifesto because, number one, education is falling apart in America. Our culture is falling apart. And the culture, the social system, is a derivative of the educational system. And the political system is a derivative of the social system. And it’s all falling apart… Our world is falling apart!
…Call it what you will, existentialistic, humanistic, materialistic, whatever it is, it is enveloping our culture, our academic system, our universities, our economic system. It is raging. And if our little children even get one little toe in that river, it will suck them through and [make] them join the millions upon millions of Christian children who have been taken into this river.
To Swanson, our world is on the brink of extinction. But not just any extinction. It is the exinction of “The City of Man,” as opposed to “The City of God”:
I think we’re coming to the end of an about 1000-year project of building the City of Man.The City of Man is built by the Cains of this world, the humanists, those that refuse to fear and love and worship the living God. It is their project. And this project has been worked on for the last 1000 years.
The root of this is that we, I guess, have not integrated God into every school subject:
Guys, if you teach science, if you teach chemistry, . . . don’t you dare to do it without stopping from time to time and saying, ‘. . . Children, let’s worship [the God who made these things]. Get down on your knees and worship the God who made these things.
…Universities haven’t taught that way in hundreds of years. I’ll tell you, that’s what’s ruining chemistry and biology and science in our modern age. It’s a scary thing what’s happening. You teach science without the fear of God for a hundred years, I fear what they will do to that science. They’ll destroy it.
Swanson’s solution, naturally, is the Christian home education movement:
God says, “I want you to teach your children My truth as you sit in your house. You see, I want you to take the truth, the reality, the absolute truths, the ethics of God, the laws of God, the perspectives of God, and teach them My worldview, My truth, in the womb of relationship.” And I say we call that discipleship.And that, brothers, is the Manifesto.We are going to bring back the relevance of God. We’re going to bring back worship, bring back confessions, bring back relationships in the education of our children.
…We need to call [Christians] to use words like discipleship and nurture. Stop talking schools with me. Don’t talk about education with me. Let’s not talk about home education and Christian education, Christian schools. Let’s talk about discipleship. Let’s talk about a focus on faith and character. Let’s focus on the discipling of a child.
…So, brothers, let’s restore the concept of discipleship in our homes and in our families. Let’s take the arms of those little children and say, “Let me lead you to Jesus. Let me teach you about Christ.” Let’s nurture them in these relationships. Let’s nurture them in the algebra class. Let’s disciple them in the chemistry class. Let’s worship God in the physics class. And then we’ll shock everybody when we begin confessing our sins in the geography class.
CHEC “Men’s Leadership Summit,” Part III – “The Battle for Faith and Family”
Part Three is Voddie Baucham’s speech, “The Battle for Faith and Family.” Baucham begins by identifying himself with the family-integrated church movement, which is a movement, he explains, that is “committed, absolutely committed–in our structure, in our doctrine, in our practice, in our philosophy–to a very simple principle: we look men in the eye and say, “I double-dog dare you to disciple your family and we are not going to do anything structurally to put a net under you. It’s your job.”
Baucham then lists off all the normative statistics that so many of us in the homeschooling world grew to fear: how few Christians “possess a biblical worldview,” how few Christians say there is absolute truth, how the youth today are disenfranchised from Christianity, and so forth. And the zinger: “We are currently losing 70 to 88% of [the youth] by the end of their freshman year in college!”
Baucham says that questions people, including Christians, have about homeschooling — like “What about socialization?” — are rooted in evil:
They all ask the same questions. It’s a running joke in the homeschool community because nobody asks any other questions. And their questions all go back to certification, permission, and instruction. Why? Because they’re Marxist, secular humanists to the core disguised as Christians. That’s why. . . . The homeschool movement is now rife with parents who do not know their roles; do not have a vision for their families; are afraid to lead.
And then there is his ending:
When [people] say they can’t do [some]thing, I say, “You racist, you!”
And they look at me: “Wha-?!??”[
And I answer,] “If I took you to Africa or Asia or South America, and we preached the gospel and some people got saved, you’d spend two weeks there and find one of the guys with God’s hand on him, and you’d say, ‘Now, you’re the pastor and this is your church.’
“But you’re saying that God is not good enough for you. –You racist!”
CHEC “Men’s Leadership Summit,” Part IV – “A Vision for the Family”
Parts Four and Five are the most important to this exploration. They are the speeches from Doug Phillips, an HSLDA attorney for six years and the director of Vision Forum. Phillips begins his first speech, “A Vision for the Family,” by identifying the other speakers as his comrades:
They are my paisanos. They are men that we have had the privilege of being in many battles together, traveling around the country and sharing a synchronous message. Our hearts are linked together.
Phillips thus begins with identifying his message as synchronous with the messages of Swanson, Baucham, Klicka, and Ray. And what is this message? The heart of it is that his version of God is the beginning of knowledge:
The fear of the Lord not only gives us wisdom and knowledge, but it is true faith that tells us to believe when all the empirical data seems to be pointing us in the opposite direction. We must believe what God says when you cannot taste, touch or smell the victory, simply because God said it.
Phillips believes this is important because, he, like Swanson, sees our current time as an apocalypse due to very specific events:
You and I are presiding over the worst international cultural apostasy of the West in more than a thousand years. There [have] been terrible wars, terrible evil. Horrible things have happened…
Never have we had major nations, major cultures that once claimed to be Christian, fundamentally questioning whether marriage is one man and one woman for life…
It is on your watch, it is on my watch that the sodomites are redefining marriage in our land. Never before in history. First time…
More professing Christians want to thwart the womb, to pervert the natural function of the body, to separate life from love, than don’t. First time ever….
This is a judgment on our land. It’s not that America is about to have judgment; it’s that America is in the midst of judgment. This is a judgment. It is perverse. It is evil. It is wrong. And where is all this pointing to? The family!
…these judgments and horrors are the product of our worship of the false gods of our day, our idolatries . . . of self, of materialism; philosophical idolatries: evolutionism, social Darwinism, feminism, statism, Marxism, and hundreds of -isms…
In contrast to all this evil, Phillips brings up Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar as shining role models: “Jim Bob just radiates Christ.”
CHEC “Men’s Leadership Summit,” Part V – “Visionary Fathers”
In his second speech, Doug Phillips brings it all home. This is where Phillips sets forth his vision for the future of the Christian home education movement:
One of the most important things we can do is to have God’s panoramic presentation for us, looking at the past, standing in the present, with our eyes focused on the future. This is a critical component of preparing the next generation for leadership.
What does this future look like?
It involves a future where men take the reins of homeschooling back from women:
The birth of the modern homeschool movement gave us a generation of mighty ladies–ladies that fear the Lord, ladies that wanted to see great things happen to their families, ladies that walk beside their sons and their daughters and their men as well. But it was predominantly a woman’s movement.
Something must be done, before… we become like Massachusetts?
If we do not continue to grow and advance further on toward where God would take us next, we will become worse off, we will become like Massachusetts, like Boston, like New England, which, having had the glory and the blessing of the Gospel, ultimately rejected it and became one of the darkest places imaginable.
The solution is heavier doses of ideology:
Is every homeschooler that goes through a state conference getting a heavy dose of vision and presuppositional apologetics in the area of education? Because if they’re not, we are actually training them to be apostate…
I remember a day when we talked about fundamentals. And we need to be speaking about them again.
…Every subject from math to history needs to be reformed to incorporate distinctively biblical presuppositions about facts and the interpretation of facts.
…We should be explaining to people that mathematics makes no sense in an atheistic universe. We should be telling them that Genesis 1 is the very first primer on basic arithmetic…
And now begins Phillips’ comments that are particularly concerning for those of us in the homeschooling community that are trying to represent moderate voices as well as stand up to child abuse:
We need to realize the state has zero jurisdiction in education. None!
….We understand that the core problem with Child Protective Services is its existence.
…At the end of the day, the problem isn’t simply Child Protective Services to get better; it is eliminating it altogether.
…It is the fathers who have a duty of lovingly leading their family, and fathers, not moms, will be overseeing the home education discipleship of their family.
…the movement within home education circles of creating an androgynous educational system where we view boys and girls as having the very same outcomes of careerism and world independence is contrary to the principles of the Word of God, which teaches that we should be training our daughters, ultimately to prepare themselves for the assumption . . . –and the assumption is, they will be married, they will be keepers at home.
…if we are not willing to talk about this, what it means is, we have been usurped by feminism.
Phillips at this point references Chris Klicka:
I’m quite confident that Chris [Klicka], my brother in HSLDA, . . . We all stand unified in recognizing that the greatest threats are not legal. Those are real and they have to be addressed, but they are not the biggest ones.
And then Phillips veers into something entirely bizarre:
We will lose this movement and this work of God, men, if we do not govern our households. And that means lovingly shepherding our wives. The less you love your wife and the less you shepherd your wife, the more you create an open door for the female sin of the internet. The male sin of the internet is pornography. The female sin of the internet is gossip-mongering…
…We don’t live in the type of communities where our wives tend to go from house to house gossiping. They tend to go from blog to blog gossiping. And they spend their day going from blog to blog gossiping. And some of you are letting them.
…The world is watching. When the lesbian, feminist, transgender publishing house Beacon Press decided to release their exposé this month on families that believe in large households, they knew exactly who to go for. Go to the internet assassins. Go to the blogosphere gossips and get the information to denounce and divide the homeschool movement directly from the wives who live on the internet, gossiping 24/7.
Phillips ends his speech by calling for casting out from the homeschooling movement those who disagree:
The homeschool movement can no longer tolerate, it can no longer handle, unassociated Christian members that are simply not willing to be part of formal biblical associations.
Why? Well, because of anthrax:
If we ever find ourself in a state of martial law; if somebody puts anthrax in one of our major water supplies; if there is a suitcase nuke, which is opened up in a major city, we could very well see panic break out.
So there you have it: the agenda of the 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit. Karen Campbell provides a helpful summary of what the “Manifesto” would look like based on the presentations:
1. Destroy the entire government-run school system and abolish Child Protective Services.
2. Reject and bring an end to church-based or church-run schools.
3. Reject college or any training for daughters that might lead to them being outside of the home.
4. Kick out homeschoolers that are not willing to be part of formal biblical associations.
5. Ensure mothers are not leaders in their homes and protect them from women internet bloggers who see godly womanhood in a different light and who speak out against patriocentricity.
HSLDA’s Doug Phillips on the CPS
In light of the recent controversy between Libby Anne, HSLDA, and Homeschoolers Anonymous’ #HSLDAMustAct campaign, I’d like to refocus now on what Doug Phillips said at the 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit:
….We understand that the core problem with Child Protective Services is its existence.
…At the end of the day, the problem isn’t simply Child Protective Services to get better; it is eliminating it altogether.
Doug Phillips, a former HSLDA attorney, explicitly called for the destruction of child protective services as they currently exist. This should concern not only the homeschooling community, but also the entire United States. Phillips’ call did not go unnoticed. In fact, Karen Campbell — in writing recently about the #HSLDAMustAct campaign — references this fact:
I am not surprised in the least that this has been the posture of HSLDA. In 2009 they co-sponsored the Homeschool Leadership Summit where one of the goals listed in their manifesto was to get rid of Child Protective Services which I discussed in this podcast series on august 15 and 21, 2010. From the first time I saw that on the list, I was dumbfounded. While I do not believe the government is the solution to all of society’s ills, I do believe there are times when it must step in to protect children who are genuinely being abused. I know many godly parents who do understand this and have become involved in the foster care system in order to provide good homes for little ones in these situations. But to me, the message HSLDA is sending is that protecting the rights of parents to homeschool trumps protecting children (any children) from abuse.
Unlike Karen, I was sadly surprised to read Libby Anne’s series on the relationship between HSLDA and child abuse. While I grew up in the “Christian home education movement” and am intimately familiar with the fears we homeschoolers had of the CPS, and while I witnessed first-hand a lot of abuse experienced by fellow homeschoolers, I was oblivious to the specifics of the relationship. I never knew, for example, that HSLDA was moving from homeschool advocacy to the dismantling of some of the cornerstones of our child welfare laws: anonymous tips, mandatory reporting, and mainstream definitions of child abuse. I never knew the details of the Michael Gravelle case — that he had a history of abuse, and later divorced his wife after he assaulted her — and I did not know that Scott Somerville, an HSLDA attorney, called Gravelle a “hero.”
It is in this context of sad surprise, then, that I encounter the words of Doug Phillips and others at the 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit. Phillips, an HSLDA attorney (though not any longer, since he left HSLDA to run Vision Forum), made a direct threat against child protection and advocated a dystopian —almost Orwellian — dream of what homeschooling can “achieve” for him and other adherents to Christian patriarchy.
Doug Phillips spoke of wanting to gut the egalitarian goals of our society and destroy child protection as we know it.
Does Doug Phillips Speak for HSLDA?
When you have a national event like the 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit, it is difficult to determine how like-minded the speakers are. I remember that, during the California Home Education Association (CHEA) conventions that my dad ran in the Bay Area when I was a kid, there would be speakers of all sorts of ideological leanings. I particularly remember Reb Bradley, a courtship proponent, mercilessly tearing into Jonathan Lindvall, a betrothal proponent, for being “extreme.” Of course, everyone at these conventions shared a common vision for conservative Christian homeschooling. But doctrinal disagreements were everywhere.
But here is the difference between CHEA conventions and the 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit: CHEA conventions did not explicitly state their purpose was to create a grand, unifying vision and manifesto for the entirety of the Christian home education movement. The speakers attending did not agree to that; the speakers attending did not constantly reference each other as ideological comrades; and the speakers attending did not have their speeches mysteriously disappear after the fact.
The question then arises, when Doug Phillips calls for the destruction of child protective services in the United States — or really, any of the other extreme positions he has — where does HSLDA stand on that?
This is particularly important with the CPS question right now. HSLDA has — to this day — not condemned another one of their attorneys, Somerville, for calling Gravelle (an incestuous child molester and self-appointed warden of his own caged children) a hero. Also, HSLDA has visibly chosen to target child protection laws instead of focus on homeschool advocacy.
To determine the relationship between Doug Phillips and HSLDA, the best thing to do is just look at what Doug Phillips and HSLDA themselves say. According to Vision Forum’s website, Phillips “served for six years at the Home School Legal Defense Association in multiple capacities including staff attorney and Director of the National Center for Home Education.”
Phillips was thus not only an HSLDA attorney. He was the Director of HSLDA’s National Center for Home Education, now called the Federal Relations Department and run by William Estrada, former director of HSLDA’s Generation Joshua program.
A quick search of HSLDA’s website shows a number of results for Doug Phillips. In 1992, Phillips was a legal staffer for HSLDA who traveled to Ontario to speak at one of Gregg Harris’ workshops. By 1993, he was the Director for Government Affairs for the National Center for Home Education, tasked with lobbying against things like the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, “all child rights bills,” and corporal punishment restrictions. In fact, when President Clinton signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (which Michael Farris drafted), Phillips attended the signing ceremony in Farris’ place when latter could not attend.
In 1995, when the extraordinarily divisive controversy in the homeschooling community over H.R. 6 erupted, Doug Phillips was at the center. It was Phillips who received the alert from Dick Armey’s office. According to HSLDA’s timeline of the H.R. 6 situation,
Doug Phillips assembles the team of ten staffers to blanket Congress, personally delivering the letter to each of the 435 Congressional offices….Doug Phillips meets with Martin Hoyt, the Washington, D.C., representative of the American Association of Christian Schools, to discuss the dangers of the Miller Amendment… Doug Phillips meets with Horace Cooper and Dean Clancy of Armey’s staff to strategize on how to obtain broad support for the “Home School/Private School Freedom Amendment.” …Christopher Klicka and Doug Phillips hold a press conference in Houston, Texas, attended by 100 home school support group leaders and three television networks.
And if you read Phillips’ own account of the fiasco, he is almost entirely the one responsible:
I was the person who received the phone call from the office of Congressman Dick Armey alerting the Home School Legal Defense Association of a threat posed by bill H.R.6…I was given the honor of serving as Director of the National Center for Home Education…I launched a national e-mail alert and physically gathered a brigade of valiant home educators to descend upon the Capitol en masse.
If this was not clear, then: Doug Phillips was the man behind one of HSLDA’s most important legislative moments in their history of advocacy.
Also in 1995, Phillips worked alongside Farris and Klicka “with a broad coalition of pro-family groups, including Concerned Women for America and Eagle Forum, to ensure that the freshmen of the 104th Congress will fulfill their promise to completely eliminate the federal role in education.” 1996 saw Philips training homeschool lobbyists as well as featured in HSLDA’s Court Report as one of “The Dads of HSLDA.”
He also was part of HSLDA’s National Legislative Strategy Day. Along with Farris and Klicka, Phillips “briefed the home school leaders on the latest developments and strategies concerning a host of federal issues. The topics included the Parental Rights and Responsibilities Act, the national registry and identification system in the Immigration bill, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, abolishing the federal role in education, and the Careers Act.”
1996 seems to be the last year that Phillips appears as an HSLDA attorney. But since then, HSLDA has made zero efforts to distance themselves from his viewpoints. In fact, almost a decade after Phillips left HSLDA to run Vision Forum, he was still featured by HSLDA as a peer. In 2007, HSLDA referred to Phillips as one of “the nation’s top leaders.” Also in 2007, Chris Klicka received an award from Doug Phillips and Vision Forum for his homeschooling advocacy. In 2008, HSLDA says of him that he is “one of the most popular conference speakers in the nation today because of his ability to encourage, inform, and inspire.” In fact, HSLDA proudly sponsored a reception at an event where he was the keynote speaker.
The official relationship between HSLDA and Doug Phillips is thus one of continued mutual admiration. There are several debates online about whether this “official” admiration is real or not. I have heard rumors that HSLDA considers Phillips to be “radical” or “extreme,” or that leaders in HSLDA consider things like ATI and Vision Forum to be “cults.” But in terms of official statements that are publicly verifiable, at no point has HSLDA distanced itself from Phillips’ ideas, and in fact on many accounts they are the same: ending public education, keep their ideas of corporal punishment legal, and so forth.
If HSLDA really was concerned with preserving child protection services, they have made no efforts to counter Phillips’ call for ending the CPS — a call made at the exact same summit where HSLDA’s research guru Brian Ray and fellow HSLDA attorney Chris Klicka spoke at, the same Klicka that Libby Anne has so well documented as being zealously dedicated in his own right to dismantling child welfare laws.
It has already been pointed out by Kathryn Brightbill that what Phillips said about child protective services is a sentiment shared on many levels by other HSLDA attorneys:
HSLDA seems to be arguing that even parents who are already known to law enforcement and CPS as abusive should still be allowed to homeschool. And here is another article where Christopher Klicka argues that the child abuse prevention system is too aggressive. Here is Scott Summerville claiming that parents who withdraw their kids from school to hide abuse already have social services on their trail. No suggestion that these parents should be prohibited from homeschooling if they’re withdrawing their kids to hide abuse, just an assertion that CPS will be watching.I am unable to find an instance where HSLDA has indicated that they believe that abusive parents should be prevented from homeschooling.
Brightbill wonders whether this might be part of some overarching legal strategy on HSLDA’s part:
The only thing that makes sense to me is that HSLDA is doing what they’re doing with abusers as part of a well thought out legal strategy with the end game being the Supreme Court ruling that homeschooling is a fundamental right that is subject to virtually zero regulations…The idea that HSLDA would be using children who have been abused by their parents as pawns to expand the right to homeschooling is too horrific for me to really want to contemplate. But yet, it’s also the strategy that makes logical sense if an expanded fundamental right to homeschooling is the goal.
Whether or not this is HSLDA’s intention, here is what we know: Two HSLDA attorneys attended the 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit, which included some of the most dystopian, nightmarish language about the future of homeschooling that I have ever encountered. The evidence of this fact has almost gone entirely unnoticed, and all the original evidence apparently has vanished. At that conference, Doug Phillips, a former HSLDA attorney, called for the destruction of the United States’ child protection system. A then-current (now deceased) HSLDA attorney, Christopher Klicka, was there. He never repudiated Phillips’ statement, and his career indicates that he, too, desired a similar dismantling of child welfare laws. Another current HSLDA attorney, Scott Somerville, called Michael Gravelle, a child and wife abuser, a hero.
This is no longer about homeschooling. The vision and manifesto laid out at the 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit should surely worry anyone with a vested interest in countering the extreme voices in the Christian home education movement. Laid out were misogynistic, educationally neglectful, and frankly dangerous ideas. And as Heather Doney points out, “This kind of perverse ideology has hurt too many unsuspecting families, too many men, women, and children already, including my own family. ”
But also laid out there was a vision that entails a fundamental redefinition of how our society thinks about child abuse. That fundamental redefinition would have extraordinary ramifications for all children in this country, just not homeschooling children. That redefinition, articulated so explicitly by a former HSLDA attorney, has only been echoed and enhanced by other representatives of HSLDA through their own words and actions.
If HSLDA fundamentally disagrees with Phillips and fundamentally disagrees with Somerville’s choice of words, then now is the time for them to speak up. For too long their silence has been complicity.
“We understand that the core problem with Child Protective Services is its existence.”
This is no longer about homeschooling and child abuse in homeschooling communities. This is about protecting every child in this country.