3 Things You Should Know Before Writing About Josh Duggar

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Sarah Joy.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kathryn Brightbill’s blog The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person. It was originally published on August 21, 2015.

With the latest round of Josh Duggar scandals, it’s time to address a few things that have been floating around, both in the religious blogosphere and tabloid and mainstream media. If you’re going to write about the Duggars, here are some things you need to know.

Before I begin with my list though, I want to say one other thing. If you defended Josh Duggar the child molester I don’t even want to hear your condemnation of Josh Dugger the adulterer. Consensual sex between two adults isn’t in the same universe as child sexual assault. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to reexamine their life.

With that said, here are some things you need to understand if you’re going to write about Josh Duggar.

1. Fundamentalist ≠ Quiverfull

It’s tempting to conflate the two concepts, especially since those who were involved in the latter insist that they’re the only true fundamentalists, but they’re not the same thing.

Fundamentalism is, at its core, a theological position dating to the formulation of the Five Fundamentals of Christian doctrine and the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy of the early 20th century. The five fundamentals were the core doctrinal beliefs that those who came to be called “fundamentalists” believed were central to orthodox Christian doctrine. Those fundamentals were the inspiration of scripture by the Holy Spirit and Biblical inerrancy, belief in the virgin birth of Christ, that Christ’s death was an atonement for sin, the bodily resurrection, and that Christ’s miracles happened.

Pretty much every Evangelical church in America believes in those Five Fundamentals, though most of those churches would eschew the “fundamentalist” label because of the additional baggage the term has taken on over the years. It’s entirely possible to believe in the Five Fundamentals and still believe in women’s equality, marriage equality, evolution, and left-wing politics.

What most people, including evangelicals, mean when they refer to “fundamentalists” are people who have taken the first fundamental—inerrancy of scripture, and turned that into an extremely literal and rule-based reading of the text. The distinction that I was given growing up was that fundamentalists are rigid and legalistic. The Bible is a rule book and as long as you follow all the rules you’ll have a happy life.

You don’t have to homeschool to be a fundamentalist. Fundamentalists send their kids to public and private schools. Fundamentalist homeschooling says that if you’re a really good Christian you’ll homeschool your kids, but just as not all homeschoolers are fundamentalists, not all fundamentalists are homeschoolers.

All quiverfull are fundamentalists but not all fundamentalists are quiverfull. Quiverfull adherents will tell you that they’re the only true fundamentalists, but the vast majority of fundamentalists in the last hundred years that the term has been in use have taken steps to limit the size of their families.

Quiverfull is a politicized ideology based on Psalm 127 that says you should have as many children as possible because those children are arrows in the culture wars. It’s explicitly about taking over society by outbreeding the rest of the population.

Fundamentalism itself wasn’t even politicized until the rise of the Moral Majority and related groups in the late 1970s. Prior to that, most fundamentalists believed that Christians should stay out of politics. The quiverfull movement came even later and didn’t gain much foothold until the 1990s.

Bottom line? Quiverfull is a subset of the politicized fundamentalism that developed in just the last forty years.

2. Quiverfull is an Ideology, ATI is a Cult

The Duggars are members of ATI, the high-control, authoritarian homeschooling cult founded by Bill Gothard. Bill Gothard teaches quiverfull ideology, but ATI is about so much more than just quiverfull.

As I’ve written about before, like Scientology, ATI even has its own set of definitions of common words and concepts.


I’m not sure if there’s an aspect of life where Bill Gothard doesn’t tell members how to live. He tells you what kind of bread to eat (whole grain), how to dress (navy blue and white are especially godly), when a husband and wife can and can’t have sex (follow the Levitical purity laws, so wait a week after a woman’s period, 80 days after a girl is born, 40 for a boy), and even how to do road safety so as not to get raped when your car breaks down (really).

If you don’t follow all of Gothard’s rules then you’ve stepped out from under the Umbrella of Authority and are open to all sorts of attacks from Satan.

You can be quiverfull without following any of those rules. Heck, you can be quiverfull and believe that dating is okay and that women can dress however they want. Anyone who talks about the Duggars and doesn’t make the distinction between quiverfull, fundamentalism, and ATI, or who treats fundamentalism and quiverfull as the same thing doesn’t fully understand the issues at play.

3. I don’t know if Anna Duggar will stay, neither do you

I feel the need to emphasize this because all of the tabloid speculation and comments from unnamed “insiders” is just that, speculation.

The only person who knows what Anna will do is Anna, and she may not know yet herself. Whatever she decides to do, she’s got a difficult road ahead for her and for her children, and the choices she makes aren’t going to be easy ones no matter what decision she finally makes. Her life has been turned upside down these last few months, she has a newborn, and the entire world is watching her. For all we know, she’s been weighing her options since the molestation story broke. She may not make a decision for a long time, and that’s okay.

Know this though. Adultery is the one area where divorce is unquestionably Biblical. This idea that because she was raised in a fundamentalist, quiverfull ATI family and married into another one means she can’t leave is bogus. That’s not how any of this works. Leaving because of the molestation scandal? That could have gotten her shunned, told she was being unforgiving and bitter over something that happened before she met Josh and that he’d repented over. Leaving because she discovered he was cheating on her? That’s acceptable because the Bible specifically allows divorce for adultery. It’s a messed up standard, but that’s what it is.

If anybody tells you they know what she’s going to do because of patriarchal culture, they’re bullshitting you.


This whole story makes me sad for Anna because she was sold a bill of goods, that if you followed all the rules, did the courtship like you were supposed to, and got to work on having the dozen kids while staying under your husband’s umbrella of protection your life will be great. And it’s not. ATI breeds dysfunction and she and the kids are paying the price.

I feel awful for Josh’s sisters too. They got trotted in front of the camera to do damage control and proclaim how he had changed, he wasn’t the same person, and they’d all moved past it. And now they know without a shadow of a doubt that they were sent out in front of cameras to sell a lie and protect the Duggar brand.

There are no winners in this.

Christian Artist Steve Taylor Called Out Bill Gothard 30 Years Ago

Covert art from Steve Taylor’s “On the Fritz” album.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kathryn Brightbill’s blog The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person. It was originally published on May 26, 2015.

The music hasn’t worn well with time (so very ‘80s), and this isn’t one of Taylor’s better songs, but it’s all there. The chain of command, the seminar notebooks, the umbrella of authority, all of it. So next time people try to play dumb about how Bill Gothard was just some fringe figure that nobody in mainstream evangelical Christianity had ever really heard of, here we have one of the most important figures in Christian music calling the whole thing out. In 1985.

No wonder Steve Taylor was one of my favorite artists when I was a teenager. He’s one of the only people in American evangelicalism who have consistently called out the problems within American evangelical Christianity. We need more of that.

I’ve posted the lyrics after the jump.

I Manipulate

Does your soul crave center stage?
Have you heard about the latest rage?
Read your Bible by lightning flash
Get ordained at the thunder crash

Build a kingdom with a cattle prod
Tell the masses it’s a message from God
Where the innocent congregate
I manipulate

Take your notebooks, turn with me
To the chapter on authority
Do you top the chain of command
Rule your family with an iron hand

I dispense little pills of power
From my hideaway ivory tower
From the cover of heaven’s gate
I manipulate

Now it’s time to fill in the space
Where we talk about a woman’s place
Do you want to build a happy home?
Have you sacrificed a mind of your own?

‘Cause a good wife learns to cower
Underneath the umbrella of power
From the cover of heaven’s gate
I manipulate

Yes, I know that parable
That’s the story of the prodigal
If you question what I’m teaching you
You rebel against the Father too

If he loved him why’d he let him go?
Well, I guess I don’t really know
But I see it’s getting late

Michael Farris Admits RFRA’s Discriminatory Intent

Michael Farris on the Hannity Show, YouTube screenshot.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kathryn Brightbill’s blog The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person. It was originally published in April 2015.

Like a lot of other people, I’ve been following the controversy surrounding Indiana’s SB 101, their state level RFRA bill that’s designed to allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT people on religious grounds.

Indiana’s RFRA has been compared frequently to the federal RFRA, both by supporters of Indiana’s law who claim that it’s no different thanwhat President Clinton signed into law in 1993, and opponents who point out that it’s much broader than the federal RFRA. What most people don’t realize about RFRA, however, is that while it was a popular piece of legislation that passed with bipartisan support, the religious right had their fingerprints on it from the beginning and always intended it to be used for much broader purposes than most of the bill’s supporters realized.

The coalition that drafted the original RFRA was either chaired or co-chaired (alternate accounts on HSLDA’s website say both) by HSLDA founder and then-president Michael Farris. Farris was one of the drafters of the bill, and takes credit for organizing the broad coalition that supported its passage.

HSLDA’s magazine The Home School Court Report describes it thus:

“After the signing, President Clinton spoke with [HSLDA’s representative at the signing Doug] 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.”
(emphasis added)

At the time Clinton signed RFRA into law, the Court Report quoted HSLDA staff attorney Jordan Lorence as saying that,

“[A]s American culture and public policy grow more and more hostile to Biblical concepts and practices, the RFRA will help shield Christian families, and all other peoples of faith, from having to choose between surrendering their religious beliefs or suffering loss for standing true to their beliefs.”

My astute readers should be able to recognize that language as a culture war dog-whistle from a mile away. Indeed, Jordan Lorence now works for the Alliance Defending Freedom, where he’s spearheaded the string of cases from photographers, bakers, and florists all arguing that they have a religious freedom right to discriminate against LGBT people.

We don’t need to rely on dog-whistles, however. HSLDA has repeatedly stated that one of the purposes of the federal RFRA was to allow religious-based discrimination against LGBT people.

Describing what RFRA means to the average homeschooler:

“But consider what it means for religious people in other contexts: The government wants to say you can’t have a church policy that says you can only have male pastors. Or maybe your church doesn’t want to hire homosexuals. Or your support group doesn’t want to hire homosexuals. Then it would have an impact because the rights of organizations including churches are going to be judged on religious liberty principles alone.”
–Michael Farris, Marking the Milestones: The Good, the Bad, the Inspiring

Explaining why a proposed Religious Liberty Protection Act (RLPA) was an insufficient substitute for RFRA because it would not protect:

“Christian landlords who are told by local law that they may not “discriminate” against unmarried couples or homosexual couples in renting out an apartment in their home,” or,
“Small Christian-owned businesses that are forbidden by local law from firing employees for openly immoral behavior.”
–Home School Court Report: Religious Liberty Protection Act: Does the End Justify the Means, May/June 1998

That brings us to yesterday, when, writing specifically about the Indiana law and his intent in drafting the federal RFRA, Michael Farris posted the following to his Facebook page. (screenshotted because his posts have a way of disappearing after I blog about them).


Oh noes, how dare the homosexuals ask to be left alone! Look at them there eating crackers like they own the place, don’t they know they’re supposed to be cowering in a closet in fear of the cops busting in and hauling them off to jail?

When Michael Farris talks disparagingly about LGBT people asking to be left alone, he’s talking about LGBT people wanting the police to stop raiding gay bars and arresting everyone inside. About not wanting to be forced to endure chemical castration like Alan Turing or prison like Oscar Wilde. About wanting to walk around in public without fear of being beaten, tied to a fence and left for dead only to have your funeral picketed by people with “God Hates Fags” signs. About not wanting to be subjected to “corrective rape.”

That, Michael Farris, is what asking to be left alone means.

In that one line he trivializes centuries of indignities, abuses, and torture that no human being should have to endure. As if asking for even the most bare minimum of basic human rights is too much to ask of society.

And no, Michael Farris, it’s not about “demanding the right to punish anyone who refuses to join their celebration.” It’s asking for equal protection under law. One of the bedrock principles of American law, and protection enjoyed by all other American citizens under our civil rights laws.

But Michael Farris already knows that, that’s why nearly two decades ago, before any state had marriage equality, HSLDA specifically stated that RFRA was needed in order to overcome nondiscrimination laws.

The smoking gun, though, is in the second half of his post.


See that last paragraph? Read it again.

“The state and federal RFRA would not allow a state or local antidiscrimination law (e.g. a gay rights law) to be applied to a religious person or entity without prevailing over a very high legal standard.”

Saying that RFRA would “not allow a state or local antidiscrimination law … to be applied to a religious person or entity without prevailing over a very high legal standard,” is another way of saying that religious people and entities are allowed to discriminate. More specifically, to discriminate against LGBT people.

Cloak it in religious language all you want, but the religious freedom that RFRA is intended to protect is the freedom to discriminate. And not just the freedom to discriminate in baking wedding cakes, making floral arrangements, or taking photos either. As was made clear in the quotes above, that freedom to discriminate was always intended to extend to denying LGBT people a place to live and allowing businesses to fire them.

I don’t know how you can get any clearer. This is one of the drafters of the original federal RFRA flat out saying that RFRA had discriminatory intent.

Discrimination in the name of religion is still still discrimination and it’s still wrong.


My followup post, complete with video of Farris’ appearance on Hannity, can be found here.

Which One of You Have We Wronged?

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Hugo. Image links to source.
CC image courtesy of Flickr, Hugo. Image links to source.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kathryn Brightbill’s blog The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person. It was originally published in December 2014. It is a guest post that Sophie Anna Platt wrote in response to James Dobson’s recent statement that marriage equality will lead to a civil war.

To the James Dobsons and Mike Farrises of the world who literally want a civil war over gay rights and gay marriage, I ask this. In fact, I should ask certain members of my own family. I ask the same thing Jesus once asked.

Which one of you have we wronged?

Which one of you have we cheated or stolen from or harmed in any way? I’m not saying we are perfect, but what did we ever do to you that could make you hate us so much that you literally want a civil war over us being allowed the same rights that you have? What could possess you to put us through the things you have? How can you bring yourself to hate another person – much less a whole group of people- to the point that you force us even as children into “reparative therapy” which is just a fancy word for psychological and physical torture? I’m not even speaking metaphorically here.

After everything you have done to us one might expect we would be the ones with hatred in our hearts. That we would be trying to outlaw the religion that has been used in such vile ways against us. The truth is that many, many of us still believe in God, and we certainly support your right to do so. We do not support your right to use your religion as a weapon against us, and that really shouldn’t surprise you.

How can you say that we and those who love us and support us should be killed? That is what war is. Killing the ones you are against. If you are without sin, then cast the first stone by all means. But don’t forget it was this Jesus you purportedly follow who stopped people like you from casting stones at people like us when he was on Earth. Don’t forget that He said that whatever you do to “even the least of these my siblings”, you do to Him. Don’t forget that in Christ there is no male or female. You like to take the rest of the Bible so literally. Why do you try to explain away verses like that? In fact, what makes you think you can explain away the second greatest commandment – to love your neighbor as you love yourself – just by saying, “Well, my neighbor is gay and that makes them imperfect in my eyes so that doesn’t count”?

So next time before you promise to go on a killing spree, think about whether you are really serving the wishes of the one you call “Lord”.

When HSLDA Went To The Kremlin

CC image courtesy of Flickr, firdaus omar. Image links to source.
CC image courtesy of Flickr, firdaus omar. Image links to source.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kathryn Brightbill’s blog The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person. It was originally published on January 8, 2015.

On September 10th and 11th of 2014, leaders of various right wing family organizations from around the world gathered at the Kremlin for what was to have been the “World Congress of Families VIII – the Moscow Congress.” The conference was a “pro-family” event that blended a mix of quiverfull, homeschooling, anti-abortion, and anti-LGBTQ organizations together.

Facing press questions on the wisdom of holding an event in Moscow after the Russian annexation of Crimea, as well as Concerned Women for America’s decision to withdraw lest they, “appear to be giving aid and comfort to Vladimir Putin,” the World Congress of Families canceled the event in March. Or rather, they officially canceled it, as the meeting went forward under the auspices of the local sponsors, with several World Congress of Families leaders acting as organizers in an officially unofficial capacity.

The International Forum: Large Family and Future of Humanity opened with the reading of a personal greeting from Vladimir Putin praising the conference. As documented by BuzzFeed, the conference was funded by a number of close Putin allies.

Both Michael Farris and Michael Donnelly of HSLDA were originally slated to speak, and until now it was believed that HSLDA was one of the organizations that had pulled out of the convention because of the Crimea situation. It turns out that’s not what happened.

Other than a single reference in an article about the German Wunderlich family that Michael Donnelly, “was in Germany on his way to an international family forum in Moscow, Russia,” HSLDA has made no mention of the Kremlin conference. I have now been able to document that Michael Donnelly was not only in attendance at the forum, but that he participated as a speaker.

I suspect that given how difficult it was to track down evidence that an HSLDA representative was in Moscow, HSLDA knew that the decision to cozy up with Putin wouldn’t play well back in America. That didn’t stop them from going, however. It just stopped them from telling their members that they did it.

On September 8, 2014 Donnelly made a public Facebook post indicating he was traveling to Russia to, “encourage homeschooling families and meet with other pro-family organizations as well as policy makers to discuss parental rights and family freedom’s.”


The next day, September 9th (the morning of the 10th, Moscow time), he updated the post with a comment about meeting with leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church and his plan to attend the conference at the Kremlin that day.


Donnelly also posted a link to the Russian language site of one of the conference sponsors, indicating that he would be speaking the next day (September 11th).


We were also able to locate a video clip documenting Donnelly’s speech.

The official conference website includes the text of the speech. It’s typical HSLDA boilerplate about parental rights, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, German homeschool laws, and scare tactics about the dangers of government overreach. The irony of claiming that government regulation of homeschooling was an unnecessary government intervention, while standing within the halls of a government that had just annexed another country’s territory by force, seems to have been lost on Mr. Donnelly.

Let me be clear here. While Michael Farris’ former employer, Concerned Women for America, bowed out of the conference because they did not wish to be seen as giving their support to an increasingly totalitarian and expansionist Vladimir Putin, HSLDA had no such qualms. They sent Michael Donnelly to the halls of the Kremlin in an action that helped add international legitimacy to Vladimir Putin’s efforts to position himself as a guardian of the family at a time when he was under growing pressure from the international community for his disregard for international law.

We do not yet know whether Vladimir Putin’s expansionist goals end with Crimea. Only time will tell. Without even going into the fact that HSLDA lent their support to an anti-LGBTQ conference at a time when the Russian government is cracking down on LGBTQ people, going so far as to propose taking away their children (something HSLDA ought to oppose but won’t), what Donnelly and HSLDA did is akin to going to a conference on families in Berlin after Germany annexed Sudetenland. You simply do not cozy up with expansionist, totalitarian regimes.

Agree or disagree with me on homeschool regulation. But HSLDA going to Moscow to a conference endorsed by the Kremlin after what Russia did in Crimea and Ukraine is irresponsible and indefensible.


How Many More Dead Kids?


HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kathryn Brightbill’s blog The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person. It was originally published on December 31, 2014.

Leelah Alcorn was 17 years old when she concluded that life was never going to get better for her.

Before she reached the point that she ended her life, Leelah endured years of spiritual abuse from her parents and from Christian counselors. Her parents eventually pulled her out of school to homeschool, keeping her isolated from her friends and support system by taking away her phone and laptop for months on end.

Here are some of her own words describing what she endured:

“When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.

My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to christian therapists, (who were all very biased) so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression. I only got more christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help.

When I was 16 I realized that my parents would never come around, and that I would have to wait until I was 18 to start any sort of transitioning treatment, which absolutely broke my heart. The longer you wait, the harder it is to transition. I felt hopeless, that I was just going to look like a man in drag for the rest of my life. On my 16th birthday, when I didn’t receive consent from my parents to start transitioning, I cried myself to sleep.

I formed a sort of a “fuck you” attitude towards my parents and came out as gay at school, thinking that maybe if I eased into coming out as trans it would be less of a shock. Although the reaction from my friends was positive, my parents were pissed. They felt like I was attacking their image, and that I was an embarrassment to them. They wanted me to be their perfect little straight christian boy, and that’s obviously not what I wanted.

So they took me out of public school, took away my laptop and phone, and forbid me of getting on any sort of social media, completely isolating me from my friends. This was probably the part of my life when I was the most depressed, and I’m surprised I didn’t kill myself. I was completely alone for 5 months. No friends, no support, no love. Just my parent’s disappointment and the cruelty of loneliness.”

Leelah’s death hits me hard, she wasn’t just an LGBT kid, she was an LGBT homeschool kid, and her parents used homeschooling as a tool to isolate her, to try to turn her into the “perfect little straight Christian boy” they thought she should be. As a one-time homeschool kid, I have a feeling of affinity for other homeschool kids. Leelah was one of us, and now she’s gone.


Just as surely as the homeschool kids who were beaten or starved by their parents, Leelah Alcorn is one of Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. Leelah’s parents are just as responsible for her death as the parents who beat and starved their kids to death, but even though they drove their child to suicide, they’ll never see the inside of a jail cell. They’ll get sympathy, some will probably pat them on the back and tell them how they were good Christian parents doing all they could for a troubled child. Make no mistake though, Leelah’s death was entirely preventable, and if they had given her love and support instead of disappointment and loneliness, this story would have a different ending.

And to the pastor who told me recently that he was going to continue preaching anti-LGBT sermons because to do otherwise would be to disregard the unchanging Word of God, this is what happens. You have kids who are tormented by their church, by Christian counselors, by their parents, all because theology is more important than people.

Christians, if your theology results in a child stepping in front of a truck because she can’t imagine a world where her life will get anything but worse, then it’s time to reevaluate your theology.

A theology that leads to dead kids is wrong and immoral. Jesus said to let the little children come to Him, that whoever harms one of them should have a millstone put around his neck and be thrown into the sea. You’ve got it backwards, you’re tying the millstone around the child’s neck and calling it “love.”

I’m tired. Tired of the dead homeschool kids. Tired of the dead queer kids. Tired of the fact that the Evangelical world doesn’t care about the lives of either group.

Please, don’t let Leelah’s death be meaningless. Change the world and change yourselves so that there aren’t any more Leelahs. No kid should have to endure what she did.

RIP, Leelah.

*Both images taken from Leelah’s tumblr

Why Mocking the Duggar Children Should Be Off-Limits

Image from the Duggar Family Blog, links to source.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kathryn Brightbill’s blog The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person. It was originally published on December 23, 2014.

I’ve said it before on social media and I’ll say it again here. The mocking of Duggar children is not something I can get behind. Criticize the Duggar parents for what they’re doing to their children, criticize Jim Bob, Michelle, and Josh for their anti-LGBT activism, that’s fair game. Mocking the kids isn’t.

Kids like the Duggars, who aren’t being given a real education (you don’t get a real education from ATI Wisdom Booklets), who aren’t allowed college, and who aren’t even allowed a single private conversation with someone of the opposite sex until they’re married, are the ones I’m trying to help.

TLC may put a pretty face on it, but make no mistake, the Duggars are part of a high-control, authoritarian cult. ATI creates an alternate reality, complete with their own version of history and science, and a theology that seems, on the surface, to be orthodox Christianity but is anything but. ATI even redefines language, Scientology-stype.

This is but one small example of the way that ATI indoctrinates its members, but check out their definitions of the character qualities that Bill Gothard decided were important. I’ve included a few of those character qualities below. Notice how most of those definitions are nothing like the dictionary definitions of those words?

When I was a kid some ATI friends gave us the “Character Clues” game, which was supposed to teach you those traits by having you match traits to definitions. Apart from being the world’s most boring game, we gave up on it quickly because the whole thing was redefining words. We could give up on the game because learning Gothard-approved definitions of words was dull, but for people who are part of the ATI cult, learning an entirely new vocabulary is a step in the cult indoctrination process. A process the kids have no say in.

The Duggar kids’ entire version of reality, down to the meaning of the words they use, is the one created by being raised in the cult. Unlike Jim Bob and Michelle, who lived lives outside of the cult before joining, the Duggar kids have nothing to compare anything to. Their entire reality is shaped by the cult and everything they see in the rest of the world they’re seeing through the lens of the cult. TLC gives them a broader set of experiences than most ATI kids have, but they’re still experiencing it through the filter Bill Gothard created. That’s all they know.

Mocking the kids for doing the only things they’ve ever known isn’t doing anything other than entertaining yourself at the expense of kids being raised in an extremely controlling, if not outright abusive, home. That’s cruel. It needs to stop.

Malala and Me

Malala Yousafzai. CC image courtesy of Southbank Centre.
Malala Yousafzai. CC image courtesy of Southbank Centre.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kathryn Brightbill’s blog The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person. It was originally published in October 2014.

I sat here crying as I watched Malala Yousafzai talk about wanting to get an education and follow her dreams. She talks about how she decided to speak up against the Taliban because she didn’t want to be locked away in her house with no education, forced to marry at 13 or 14, and I can’t help but cry because it hits too close to home.

I know what it feels like to fight for an education in a culture that thinks girls shouldn’t get one. That believes girls should be married off young with no skills and little education beyond primary school. I know what it feels like to want more and to feel the weight of everyone around you writing off your dreams as a silly fantasy.

No, I didn’t have the Taliban forcing me home, and like Malala, my parents made sure that I had an education and encouraged me to follow my dreams. Who sent me to college, and who didn’t think that I had to marry off young and become the property of my husband.

I was lucky though.

There are so many girls stuck in the conservative Christian homeschool culture who aren’t so lucky. The stay-at-home daughter movement popularized by Doug Phillips and Vision Forum teaches that the proper place for a daughter is at home under her father’s authority until she’s given to the husband that her father has selected for her. Stay-at-home daughters are often given limited education, and dreaming of a life away from her father or husband, an education and a career, is unthinkable.

I remember going to hear popular homeschool speaker Little Bear Wheeler speak when I was in middle school, hearing from him that girls should be left as malleable clay to be shaped by their husband to best suit him as a helper. Her talents and interests don’t matter, only what her father and husband want from her.

For girls like Maranatha Chapman, long touted with her husband Matthew, as a fairy tale example of courtship and betrothal, that meant being married off as a 15 year old child to a 28 year old man. Matthew and Maranatha’s daughter Lauren was married off to a 26 year old man at 16, and I have to wonder whether it would have been sooner if Texas hadn’t raised the legal marriage age from 14 to 16.

I knew girls who started hope chests at 13 or 14 because they fully expected to be engaged or married by the time they were 17. Education? That would depend on whether their husbands decided to let them pursue it.

I’ll never forget the day that I overheard moms at homeschool skate talking about how their daughters didn’t need to learn algebra because, “they’re only going to be wives and mothers.”

Do you have any idea how hard you have to fight to hold on to a dream in that world?

I’ve wanted to be a lawyer since I was fourteen years old. I can’t count how many people I told that dream to who completely discounted it. How can I be a lawyer when I’m supposed to get married young and be a wife and homeschool mom to my dozen kids? No, that’s a suitable goal for your brother who has no interest in law, but not for you, you’re a girl, you need to stay home and work on your homemaking skills so you can have a parent arranged courtship.

No, I didn’t have a gun pointed at my head for daring to dream, but when Malala talks about facing a future as an uneducated child bride and rejecting that future, I understand.

It’s not just in places like Swat Valley in Pakistan where girls are being denied an education. It’s happening in America too, sometimes we give them reality shows on TLC and People Magazine covers.

I’m often asked why I keep fighting for homeschool children, why I care about this when there are so many other problems in the world.

I fight because every child, whether in Swat Valley in Pakistan or in the heartland of America, deserves an education. There’s a reason why Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head for speaking out, it’s because educated girls and women are a threat to the status quo. If they weren’t, no one would be trying so hard to keep them uneducated and locked away at home.

I hope that somehow Malala Yousafzai’s words find their way through to all of the stay-at-home daughters. They deserve a chance to dream.

Farris: Patriarchy Makes Kids Gays and Atheists

Photo source: http://www.theproudatheist.com/products/gaytheist
Photo source: http://www.theproudatheist.com/products/gaytheist

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on June 4, 2014.

If you read my blog, you’re probably aware of the Christian homeschooling subculture’s patriarchy problem. A variety of prominent Christian homeschool leaders have been promoting patriarchal family structures at homeschool conventions and in homeschool publications for well over a decade, and two of those leaders—Bill Gothard and Doug Phillips—have recently fallen, engulfed in scandal. Michael Farris, another prominent Christian homeschool leader, has since come out criticizing these leaders and the “patriarchy” they taught. Now Farris has openly criticized “patriarchy” as part of a keynote address while keynoting at a homeschool convention in Florida.

Here is a clip from Farris’s speech, followed by a transcription. In this section of his speech, Farris speaks of homeschool graduates who grew up in patriarchal homes.

The majority, I think, are walking with God. A significant minority, however, have rejected God entirely. A significant number are way way out there. And the critics that we’re seeing arising from inside the homeschooling movement—from young people in their twenties, mid-twenties mostly are the oldest group that are loudly criticizing homeschooling on the internet and so on and in other venues—were almost all raised in these kinds of homes, almost all, and there is no pretense of christianity in most of their lives. There are open homosexuals involved, there are atheists involved, there are people that utterly reject everything that we believe in and make no pretense about it. And so the idea that people are going to create generational patriarchal legacies, that didn’t work out for them very well. We’re not seeing that. You erect a false view of god for your children, don’t be surprised if they reject god entirely. That ‘s what’s going to happen. So what do we do as a movement first I would suggest that we run as far away from patriarchy and legalism as we can.

Okay, wow. I have been excited about Farris condemning patriarchy because, regardless of his motives, his words may prevent at least some families from going down that toxic rabbit hole. But this? The patriarchy turns kids into gays and atheists? That is why he’s condemning it? Not, oh I don’t know, patriarchal homeschooling hurts people? Farris has read the stories on Homeschoolers Anonymous (or at least is aware of them), but his conclusion is not “patriarchal homeschooling is toxic” but rather “patriarchal homeschooling turns kids into gays and atheists”? For serious? 

Is Farris unaware that this is still formula parenting? Farris is saying homeschool parents should run away from patriarchy because it will turn their children gay and atheist. He’s acting as though you just have to find the right form of parenting and then, viola! Your children will not be gaytheists.

What Farris apparently does not realize is that for many of us our parents’ insistence on us adopting their exact religious beliefs was just as constricting and painful patriarchal aspects of our upbringing, if not more so. My troubles with my parents started not when I rejected patriarchy but rather when I determined that God had used evolution to create the world. Ardent young-earth creationists, my parents all but disowned me. That they could treat me like that, and that they could insist on young-earth creationism in the face of clear scientific evidence, made me realize I needed to think through everything they had taught me, because any bit of it could be wrong. That path didn’t lead straight to atheism, taking me first through some other flavors of Christianity.

If anything “made me” an atheist, it was not my parents’ belief in a patriarchal family structure but rather their insistence on blatantly unscientific beliefs and their decision to value their religion over their children, punishing me emotionally for any step I took away from their party line. But I sincerely doubt we will hear Farris speak out against any of this, because frankly, he’s the one who planted these seeds in my parents in the first place.

Farris told homeschool parents, including my parents, that they were the Moses generation, removing their children from Egypt (the public schools) and educating them in the wilderness of Sinai (homeschooling). We children, Farris said, were the Joshua generation, raised up to take back the promised land of Canaan (aka to “retake America for Christ”). But then some of us, myself included, rebelled against the entire purpose we were being raised for and decided Canaan was just fine the way it was and that slaughtering its inhabitants sounded like a very bad idea. That is what provoked our parents’ backlash against us, as they sought for something to blame for our utter failure. That is why we felt suffocated, as our parents blamed us for falling short of the lofty goals Farris had fed them.

But you know what? I don’t see Farris backtracking on any of that.

For more on Farris’s suggestion that patriarchal homeschooling turns kids gay, I’d point you to Kathryn Elizabeth’s excellent piece on the topic, “We’re Here, We’re Queer (and patriarchy had nothing to do with it).”

But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention another problem with Farris’s speech, and that is how he defined “patriarchy.” If Farris were telling his audience that they should give up their belief in male headship and female submission, even if he were saying it to prevent children from turning out as gaytheists, I would be honestly and truly impressed. Why? Because Farris has for years taught that wives must submit to their husbands even if their husbands tell them not to go to church, or not to listen to tapes of sermons at home. Farris rejecting the belief in wifely submission so common to the Christian homeschooling subculture could be game-changing. And his stern rejection of “patriarchy” ought to indicate that he’s doing just that, right? Wrong.

In his speech, Farris stated explicitly that wives are to submit to their husbands. Farris may be oblivious to this fact, but that is patriarchy. Farris made this statement to eschew what he apparently thought was patriarchy—the belief that every woman must submit to every man. But this idea was never taught by anypatriarchal Christian homeschool leaders. Think you that Doug Phillips would have had his daughters submit to the man they walk by in the grocery store? No. In fact, Phillips’ argued that if everyone woman remained in submission to her god-given male authority, he would protect her from the wiles of other men. Similarly, Gothard coined the term “umbrella of authority” and promised his followers that if they submitted to their god-given authority (singular), they would be safe from the storms of this world.

In other words, Farris set up and knocked down a straw patriarchy and endorsed actual patriarchy in a speech ostensibly condemning patriarchy. Can you tell I’m frustrated? This thing writes itself like a comedy sketch.

But by all means, Farris, make the real problem gay and atheist homeschool graduates (hi!), not the actual suffering caused by toxic ideologies. I should point people back to my post on Monday, because this is yet another example of a homeschooling parent making homeschool graduates like myself the problem rather than actually engaging our concerns. In other words, it isn’t that Farris has a problem with the toxic ideas we’re calling out, it’s that he has a problem with our existence.

But you know what? At least we have their attention now.

We’re Here, We’re Queer (and patriarchy had nothing to do with it)

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 11.08.04 PM

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kathryn Brightbill’s blog The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person. It was originally published on June 4, 2014.

I’m not sure if two examples counts as a trend, but over the last few weeks both HSLDA founder and Patrick Henry College chancellor Michael Farris and well-known homeschool mommy blogger Karen “that mom” Campbell have both suggested that the blame, as it were, for LGBT homeschoolers lies at the feet of patriarchy.

Under this narrative, patriarchy has so harmed and broken us that we have not only rejected patriarchy itself, but have fallen off into a morass of sin and depravity.

Farris’ version of the story, as given in his May 2014 keynote address at the Florida Parent-Educators Association (FPEA) Leaders Forum, is that homeschool alumni critics of homeschooling are almost all victims of patriarchy, and in rejecting that we’ve also rejected God and some of us have become “open homosexuals.” It’s all very Romans 1 of him.


“But the majority, I think, are walking with God. A significant minority, however, have rejected God entirely. A significant number are way, way out there. And the— and the critics that we’re seeing arise from— in the homeschooling movement from young people who are in their twenties and— twenty— mid-twenties, mostly, is kind of the oldest group— that are loudly criticizing homeschooling on the internet and so on and in other venues— were almost all raised in these kinds of homes. And there is no pretense of Christianity in most of their lives. There are openly homosexuals involved, there are atheists involved, there are people that utterly reject everything that we believe in and make no pretense about it, that are— but they came. And so the idea that people are going to create generational, patriarchal family legacies, and we’re counting for them very well, you’re not seeing that. You erect a false view of God for your children, don’t be surprised if they reject God entirely. That’s what’s going to happen.

So what do we do as a movement? First, I would suggest we run as fast and as far away from patriarchy and legalism as we possibly can.”

Full audio can be found here.

Now, aside from the fact that Farris has painted all former homeschoolers who are critical of the homeschool movement as gaytheists who reject everything they’ve been taught, completely ignoring the significant number of critiques from committed Christians (myself included—”gay” and “Christian” are not mutually exclusive), and ignoring that gaytheists deserve a say too, this is balderdash.

While I will grant him the assertion that creating a hateful, vengeful image of God isn’t exactly conducive to producing children who believe in God, blaming our queerness on patriarchy, or at least the fact that we’re open about it, isn’t going to fly.

For one, patriarchy can’t turn anybody LGBT, sexual orientation and gender identity have zilch to do with the kind of environment you grew up in. What is particularly silly though, is the idea that being raised in an environment of fear, isolation, and repression where the odds are good that you heard at least one person suggesting that people like you should be stoned, somehow makes it more likely that Christian homeschool kids will become, “openly homosexuals.”

Although my own coming out experience was uneventful, at least in part because the days of my family’s dabbling in patriarchy by way of the courtship movement were long since passed, the kids raised in the kind of hardcore patriarchy that Farris condemns go through hell to come out. If only it were so easy as to just rage quit patriarchy and become “openly homosexual” in the process.

And well, I feel for the queer kid whose parents heard that talk and assume that by ditching patriarchy they’ll produce good little heterosexual children. Patriarchy doesn’t make a kid queer, and not following patriarchy doesn’t make a kid straight. The only relation that patriarchy has to sexual orientation or gender identity is to make the life of kids growing up queer a living hell. That’s not going to change in Farris’ ideal world since, as I have already documented, he advocates the same ideas that make life miserable for LGBT kids growing up in patriarchy.

My second data point for this whole patriarchy-turns-kids-gay trend is Karen Campbell’s post last week, “Patriarchy on Trial, part 4.”

I don’t particularly feel like getting into the bit in her post where she conflates Homeschoolers Anonymous/HARO with the organization that I’m part of, the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), suggests that we’re some sort of gay rights advocacy organization (we’re not, and we have a grand total of zero mentions of anything LGBT-related anywhere in our policy positions), and then in the comments implies that our end game is to define being anti-gay as abuse (it’s not, and the idea literally never crossed my mind until she wrote it).

What I would rather talk about is the comment she left on her post, where Campbell suggests that young people raised in patriarchy, “can easily be convinced to experiment with homosexuality.”


Ms. Campbell really doesn’t understand how this whole gay thing works if she thinks that being taught rigid gender roles is going to confuse someone into homosexuality. Also, while we’re at it, bisexuality is a thing too, though I doubt Campbell thinks it exists.

Rigid gender roles are bad, and should be rejected outright, but forcing a kid into a rigid gender role has nothing to do with who they’re attracted to. For that matter, there are kids who fit quite happily into rigidly defined gender roles but are still attracted to the same sex, and kids who don’t fit at all but who are entirely straight.

Homosexuality is about who you’re attracted to, and whether or not a kid fits into a rigid gender role is about gender identity and expression, another issue entirely. For a kid who is gender non-conforming, being forced into a rigid box isn’t going to confuse them into gayness, it’s just going to make their life unpleasant.

Besides, I didn’t grow up forced into rigid gender roles and I’m still queer. In fact, I’d wager that my parents’ version of homeschooling is one that would get the Karen Campbell seal of approval, but hey, here I am and no one convinced me into anything.

Are we so weak that she thinks we can easily be misled into gayness? I graduated from high school at 17, got a degree in computer science as the only female student in all but one class, moved overseas by myself to teach in Asia, and have my JD. That I could “easily be convinced” of anything, much less of something that makes my life harder, is insulting.

There are many things that I will lay at the feet of patriarchy, but nope, you’re not going to be able to write off LGBT homeschoolers this easily. Patriarchy did not make us, this is who we are, and there is nothing wrong with that.

We’re here, we’re queer, patriarchy had nothing to do with it, and it’s high time you get used to it.