Earlier today HA reported that Bill Gothard and the Institute for Basic Life Principles (IBLP) filed motions with the Circuit Court of DuPage County, Illinois. Those motions aim to disqualify David C. Gibbs III and the Gibbs Law Firm from representing the eighteen plaintiffs in Gretchen Wilkinson vs. Institute in Basic Life Principles, the court case in which eighteen former employees and students are suing Gothard and IBLP for sexual harassment and assault and mishandling those crimes.
Gibbs issued a statement today to HA in response to these motions. Concerning Gothard’s allegations that Gibbs misled him regarding his role in the lawsuit, Gibbs claims that, “Gothard was fully aware that I was the attorney for Lourdes Torres against Gothard’s protégé, Douglas Phillips, and Gothard was mentioned by name in that Texas lawsuit in April 2014.” Gibbs cites directly from the Torres v. Phillips lawsuit, in which he wrote, “Others who espoused this teaching [patriarchy], such as Bill Gothard or Jack Schaap, have stepped down or are incarcerated for crimes against children.”
Gibbs states that that Gothard and IBLP’s motions “will be fully opposed in court and are full of misstatements and lies.” While Gibbs says he is “guilty of aggressively representing my clients,” he denounces these latest actions as “a desperate attempt to attack the law firm that is publicly and legally holding [Gothard] accountable for years of child abuse.”
Some months ago I stated in a blog post that I was becoming increasingly convinced that Christian homeschooling culture is not a safe space for young women and girls. A reader objected in the comments section, misunderstanding I think both what I meant by “Christian homeschooling culture” and “safe space.” Regardless, reading various figures’ responses to the Doug Phillips scandal, and how they discuss Lourdes Torres, Phillips’ victim, has made my assessment only more firm.
But if his attentions were entirely unwelcome to her, and she was freaked out by the creepster, then we have to ask why she wasn’t down the road at the first opportunity — that night or the next morning — with Doug Phillips receiving notification of her opinion of what transpired via the sound of sirens. That’s not what happened, on anyone’s account, and so I don’t think we should identify her as a victim.
For someone who makes his livelihood counseling his parishioners, Wilson shows a stunning lack of understanding of any of the dynamics of abuse. He reiterates his statement in the comments section:
In other words, according to Wilson, if an abuse victim does not get out of the situation at the very first opportunity, she (or he) cannot be identified as a victim. We might as well ask this of every case where a male partner is abusive: “If his abuse was not welcomed by her, then we have to ask why she didn’t leave at the first opportunity, say the first night or the very next morning.” But of course, this is ridiculous. There are a million reasons abused women do not leave the moment their abuse starts. For one thing, it usually begins little by little, and not all at once. But beyond that are plenty of reasons both physical and psychological.
If someone who is a leader and an influential figure in this culture is so clueless as to the dynamics of abuse, how much hope is there that more local leaders will be any less ignorant?
But let’s stop and ask ourselves a question Wilson doesn’t think to ask—what would have happened if Lourdes had come forward about Phillips’ actions? What if she had told other leaders in Phillips’ church, as Wilson would probably prefer, given his propensity for preferring the Matthew 18 approach over civil courts?
First of all, if Lourdes had gone to her church elders they likely would have suspected her of lying. After all, Phillips was a very well respected leader. When the scandal broke several months ago, there were many that had trouble believing it even then. How much more unbelievable would it have been without a paper trail of sorts stretching back for years? Further, Phillips was one of the church elders. These would have been his friends Torres would have been going to. In all likelihood, they would have called him in and asked him what happened, he would have explained it away as nothing, they would have believed him, and that would have been the end of it.
After all, that’s exactly what Gothard did over and over and over again. Someone would say something, some rumor would surface, and Gothard’s board of directors would talk to him about it. He would assure them it was nothing, and they would tell him to be more careful in the future, and everything would go on just as before.
Second, even if Lourdes had gone to her church elders and they had believed that some level of impropriety was going on, they likely would have placed some of the blame on her—even if she went to them immediately. They would have asked her what she had done to lead him on, what she had said or worn or done. They would have asked her if she had fought him off, or if she actually wanted his overtures, and so on. And they very likely would have seen her as tainted herself.
I also have very little faith in the local church authorities Lourdes would have approached had she followed Matthew 18.
After all, we know that the other leaders in Doug Phillips church knew full well what was going on over six months before Phillips issued his public apology, and over six months before the Vision Forum board of directors decided to shut the ministry down. In February of 2013 Phillips was removed from his position as elder at his church because of his actions, but he was allowed to go on speaking and serving as an influential public figure, even though he had in his personal life made a lie of everything he said from his public platform.
In this culture, the criteria for being a victim is very narrow. If you are among the few who fit the criteria, you receive all the support they can give you, and your abuser alone is condemned as guilty. However, if you don’t fit the criteria you stand guilty and implicated in what happened alongside your abuser. What, you didn’t leave him the first time he raped you? And you say you’re a victim?
It is because of these sorts of narratives and beliefs that I said what I did about Christian homeschooling culture not being a safe space for girls and young women. Yes, this very culture claims to care very much about protecting girls and young women, and many leaders find justification for patriarchy in just that. But while their words say one thing, the systems they create and beliefs they embrace create something very different altogether.
And if my saying this upsets readers, they should focus their energies on combatting these narratives, not on expressing their shock that I could say such a thing.
Yesterday’s WorldNetDaily article on Lourdes Torres’s lawsuit against Doug Phillips quotes at length from Michael Farris’s reaction to Doug Phillips downfall. I thought it was worth going over that section specifically, and placing it within the context of other things I have written about Michael Farris, HSLDA, and Patrick Henry College, both to clarify the issues here and to reveal the serious dishonesty of Farris’s statements.
I will begin by quoting the section, and will then respond.
Before Phillips founded Vision Forum, he spent six years as an attorney for the Home School Legal Defense Association, or HSLDA, a nonprofit advocacy organization that defends the right of American families to homeschool their children.
HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris told WND, “The reason Doug left HSLDA is because [President] Mike Smith and I, who were his bosses, were growing more and more uncomfortable as he started developing his patriarchy theory. We started limiting his ability to speak on those things while traveling on our behalf. We basically made it clear that he could not pursue those things with his HSLDA hat on. So he eventually chose to leave us so he could do those things because we were not comfortable with where he was headed.”
As for the patriarchy movement, Farris said the teachings are not widely accepted in the broader homeschool community.
“It’s a minority of homeschoolers that believe in it,” he said. “But unfortunately, until very recently, they were getting a lot of visibility in certain places. We have sought to avoid inviting any patriarchy speakers to speak at our national conference.”
While state homeschool organizations run their own events and may choose to have such speakers, Farris said HSLDA has never promoted them.
“Doug has never been invited to speak at our national conference since he left,” Farris said. “We have tried, by example, to keep this stuff outside the mainstream of the homeschooling movement.”
He added, “Frankly, we think it’s time for us to stand up and publicly say this is just wrong.”
And here we need some explanation. Within the Christian homeschooling movement, and by that I mean those Christians who choose to homeschool for religious reasons, whether in part or in whole, there is a range of belief on gender roles. In general, beliefs about gender roles fall somewhere on a spectrum between the following two camps:
Complementarianism: Many of those in the Christian homeschooling movement, including both Farris and my own parents, hold fairly conventional conservative evangelical views on gender roles. The wife’s role is to obey her husband, nurture her children, and serve ask a keeper at home. The husband’s role is to be the head of the family, provide for the family, and protect the family. Men are to be masculine and manly, women are to be feminine and womanly. God has laid out different and complementary roles for each gender, but all are equal before God.
Biblical Patriarchy: Some of those in the Christian homeschooling movement go farther. They proudly use the word “patriarchy” and teach that daughters are to be under their father’s authority until marriage, serving as “stay-at-home daughters.” They argue that daughters should not go to college, or hold jobs outside the home, and that daughters must obey their fathers even as adults. Only when daughters marry (through a courtship process controlled by their father) do they leave their father’s authority and transfer to their husband’s authority.
I don’t have numbers on how many Christian homeschoolers adhere to complementarianism versus how many adhere to biblical patriarchy, but I also don’t think it’s completely clearcut. Even those solidly in the complementarian camp will have noticed promoters of patriarchy speaking at homeschool conferences, will have seen their literature, and will have met those in its folds. My own family was fairly solidly in the complentarian camp, and yet they adopted some of the beliefs of the biblical patriarchy camp even as they rejected others (they sent me off to college, but believed I was still to obey my father, as an adult daughter under his authority).
Biblical patriarchy differs little from complementarianism except in its open embrace of the term “patriarchy” and its teachings about the role of adult daughters.
So where does Farris fall, particularly? From what I’ve read of his writings Farris very much believes that wives must obey their husbands and that a woman’s role is in the home nurturing her children. But what of the rest? Farris’s strong rejection of the patriarchy movement as quoted above and his recent strong words for the stay-at-home daughter movement in a facebook comment would seem to indicate that he falls in the complementarian camp rather than the biblical patriarchy camp.
There is also this from a statement written in response to February’s article on sexual assault at Patrick Henry College and read aloud during chapel at Farris’s Patrick Henry College.
Some readers have wondered if the overall aim of the article is to associate PHC with a set of anti-women attitudes that we do not hold, and to insinuate that we are connected with outside movements that we positively reject (like the “Quiverfull/Christian Patriarchy Movement”). This philosophy, incorrectly attributed in the article to Dr. Michael Farris, Chancellor, espouses that college is inappropriate for Christians in general, and especially women. As his own life at PHC and with his own children reflect, Chancellor Farris has never agreed with such an offensive philosophy.
Farris rejects the word “patriarchy” and is not against daughters going to church. In fact, this statement from Farris’s Patrick Henry College indicates that Farris views biblical patriarchy as “anti-woman” and “inappropriate for Christians.”
But even as he rejects biblical patriarchy, Farris believes that wives should obey their husbands to the extent of not attending church if her husband so commands, and he believes that daughters, even as they go to college, should be preparing ultimately for motherhood rather than for careers. I think maybe this is why Farris’s continued refrain of “no no no, I’m not like him, he believes crazy things!” strikes so many as so odd. Farris is not as far removed as he would like us to think.
But there’s something else going on here too.
Farris insists that he has long gone to great lengths to publicly distance himself and HSLDA from Phillips in particular and biblical patriarchy in general. Unfortunately for him, this is simply not true.
It’s also worth noting that Farris was at the very least being grossly misleading when he said of HSLDA that “Doug has never been invited to speak at our national conference since he left” and that “We have tried, by example, to keep this stuff outside the mainstream of the homeschooling movement.”
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.
I’m unsure of how Farris expected people to understand that HSLDA disapproved of either Phillips or biblical patriarchy when continually wrote of Phillips and his abilities as a homeschool speaker with such accolades. And this wasn’t the only time. HSLDA advertised Doug Phillips as a speaker at eventafter event. HSLDA member families were urged to attend. They also allowed Doug Phillips to advertise in their publication, the Home School Court Report, as recently as 2012.
Beyond this, HSLDA has also promoted other leaders whose teachings center on biblical patriarchy, including Voddie Baucham and Geoffrey Botkin. And to the best of my knowledge, HSLDA as an organization and Farris as an individual have never denounced any one of these leaders.
Jennie Chancey and Stacy McDonald have spoken the Truth with a capital ‘T’ in their wonderful book Passionate Housewives Desperate for God. Totally grounded in Scripture, this book winsomely presents the true picture of a godly homemaker. Prepare to be stimulated, challenged, and encouraged as a woman. This book is a real gem!—Vickie Farris, wife of HSLDA founder, Michael Farris, Esq.
Now maybe Chancey and McDonald tone it down in Passionate Housewives Desperate for God, or maybe Farris and his wife disagree here. But Farris has to be aware how these sorts of endorsements will come across to Christian homeschoolers.
Now I want to turn back to the recent article I began with.
After insisting that HSLDA has never collaborated with a supporter of patriarchy—an assertion I have here called into question—Farris added that ”Frankly, we think it’s time for us to stand up and publicly say this is just wrong.” And that is where I have to wonder—why didn’t Farris stand up publicly and say this prior to Phillips’ resignation and disgrace? Because he didn’t.
Further, Farris wrote that “Doug has never been invited to speak at our national conference since he left” and that “We have tried, by example, to keep this stuff outside the mainstream of the homeschooling movement.” Was Farris unaware that, regardless of whether he invited Phillips to speak at HSLDA’s national conference, if he spoke nary a negative word about Phillips in public and HSLDA wrote of Phillips only to promote him, the message that would come across to the homeschool community would be one of approval?
My sources tell me that Farris views Bill Gothard and Michael Pearl in the same negative light that he has long viewed Doug Phillips. Why, then, does he not publicly warn homeschool families against them? Why does he remain silent?
I think I know the answer. HSLDA operates off of membership dues. If Farris or HSLDA come out and publicly denounce toxic homeschool leaders, they will lose members. Farris has felt that Phillips was in error and dangerous for years, but only when Phillips was already defrocked and dethroned did he feel comfortable saying that out loud. Farris would rather tolerate patriarchy in the Christian homeschool movement than lose money for denouncing it.
Farris, it seems, is only willing to shoot patriarchy when it’s down.
Alone Yet Not Alone, based on a book about two children who were kidnapped by Native Americans during the French and Indian War, was released as a movie in 2013 by Enthuse Entertainment. It showed in select theaters for only one week. This month, to everyone’s surprise, it was nominated for an Oscar. I’m not interested in talking about how it got nominated, which seems to be the focus of most articles on its surprise nomination. I’m more interested in something else, and that is the connections between this film and some major players in the dominionist/reconstrucitonist segment of the Christian homeschool movement, most notably Doug Phillips and Michael Farris.
My first tipoff to these connections was when I learned that Doug Phillips’ daughter Jubliee Phillips is in the film. She plays a Native American girl. Her older brother Joshua Phillips plays a “tall white brave,” according to the cast listing. Doug Phillips is the disgraced founder of Vision Forum, an influential but now defunct Christian homeschool organization.
Other Vision Forum attaches, including Lourdes Torres, also play leading roles in the film. According to one blogger, “the full cast list of the movie reads like a partial who’s who of dominion-mandate Christian entrepreneurs.”
It seems the list of those involved also reads like a who’s who of Patrick Henry College graduates. (Patrick Henry College was founded by Home School Legal Defense Association founder Michael Farris in an effort to train up a new generation of Christian leaders to “retake America for Christ”). Alone Yet Not Alone was written by Tracy Leininger, a graduate of Patrick Henry College. Patrick Henry College alum and The Rebelution founder Brett Harris (brother of I Kissed Dating Goodbye author Joshua Harris and son of prominent Christian homeschool leader Gregg Harris) plays a leading role in the film. Several other Patrick Henry College graduates—including Ben Adams and Peter Forbes—were also involved. Not surprisingly, Michael Farris and HSLDA promoted the filmheavily.
The group’s co-founders, George Escobar and Michael Snyder, acted as the film’s co-producers, and Escobar acted as co-writer and co-director. Michael Farris endorsed Advent Film Group and has at times contributed to its screenplays.
Alone Yet Not Alone appears to be the creation of a collaboration between Doug Phillip affiliates and Michael Farris affiliates. Given that Doug Phillips once worked for Michael Farris as a lawyer at HSLDA, this shouldn’t be surprising. I’m curious how many Patrick Henry College graduates have gone on to work for Doug Phillips affiliated organizations.
I have not seen the movie and I have not read the book, so while I’ve heard concerns about racist portrayals and bad acting, I don’t feel I can confidently speak to the content of either. I will say I’ve found pulling these connections together fascinating.
This film, with its surprise Oscar nod, is a product of the culture I grew up in.
I’ll finish with the trailer, so you can take a look for yourself.