I Grew Into A Culture Warrior: Lauren Wood’s Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Grufnik.

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Lauren Woods” is a pseudonym.

When I saw the call for stories about homeschool families and politics, I immediately thought of the article “I Lost My Dad to Fox News.” As a person who likes to stay politically informed as a result of my upbringing, I don’t often trust Salon, but that article echoed many of my feelings towards my own father.

Before I can continue, it’s helpful to understand that, as a kid, I had a lot of anxiety, which follows me to this day. While I attribute some of my anxiety to my deep-seated fears about the wooden rod with which my parents spanked us, I’m not a psychologist and can’t say for sure if that was the cause. I did attend a small, fundamentalist high school because my mom recognized that she couldn’t teach things like chemistry and algebra, but my parents still held many of the homeschooling circle’s beliefs, such as courtship.

The first time I can remember an awareness of politics in my family was the pro-life march that our Southern Baptist church organized every October.

Perhaps it was called the Mile for Life, but I believe my first appearance was as a seven-year- old.

Basically, we formed a long line down the main street in my hometown with signs with slogans like ABORTION KILLS CHILDREN, ABORTION KILLS WOMEN, and I can’t recall the others. It scared me deeply to think that thousands of people in my own hometown were killing babies. I didn’t know about sex until at least nine or ten, and considering that there was no abortion clinic in my county (and I believe there’s only one in my state), this fostered a deep paranoia that millions of babies were being killed all around me for some inexplicable reason. I also didn’t understand why women were supposedly dying too. So even though I didn’t want to go, I was very scared about all this death, and I did hope that maybe my sign might convince someone not to kill a woman or child. Refusing to attend the Mile for Life would have absolutely warranted a spanking, because defiance was the quickest way to the rod.

My dad often listened to Rush Limbaugh in the car, and watched the usual cast of FOX and co. When the Gore/Bush election happened, I heard a lot about a conspiracy called global warming, and how Gore would destroy America. Again, I was terrified. I didn’t want my whole country to be devastated. The nail-biting voter counts in Florida were all I heard about, and I sat on the edge of my seat hearing about it, petrified that a single vote would destroy the nation.

A few years later, I also learned that a few states were allowing men to marry men, and women to marry women. I didn’t have the vocabulary for the word “lesbian” or “bisexual”, but I did hear about homosexuals, and my only exposure to that “lifestyle” was from the pulpit of First Baptist. My pastor taught that homosexuals hated God, the nuclear family, and America.

I had no idea why, and I didn’t consider myself “homosexual” because I was not an adult, I didn’t hate God, and I didn’t America.

The thought that I was gay never crossed my mind. Rush Limbaugh said that homosexuals would lead to America’s destruction just like the fall of Rome, as Rush Limbaugh said, and it scared me. Slowly, I began to realize in middle school that it was not in fact acceptable for me to want to hold a girl’s hand or kiss her.

While homeschooled, I learned that evolution and global warming were liberal conspiracies. I learned to fear liberals and how they wanted to destroy my family.

I learned that even though racism didn’t exist, except possibly reverse racism, I was probably not ever supposed to date a black man.

I spent a long time on message boards (probably due to my lack of interaction with other kids) arguing for conservative politics so that they wouldn’t become liberal leaders and run the country into the ground, similarly to how many former fundies express a need to witness to everyone so that they don’t go to Hell. In some areas, that wasn’t too difficult due to the amount of sheer racism and misogyny on the internet. It was always nice to meet other people who agreed that reverse racism was definitely a huge issue and feminists were evil.

Like many homeschool children, I repeatedly heard the phrase “Honor your father and mother, and your days will be long.” They often told me that if I dishonored them with disagreement, I would not have a happy life, and they tell me that to this day. My father made it clear that he was God’s representative to us on earth, and as such, it was his job to let us know right and wrong.

Throughout high school, although I was not homeschooled then, I quashed any budding “liberal” ideas. This included any acceptance of my “homosexuality”, a word I have come to hate. My father’s bookshelf was peppered with Dr. Dobson’s and Charles Colson’s latest, and I read all of it at his suggestion. Both have a lot to say on political issues, and I knew that since my father agreed, I would too. In an effort to change myself so that I might not accidentally end up an atheist at a pride parade, I watched straight or male-male sex scenes in the hopes that I could rewire my brain to associate men with pleasurable feelings. It never worked.

We ate dinner together every night, a blessing and a curse. While my father didn’t rail about politics on a nightly basis, he did bring it up often, complaining about how an anti-American Muslim was now president of the United States. We saw D’nesh D’souza’s conservative propaganda films about how Obama wanted to let immigrants take over this fine nation.

It was a heartbreaking thing to finally realize in college that I could like women, just like those Fat, Ugly Man-Hating Feminist Lesbians who were all going to hell.

I’m not sure why their appearance mattered, but it was usually included in a criticism of lesbians.

I still struggle with my weight, even though I am naturally tall and skinny, out of fear that I might resemble the caricature my parents despise.

They found out a year and a half ago that I am gay, in my senior year of college, my father threatened to pull me out of university. He only didn’t because my major is very uncommon and can’t be found at any more conservative schools. I attend a Southern Baptist university, now in graduate school, although it’s a moderate one that doesn’t care (too much) that I have a girlfriend. My parents now consider it an evil, liberal institution for not somehow stopping me, and now say they don’t care whether my little sister attends a Christian university or not, “because it didn’t help Lauren.” In political discussions, they are often interested in my brother’s thoughts, because they consider him “on the same page” while I am “rebellious”.

My parents also expressed great paranoia throughout my life about what they were certain I told my friends about them. When my father found out I was gay, he said, “I know that you’ve told all your friends and teachers that I’m a close-minded bigot.” I didn’t think I had, but he shook my confidence, so I called my best friend asked if I’d ever spoken disrespectfully of my parents. “No,” he said. “You’ve only ever spoken highly of them.”

Again, defiance is the number one way to get on the wrong side of my parents, and they tell me that my identification as a Democrat/liberal has dishonored them.

On their anniversary, my father tweeted, “25 years together—THIS is ‘love wins’.” He also tweets things such as a girl with a shirt saying, “I’m not going to let Muslims rape me to prove how tolerant I am.” My roommate has encouraged me not to look at his Twitter anymore so that I don’t get outraged; my father tells me he doesn’t have Facebook because he is afraid he will get in too many political debates. I said, “But you don’t have any Democrat friends, do you?” He replied, “Oh yeah, you’re right.”

I can tell for sure that my mother believes I am simply rebellious and want to be a Democrat because I resent my strict upbringing. I don’t think she will ever be able to get over from the fact that a liberal lesbian could have come out of her home—ironic because I am the only one of my three siblings that attends church regularly. My father sees me with a few more dimensions, I think, because he still often tries to engage in political discussion with me, but still holds that anyone with my political views is either willfully defiant or simply ignorant. My sister tells me that my parents wish I wasn’t “so political,” but really, I feel like my upbringing has forced me to stay aware so that I can back up every belief.

The last time I visited home, he asked what news sites I read. He downloaded The Atlantic app at my suggestion, because it seems to be a fairly moderate source, much more moderate than his usual outlets. It’s the biggest accomplishment I’ve made towards nudging him away from the Matt Walsh types that tell him I hate God, I hate men, I am stupid.

I laughed at hearing how my parents think I am too political, because they raised me to be so involved in current events.

Except as a kid, I was raised to be a Culture Warrior for the Religious Right. Of course I am still politically active, because I am still defending myself against what I believe to be dangerous ideology. It’s just that it’s theirs.

Josh Duggar Checks Into Treatment Center After Porn Star Details “Very Traumatic” and “Terrifying” Sexual Encounter

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Increasingly disturbing revelations continue to surface in the tragic circumstances surrounding the Duggars, the former TLC celebrity family of “19 Kids and Counting.”

This last May it came to light that Josh Duggar, the oldest son of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and the now-disgraced former executive of the Family Research Council’s legislative action arm, had molested five children when he was a teenager, including members of his own family. Other celebrities from the Religious Right immediately stepped up to defend Josh and minimize the horrors of child molestation, including: Rick Boyer, board member of the Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV); Matt Walsh, viral blogger and popular homeschool speaker at the Great Homeschool Conventions; Mike Huckabee, Republican Presidential hopeful endorsed by HSLDA’s Michael Farris; Ray Comfort, a popular New Zealand Christian evangelist; and Kevin Swanson, director of Generations with Vision and former executive director of the Christian Home Educators of Colorado.

Then a week ago, Gawker broke the story that Josh had paid almost $1,000 for a “guaranteed” affair via the adultery-promoting website Ashley Madison. This led Josh to publicly confess to cheating on his wife, though in his statement he appeared to blame a “pornography addiction” for leading him to that point. Josh said,

I have been the biggest hypocrite ever. While espousing faith and family values, I have secretly over the last several years been viewing pornography on the internet and this became a secret addiction and I became unfaithful to my wife.


Ironically, it was then adultery — rather than the far more chilling and actual crime of molesting children — that led several of Josh’s previous defenders to finally realize the absolute seriousness of Josh’s situation. Rick Boyer said in a public Facebook post that he “was wrong” that Josh was currently living “an exemplary life.” However, Boyer also qualified that by saying he “was right in all that” regarding child molestation, namely, that Josh’s “poor sisters had been abused far more by the buzzard-like media than they ever were by Josh” (image archived here).  Similarly, Matt Walsh said in a public Facebook post that he “was wrong about the Duggar situation” (image archived here). But unlike Boyer, who had the gall to say the media “abused” molested children more than their actual molester, Walsh realized what we homeschool alumni have been saying all along: that the Duggars should never have paraded around their family on TV right after their son molested five children, including siblings. Walsh said,

The more I think about this, I realized I was too easy on the the Duggar parents as well. Jim Bob and Michelle knew that their oldest son was struggling with severe sexual sin, they knew their daughters had been abused, they knew their family was in the midst of moral and spiritual turmoil, yet they STILL decided to put themselves and their children on TV for ten years.

Of course, back in May, Walsh just dismissed people saying this very thing in the flippant way he always treats people with different opinions than his own.

After Josh’s Ashley Madison account became public, secret profiles of Josh’s on Facebook and OKCupid also surfaced. These profiles revealed his private online relationships with strippers and porn stars, including a relatively new porn star named Danica Dillon.

Today Danica revealed the full extent of her relationship with Josh — namely, that while Josh’s wife Anna was pregnant with their fourth child, Josh allegedly forced Danica into having “very traumatic” and “terrifying” rough sex without the use of protection. Though Danica is taking pains to claim the sex was “consensual,” the fact that Josh exchanged money for sex that Danica clearly was not comfortable with — considering both her fear of his use of force as well as his unwillingness to use protection — indicates very clearly full and enthusiastic consent wasn’t important to Josh. Danica says that Josh was “basically tossing me around like I was a rag doll.”

Furthermore, Josh’s unwillingness to use protection clearly puts not only himself and Danica in danger of sexually transmitted diseases, but also Josh’s wife Anna – who was completely oblivious to Josh’s extraordinarily risky and abusive sexual actions.

My heart continues to break for Anna and I really hope she can receive help if she wants it.

Anna was raised in a conservative Christian homeschooling environment that promoted sexual purity until marriage at all costs. Purity was guaranteed as the sure-fire way to stay safe from romantic heartbreak and sexual diseases. Yet now Anna has to deal with the potential devastation of those very things despite following the purity script. At this point we have no idea how many sex workers Josh forced into having unprotected sex with him and thus potentially exposed Anna to any resulting diseases.

This is yet another tragic example of why we need to rethink how homeschooling parents teach their child about “purity”: Sexuality and sexual health are far more complicated than the white picket fence and white wedding dress fantasies of purity culture. When two young people engage in betrothal or courtship and hardly get the opportunity to have personal, private, one-on-one conversations with each other, they have no idea if their spouse, for example, experienced sexual abuse as a child. So even if your spouse never engaged in willing, premarital sex, you don’t know if your spouse is STD-free. That’s something couples need to talk about, even couples who grew up “pure.” And if your spouse cheats on you like Josh did, he might not think about the importance of protection, and thereby place you at risk for STDs — without you even knowing about it. This is why realism in sex and relationship education is desperately important — and potentially life-saving.

In the wake of Danica Dillon’s allegations, Michelle Duggar today wrote on her blog that, “Yesterday Josh checked himself into a long-term treatment center.” An image of her full statement follows:

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Text is:

We are so thankful for the outpouring of love, care and prayers for our family during this most difficult situation with Josh. As parents we are so deeply grieved by our son’s decisions and actions. His wrong choices have deeply hurt his precious wife and children and have negatively affected so many others. He has also brought great insult to the values and faith we hold dear. Yesterday Josh checked himself into a long-term treatment center. For him it will be a long journey toward wholeness and recovery. We pray that in this he comes to complete repentance and sincere change. In the meantime, we will be offering our love, care and devoted support to Anna and our grandchildren as she also receives counsel and help for her own heart and future. During this time we continue to look to God—He is our rock and comfort. We ask for your continued prayers for our entire family.

When it became public several months ago that Josh had molested five children, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar originally claimed that they had sent him to a “faith-based” treatment center run by Bill Gothard, whose sexual abuse counseling material blames victims for their own abuse and discourages wives from leaving husbands who molest their children. Similarly, it is rumored that Josh has again been sent to a “faith-based” treatment center, this time Reformers Unanimous (RU). RU, which offers treatment for pornography addiction and sex addiction, is run by Paul Kingsbury. Kingsbury has zero academic credentials in counseling, medicine, or therapy. Though he calls himself a “Doctor” due to two honorary degrees, his highest actual level of education is a Bachelor of Arts from Hyles-Anderson College, an unaccredited Independent Fundamentalist Baptist college. Kingsbury was mentored in his career by Dr. Jack Hyles, who infamously defended child molestors in the church he founded, First Baptist Church of Hammond.

However, as of the time of publication, the Duggar family has yet to officially confirm where Josh checked himself into.

When “Family Values” Means Covering for Child Sexual Assault

Matt Walsh (l) with Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar (r).

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on May 26, 2015.

In March 2002, Jim Bob Duggar found out that his fourteen-year-old son, Josh, was sexually molesting prepubescent girls. Jim Bob did not say anything about this to the authorities until July 2003, even as it continued to happen and the list of victims grew. And in the wake of these revelations, I have been absolutely horrified by the number of people who have said they would not have immediately reported their fourteen-year-old son for molesting prepubescent girls either.

I have a six-year-old daughter. The number of people who have said they wouldn’t report their teenage son for molesting girls either makes me worried for my own daughter. I look around at families with teenage sons and I wonder. If that boy molested children, would his parents turn him in, or would they cover for him? Whose safety and wellbeing would they prioritize—their son’s, or my daughter’s?

Here is Matt Walsh’s answer:

3) I know I’m opening myself up to serious criticism here, but let me be honest with you: If my own son, God forbid, came to me and admitted to doing what Josh Duggar did, I don’t know that I’d immediately run to the cops.

Would you? Is it really that simple? The decision to have your child arrested as a sex offender would be an automatic thing for you? Really?

I guess I’m just a horrible person then.

. . .

As a parent, you have to think whether your 14 year old son deserves to have his life ruined over his mistakes. Maybe you’d decide that he does. I can’t say I’d agree.

Mistakes?! That’s what we’re calling sexually assaulting a child now?!

Do you see what I mean about prioritizing the wellbeing of the abuser over that of his current and future victims? Walsh says a fourteen-year-old child molester doesn’t deserve “to have his life ruined over his mistakes,” because apparently ensuring that he is punished for his abuse and prevented from abusing in the future is just too much to ask for.

Did I mention that I have a six-year-old daughter?

I suspect Walsh would say that his hypothetical son’s abuse would be punished and future abuse prevented, it’s just that this would be carried out by him as father rather than by the authorities. But we have authorities and a process for dealing with child sexual abuse for a reason. Parents frequently make excuses for their own children, as we see Walsh doing in his hypothetical. Parents are less likely to play hardball and more likely to believe justifications or excuses.

I’m sure Jim Bob felt he appropriately punished Josh in March 2002, when he first learned of Josh’s behavior, but for a full year after that Josh went on to victimize more girls. Had Jim Bob immediately taken the matter to the authorities and sought professional help for his son, this might have been prevented.

I’m honestly not sure how it’s not painfully obvious that parents should not be the ones handling punishment and prevention if their child sexually assaults another child. It is very common for someone who has molested one child to molest other children. Josh Duggar, for his part, molested five girls from two different families. Parents should not be the ones dealing with this. We have authorities and professionals for a reason!

Well sure, Walsh would say, but what if you had a teenage son and found out he’d sexually fondled a young girl? Would you turn him in, and ruin his life? Yes I absolutely would, but I reject the framing of the question. Turning someone in for child sexual assault helps ensure that they will get help, that they will get treatment, and (hopefully) that they will turn their lives around and not victimize more children. And yes, I do have a son. He’s not fourteen yet, but he will be someday.

Turning someone in for child sexual assault can only be framed as “ruining their life” if you remove their victims, present and future, from the picture entirely. Does life as a registered sex offender truly weigh more on the scale than the life of a sexually abused child whose abuser walks the street with no record or legal consequences for his actions?

My daughter’s school does background checks not only for teachers and school staff but also for volunteers and chaperones. An increasing number of churches do background checks for their childcare workers and Sunday school teachers as well. The goal is to protect children by ensuring that they will not be placed in the care of someone with a history of molesting children. Denying child sex offenders this sort of access also helps ensure that they will not reoffend. If Josh Duggar wanted to volunteer at my daughter’s school, or work in the religious education program at our church, he would be permitted to do so, because a background check wouldn’t reveal anything out of the ordinary, even though he sexually molested five girls, some as young as five years old.

Background checks only do what they’re supposed to do if people report child sexual abuse, no matter who the perpetrator is.

Mostly, right now, I want Matt Walsh and all of the other conservatives saying that they, too, would not have reported their son to get off the moral high horse they ride so often when it comes to religion and family. How can they proclaim “family values” from the rooftops and yet openly state that they would cover for their fourteen-year-old son if they found out he was sexually assaulting children?

Matt Walsh is on record arguing that gay couples shouldn’t be allowed to adopt, because of the potential harm to children, and that transgender women shouldn’t be allowed to use the women’s bathroom because of concerns about women’s safety. But when it comes to the potential harm to children and threat to children’s safety posed by unreported child sexual abuse, suddenly what matters is protecting the abuser? For all Walsh’s claims of “progressive hypocrisy,” he really needs to look in mirror.

Josh Duggar and Josh Komisarjevsky: A Tale of Two Joshes

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Two Joshes. Both ATI alumni. Both perpretrators of serious crimes.

But each one received very different reactions from the conservative Christian milieu in which they grew up. And those reactions are worth taking a closer look at.

Josh Duggar

Josh Duggar was homeschooled by his parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, with the Advanced Training Institute — the homeschooling curriculum developed by Inge Cannon (the former Director of HSLDA’s National Center for Home Education) for Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles. According to a police report released last week, Josh molested at least five young girls. Josh began molesting these girls around the age of 14, despite him claiming that he “accepted Christ at the age of seven.” Josh’s crimes were not reported for at least a year, and only then they were reported to a police officer who himself was later convicted for child pornography. His parents willingly covered up his crimes as they were on the brink of political and entertainment stardom.

Though Josh Duggar immediately resigned from his position as Executive Director of FRC Action once the police report became public last week, multiple Christian and homeschool celebrities immediately sprang to his defense. Mike Huckabee declared those angry with Josh to be motivated by “bloodthirst” and praised Josh’s “authenticity and humility” for confessing after his criminal actions were forced into the public eye. Ray Comfort pronounced Josh “a brother in Christ” and dismissed his criminal actions as happening “in his BC [before Christ] days. Such were some of us.” Eric Hovind used the situation to preach about Creationism and make a joke about how Josh should be “punished” by working for Family Research Council (the same organization he just resigned from). Rick Boyer praised the Duggar family as “one of the happiest, holiest, humblest families I have ever met” and said Josh has “lived an exemplary life.” Matt Walsh used the opportunity to condemn not Josh but progressives, penning a tirade entitled “The Duggars Aren’t Hypocrites. Progressives Are.” where he not only denounced progressives but also admitted he wouldn’t “immediately run to the cops” if his own son molested children. Chad Bird and Daniel Emery Price at Tullian Tchividjian’s Liberate wrote a poetic defense of Josh entitled, “We are all the Duggars.” Bird and Price waxed eloquently about how, “What happened within this family is many things—tragic and abusive, shameful and selfish, destructive and deceptive. It is all manner of evil, no matter how you look it. But there is one thing that it is surely not: it is not surprising. Not in the least.” Rather, “We are all the Duggars. We are all dysfunctional sinners living in flawed families upheld by grace.”

That was one Josh. Then there’s the other one.

Josh Komisarjevsky

According to friends and family, Josh Komisarjevsky was “a brilliant but troubled young man” who was “very loving, very caring.” Josh was adopted at two-weeks-old by fundamentalist Christians. His father Benedict has been described as “critical, cold, and controlling”; the mother Jude, “quite submissive.”

Like Josh Duggar, Josh Komisarjevsky was homeschooled using material from Bill Gothard’s ATI. Jude said that she and her husband Benedict “had tried to instill Christian values in the boy by pulling him out of public school and educating him at home,” but he had nonetheless “wallowed in depression” due to the death of his grandfather a year earlier. She recalled going into his room at one point and “he had written over and over again on the walls: ‘death’ and ‘die’ and ‘suicide.’”

At some point during his childhood, Joshua was raped by “someone he trusted,” allegedly a teenage child that the Komisarjevsky family had fostered. Several years later, like Josh Duggar, Josh Komisarjevsky molested a younger relative. The church that the Komisarjevsky family attended “rejected psychology, psychiatry, or any kind of mental health treatment, and so did Komisarjevsky’s parents.” When Benedict and Jude discovered the sexual abuse in the family, they — just like the Duggars — did not seek any mental health treatment for either Joshua or his victim.

Right before turning 15, Joshua set fire to a gas station. Since police recognized he had serious mental health issues, he was briefly hospitalized in a mental health hospital and given medication. However, his father did not want him on any medication, and instead sent him to a “faith-based” treatment program.

On July 23, 2007, Joshua and his friend Steven Hayes broke into the home of the Petit family — William, Jennifer, and their daughters, 17-year-old Haley and 11-year-old Michaela. Joshua and Steven held the family hostage for hours. They forced Jennifer to drive to the family’s nearby bank and withdraw $15,000 — on the threat of killing the entire family otherwise. They raped and strangled Jennifer and then sexually assaulted Michaela. William was severely beaten and tied to a post in the basement. Joshua and Steven then doused the house with gasoline and set fire to the house. Haley and Michaela died from smoke inhalation. William managed to escape.

Joshua had specifically targeted the Petit family. A day prior to the killings, he noticed Jennifer and Michaela at a grocery store. He followed them from the store home and made plans to come back the next day with Hayes.

Joshua was found guilty of murder. Evidence of “his strict Christian upbringing, his disturbed behavior as a youth and his parents’ decision not to get traditional psychological treatment for him because of their Christian beliefs” was a significant matter of discussion during his trial. In January 2012, Joshua was sentenced to death. His accomplice, Steven Hayes, was also sentenced to death.

Two Joshes, Two Different Reactions

When Josh Komisarjevsky’s crimes swept across the national, publicized by the media much like Josh Duggar’s crimes, the Religious Right was silent. No Mike Huckabee praised Komisarjevsky’s “authenticity and humility.” No Ray Comfort said he was “a brother in Christ.” No Eric Hovind used Komisarjevsky’s actions to preach about Creationism. No Rick Boyer praised his “exemplary life.” No Matt Walsh said he could relate to not wanting to turn Komisarjevsky in for murder. No Chad Bird and Daniel Emery Price saw themselves and the Gospel in Komisarjevsky.

No, they were silent.

Not a single one stood up and said, “We’re all Josh Komisarjevsky.” Not a single one dared to say such an insensitive remark a mere week after he raped and murdered his victims.

No one said, “Oh, it’s okay he murdered someone, he was young and now he’s sorry so hey, let’s make him a television star again!”

No one should have.

Because not only is that horrible, cruel timing, it is also false. Yes, we all have made mistakes. But not all of our mistakes have involved raping and murdering. And Josh Komisarjevsky is not a darling of the Religious Right, so his raping and murdering and molesting is apparently not worth the effort of the Religious Right to defend.

But many want to defend Josh Duggar. Because something is at stake. Something called reputation. Something that, honestly, Jesus does not demand of us. Yet it’s something we love to value over and against Jesus. And it’s a lie to claim that what’s at stake is the Gospel, like Chad Bird and Daniel Emery Price pretend. It’s a lie to claim that progressives would be hypocrites to condemn Josh Komisarjevsky.

No, we know better than that. Josh Komisarjevsky’s crimes were sins. So we could say “We’re all Josh Komisarjevskys” but no one’s going to. Because when the crime is murder, we take it far more seriously than when the crime is child sexual abuse. No one is tempted to Matthew 18 a murderer. No one drags the family of a murder victim in front of the murderer and demands immediate forgiveness. No one faults the family of a murder victim for being bitter and angry and loud because of the immense pain rendered by murder. But everyone wants to Matthew 18 child sexual abuse. Everyone wants to handle sexual abuse in house. Everyone wants to silence and shut up the abuse victims and survivors and everyone wants them to behave and speak prettily and kindly.

And no one is going to pull a Matt Walsh on Josh Komisarjevsky because we can see the ludicrous nature of doing so. But for some reason, it doesn’t seem as ludicrous to pull a Matt Walsh on a perpetrator of child sexual abuse.


Why are we so willing to call murder murder — and shocking – but call sexual abuse “yet another sin” and “not surprising”?

Why would we be up in arms if our pastors and religious celebrities wrote poetic, eloquent defenses of Josh Komisarjevsky — but we’re not in arms when they do so about Josh Duggar?

Why would we decry the utter insensitivity to Josh Komisarjevsky’s victims’ families of trying to score theological points less than a week after he wrecked havoc on those families’ lives — but we think it’s appropriate to make the pain of Josh Duggar’s victims’ families into rousing sermons less than a week after their wounds were so carelessly re-opened?

And don’t give me excuses about how Josh Duggar was a teenager and maybe he himself was abused and hey, he offered a public apology. Josh Komisarjevsky’s troubles began when he was a teenager, too, and unlike Duggar, we know Komisarjevsky was abused. We know there are plenty of reasons we could give for Komisarjevsky’s descent into criminality.

There really are no excuses.

The fact is, we have a double standard. We have a double standard for the people we put on pedestals and “only” molest young children versus the people we don’t care about because they are mentally ill and we can dismiss as “demonic” and “evil” and thus explain away their violence. And that double standard is truly damaging, hypocritical, and unbiblical.

What we must be communicating to survivors of child and sexual abuse with this double standard breaks my heart. The way we think we have a right to tear open survivors’ wounds to water our Sunday sermons is, dare I say, demonic.

It is heartless and cruel and it needs to stop.

We Wrote Headlines Like We Were Upworthy. You Won’t Believe What Happened Next.

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Homeschoolers Anonymous has been accused at various points of using “Slate-esque” titles to grab people’s attention. Honestly, I prefer to select titles that are direct quotations from the individual stories submitted to us. But yes, sometimes when writing about a news item or the latest drama or development in the homeschool world, I will use a hyperbolic title. Sometimes that makes the difference between a story getting a few hundred views or going viral.


But I will promise you that we will do our best to avoid “Upworthy-esque” titles. Because I cannot stand them. I also feel that, when combined with the serious disturbing content we usually feature, using exploitive titles not only can be disrespectful… it also just doesn’t work. To demonstrate why — and hopefully give you something to laugh about after the last few weeks’ worth of intense and dissenting narratives about students experiences at Patrick Henry College (and we’ll get back to that series next Monday, by the way) — I wrote a few (sometimes imaginary) headlines as if they were made by Upworthy.

You might never see the world the same way again.


These Kids Aren’t Lovin’ It, So They’re Speaking Up About It.


This Homeschooled Kid Was Never Taught To Read. You Have To See The Results To Believe Them!


If Homeschool Families Knew These Historical Tidbits About HSLDA, Would They Still Be Members?


Here Are 10 Books About Courtship That Missed The Mark. And Here Are 10 Amazing GIFS That Explain Why They’re Totally Not Worth Sharing.


Here Are Some Insults Too Many Gay People Have Heard. Which Homeschool Leaders Said Them Might Not Surprise You.


Let’s Talk About Patriarcy In Homeschooling And Why It’s More Common Than Michael Farris Might Think.


It Was Her Homeschool Prom. She Was Wearing Something That Made Her Happy. Then It Got Worse From There.


We Photoshopped Kevin Swanson’s Head Onto A Shirtless Brian Ray’s Body And The Final Product Will Shock You.


This Book By Josh Harris Was Written When He Was Just A Teenager, But The Unrealistic Purity Standards Behind It Are 100% Still With Us.


10 Perfect Emojis For The Next Time A Homeschool Leader Uses A Racial Slur.


Are These From BDSM Porn Or Christian Music? The Answers Might Rock Your World.


She Used To Socialize With Her Own Peer Group. Then She Was Forced To Stop. The Reason Why Could Change Your Life.


These Little Red Dots On The Map Show All The Cities Where Homeschooled Kids Have Been Abused. Wow, That’s A Lot Of Little Red Dots.


Bill Gothard Didn’t Double Check To See If The “Umbrella Of Protection” Was Actually Mentioned In The Bible — But Maybe He Should’ve


What’s Going On With The Old Schoolhouse Is Kinda Weird. Like, Horror Movie Weird.


An HSLDA Attorney Called a Child Abuser A “Hero.” Watch What Happens Next.


And finally, just for fun, here’s if we wrote titles like Matt Walsh:


…yeah, we’re glad we don’t write titles like Matt Walsh, either.

11 Homeschool Celebrities Explained With GIFs

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Homeschool celebrities.

They run our lobbying organizations, write our books, and garner all our blog views. Our parents thought they were God’s messengers and we thought we should keep our thoughts to ourselves. Now that we’re grown, our perspectives have changed a bit. So we think it’s worthwhile to look at 11 current and former homeschool celebrities — and explain them using gifs.


1. Michael and Debi Pearl

The Pearls have a unique approach to communicating the love of Jesus to children. It goes something like this:



2. Doug Phillips

Last year Doug Phillips realized his most Hazardous Journey wasn’t a vacation. It was the public backlash against revelations that he had an extramarital relationship with a woman that involved — well, we weren’t sure exactly what it involved.

When Phillips first admitted infidelity, he spun it as just some species of “emotional fornication” or something:


But then it came out that, no, the relationship wasn’t just “inappropriately romantic and affectionate,” as he originally stated. The “relationship” was Doug Phillips repeatedly sexually abusing a young woman. As far as his original statement went, Phillips was suddenly like:



3. Bill Gothard

Bill Gothard, like Doug Phillips, has discovered that sexually abusing young people doesn’t make you popular. However, unlike Phillips, Gothard faces over 30 individuals accusing him of abuse. At this point his attempts to explain his situation are sounding like this:



4. James and Stacy McDonald

As the media and homeschoolers are circling the wagons around Bill Gothard and Doug Phillips, their former fans with crushes on Patriarchy are doing everything possible to now hide that fact. People like James and Stacy McDonald are pulling previously written posts and urging Patriarchy advocates to change the words they use. The McDonalds’ response here boils down to:

“No Patriarchy to see here. Move along!”



5. Doug Wilson

Then of course there’s Doug Wilson. When he’s not too busy with obsessing over the latest blog post by Rachel Held Evans, Wilson is fighting the biggest threat Western Civilization has ever faced: women playing unladylike basketball.



6. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar have a TV show. The plot of that TV show can be described by staring at this gif for approximately 19 seconds… and counting…



7. Ken Ham

No homeschool celebrity list would be complete without a shout-out to Ken Ham. If you find it somewhat difficult to believe Adam and Eve enjoyed candlelight dinners on the backs of dinosaurs while trying to avoid talking snakes, well, Ken Ham has one message for you:



8. Kevin Swanson

Kevin Swanson is like the Drunk Uncle of Christian homeschooling. From defending child marriage, comparing child abuse to “dead little bunnies,” warning people Frozen is Satan’s attempt to indoctrinate children into “the lifestyle of sodomy,” to his actual statement that “There’s a contrast between the feces-eaters and the church,” sometimes we wonder if he rocks himself to sleep at night screaming,



9. Mary Pride

Mary Pride found her way home in 1985. It involved outbreeding non-Christians and calling children “the new n*****s.” When it comes to people and organizations working tirelessly to protect children from abuse, Pride is all,



10. Michael Farris

In the midst of all the drama in the homeschooling world, Michael Farris stands in the foreground leading the charge against Obama, Common Core, and the not-Nazi Germans who hate homeschooling as much as he loves freedom. And Michael Farris loves his freedom:



11. Matt Walsh

Ah yes. Finally, there’s Matt Walsh:


The Homeschool Lobby Now Has Public School Children in Its Crosshairs, Too


By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

I am getting tired of all the parentsplaining.

I am getting tired of those homeschool parents who, when presented with case after case of abuse in homeschool settings, go to Default Response #1 and say, “If you care about abuse so much, why don’t you focus on public schools instead?”

For example:

Screen Shot 2014-01-26 at 3.04.12 PM

It’s time we all called bull@#$% on this response.

I’m sorry, but parentsplainers and abuse denialists no longer get to control this narrative. These people not only are unmotivated to stop homeschool abuse, they are also unmotivated to stop public school abuse. Their pointing to public schools serves as a red herring. But even more than that, it is disingenuous — because the moment we try to focus on public school abuse, spoiler alert: they’re still standing right in our way. Because these are the same people joining the homeschool lobby in calling for the end of child protective services as we know it. These are the people actively trying to prevent public schools from addressing abuse.

Why do I say this?

The homeschool lobby is coming after Safe2Tell, a program critical to your kids' ability to safely report violence in the public schools.
The homeschool lobby is coming after Safe2Tell, a program inspired by Columbine, that has saved over 1,000 lives, and is critical to your kids’ ability to safely report violence in the public schools.

Because last Friday, January 24, HSLDA — the mouthpiece of the homeschool lobby — issued a legislative alert about Mississippi House Bill 480. HB 480, proposed by Mississippi Representative Bobby Moak, establishes the Safe2Tell program to allow public school students to “anonymously report threatening behavior or endangering activities.” (You can read a summary of the bill here; you can read the bill’s full text here.)

HSLDA is opposing this bill.

Some background: The Safe2Tell program began as a non-profit organization in Colorado. The program was based on

the Columbine Commission Report’s recommendation that students need a safe and anonymous way to keep lines of communication open.  They realized that tragedies could be prevented if young people had a way to tell someone what they knew without fearing retaliation.

Since 2004, Safe2Tell has “prevented 1,000 suicides and 31 school attacks… It has already received reports of 16 planned attacks since the beginning of the 2013-14 school year.” The program has since partnered with state governments, beginning with Colorado in 2007. The movement is “spreading across the country with momentum building for a national Safe2Tell hotline.” Mississippi is next to recognize that violence in public schools needs to be addressed and that allowing students a way to report bullying and violence anonymously is crucial. HB 480’s text acknowledges this fact:

In eighty-one percent (81%) of dangerous or violent incidents in schools, someone other than the attacker knew the incident was going to happen but did not report or act on that knowledge… The ability to anonymously report information about unsafe, potentially harmful, dangerous, violent or criminal activities before or after they have occurred is critical in reducing, responding to and recovering from these types of events in schools.

This has nothing to do with homeschooling. As Libby Anne has pointed out, “This bill is explicitly not about homeschooling in any way, shape or form. This bill is about protecting public school children from school violence.”

Yet the homeschool lobby is aiming to destroy this effort to protect public school children. In their paranoid mindset, “Broadly applied, this legislation would permit anyone to make such a report against a homeschooling family.” They are using a hypothetical slippery slope — without a single example to point to since Safe2Tell began in 2004 — to roadblock a chance to solve actual violence.

Said another way: The homeschool lobby is coming after Safe2Tell, a program inspired by Columbine, that has saved over 1,000 lives, and is critical to your kids’ ability to safely report violence in the public schools.

If you are a non-homeschooler, this is exactly why you should care about the homeschool lobby. This is so much bigger than homeschooling at this point.

The mentality advanced by HSLDA and the homeschool lobby is one of unquestioned dominion of parents over children. It is the mentality expressed by Rosanna Ward (“the government [has] no right to hold me accountable”), Matt Walsh (“we [should] have the unquestioned and absolute right to teach and raise our own children”), and HSLDA’s Scott Woodruff (“a child’s right to an education is held by his parents as custodian until he attains majority”). It is the mentality spoken of with no apologies by Doug Phillips and Kevin Swanson at the 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit (“the core problem with Child Protective Services is its existence”), where HSLDA’s Chris Klicka and NHERI’s Brian Ray also spoke.

And now that mentality is coming after non-homeschooled children, too.

This is not a conspiracy theory.

This is an explicit belief system that is spoken of casually and publicly. I witnessed this first-hand last week in Virginia: when a Virginian Republican delegate unabashedly said, “Parents have a right to screw up their kids,” merely a day after Rita Dunaway (Board Member of the Virginia Christian Alliance) said — in the context of joining HSLDA in opposition to HJ 92 — that children do not have any rights.

This should be alarming to every segment of society that has a vested interest in protecting children.  I said this last May, and I will keep saying it: “This is no longer about homeschooling and child abuse in homeschooling communities. This is about protecting every child in this country.”

When your only concern is protecting “parental rights,” when you have no qualms sacrificing children’s rights and wellbeing on an altar of parental dominion, then you are going to see all children — not only homeschooled children — at risk. You are going to see HSLDA and the homeschool lobby slowly (but not silently) chipping away at the cornerstones of the child protective system — a system that is a safety net to public school and private school children as well.

If you do not want to see homeschooling regulated more (or even if you do), if you want see better child protection laws, then get off your Freedom High Horse and do the work of actually protecting children. Stop paying dues to an organization that called a child abuser a “hero”. Stop defending a lobby that is actively working to not only dismantle child protection laws, but is actively opposing opportunities to make public school children safer.

The homeschool lobby will not content itself with making homeschooled children less safe. They aim high and public school children are now in their crosshairs, too.

Matt Walsh: “Let’s talk about everything as hyperbolically as possible”

Source: http://www.wlap.com/pages/MattWalsh.html
Matt Walsh. Source: http://www.wlap.com/pages/MattWalsh.html

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

As Matt Walsh once said, “Let’s talk about everything as hyperbolically as possible.”

Except Matt Walsh never said that.

Then again, no politician ever said, “Let’s treat all homeschool parents like felony child abusers,” which was the title of Walsh’s December 18, 2013 post on homeschooling.

I read Walsh’s homeschooling post the same way I read many of his other posts: with a mixture of bemusement, facepalms, and sadness. Sometimes he has interesting observations; but all the times, whatever potential insights he could be making are lost in his predilection for hyperbole and grandstanding.

Matt Walsh is Rush Limbaugh 2.0: Same Hyperbole, New Tattoos!

In his homescholing post, Walsh stands on a soapbox of “parental rights” and speaks dramatically about how if parents do not have “the unquestioned and absolute right to teach and raise our own children,” then — no exaggeration — “we don’t have any rights at all.” That is really the crux of his argument, which deserves analysis. But the specific context for the argument, from which he gets the title of his post, is the recent and tragic death of a 14 year old homeschooled boy, Teddy Foltz-Tedesco.

I would like to look at Teddy’s death first.

Teddy’s death, caused by horrific child abuse, should bring all conversation about homeschooling and parental rights — really, any and every political conversation — to a halt. The kid, only 14 years old, was beaten until he was unconscious by his mom’s boyfriend. He was not taken to a hospital until hours after the fact. Five days later, after suffering internal bleeding and brain contusions, he died.

But that was the end of the story, not the beginning. I will let Homeschooling’s Invisible Children explain what happened prior:

The abuse started three year prior, when Bush started dating Widdersheim. The family became increasingly isolated, and Teddy’s father did not see him after his tenth birthday. Two years before Teddy’s death a grandmother tried to intervene in the family, but Widdersheim refused to believe her children. Friends and neighbors contacted social services, but after teachers at Teddy’s school started an inquiry with the Ohio children’s services agency, Widdersheim withdrew her children from public school to homeschool them.

Too many people failed this kid. His own mother, his siblings, friends and neighbors, social services. People who could have acted, should have acted, did not. People who tried to act should have tried harder. Policies in place to protect kids like Teddy failed. Services we pay for to keep this from happening did nothing to stop it. It makes me nauseous. I’m not a libertarian and I’m not an authoritarian, but moments like these make me want to be both: I want to punch the walls of the entire child protective system in a blind rage because they had laws and money but they did not save this boy! and I want to ban everyone from ever being parents because if we can’t stop kids from dying let’s just take all the kids away from parents!

But neither the complete absence of laws nor passing every law ever will make each and every kid safe.

That’s the maddening factuality of politics’ limitations.

But that does not mean we should stop trying to make better policies. That does not mean we burn homeschooling to the ground or give parents free rein to do whatever the hell they want to their kids.

And most of all, that does not mean it is compassionate or right to encourage others to harass people trying to make the world a better place, even when those people are misguided. Yet that’s exactly what HSLDA and Matt Walsh did.

See, after Teddy’s death, his birth father and other family members began pressing for legal reform in an attempt to spare other kids from Teddy’s fate. His birth father and other family members approached Ohio state senator Capri Cafaro, the result of which was the proposed S.B. 248. The bill (which was later withdrawn) would have required all homeschooling parents to undergo an annual interview with social services before homeschooling.

This proposal was, in my opinion, doomed to fail at the start, not to mention misguided. (Ironically, it was also the first piece of legislation that the newly-launched Coalition for Responsible Home Education took a position on, and even CRHE opposed it.) But HSLDA quickly spun it as — and I quote — the “Worst-Ever Homeschool Law.”

Yes, the “Worst-Ever Homeschool Law.”

HSLDA knows their followers. They know how they respond to such rhetoric. They know their followers will flood social media and rant and rave and bully Facebook pages to no end, just like they did the German Embassy’s Facebook page for over a month, calling people Nazis and tyrants and other colorful phrases.

And then along comes Matt Walsh, saying Senator Cafaro was — and I quote — “repulsively exploiting the child abuse death of a 14 year old kid,” despite the fact that the Senator only proposed that bill because of the prompting of that kid’s father.

But, you know, facts get in the way of hyperbole, don’t they? 

Walsh wouldn’t get nearly as many blog hits if he didn’t exaggerate. HSLDA wouldn’t get nearly as much dedicated fervor from their audience if they didn’t say the bill was basically the Second Coming of Hitler. (Which makes one wonder, who is really exploiting Teddy’s death here?)

So of course inspired by both HSLDA and Walsh, angry homeschool parents flooded the Facebook page dedicated to Teddy’s death and run by his father. Teddy’s remaining family were berated and harassed for days. It was, in my opinion, a real low for the homeschool movement: a mob of people verbally abusing a grieving parent who lost his son, all in the name of “parental rights.”

But it wasn’t just sad. It was aggravating. Because there are real issues here. There are issues that demand a serious, sober debate — between legislators, child protective services, and homeschool advocates. There are heartbreaking failings that demand self-reflection within homeschooling communities about how to protect the communities’ kids from parents who misuse homeschooling.

But we don’t get any of that.

We get Walsh’s hyperbole and HSLDA’s spin.

Which means we don’t get better laws. We don’t get self-reflection. And we don’t get safer kids. 

But Walsh gets more blog hits and HSLDA gets more members.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

Homeschooling leaders and advocates can do better than this. We can do better than this.

No kids are saved while homeschooling leaders are off tilting after windmills of persecution. No progress is made — towards either safety of kids or freedom of education — when we cast our movement in Manichaean colors.

Matt Walsh: no one wants to treat all homeschool parents like felony child abusers. No one. No one thinks all homeschool parents are “dangerous terrorists.” No one. Not even us here at Homeschoolers Anonymous, who are apparently now “whistleblowers documenting the horrific secrets of the fundamentalist homeschooling movement.” Yes, not even us whistleblowers of horrific secrets, who blog daily about homeschool abuse, think all homeschool parents are or should be treated like terrorists or child abusers. You are vainly slapping the face of straw men. You have an entire field full of straw men. You are running around with a pitchfork and screaming at figments of your imagination.

Let’s look at the facts calmly, please?

The facts are, parents do not have “the unquestioned and absolute right to teach and raise our own children.” No. Never. This is good. This is how it should be. In refutation of this sentence of Matt Walsh’s from his post’s second paragraph, I would simply present this later sentence from — you guessed it — Matt Walsh:

You should be able to lose your claim over your child if you are truly abusive, or if you commit any felony crime that would put you in prison and require your kids to be cared for by someone else.

This is pretty simple, really: if you should lose your claim over your child if you are abusive (or for any other reason), then your right to teach or raise your own children is not “unquestioned and absolute.” So Walsh really does not mean half of what he says, or he simply ignores how he contradicts himself. There should be limits on parental rights. The state should have power over your children that supersedes your own.

To some extent.

We are ultimately arguing what the extent to which we should apply the principle; we are not actually arguing about the principle. Walsh confuses these two things. You cannot say “this right should be absolute unless.” If there is even one “unless,” then the right is — by definition — questioned and conditional, not unquestioned and absolute.

Walsh might want fewer restrictions on parents than Teddy’s dad might want, or the NEA might want, or members of the responsible homeschooling movement — myself included — might want. But all of us, Walsh included, believe we need to protect kids. We need to question parents’ right to teach and raise their own children when those parents teach and raise their children to believe God wants them raped and impregnated due to an impending Armageddon. We need to make conditional parents’ right to teach and raise their own children when those parents beat their kids to death in the name of righteousness.

People who believe “parental rights” should not be an excuse to rape and murder your kids are not “lunatics,” as Walsh might have you believe. They are not people who — again, a bizarre tangent on Walsh’s part — think “a person’s only fundamental parental right is to butcher their children.” The desire to protect children from abuse is a highly ecumenical one, transcending people’s beliefs about abortion.

So how about we not talk about everything as hyperbolically as possible?

We could sit down in person over a cup of coffee, or write reasonable blog posts with intelligent rhetoric, where we sift through the issues at hand. Issues that could literally mean the life or death of other homeschooled kids — or public school kids, even. We can have big conversations: about how to improve child protective services, how to help out parents trying to educate their children in safe and nurturing environments, how to assist public school teachers raise achievement for all groups of kids, and how to counter child abuse in any and every context.

By all means, let’s indict sexually abusive teachers in public schools. Let’s indict abusive teachers in public schools, private schools, home schools — even colleges. Let’s join with people like Boz Tchividjian and fight abuse in churches; let’s call out and bring to justice the Jerry Sanduskys in secular institutions, too.

But we’re not going to do that with hyperbole. We’re going to do that with well-vetted policies, dedicated parents, outspoken child advocates, and an endless supply of compassion for survivors and support for those fighting for them.

Let me put it another way:

The time for hyperbole in the homeschooling movement is over. It is time for productive discourse and action.