Voddie Baucham, Daughters, and “Virgin Brides”

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on January 12, 2015.

Last summer, Michael Farris denounced patriarchy. Or, so he claimed.

Among those who homeschool for religious reasons, there is a subculture sometimes called the “patriarchy movement.” Michael Farris, founder of the powerful Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and probably the most well-known leader in the Christian homeschooling world, has for decades espoused the beliefs of this movement. But in the last year and a half, two of its leaders, Bill Gothard and Doug Phillips, lost their ministries in the midst of sexual abuse scandals.

Last summer Farris issued a white paper that allowed him to throw Gothard and Phillips under the bus and portray himself as reasonable—the good guy in all of this. But not only did Farris make it clear that he does not understand what the word patriarchy means, he also started making exceptions right away, first and foremost for his friend Voddie Baucham, another leader in this movement. Farris pointed out that Voddie had recently enrolled his adult daughter, Jasmine, in a Christian online college program, which apparently (for Farris) makes him not patriarchal.

Who is this Voddie Baucham and what does he stand for?


To give you an idea, let me offer a page from Baucham’s 2009 book “What He Must Be . . . If He Wants to Marry My Daughter“:


And here it is in text:

The first line of protection for our daughters is protecting their purity. Quite simply, our job as fathers is to present our daughters to their husbands as virgin brides (Deuteronomy 22:13-21). I can hear the audible gasps as I write the Bible reference. More importantly, I understand the trepidation. Moses’ instructions in Deuteronomy 22 are downright horrifying. However, it is part of God’s revelation in the BIble and is thus worthy of our full attention.

But if the thing is true, that evidence of virginity was not found in the young woman, then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done an outrageous thing in Israel by whoring in her father’s house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. (Deuteronomy 22:20-21)

So Farris condemns patriarchy, but is willing to make cuddly with this guy.

At the moment, you’re probably simply on the edge of your seat, wondering what Baucham says next. I have that for you too:


And here is the text:

Regardless of our revulsion at the idea of a woman being stoned for promiscuity, we cannot avoid the principle inherent in the text. The father is the one responsible for protecting his daughter’s virginity. This is evident for at least two reason. First, the father must provide evidence of his daughter’s virginity. Second, if there is no evidence, and the charges are true, the father must endure the shame and incomprehensible pain of the capital punishment of his daughter at his door!

Note that Baucham is primarily concerned with how hard it would be for the poor father to have his daughter stoned at the altar—not a thought is given to the daughter who is, you know, being stoned to death. Grrr.

Again, no one is arguing for the stoning of promiscuous young women whose lack of virginity is discovered on their wedding day. However, the timeless principle here is the responsibility of a father to present a virgin bride at the marriage altar.

This principle transcends the law/grace divide. This is true for all people in all places at all times. Nothing in the New Testament would remotely suggest that fathers are to stand down as the protectors of their daughters’ virginity. . . .

While the Deuteronomy passage deals with protecting virginity, Exodus 22 address the question of what a father is to do if his daughter loses her virginity.

For anyone who is unfamiliar with this idea, Baucham appears to be in the evangelical camp that believes the laws of the Old Testament are no longer binding, because we now live in the covenant of grace (rather than the covenant of the law), but that the Old Testament laws can still be instructive in understanding God’s character and desires. I was raised in this camp myself.

But you may now be wondering about the Exodus 22 passage Baucham mentioned.


Here’s the text:

If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the bride-price for virgins. (Exodus 22:16-17)

Note that the father has the right of refusal in this matter. The text is unambiguous. The man who seduces the virgin must answer to her father. Moreover, he must do right by the young woman and marry her, unless the father “utterly refuses to give her to him.” Note that the daughter does not give herself to the man in marriage; the father gives her to the man he deems appropriate.

When I talk about the patriarchy? This is what I’m talking about. Men like Baucham believe their adult daughters are bound to obey them in word and deed, and that they possess their daughters’ virginity to hand off to another when they choose. I’m lucky that my father was fairly introverted and hands off, but I still had a hell of a time with it when my courtship when rogue (or, to put it more specifically, when I took the reigns to my own love life).

And while Baucham is against stoning unmarried daughters who are sexually active, one wonders what he thinks should be done with them. It can’t be pretty.

Finally, note that the section above is followed with this heading:

A Patriarch Must Arrange for His Daughter’s Marriage by Finding a Suitable Husband and Making Proper Arrangements 

That is what we’re talking about here.

And yet, to Michael Farris, Baucham isn’t patriarchal. Right.

Ken Cuccinelli, HSLDA, and Identification Abuse

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 10.01.23 PM

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is a homeschooling father and long-time political favorite of homeschooling leaders.

He has keynoted for Generation Joshua, HSLDA’s youth mobilization organization. And to return the favor, 200 Generation Joshua participants — funded by HSLDA’s political action committee — launched “an early deployment to work with the Cuccinelli campaign [for the Virginia Governorship]” in 2013. This deployment was codenamed “Operation: Shock and Awe” and paired with a Mission Impossible-themed video:

HSLDA’s support of Cuccinelli has a long history. In 2002, HSLDA founder Michael Farris officially endorsed his campaign for the Virginia State Senate. Farris declared that, “I fully endorse Ken and hope that those who believe that standing for principle is the only practical way to preserve our Republic will support him enthusiastically.” In 2012, Farris’s Patrick Henry College invited Cuccinelli to deliver the commencement address.

It is curious to note, therefore, that HSLDA favorite Ken Cuccinelli has publicly spoken out in favor of denying children identification documents.

The recent situation with homeschool alumna Alecia Pennington, who has struggled to prove her American identity and citizenship because of identification abuse, highlights just how problematic such a position is. But as recently as 2010, Cuccinelli gave a speech saying he was considering not getting his newest child a Social Security card because the government uses such cards to “to track you.” He also claimed this was becoming a more popular decision.

You can watch the video below:

Text of the video is:

We’re gonna have our 7th child on Monday, if he’s not born before. And, for the very concerns you state, we’re actually considering – as I’m sure many of you here didn’t get a Social Security number when you were born, they do it now – we’re considering not doing that. And a lot of people are considering that now, because it is being used to track you.

Interestingly, HSLDA recently declared that they would provide assistance to any homeschool alumni who are battling the very situation into which Cuccinelli was considering putting his own son (and encouraging others to put their own children into as well). They also declared they knew of no alumni actually in such situations. In a public statement made on their Facebook page, HSLDA declared the following:

HSLDA Senior Counsel Jim Mason learned of Alecia’s story soon after her video was posted. He contacted her and offered to help. As of this time, Alecia has not taken HSLDA up on the offer. We understand that conflicts between parents and their adult children can be complicated, and that we likely do not know all of the facts in Alecia’s situation. But we do support homeschool graduates’ right to have an identity, get a job, and fully participate in society. In over 30 years of defending homeschoolers, we have never seen allegations like the ones in this situation. We encourage homeschool graduates who encounter problems with documentation, diploma validation issues, or discrimination in employment or postsecondary education to contact us for assistance. We want to help if we can.

As the public cases of Alecia Pennington, Cynthia Jeub, and Eleanor Skelton demonstrate, denying or witholding identification documents from one’s children creates significant problems for homeschool alumni. It is also sadly not uncommon. According to HARO’s 2014 Survey of Adult Alumni of the Modern Christian Homeschool Movement, out of 3703 respondents, 3.65% (or 135 respondents) experienced some form of identification abuse. Numerous testimonies from homeschool alumni denied identification documents can be seen at the Coalition for Responsible Home Education’s website.

According to HARO’s recent 2015 Survey of Identification Abuse Within Homeschooling,

The problem of identification abuse disproportionately impacts individuals who identify as female; this disproportionate impact seems to correlate with families adhering to the ideology of Christian patriarchy, as numerous stories of identification abuse reference gender roles and the stay-at-home-daughter movement. Furthermore, the most common reason for parents withholding an adult child’s identification documents is control: control of the adult child and that adult child’s future decisions.

It is irresponsible of Cuccinelli to put his child in such a situation, and HSLDA — if they are going to live up to their promise to help alumni suffering from identification abuse — needs to publicly condemn such a position. As HARO’s 2015 survey concluded,

Membership in HSLDA does not protect against identification abuse. This should highlight to not only HSLDA as a homeschool movement leader, but also HARO as an advocacy organization as well as all homeschooling communities, that awareness and education about the importance of procuring identification documents for one’s children is vitally important. That importance should be communicated from all levels of homeschooling power structures. Such structures should also encourage families to procure such documentation. The future health and well-being of homeschool alumni depends on it.

Children as Divine Rental Property: An Exposition on HSLDA’s Philosophy of Parental Rights

CC image courtesy of Flickr, mollybob.

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Note: the following piece is a long-form article. If you prefer to download and print the article for more convenient reading, you can view and download the article as a PDF here.


To whom do children belong?

Anthropology and history indicate that cultures and societies since the beginning of time through today have many varied and conflicting answers to the question. A simplistic synopsis of the most common answers would be:

  1. Children belong to their community.
  2. Children belong to their parents.
  3. Children belong to their god/gods.
  4. Children belong to the government.
  5. Children belong to themselves.

One can observe cultures and societies around the world that have held to each of these positions. In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, children belong exclusively to their immediate families: “Child rearing is the exclusive province of the family into which outsiders of any sort, whether neighbors or representatives of government agencies, are not licensed to intrude. Parents believe that they should be at liberty to handle their offspring as they think fit.”[i] In Papua New Guinea, however, “The raising of children is in many respects a public activity…Sociological parenting is, practically speaking, more important than biological parenting. Furthermore, even small children are free to change residencies, at least temporarily, if they become angry or feel mistreated.”[ii] In Japan, one would traditionally see a hybrid of concepts: while “from the mother’s standpoint, her children, especially her sons, remain extensions of herself,” “the Japanese believed that for the successful growth of a child, rearing by its biological parents alone was not enough. The child needed the nurturance and protection of many other people who played the role of its ‘ritual parents.’”[iii]

But one does not have to look to foreign countries for such diversity. Even within the United States one can observe cultures and societies that have held to each of these positions. The Puritans in Massachusetts in the 1600’s, for example, believed that government should have the final authority in child-rearing: “Parents were expected to teach their children the principles of religion and the fundamental laws. However, because a child’s salvation was at stake, child rearing was too important to leave to unsupervised parents. Far more than the schools and government do today, Puritan authorities oversaw the upbringing and education of children.”[iv]

In contrast, many Native American families feature “extensive involvement of extended family members in childrearing. Involved caregivers ranged from aunts and uncles to great-grandparents….Native American family values most often demand cross-group relational behavior, instead of autonomy and independence, and extended family systems strongly promote interdependence.” To many Native Americans, “Child rearing is a collective responsibility with ingrained cultural traditions governing everything from respecting one’s elders to individual character.”[v] McClellan Hall, Executive Director of the National Indian Youth Leadership Project, has also noted that, in many Native American groups, children belonged to their community, not simply their birth parents: “The understanding that it takes a village to raise a child…was the norm in Native communities. There was no concept of other people’s children. A child was regarded as a gift from the Creator and members of the community shared responsibility for the upbringing.”[vi]

In sharp contrast to both the Puritan and Native American concepts of family (as well as HSLDA’s, as we shall soon see) stands John Holt, one of the early pioneers of homeschooling in the United States. Holt rejected the concept of the nuclear family: “Not only is the modern nuclear family a very bad model of adult and social life, because it is so incomplete and distorted, but it is its isolation from the world that creates the need for models.”[vii] Holt did not see this rejection as radical; rather, he saw the nuclear family concept itself as radical, even ahistorical: “The family we talk so much about preserving,” he said, is “a modern invention.”[viii] While Holt leaned more towards a community concept of child-rearing — “What we need is to recreate the extended family” — he believed that children belong to themselves and thus should have the autonomy to determine what or who that extended family involved: “We need to allow, encourage, and help young people create extended families of their own.”[ix]

In terms of anthropology and history, therefore, there is no single model — nor even a monolithic “American” model — for answering to whom children belong. Instead there are multiple, diverse, and conflicting answers. The purpose of this present exposition is to accurately chart Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA)’s answer. From charting their answer we can extrapolate their philosophy of parental rights and better understand their opposition to children’s rights.

As this exposition’s purpose is descriptive, personal commentary will not be given. Critiques will be provided only when relevant to pointing out logical gaps or internal consistencies in HSLDA’s own analysis.

God, Parent, Child

The late Chris Klicka was HSLDA’s senior counsel and, according to HSLDA founder Michael Farris, “one of the most important pioneers of [the homeschool] movement.”[x] Klicka wrote his seminal book The Right Choice: Home Schooling in 1995. Fellow homeschool leader Gregg Harris’s company, Noble Publishing Associates, published the book. In Chapter Four of the book, entitled “The Biblical Principles: A Support for Home Schooling and an Indictment of Public Education,” Klicka articulated his and HSLDA’s understanding of the child-world relationship.

According to Klicka, children are the property of God but they are — in a sense — on loan to their parents: “Children belong to God, but the responsibility and authority to raise and educate them is delegated to their parents.” Parents have a responsibility to “craft” their children to be weapons for God: “God describes our children as arrows in the hands of a warrior!…Have we diligently crafted our ‘arrows’ so they can be trusted to hit their target as we launch them into the world?…Have we personally guaranteed our ‘arrows’ are the most carefully crafted and have the sharpest point?”[xi]

This “children as weapons” concept is shared by Michael Farris. In his book How a Man Prepares His Daughters for Life, Farris uses weaponization as a metaphor for “Setting Spiritual Goals” for one’s children. He says, “No army general would ever try to train soldiers in the haphazard way many of us try to train our daughters to serve our Lord. An army has an organized plan and a training course of increasing rigor designed to produce soldiers capable of winning the battle. Our duty to train our children is no less important. It is equally necessary for us to develop goals and plans for the training of the spiritual warriors whom God has entrusted to us.” According to Farris, this spiritual weaponization requires a child-training plan that is “essentially behavioral in nature.”[xii]

Klicka’s ideal of Christian-based homeschooling is key to his and Farris’s shared goal of child behavior modification via spiritual weaponization: “God, not the state, has given parents the sole authority and responsibility for the education of their children…Parents must train their children to think God’s thoughts…Home schooling enables families to properly and comprehensively train their children’s minds.”[xiii] Klicka clarifies this does not mean children are solely the property of parents; rather, they are the property of God and parents simply “steward” God’s property: “Although God has ‘given’ children to parents, children are a ‘gift of stewardship,’ which means that parents do not really ‘own’ their children. Parents, therefore, are not free to raise their children any way they want because God gives the parents certain ‘conditions’ that must be met.”[xiv]

While the above statement might make it sound like Klicka believes children have rights that parents must respect, his meaning is actually quite different. Klicka explains that parents not being “free to raise their children any way they want” means parents should homeschool, not put their children in public school where there is an “anti-God curriculum and complete lack of values.” Klicka says parents who put their children in public school “sacrifice their children,” comparing such parents to Israelites in Ezekiel 16:20-21 who “slaughtered [their] children” by fire. In his mind, parents who enroll their children in public school are guilty of spiritual child-murder.[xv]

Klicka’s philosophy about children ultimately belonging to God but legally stewarded by their parents continues to be HSLDA’s philosophy to this day. Will Estrada, HSLDA’s current Director of Federal Relations, reiterated this philosophy just last year in an interview with The Daily Caller. Estrada stated that, “Children are given by God to parents and to families to be loved, to be raised and to be prepared to go on to become leaders in their community. It doesn’t take a village to raise a child. It takes parents—loving parents in a home—to raise a child.”[xvi]

This philosophy of HSLDA’s — as expressed by both Klicka and Estrada — was previously found in the Christian Reconstructionist position advocated by R.J. Rushdoony and the organization he founded, the Chalcedon Foundation. Both Rushdoony and Chalcedon inspired HSLDA[xvii] and were favorites of Klicka. (He quoted warmly and frequently from Rushdoony in his book The Right Choice: Home Schooling.[xviii]) Rushdoony not only “testified in courts around the country on behalf of Christian home-schoolers,”[xix] he also “provided expert testimony in early cases brought by the HSLDA. Rushdoony saw homeschooling as not just providing the biblical model for education but also a way to bleed the secular state dry.”[xx] The Chalcedon Foundation declared, in a paper on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, that, “Children are not the property of the state, nor of their parents. We are all God’s property, who created us and bought us with a price. We speak of human rights, but it is God who has the rights…Parents do not own their children, but God’s law assigns to them the duty to care for and instruct their children and guide them safely into adulthood.”[xxi]

One observes a tension in this understanding of to whom children belong as expressed by both HSLDA employees and the Chalcedon Foundation. On the one hand, children are God’s property; on the other hand, God has transferred the daily care and maintenance of that property to parents. So while parents do not own their children in a transcendent, spiritual sense (because God owns everyone), they nonetheless own them in an immanent, pragmatic sense. Parents are stewards with an exceptional amount of power over children. As Klicka said, parents have “sole authority and responsibility” over children and have the divine right to “carefully craft” their children’s lives and minds — and all of this in a concrete, legal sense. Parents must have enough legal dominion over children so that, as Rushdoony said (and Klicka agreed), “the child’s will” can be “broken to God’s purpose.”[xxii]

For all legal intents and purposes, therefore, HSLDA does envision children as some species of parental property. Theologian Janet Pais expresses the end result of this vision: “Adults, often unconsciously, act toward children out of an attitude that the child is a possession properly subject to their control…An adult may value a child for what the child can do or achieve, but this is not the same as valuing the child simply for being who and what the child is.”[xxiii] Pais calls such a parental vision “a contemptuous attitude” towards children; HSLDA, on the other hand, sees such an attitude as biblical. Children must be properly subject to parental control for behavior modification to be successful and spiritual weaponization achieved.

Parents Over All

One best observes the fact that HSLDA sees children as parental property when the organization argues who does not have rights to children’s lives. Namely, no one other than parents — not the government, not the surrounding community, not even the children themselves — have such rights.

There are many obvious examples of HSLDA opposing government and/or community rights to children. On April 9, 2013, HSLDA released a statement on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry’s video declaration that, “Kids belong to whole communities.”[xxiv] HSLDA called Harris-Perry’s declaration a “radical and controversial idea” that “threatens to impose the state between parents and children.”[xxv] HSLDA then connected this threat to homeschooling freedoms in general and the Romeike family’s situation in particular, saying, “Today the Romeike family is facing deportation from the U.S. because Attorney General Eric Holder doesn’t believe that the right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children is not a fundamental right worthy of protection.” (The Romeike family is a German homeschooling family who attempted to receive asylum in the U.S. because homeschooling is generally not allowed by the German government. While the Romeike family lost their asylum appeal, the Obama administration nonetheless granted them indefinite stay.[xxvi])

HSLDA’s logic is that the concept of children belonging to a community (rather than parents) creates a slippery slope to a world in which parents do not have the right “to direct the upbringing and education of their children.” This does not logically follow nor is it reflective of actual history; however, HSLDA does not attempt to give any further explanation. But what is most notable about HSLDA’s response to Harris-Perry is its title: “Do Our Kids Belong to Us—or to the Community?” In other words, in HSLDA’s mind, children can only belong to either their parents (the “us”) or to the community. While this is itself a false dilemma, HSLDA obviously does not believe children belong to the community. Thus HSLDA must believe children “Belong to Us” — in other words, children belong to parents. There is no option presented for children to belong to themselves.

This sentiment — that children are parental belongings — is shared by allies of HSLDA. The most notable ally is former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum. Santorum, a homeschooling father himself, was given a stamp of approval during his presidential campaign by Michael Farris[xxvii] as well as by Will Estrada.[xxviii] Santorum is a frequent guest on HSLDA’s radio program Home School Heartbeat,[xxix] a partner with HSLDA in their advocacy against international disability rights,[xxx] and was even dubbed “Sir Santorum” by HSLDA’s youth mobilization program, Generation Joshua.[xxxi]

Part of Farris’s reasoning for approving Santorum’s presidential campaign was that, according to Farris, “As a fellow homeschooler, [Santorum] knows how important it is to protect parental rights.”[xxxii] Santorum’s understanding of parental rights, for which Farris has bestowed him with such praise, is exactly the same as HSLDA’s. In an April 16, 2013 column for Townhall, Santorum declared that, “Children Belong to Parents, Not Government.”[xxxiii] And just like HSLDA, Santorum took aim at Melissa Harris-Perry’s statement that, “Kids belong to whole communities.” Santorum declared this to be “hark[ening] back to Marxism” and then, again like HSLDA, related a loss of parental rights to a threat against homeschooling (and the Romeike situation specifically). “The president, like so many on the left,” bemoaned Santorum, “believes that the state should form the hearts and minds of our youths so they think the way the government wants them to think.”

It must be noted that, like HSLDA, Santorum presents a false dilemma: either children belong to parents or they belong to the state. Santorum does not have a problem with someone other than a child itself forming that child’s heart and mind to think the way that someone wants the child thinks. Rather, Santorum simply wants parents to do that forming, rather than the state. This is because Santorum believes, like HSLDA, that children belong to their parents — hence the very title of Santorum’s column. Children are still property to Santorum, just not the property of the state.

From Divine Rental Property to Common Law

HSLDA’s concept of children as divine rental property forms the basis for HSLDA’s understanding of parental rights as expressed through common law. HSLDA attempts to ground many of its arguments for religious liberty and homeschooling on a Western concept of common law, especially as expressed by English jurist William Blackstone in his work, Commentaries on the Laws of England. In The Right Choice: Home Schooling, Klicka wrote, “One of the most influential common law sources on which the founders of our country relied was Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries. Blackstone recognized that the most important duty of parents to their children is that of giving them an education.”[xxxiv]

Blackstone’s advocacy of parental rights, Klicka argued, became the cornerstone of an Oklahoma Supreme Court Case that Klicka considered key: “Building on this traditional liberty of parents as enunciated by Blackstone, the Oklahoma Supreme Court in School Board Dist. No. 18 v. Thompson secured the right of parents to control the education of their children.”[xxxv] This was key to Klicka because he and HSLDA desired to return to a previous era where “parental liberty historically was held to be virtually absolute,”[xxxvi] and the Thompson case argued that, “In this empire [the United States], parents rule supreme during the minority of their children”[xxxvii] [emphasis added by Klicka].

Because Klicka considered this court case to be of such significance, it is worth reviewing what aspects of the case Klicka neglected to mention. It is true that in 1909 the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in School Board Dist. No. 18 v. Thompson that, “In this empire parents rule supreme during the minority of their children.” However, the Thompson case also situates this parental supremacy in only one figure: the family patriarch. The case declared that, “The father was vested with supreme control over the child.” In terms of legal rights, “A mother, as such, is entitled to no power.”[xxxviii]

What the Thompson case declared — that the family patriarch has supreme power over his children (and the mother or wife has no legal power whatsoever) — is exactly what one should expect to find in traditional Western common law. Traditional Western common law is specifically grounded in the property-rights paradigm descended from classical Roman patriarchy. It goes back to the Roman legal concept of patria potestas (Latin for “power of the father”). Patria potestas meant that the male head of a household, otherwise known as the pater familias (father of the family), “not only…had control over the persons of his children, amounting even to a right to inflict capital punishment, but that he alone had any rights in private law.”[xxxix] The pater familias’s power went beyond his children: “The pater familias could do as he pleased with his family members: from dictating the conditions of marriage and divorce to disposing of his wife, children, and slaves through adoption, sale, or death.”[xl] Under such a paradigm, rights are distributed according to property. Since adult Roman men (the family patriarchs) were the only ones allowed to have property, they were also the only ones allowed to have legal rights. Children, women, and slaves had no legal rights. They were all considered property under traditional Western common law — even to the point that they could be bought and sold: “In early law the paterfamilias could sell children into slavery… [The paterfamilias] had available to him the standard proprietary remedies of an owner. Thus, if a child was kidnapped, it was regard as ‘stolen’ which enabled the paterfamilias to recover it through a vindicatio and to sue for damages under the action for theft.”[xli] Similarly, “in controlling his wife, a man was simply exercising control over his own person or property.”[xlii] This is the tradition to which Klicka appealed and to which HSLDA continues to appeal.[xliii]

A primary reason for such appeals is that the United States Constitution does not explicitly mention the rights of parents. Thus HSLDA appeals to the tradition of common law to deduce the rights of parents from “the laws of nature” found in Western Civilization, in other words, property rights. Chris Klicka and fellow former HSLDA attorney Doug Phillips made this very argument in a 1997 article for Educational Leadership. In their section “Roots in Common Law,” Klicka and Phillips say, “The United States Constitution does not explicitly mention parental rights. Like other legal principles at the time of the nation’s founding, the right of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children was an implicit and necessary assumption of society. That parents had a God-given duty as well as right to make all decisions with respect to the future of their unemancipated children was part of the higher law that the Declaration of Independence termed ‘the laws of nature and of nature’s God.’” They say these “laws of nature and of nature’s God” were enshrined in Western common law: “For more than a thousand years, the doctrine of parental rights had been a bedrock principle of the Western legal tradition, expressed throughout the ‘common law.’”[xliv]

Farris himself explicitly ties this concept of Western common law to HSLDA’s advocacy of conservative Christianity and his organization’s understanding of what conservative Christianity teaches about parental rights. Farris says, “Our nation was founded upon the traditions of Western Civilization. This civilization was founded on the principles of the Word of God. God gives children to parents—not to the state, and not to doctors.”[xlv]

To Farris and HSLDA, therefore, any threat to traditional Western common law or Western civilization could be perceived as a threat to homeschooling. One sees this fear directly in the rationale HSLDA has given for making opposition to same-sex marriage part of its homeschool advocacy. On their web page entitled “Why HSLDA is Fighting Against Same-Sex Marriage,” HSLDA states that, “Parental rights are a recognized constitutional right despite the fact that they are not explicitly stated in the Constitution. It is a fair question to ask: if they are implied rights rather than explicit rights, what is the source of parental rights?…Parental rights are based on ‘western civilization concepts of the family.’ When those concepts are no longer the legal definition of the family in this nation, then the foundation upon which parental rights are based is completely removed…Therefore, HSLDA will continue to fight against same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage attacks the traditions of the family in western civilization. This is an attack on parental rights.”[xlvi] HSLDA takes this “attack on parental rights” so seriously that it has supported a constitutional amendment to ban not only same-sex marriage, but also civil unions for same-sex partners by means of “the Institution of Marriage Amendment.”[xlvii]

The problem with grounding parental rights in common law (on the one hand) and then denying children should be treated as parental property (on the other hand) is that, as we just saw, common law is a property-based system. These “traditional rights” of parents come from a tradition wherein the male patriarch of a household rules supreme. The patriarch is the sole recipient of legal rights. This tradition continued even through 1909 in the Oklahoma Supreme Court case Thompson that Chris Klicka eagerly cited. In that case we see the vestiges of the tradition: the father alone has supremacy over everyone; the mother has no legal supremacy; the children have no rights until maturity; slaves have no rights whatsoever. Thus HSLDA is holding a logically tenuous position by trying to claim that, because of the Western common law tradition, parents should have sole legal authority over their children and yet children should not be considered those parents’ property. This not only creates a legal Twilight Zone. It also means that granting anyone other than the father of a household any rights would (as it has) upset the entire tradition.

The Threat of Children’s Rights

HSLDA’s view of children as divine rental property thus does not lead to a simple defense of parental rights. It leads HSLDA to directly attack any and every attempt to recognize children’s rights because such attempts are considered outright attacks on Western tradition — the foundation of HSLDA’s legal paradigm.

“Children’s Rights are Wrong,” declares the title of an August 3, 2011 article on HSLDA’s website.[xlviii] This basically encapsulates HSLDA’s position on children’s rights: they are a threat to parental rights and thus are wrong. HSLDA has a track record of opposing just about every effort to put into law any declaration of children’s rights, whether those efforts involve international treaties like the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (which the aforementioned 2011 article addresses) or specific countries’ domestic legislation. For example, HSLDA’s official affiliate in Bulgaria, Peter G. Porumbachanov, declared opposition on HSLDA’s website to a Bulgarian draft “Children’s Rights” bill.[xlix] Porumbachanov said the bill was “state genocide against the Bulgarian family” because it “wants to give rights to the children.” Porumbachanov believes that parents instead should have the right to “control the child’s dangerous strivings toward self-destruction” by “form[ing] character in the child by teaching their philosophical and religious views.”

The Threat of the Village

When one understands HSLDA’s insistence upon parents having the “sole authority” to “carefully craft” their children’s lives and minds, while denying those children any rights of their own, it is understandable that other answers to whom children belong — such as themselves, the government, or the community — are seen as threatening. These other answers redistribute rights away from parents and towards non-parental units. But one particular answer — Hillary Rodham Clinton’s “it takes a village” answer — has received a disproportionate amount of attention from the organization.

HSLDA employees seem inexplicably obsessed with Hillary Rodham Clinton and her advocacy for children’s rights. Klicka said Clinton had “declared war on parents’ rights in America”[l] because of her support of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Farris made one of the villains in his fictional book Forbid Them Not a character named “Helene Rodman,” whom he describes as “the first female president of the United States” with a “perfectly plastic smile,” a “feminist agenda,” and a desire to attack “home schooling.”[li] Farris has freely admitted that Rodman is based on Clinton.[lii] In Forbid Them Not‘s alternate universe, “Rodman” (or Clinton) takes advantage of “a landslide election, which swept a Democratic majority into both houses of Congress” and immediately signs the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Naturally, all hell breaks loose and a Farris-esque hero named Cooper Stone (a lawyer who moved from Washington State to Loudon County, Virginia,[liii] just like Farris) must swoop in and save the day.

Other HSLDA employees have also obsessed with Clinton,[liv] in particular her book It Takes a Village that called for “comprehensive early education programs for disadvantaged children and their families.”[lv] The “it takes a village” concept has long been a target of conservative Christians (beyond just HSLDA) — which is odd, because the concept is nothing new nor did it begin with Clinton. As stated in this exposition’s introduction, the “Children belong to their community” answer to the question “To whom do children belong?” dates back millennia. It is neither Clintonian nor Marxist — nor anything else modern, for that matter. Yet conservative Christians today (including HSLDA) fixate on Clinton as the arch-nemesis of their own values who threatens to bring Big Brother into families’ living rooms and bedrooms.

The most explicit articulation of this sentiment comes from Michael Farris’s 1999 presentation before the Howard Center for Family, Religion, & Society’s World Congress of Families in Geneva, Switzerland.[lvi] Farris says “it takes a village” advocates (whom Farris equivocates with child welfare workers) use terrorist-like tactics: “Those who believe that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ are willing to use coercion, threats, raw police power, and intimidation to enforce their agenda.  Parents who raise children in a manner that the village doesn’t like have learned to fear the knock on the door lest they hear the dreaded words, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help raise your children.'”

Farris relates international children’s rights efforts to these terrorist-like tactics. He specifically calls out a number of children’s rights as negative, such as: (1) “the right of the child to express his/or her opinion” concerning the child’s own education; (2) the right of a child to not be physically hit by parents; and (3) the right of “children, particularly adolescents, to pursue, medical or legal counseling without parental consent”. Children should not have these rights, Farris makes clear. And if children are granted them, Farris believes the consequences will be dire: “It is up to this generation of parents to act for the generations to come to ensure that we protect the family in the black and white of our Constitution lest the global village overtake our homes.”[lvii]

These three children’s rights — the right to self-determine education, the right not to be physically hit by parents, and the right to self-determine one’s medical treatment — are consistently targeted by HSLDA. In fact, nearly every statement HSLDA has made in the past (and continues to make today) against the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child — or any other declaration of children’s rights — calls out these three rights negatively. It is worthwhile, therefore, to look at each respectively:

The right to self-determine education

The right to self-determine education is, of course, a direct threat to HSLDA’s specific form of homeschooling advocacy. HSLDA holds back little on this count: Klicka was forthright about the fact that, if children had rights, then they could say no to homeschooling — which Klicka would not tolerate. “If children have rights,” he said, “they could refuse to be home-schooled.”[lviii] Thus to protect the ideal of homeschooling, Klicka denounced giving children rights. In fact, in a later article written on behalf of HSLDA by both him and former HSLDA attorney Doug Phillips, to “give children fundamental rights enforceable against their parents” was explicitly said to be a “threat.”[lix] As Klicka and Phillips later define “fundamental rights” as rights such as “speech, press, religion,” one can deduce that HSLDA does not believe children should have rights to speech and religion enforceable against their parents. Indeed, the Washington Post has noted that two reasons HSLDA opposes the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child are “the group fears that ratifying the treaty would mean children could choose their own religion” and “a child’s ‘right to be heard’ could trigger a governmental review of any decision a parent made that a child didn’t like.”[lx]

Klicka made this explicit in The Right Choice: Home Schooling. He explained that rights such as “freedom of expression,” “freedom of religion,” “freedom of association,” and “right to privacy” “would virtually undermine parents’ rights as we know it in the United States. Parents no longer would have the basic right to control [their children],” in particular “what church they attend.” Giving “children the fundamental rights of freedom of association, freedom of expression, freedom of religion,” and so forth is thus “in direct opposition to of [sic] those parents’ rights.”[lxi]

The right to not be physically hit by parents

The right to not be physically hit by parents is a direct threat to HSLDA’s advocacy of corporal punishment. The aforementioned quote by Chris Klicka continues as follows: “If children have rights, they could refuse to be home-schooled, plus it takes away parents’ rights to physically discipline their children.”[lxii] Klicka and HSLDA not only defend the right of parents to physically hit children, they actively fight to expand that right to include foster parents physically punishing foster children: “[Klicka] had a similar explanation for [HSLDA’s] opposition to increased federal child abuse laws — more laws would mean more likelihood that corporal punishment could be defined as child abuse…Administrators from Patrick Henry College were among those testifying before the Virginia Department of Social Services for a measure that would allow foster parents to physically discipline foster children.”[lxiii]

It is important to highlight that HSLDA does not simply defend the right of parents (natural or foster) to physically hit children. Rather, HSLDA explicitly promotes parents doing so. Michael Farris has declared that, “I am a firm believer in—dare I say it?—spanking. When the children are little I will spank either gender for deliberate disobedience of a rule that they have been taught.” Farris describes a father who will not use corporal punishment on his daughter as a “pushover” who “loves his daughter in principle, but…hates her in practice.”[lxiv] In Klicka’s book The Right Choice: Homeschooling, Gregg Harris contributes a guest chapter (“How Should We Then Teach? Walking In Light Of God’s Principles Of Education”) where he instructs parents that, “Spanking is one divinely mandated method which must not be ignored,” and that if parents do not spank, their children “could become another statistic in the war on drug abuse, AIDs, and drunk driving.” Parents who do not use corporal punishment are “disobey[ing] God by discarding a clearly biblical method of child discipline.”[lxv]

The right to self-determine one’s medical treatment

The right to self-determine one’s medical treatment is a direct threat to HSLDA’s defense of parents’ religious freedom — contextually defined as the right of parents to withhold medical treatment from their children if their religion thus dictates. Religious freedom forms the cornerstone of HSLDA’s objection to mandatory vaccinations, for example. Chris Klicka has declared that, “Immunizations should not be mandated for all children [because] many parents have strong religious convictions against vaccinating their children.”[lxvi] Klicka defends medical religious exemptions because, “Religious exemption statutes simply codify the protections of an individual’s right to freely exercise their religious belief as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and parallel portions of the state constitutions.” However, Klicka never explains how an individual’s right to religious expression implies a right to impose that expression on another individual — i.e., a child’s medical treatment.

Similarly, HSLDA’s current senior counsel Dee Black has expressed support for parents exempting their children from not only immunizations but other health care as well. HSLDA offers support to homeschooling parents who “claim a religious exemption from immunizations,” Black says, “and health and medical services.”[lxvii] Farris believes this is appropriate because, even when it comes to complicated medical procedures of which parents have zero education or expertise, “God has delegated these kinds of decisions to parents, not to doctors, social workers, or courts.”[lxviii]

Since “the village” — the concept of community taken for granted by many cultures and societies throughout history — could potentially lead the recognition of one or more of these 3 rights, it takes on a purely nightmarish quality to Farris and HSLDA. This nightmare drives them to shrink the circle of necessary and desirable socialization to the nuclear family — as we see, for example, in the aforementioned statement by Will Estrada that, “It doesn’t take a village to raise a child. It takes parents.”

But note: while mass mobilization on a national or international scale via government-funded programs (such as public schools, day care, health care, etc.) to recreate the “village” atmosphere lost due to the last few centuries of industrialization is indeed a relatively novel idea, so too is the idea that a nuclear family can adequately carry all the responsibilities previously carried by the “village.”[lxix] (This is why John Holt, as previously mentioned, argued that, “The family we talk so much about preserving is a modern invention.”[lxx]) While HSLDA does not hesitate to point out the former, they never provide any justification or rationale for the latter. Whether this is due to historical ignorance or intentional omission is unclear. What is clear is that they believe, contrary to actual facts, that the 20th century, American, heterosexual two-parent nuclear family concept is the historical norm.


As demonstrated in this exposition, HSLDA believes that children are divine rental property who at no point belong to themselves. God owns every soul. But when parents create or adopt a child, God essentially rents that soul out to the parents who have the responsibility to maintain that child to the satisfaction of God. When the child becomes a legal adult, the child takes the rental lease over from the parents — but still belongs to God, not itself. The child (as a legal adult) now has the responsibility to maintain itself to the satisfaction of God.

Depending on whom you are talking to, how much of the rental lease the child takes over from the parents may vary. Former HSLDA attorney Doug Phillips, for example, believes unmarried children never take the lease over until they get married.[lxxi] Michael Farris, though publically condemning his former HSLDA colleague for going “far beyond even a very traditional view of Scripture’s teaching,”[lxxii] agreed in his 2004 book What a Daughter Needs From Her Dad with Phillips to a significant extent with regards to female children. Farris argued that you should never push your daughters towards a “career as her first priority,” because “God-given female distinctiveness” means “marriage and motherhood are the highest.” Female children should be encouraged towards such responsibilities, where they will immediately fall under the authority of their husbands: “The Bible correctly teaches that a woman should be submissive to her husband.”[lxxiii]

Regardless, the consensus of HSLDA employees (both past and former) is that children belong to God in a transcendent sense but in an immanent sense belong to their parents. They are the property of their parents, rented from God until they become legal adults. HSLDA rejects outright any other answer to the question “To whom do children belong?” HSLDA is adamant that children do not belong to the government, the community, or themselves. Their rejection of the first two explain their general opposition to government intervention and community-based programs of intervention, while their rejection of the third explains their intense denouncement of children’s rights. If children belong to themselves, as autonomous human beings they would have every claim to human rights that any other human beings have. Insofar, therefore, as HSLDA believes that children must belong to their parents in a legal sense, children are to have no fundamental rights — and fundamental rights for children are seen as a monumental threat to not only the homeschooling movement, but more importantly the parental rights agenda on which HSLDA has chosen to ground that movement.



[i] Sarah LeVine and Robert LeVine, “Child Abuse and Neglect in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Child Abuse and Neglect: Cross-Cultural Perspectives, edited by Jill E. Korbin, published by University of California Press, 1981, p. 38.

[ii] L.L. Langness, “Child Abuse and Cultural Values: The Case of New Guinea,” Child Abuse and Neglect: Cross-Cultural Perspectives, edited by Jill E. Korbin, published by University of California Press, 1981, p. 26-27.

[iii] Hiroshi Wagatsuma, “Child Abandonment and Infanticide: A Japanese Case,” Child Abuse and Neglect: Cross-Cultural Perspectives, edited by Jill E. Korbin, published by University of California Press, 1981, p. 133, 131.

[iv] John Hollitz, “The Raw Materials of History: Childhood in Puritan New England,” Thinking Through the Past: A Critical Thinking Approach to U.S. History, Volume I, 3rd edition, 2005, published by Houghton Mifflin, p. 21-22.

[v] Tamara Camille Newcomb, “Parenting Characteristics in Native American Families,” Oklahoma State University, 2005, link, accessed on December 9, 2014.

[vi] McClellan Hall, “Facilitating a Natural Way: The Native American Approach to Education,” National Indian Youth Leadership Project, 2000, link, accessed on December 9, 2014.

[vii] John Holt, “Free the Children; They Need Room to Grow,” Pyschology Today, October 1974.

[viii] John Holt, Escape from Childhood, published by Holt Associates, 1996.

[ix] Holt, 1974.

[x] HSLDA, “In Memoriam: Christopher J. Klicka,” October 12, 2009, link, accessed on December 12, 2014.

[xi] Chris Klicka, The Right Choice: Home Schooling, Noble Publishing Associations, 4th printing and revised edition, 1995, p. 103.

[xii] Michael Farris, How A Man Prepares His Daughters For Life, Bethany House Publishers, 1996, p. 52-53.

[xiii] Klicka, The Right Choice, 1995, p. 102, 108-109.

[xiv] Ibid, p. 104.

[xv] Ibid, p. 105, 104.

[xvi] Will Estrada as quoted by The Daily Caller, “Homeschool advocate obliterates MSNBC host over ‘collective’ view of children,” April 14, 2013, link, accessed on December 12, 2014.

[xvii] Charles H Lippy, Peter W Williams, “Education: Homeschooling Movement,” Encyclopedia of Religion in America, Granite Hill Publishers, 2010, p. 644: “For Rushdoony, the family was divinely instituted to train warriors for Christ who would fight to subject all nations to his law. Rushdoony’s theories inspired many of the leaders who created the institutional infrastructure supporting both the Christian day and home school movements, including Paul Lindstrom’s Christian Liberty Academy Satellite Schools (CLASS) with its Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) curriculum, John W. Whitehead’s Rutherford Institute, and the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).”

[xviii] Klicka, The Right Choice, 1995. In Chapter 3, “The Philosophical Crisis in Public Education,” Klicka repeatedly cites Rushdoony’s 1968 book, The Messianic Character of Education. Appendix A of Klicka’s book, “The Difference Between Christian Education and Humanistic Education,” is a reprinted section from Rushdoony’s 1981 book, The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum.

[xix] Marcia Clemmitt, “Home Schooling: Do parents give their children a good education?”, CQ Researcher, Volume 24, Issue 10, March 7, 2014, p. 217-240.

[xx] Kathryn Joyce, “The Homeschool Apostates,” American Prospect, December 4, 2013, link, accessed on December 10, 2014.

[xxi] Lee Duigon, “Will UN Treaty Abolish Parents’ Rights?” Chalcedon Foundation, 2009, link, accessed on December 10, 2014.

[xxii] R.J. Rushdoony in Klicka, The Right Choice, 1995, p. 422.

[xxiii] Janet Pais, Suffer the Children: A Theology of Liberation by a Victim of Child Abuse, Paulist Press, 1991, p. 10-11.

[xxiv] For context about Harris-Perry’s statement, see KJ Dell’Antonia, “Melissa Harris-Perry’s ‘Uncontroversial Comment’ About Children,” New York Times, April 10, 2013, link, accessed on December 9, 2014.

[xxv] Michael Farris as quoted by HSLDA, “Do Our Kids Belong to Us—or to the Community?”, April 9, 2013, link, accessed on December 7, 2014.

[xxvi] Ben Waldron, “Home Schooling German Family Allowed to Stay in US,” ABC News, March 5, 2014, link, accessed on January 3, 2015.

[xxvii] Rick Santorum, “Press Release – Home School Legal Defense Association Chairman Michael Farris Commends Rick Santorum to the Voters,” January 20, 2012, archived by the American Presidency Project, link, accessed on December 7, 2014.

[xxviii] Daniel Burke, “Rick Santorum’s secret army: home-schoolers,” Religion News Services, March 5, 2012, link, accessed on December 7, 2014.

[xxix] HSLDA, Home School Heartbeat, “American Patriots: An Interview with Rick Santorum,” April 29–May 3, 2013, Vol. 115, Programs 51–55. Accessible online: link.

[xxx] HSLDA, Home School Heartbeat, “Understanding the UN CRPD: An Interview with Rick Santorum,” March 4–8, 2013, Vol. 115, Programs 11–15. Accessible online: link.

[xxxi] Burke, 2014.

[xxxii] Santorum, “Press Release,” 2014.

[xxxiii] Rick Santorum, “Children Belong to Parents, Not Government,” Townhall, April 16, 2013, link, accessed on December 7, 2014.

[xxxiv] Klicka, The Right Choice, 1995, p. 339.

[xxxv] Ibid.

[xxxvi] Ibid, p. 338.


[xxxviii] Ibid.

[xxxix] Encyclopedia Britannica, “Patria potestas,” link, accessed on December 30, 2014.

[xl] A. Javier Treviño, The Sociology of Law: Classical and Contemporary Perspectives, Transaction Publishers, 2001, p. 21.

[xli] Paul du Plessis, Borkowski’s Textbook on Roman Law, Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 112-113.

[xlii] James G. Dwyer, Religious Schools V. Children’s Rights, Cornell University Press, 1998, p. 72.

[xliii] See, for example, Michael Farris, “Parental Rights: Why Now is the Time to Act,” Court Report, Marcy/April 2006, link, accessed on December 12, 2014: “The legal principle used in Pierce was first announced in Meyer v. Nebraska. The Court announced that ‘those privileges long recognized at common law as essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men’ were protected under the Due Process Clause…If implicit rights are tied to history, then there is a solid basis for determining what was a recognized right at a particular point in time.”

[xliv] Christopher J. Klicka and Douglas W. Phillips, “Why Parental Rights Laws Are Necessary,” Educational Leadership, November 1997, Volume 55, Number 3, link, accessed on December 8, 2014.

[xlv] Michael Farris, “Who Makes the Really Tough Decisions: Parents? Or Doctors?”, HSLDA, November 29, 2011, link, accessed on December 12, 2014.

[xlvi] HSLDA, “Why HSLDA is Fighting Against Same-Sex Marriage,” link, accessed on December 12, 2014. Archived as a PDF here.

[xlvii] Michael Farris, “Questions and Answers Regarding a Constitutional Amendment on Same-Sex Marriage,” HSLDA, April 15, 2004, link, accessed on December 12, 2014. Archived as a PDF here.

[xlviii] Marten Schultz, “Children’s Rights are Wrong,” HSLDA, August 3, 2011, link, accessed on December 8, 2014.

[xlix] Peter Porumbachanov, “Children’s Rights vs. Parental Rights?”, HSLDA, January 22, 2012, link, accessed on December 8, 2014.

[l] Klicka, The Right Choice, 1995, p. 243.

[li] Michael Farris, Forbid Them Not, Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002, p. 398-400, 448.

[lii] Michael Farris, “Parental Rights: Why Now is the Time to Act,” Court Report, Marcy/April 2006, link, accessed on December 12, 2014: “In 2002, I published a novel, Forbid Them Not (Broadman & Holman), with the premise that a thinly-disguised Hillary Clinton had been elected president. The first act of her new administration was to secure the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). I do not claim the gift of prophecy, but there is a looming possibility that I may be proven right.”

[liii] Ibid, p. 27-28

[liv] Examples of HSLDA’s singling out of Hillary Clinton include: (i) Michael Farris, “Appeals court rejects coerced entry to home,” Washington Post editorial, September 7, 1999, link, accessed on December 8, 2014. Michael Farris begins generalizing about the “it takes a village” people: “We have heard from the ‘it-takes-a-village people’ that the government’s need to protect children from abuse.”  (ii) HSLDA’s autobiographical series, “1983-1998: Marking the Milestones — A Review of History: Hardwon Freedoms,” describes Clinton’s “village” concept in its “International Threats” section: “So-called child advocacy groups, such as Children’s Defense Fund—part of the ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ establishment—have begun to use international bodies, like the United Nations, to gain more control over the world’s families.” See link, accessed on December 8, 2014. (iii) HSLDA, “Pray for Parental Rights,” January 5, 2005, link, accessed on December 8, 2014. HSLDA declared it is “increasingly concerned about the erosion of parental rights, especially when religious parents want to do something that offends modern secular sensibilities. There is a profound tension between the rights and responsibilities of parents, on the one hand, and the increasingly popular ‘It Takes a Village’ mentality on the other.” (iv) Michael Farris, Home School Heartbeat, “Parental Rights, Part 1 — Lessons from History,” Volume 67, Program 1, April 24, 2006, link, accessed on December 8, 2014. Farris says, “There are three direct threats to parental rights,” one of which is, “There’s a rising number of anti-parent politicians who believe, like Hillary Clinton, that ‘it takes a village’ to raise a child.” (v) Michael Farris, “New World Playpen,” American Conservative, October 1, 2009, link, accessed on December 8, 2014. Farris describes “a coalition seeking ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child” as “the faithful, who subscribe to the notion that ‘It Takes an (International) Village to Raise a Child.'” (vi) Will Estrada, HSLDA, “Whose children are they? UPDATE: HSLDA’s Will Estrada counters Melissa Harris-Perry on The Daily Caller,” link, accessed on December 8, 2014. Will Estrada, HSLDA’s Director of Federal Relations, criticizes MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry by way of criticizing Clinton: “It doesn’t take a village to raise a child. It takes parents…This leftist ridiculous idea that children somehow belong to the state—I thought we defeated this back with socialism, back with fascism.” (vii) One of Will Estrada’s speech presentations takes direct aim at Clinton: “The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child—It Takes a Village to Raise Your Child.” See link, accessed on December 8, 2014. These are but a few of many possible examples, all of which indicate HSLDA is particularly bothered and/or threatened by not only the “village” concept in itself, but perhaps more importantly by Hillary Clinton’s specific articulation of it.

[lv] Katherine Paterson, “First, Families,” New York Times, February 11, 1996, link, accessed on December 12, 2014.

[lvi] Michael Farris, “Remarks to The World Congress of Families II,” presented at the 1999 World Congress of Families, The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society, link, accessed on December 8, 2014

[lvii] Ibid.

[lviii] Chris Klicka, as quoted by Helen Cordes, “Battling for the heart and soul of home-schoolers,” Salon, October 2, 2000, link, accessed on December 8, 2014.

[lix] Klicka and Phillips, 1997.

[lx] Karen Attiah, “Why won’t the U.S. ratify the U.N.’s child rights treaty?”, Washington Post, November 21, 2014, link, accessed on December 8, 2014.

[lxi] Klicka, The Right Choice, 1995, p. 247, 249, 253.

[lxii] Klicka, as quoted by Helen Cordes, 2014.

[lxiii] Ibid.

[lxiv] Farris, How A Man Prepares His Daughters For Life, 1996, p. 30-31.

[lxv] Gregg Harris in Klicka, The Right Choice, 1995, p. 188, 190.

[lxvi] Christopher Klicka, “Immunizations: A Parent’s Choice,” HSLDA, September 13, 2007, link, accessed on December 8, 2014.

[lxvii] Dee Black, “Homeschool Affidavits: Health and Medical Services/Immunization Requirements,” HSLDA, January 6, 2014, link, accessed on December 8, 2014.

[lxviii] Farris, “Who Makes the Really Tough Decisions: Parents? Or Doctors?”, 2011.

[lxix] In fact, there is growing evidence that this will only further strain the health of nuclear families. For example, see Emelie A. Olson, “Socioeconomic and Psycho-Cultural Contexts of Child Abuse and Neglect in Turkey,” Child Abuse and Neglect: Cross-Cultural Perspectives, edited by Jill E. Korbin, published by University of California Press, 1981, p. 96: “[There is] another result of the increased [modernization in Turkey]: children are valued more for ‘primary group ties, affection, and love’ and less for security in old age and utilitarian values. Ironically, as children become relatively more important as sources of love, support, and companionship to parents cut off from their family and neighborhood networks, it is possible that the parents’ unmet emotional needs may lead to increasingly high expectations and unrealistic demands on their small children and thus to more classic child abuse.”

[lxx] Holt, 1996.

[lxxi] Vision Forum Ministries, “The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy,” retrieved from the Internet Archive, link, accessed on December 12, 2014: “Both sons and daughters are under the command of their fathers as long as they are under his roof or otherwise the recipients of his provision and protection. Fathers release sons from their jurisdiction to undertake a vocation, prepare a home, and take a wife. Until she is given in marriage, a daughter continues under her father’s authority and protection. Even after leaving their father’s house, children should honor their parents by seeking their counsel and blessing throughout their lives.”

[lxxii] Michael Farris, “A Line in the Sand,” HSLDA Court Report, August 2014, link, accessed on December 12, 2014.

[lxxiii] Michael Farris, What a Daughter Needs From Her Dad, Bethany House, 2004, p. 113, 110, 114, 109.

Michael Farris on Domestic Abuse: “Far Cry from the ‘Battered-Woman Syndrome'”

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

The following excerpt is from HSLDA founder Michael Farris’s 1996 book How A Man Prepares His Daughters For Life. Farris has his patriarchal beliefs on full display in this book, including such passages as: “I am very supportive of the concept of the authority of fathers in their home…It’s important to be right…It is appropriate to simply say to your daughter, ‘Because I’m the dad, that’s why‘” (page 21); “a woman should be submissive to her husband” (page 96); and “husbands are ultimately responsible for family decisions” (page 101).

10361972_10152495652422761_5505720269752573528_nHe defends “a very traditional view about the role of women in churches” (page 27) and later explains that he means “a doctrinal position of male-only elders” (page 55). Farris says he is “a firm believer in—dare I say it?—spanking,”  that fathers “should be in charge of all discipline,” and boasts that he spanked his daughters until they were 13 (page 30). He even dedicates an entire chapter to straw-manning feminism (Chapter Seven, “Solving the Feminist Paradox”), featuring lines like “Lesbianism is considered by many to be the apex of feminism” (page 96) and “Feminists prey on daughters of under-appreciated mothers” (page 105).

But what stood out the most to me was the following 3 paragraphs with which Farris begins Chapter 5, “Guiding Your Daughter Toward Positive Friendships.” The tone-deafness, minimization, and victim-blaming Farris engages in regarding this very clear situation of domestic abuse — and the fact that he provided legal defense for a domestic abuser — goes to show that child abuse is not the only type of abuse Farris does not seem to take seriously. (For those unaware, a quarter-size bruise is a serious indicator of abuse, both for child abuse as well as domestic violence cases.) From page 77:

When I was a very young lawyer in Spokane, Washington, I was assigned to defend a case in which two professing Christians, “Steve” and “Lana,” were getting a divorce. Lana was seeking a divorce because of the advice of her “friends.” She and Steve, my client, got into an argument one evening and he grabbed her by the arm and squeezed. He left a bruise on her arm about the size of a quarter. He was ashamed of the action—as he should have been—and he apologized. But it was a far cry from the “battered-woman syndrome.” Lana was told by her friends, however, that she was a victim of wife abuse and she should seek a divorce. Believe it or not, she did.

A few weeks later her friends advised Lana that she should start dating, even though Steve was actively seeking to reconcile the marriage. One night when Lana was out on a date, their two-year old son fell behind the bunk bed and died from strangulation.

Lana knew what God expected of her regarding forgiveness and reconciliation, but she listened to her friends instead. She paid a terrible price for the wrong advice from the wrong kind of friends.

Here’s an image from the book of the passage:


HSLDA’s Michael Farris to Heidi St. John: “We Are Standing With You”


By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Several days ago, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) issued a statement on their involvement (or lack thereof) in allegations about a widespread cover-up of physical and sexual child abuse in the Christian homeschooling community. The child abuse is alleged to have involved the children and a relative of Paul and Gena Suarez, owners of the popular homeschool magazine The Old Schoolhouse.

HSLDA’s statement, which you can view in entirety here, was that “HSLDA does not get involved in conflicts between families or individuals” and their mission is “not to be the police force of the homeschooling movement.” In response, I pointed out that not only does The Old Schoolhouse remain an HSLDA-suggested resource promoted to HSLDA members at a special discounted rate, but HSLDA is currently sponsoring The Old Schoolhouse. In terms of finances, therefore, it’s not difficult to see why some people would believe HSLDA is taking sides.

Today, however, HSLDA founder Michael Farris made explicit at least one side he’s taking: Heidi St. John’s.

St. John has been accused of ignoring a request for help from Jenefer Igarashi — the mother of one of the alleged abuse victims — as well as playing a role in getting Igarashi blocked from a homeschool convention. St. John issued a statement regarding the allegations, which she publicly posted on her Facebook page yesterday. St. John alleges that she is “being slandered in such a way that it has become very obvious that the devil is mad” and has “been betrayed by people who claimed to be our friends.” (You can view an archived image of St. John’s Facebook post here.) Various homeschool leaders have shown or declared solidarity with St. John, including Chris Jeub (who has recently been accused of emotional and physical abuse by several of his children) and Tracy Klicka MacKillop (widow of the late Chris Klicka of HSLDA).

One of these leaders includes Michael Farris. Farris left the following comment on St. John’s post:

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Text is:

Heidi, the bottom line for the attacks on you, me, and others is this: We follow Christ without apology. If we would water down the Gospel (and say that it is one of many ways to God) or if we would say that the Bible’s moral absolutes are merely suggestions, then we would find acceptance. You are standing strong and we are standing with you.

Considering that all of the individuals who have brought abuse allegations against Paul and Gena Suarez of the Old Schoolhouse (and associated individuals like St. John) are outspoken Christians, it’s unclear why Farris suggests the attacks involve “watering down the Gospel.”

What is clear, however, is that HSLDA’s Michael Farris has made explicit that he’s taking St. John’s side in this situation.

From Silence to Exposure: Why Did Michael Farris Speak Out Now?

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Julie Anne Smith’s blog Spiritual Sounding Board. It was originally published on August 30, 2014 and has been slightly modified for HA.

Michael Farris, one of the pillars of the modern Homeschool Movement and founders of Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and founding president of Patrick Henry College, released an article addressing abuses within the Christian homeschool community in his article,  “A Line in the Sand,” in which he specifically called out two fallen leaders within the Homeschool Movement:  Bill Gothard and Doug Phillips. Farris publicly condemned some of the teachings of Gothard and Phillips, saying they “damage people in multiple ways.”

He’s absolutely right. A lot of damage and abuse has occurred because of the teachings of these men.

I’d like to go over his article in greater detail and also make observations based on other systems in which abuse was uncovered. Let’s start with this doozy right here:

Although some people want HSLDA to be the police force of the homeschooling movement—removing those who miss the mark in some manner—that is not our role.

Would someone please tell me when it is NOT the role of Christians to protect and defend the defenseless?  Chapter and verse, please.

Even though I have been uncomfortable with the teaching coming from each of these men for several years, it is not my place to try to remove viewpoints from the homeschooling community just because the HSLDA board or I hold a different view.

I repeat: Would someone please tell me when it is NOT the role of Christians to protect and defend the defenseless?  Chapter and verse, please.

This next sentence is important:

Our role is to defend the freedom of everyone to homeschool.

This sentence needs to be understood as an underlying theme of HSLDA. Please tuck away this statement because I will be coming back to it. This is key to the ministry work of Farris and HSLDA.

Frankly, we should have spoken up sooner. How much sooner is hard to say.

How much sooner is hard to say? That’s like saying, “I saw the ravaged bodies lying on the side of the road, but decided to walk on by and keep that information to myself. It didn’t seem like the right time to say or do anything, so I didn’t.”

The reason I used such strong imagery is because later, Farris clues us in that he really does understand the damaging effects of these errant teachings. He knows that the teachings have led to a crisis of faith in which some have rejected Christianity entirely:

I’ve come in contact with many young people who were raised in patriarchal or legalistic homes. Almost none of them are following these philosophies today. Some have rejected Christianity altogether.

It’s important to understand WHY Farris and HSLDA did not speak up sooner. Why did they leave ravaged bodies on the side of the road?

Why would someone knowingly withhold information that could protect children and wives from abuse?  Let’s look at some other situations in which people had information and chose to keep it silent.  We can see similar patterns in other popular stories related to abuse.

In the Jerry Sandusky Penn State sex abuse scandal, there were people who knew information about Sandusky and didn’t report. Why didn’t they report? What was the motivating factor in keeping quiet?

We’ve long suspected, but now have confirmed by sworn court testimony that Grant Layman, a pastor at a Sovereign Grace Ministries church, knew that Nathaniel Morales had sexually abused children before, but failed to report to authorities.  Why did this pastor, a shepherd of God’s precious flock, fail to report?

In June of 2014, Paul Tripp resigned from his position on the Mars Hill Board of Accountability and gave very little reason as to stepping down.  Yet this week, nine Mars Hill church elders (one of whom has since been fired for speaking out) published a document about their grievances with Mark Driscoll. In that document, Paul Tripp expressed very strong words about the abusive nature of Mark Driscoll and his ministry:

This is without a doubt, the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with.

Why did Paul Tripp not share that bombshell of info back in June when he resigned?

Why did Acts 29 take so long at calling Mark Driscoll out and removing his name and Mars Hill Church from the Acts 29 members list?

At what point did each of these people decide enough is enough regarding known abuse?

What was it that kept them from being completely transparent earlier when they had knowledge that could have prevented more abuse from occurring?

I believe the reason why people remain silent is because they are serving their personal idol, rather than Christ. A Christ follower would respond appropriately to defend victims, even if there is a personal cost. Christ followers know there is a personal cost to being a Christian.

These men used self-preservation and defended their idols.

What was the idol in the Penn State sex scandal? I believe it was the Almighty Dollar. Sandusky represented football wins for Penn State. If it was publicized that Sandusky was a pedophile, how would that affect Penn State and their record? It was too much of a gamble. People put the thought of pedophilia aside and likely said, “it’s a personal issue,” or “someone else is surely dealing with it.”

What was the idol with CJ Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries abuse cases?  I believe it was his doctrine and authority structure that prominent church leaders adhered to. Mahaney had charisma, he had the right New Calivinism doctrine, people loved him at conferences ($$), he also really understood one of the primary issues in those circles, “biblical” male and female roles, complementarianism. What CJ Mahaney represented doctrinally was apparently more important to them than Mahaney’s victims.

I believe the same is the case with Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill. Why has it taken people so long to call him out? Because once again, he represented their doctrine in a powerful way. Somehow, church leaders could easily dismissing his cussing, his bullying, plagiarism because the more important message to them was that he had the right doctrine – again, New Calvinism. That was the idol.

Going back to Farris and HSLDA – why is it that Farris waited so long to disclose the truth he knew long ago about Phillips and Gothard? Because it would have cost him.

Although Farris knew there were problems with the teachings of Phillips and Gothard, the bulk of their other ideologies lined up with the trajectory of Farris and his ministry’s movement. For him to call them out earlier would mean a loss of supporters and revenue, as both men had a very large following. Farris would have been forced to stand alone. The followers of Gothard and Phillips would have been left in a quandary of picking who they would follow and support, and subsequently, there likely would have been economic consequences at HSLDA. The following quote shows Farris/HSLDA was willing to support and promote errant teachings and now has regrets:

While we did not directly promote their teachings using our own resources, we did allow Vision Forum to buy ad space to promote their products and ideas. We were wrong to do so. And we regret it.

I believe Farris waited until he realized that the court of public opinion had turned against Phillips and Gothard.

For Farris to not speak out at this time would have been a liability to his ministry. He had to speak out now. Will he do more than speak? Will he use his prominent position in the Homeschool Movement to defend and protect victims?

That remains to be seen.


There have been quite a few articles related to Farris’ article and the conflict within the Christian Homeschool Movement:

• CHRE –  Why Homeschooling Needs Oversight: Responding to HSLDA and WORLD

HSLDA and CRHE’s positions on homeschooling policy differ because they serve two different audiences: HSLDA’s mission is “to defend and advance the constitutional right ofparents to direct the education of their children” (emphasis added), while CRHE’s goal is “advocating for homeschooled children.” In theory, though, policy recommendations should be able to benefit both homeschool parents and homeschooled children.

• Shawn Mathis, examiner.com – Farris, HSLDA apologizes for silence about Phillips and critiques patriarchy

 In a humble act of public repentance, Michael Farris, on behalf of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) , apologized for not “speaking up sooner” about the errors of Vision Forum and Doug Phillips.

• The Christian Post – Homeschool Advocate Michael Farris Responds to Sex Scandals of Homeschool Leaders Bill Gothard, Doug Phillips

Farris had “been uncomfortable with the teaching coming from each of these men for several years” but was reluctant to speak out because he did not believe it was the role of HSLDA to police the teachings of those within the homeschooling community.

• The Raw Story – Christian leader denounces Duggar family’s patriarchal movement as ‘truly dangerous’

“With these recent scandals in view, we think it is now time to speak out — not about these men’s individual sins, but about their teachings,” Farris wrote. “Their sins have damaged the lives of their victims, and should be addressed by those with the appropriate legal and spiritual authority in those situations, but their teachings continue to threaten the freedom and integrity of the homeschooling movement. That is why HSLDA needs to stand up and speak up.”

• Right Wing Watch – Homeschooling Leader Distances Himself From ‘Dangerous’ Christian Patriarchy Movement Promoted By Duggars

Two leaders of the Christian patriarchy movement — Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard — have been hit with sexual harassment and abuse charges in the past year, which has drawn attention to the movement’s teachings — extreme even within the Religious Right — that women should be completely submissive to the men in their lives.

• World Magazine – Homeschool leader disavows ‘patriarchy’

HSLDA and Farris have faced particular pressure to repudiate Phillips and Gothard in the past year from some former homeschooled students who have claimed they were abused—physically, emotionally, or “spiritually”—by their parents. Many are represented by a website called Homeschoolers Anonymous, as WORLD reported in its recent article about homeschoolers and abuse.

• Shawn Mathis, examiner.com – Will NCFIC and homeschooling groups imitate HSLDA’s apology about Phillips?

These concerns should be equally applied to radical homeschool and family integrated church leaders.

In fact, it behooves these men and their organizations to make their positions clear: will they continue to silently stand with their past relationship with Doug or will they formally and publicly distance themselves from Phillips’ errors?

Michael Farris Recommends Child Training Manual That Promotes Beating Dogs and Spanking Infants

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By Nicholas Ducote, HA Community Coordinator

At the end of Michael Farris, Sr.’s recent white paper, he recommended James Dobson’s The New Strong-Willed Child (2003).

Unlike the works of the Ezzos, the Pearls, and Bill Gothard, this Dobson volume was not a foundational piece of my childhood. So I decided it was time to give it a read-through. Saving Victoria Strong has reviewed the beginning of the book in great detail here. This critique is not intended to be comprehensive, rather a cursory look at Dobson’s child-reading philosophies.

I have to admit: I expected better content considering Michael Farris ended his essay by recommending this. I was shocked by the dehumanizing themes of control and projection of power as well as the animal-like dominance by fathers. “Love and control” were Dobson’s guiding principles. Yet there was a disturbing amount of violence justified throughout the volume. Dobson seemed to model his training methods after a wolf-pack and a wolf-pack’s “Alpha Male.”

dobsonThe introduction set up the book with an analogy about Dobson beating obedience into his “confirmed revolutionary” dachshund. Dobson admitted that “Siggie” wasn’t “vicious or mean,” but Dobson nonetheless demanded absolute obedience from the animal. One night, when Siggie obstinately refused to retire to his doggy-bed, Dobson knew the “only way to make Siggie obey was to threaten him with destruction. Nothing else worked.” He “turned and went to my closet and got a small belt to help me ‘reason’ with ‘ol Sig.”

While the dog angrily stood its ground, Dobson began beating it with his belt (trigger warning for animal cruelty):

“I gave him a firm swat across the rear end, and he tried to bite the belt. I popped him again and he tried to bite me.”

“What developed next is impossible to describe. The tiny dog and I had the most vicious fight ever staged between man and beast. I fought him up one wall and down the other, with both of us scratching and clawing and growling. I am still embarrassed by the memory of the entire scene. Inch by inch I moved him toward the family room and his bed. As a final desperate maneuver, Siggie jumped on the couch and backed into the corner for one last snarling stand. I eventually got him into his bed, but only because I outweighed him two hundred to twelve” (3).

In order to avoid any confusion between people and animals, Dobson explained exactly what he means:

“Just as surely as a dog will occasionally challenge the authority of his leaders, a child is inclined to do the same thing, only more so. This is no minor observation, for it represents a characteristic of human nature that has escaped the awareness of many experts who write books on the subject of discipline.”

Unconcerned by the way he dehumanized children, Dobson offered a quick counter, “perhaps I seem to be humanizing the behavior of a dog, but I think not.”

You read that right: just as he had to have a pitched battle, beating his tiny dog with a belt, you should be prepared to control and exert your dominance over your “strong-willed” children.

Dobson followed his dog-beating story with sage advice on the “Hierarchy of Strength and Courage,” which sounds curiously like something Ron Swanson would invent in an episode of Parks and Recreation. Apparently, the only way for children to sort out their relative social position is to fight:

“Whenever a youngster movies into a new neighborhood or a new school district, he usually has to fight (either verbally or physically) to establish himself in the hierarchy of strength. This respect for power and courage also makes children want to know how tough their leaders are… I can guarantee that sooner or later, one of the children under your authority will clench his little fist an take you on. Like Siggie at bedtime, he will say with his manner: ‘I don’t think you are tough enough to make me obey.’ You had better be prepared to prove him wrong in that moment, or the challenge will happen again and again” (4).

What a model of peace-making and cooperation, Dr. Dobson! His explanation of why children defy and look for boundaries sounds like something straight from the Pearls’ toxic teachings:

“Perhaps this tendency toward self-will is the essence of original sin that has infiltrated the human family. It certainly explains why I place such stress on the proper response to willful defiance during childhood, for that rebellion can plant seeds of personal disaster. The weed that grows from it may become a tangled briar patch during the troubled days of adolescence” (5).

At the end of the introduction, Dobson described another dog they owned. “Mindy,” he wrote “[was the] most beautiful, noble dog I’ve ever owned. She simply had no will of her own, except to do the bidding of her masters. Probably because of the unknown horrors of her puppyhood” (11). Oh, you mean like being chased around the room by a man beating you with a belt because you don’t want to go to your doggy-bed? Dobson did explain that his two dogs fell on opposite ends of the compliant-defiant spectrum (just like a minority of children are compliant), but he seems far too happy that Mindy acted like an abused, traumatized animal.

Clearly, it’s vitally important to discipline all the defiance out of your children so they can grow up to well-adjusted members of society. To make this abundantly clear, Dobson described Franklin Roosevelt as a “strong-willed child” who became a “strong-willed man” (8). There is no value judgment of Roosevelt as a person, or President, so one is left to assume that you should dominate your children, lest they become President of the United States. Dobson made it clear that being strong-willed is not a good quality and must be driven out of children (and dogs).

This is virtually identical to the teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl, except the Pearls use Amish horse training as a model.

Dobson wanted a compliant, docile dog (child) that obeys his every command without question. Somehow, that will prepare children for adulthood. To get this result, he advocated parents engage in physical violence and wolf-pack domination to prove how Strong and Courageous they are. The fact that he does not recognize that beating your children and animals can eliminate all their internal desires and wishes is a bad thing should alarm everyone reading him.

I personally owned an abused animal. He was a dog named Freddy. Like Mindy, he was traumatized and we got him from someone who found him on the side of the interstate. I was only five years old when we got Freddy, so I didn’t understand why he acted differently from most dogs. He was deathly afraid of water and loud voices. Looking back, he had all the hallmarks of a traumatized puppy. At times, in my  frustration I lashed out in physical anger. I can remember being confused and somewhat heart-broken by his reactions.

Ironically, around the same time, my parents began reading James Dobson, Michael Pearl, and other Evangelical/fundamentalist homeschooling child abuse advocates. I distinctly remember my early childhood suddenly punctuated by violence against animals – our cat Puddy was an early victim – and Freddy. I was merely modeling the same behavior my parents were using to train me and I saw the impact my cruelty had on my happy dog.

Modern studies of children and spanking show that young children who are spanked are more likely to lash out physically against animals and people.

I learned my lessons and Freddy and I grew to be fast friends over the next decade. Traumatized kids and traumatized animals have a special connection. Unfortunately, part of that is the shared experience of trying to escape the violence of our masters modeled after James Dobson. It disturbs me greatly that Michael Farris thinks this is a good book to recommend, given the giant controversy and deaths associated with the Pearls’ methods.

Even more disturbing: I hoped, somewhere in The  New Strong-Willed Child, I would see Dobson make it clear that spanking infants was a bad idea, but the conclusion to his volume left me almost in tears. A woman, “Mrs. W.W.,” wrote to him complaining about their very young, and very strong-willed child:

“Our third (and last) daughter is “strong-willed!” She is twenty-one months old now, and there have been times I thought she must be abnormal. If she had been my firstborn child there would have been no more in this family. She had colic day and night for six months, then we just quit calling it that. She was simply unhappy all the time. She began walking at eight months and she became a merciless bully with her sisters. She pulled hair, bit, hit, pinched, and pushed with all her might. She yanked out a handful of her sister’s long black hair” (209).

Dobson explained that she “[closed her letter by] advising me to give greater emphasis to the importance of corporeal punishment for this kind of youngster.” His reply consisted of general encouragement and offering hope for the future – nothing of consequence. I can only assume Mrs. W.W. began beating her infant before she was twenty-one months.

Five years later, this mother wrote to Dobson praising his wonderful methods. Mrs. W.W. outlined the two things that improved her daughter: spanking, sometimes creating “an hour of tantrums,” and “allow[ing] her other daughters to fight back with the younger daughter.” Within two days of her older sister “giv[ing] her a good smack on the leg… the attacks ceased.” Mrs. W.W. went on and claimed that “without [the spankings] our Sally would have become at best a holy terror, and at worst, mentally ill. Tell your listeners that discipline does pay off, when administered according to the World of God… I don’t think you went far enough in your book, loving discipline is the key. With perseverance!” (210)

There you have it. I expected, after these letters, James Dobson would offer some sort of “there is a limit to the spankings,” but no. Instead he doubled-down and wrote, “If Mrs. W. reads this revised edition of The New Strong-Willed Child, I want her to know that I had her in mind when I set out to rewrite it.” Because, we must all remember, as Dobson concludes his volume:

“If you fail to understand [your strong-willed child’s] lust for power and independence, you can exhaust your resources and bog down in guilt” (211).

An Open Letter to Thomas Umstattd Jr. and Co.: By Xoxana Sea

Thomas Umstattd Jr. Source: http://www.nanrinella.com/

“In the early days our party line was ‘Homeschooling is perfect. No regulation needed.’ This line of argumentation was good and helpful during our infancy. We needed to sweep internal problems under the rug so we could focus on external threats.”

~ Thomas Umstattd Jr.

Guys, I have been handling all this pretty well up to this point… but this Thomas Umstattd Jr. article has me just… enraged. I can’t take it. To actually admit that the movement was more important than reporting abuse…I mean, I knew it, but to have the huevos to actually say it is unspeakable. It’s not appalling. It’s worse than that. Words, they fail me. I want to write this as an open letter, but I don’t even know how to get it to them.

I want them to look me in the eye, and tell me face-to-face that their movement was more important than my life.

To act like “sure there were problems but we had to get the movement all good, now that we’re solid we can totally fix those” glosses over a couple of tiny details. That was twenty years ago–the time to fix those problems has long passed. The children are grown. There’s no going back.

That was my childhood. I will never get another one.

Now to hear it was all just a charade to shore up a movement…that nobody really believed in patriarchy, they just let a few wackos spout that to their kids because Homeschooling needed to be established! …I would compare it to a slap in the face, but see, a slap in the face was one of the nicest things that ever happened to me as a child.

I never knew anything but patriarchy. I stayed up at night crying and begging god for forgiveness and to please not kill me for the sin of causing men to stumble. In kindergarten.

There is permanent scarring in my brain from living in constant fear. There is permanent scarring in my abdomen. I will never be ok. I will never have a prom. I will never have a first kiss. I will never get to be a child. To learn that it was all just a political operation has stripped what was left of the hellish nightmare I lived in to fake walls, like a movie set, pushed down to reveal that everyone knew but me. I was only something they used.

All the pain and tears and terror and guilt and depression and harm and hate and other agony?

Just a little thing they used to get their political way.

I was a little child. An innocent little child. I could have been happy. There was no reason I shouldn’t have been. There never was any angry god demanding submission. There was never any devil trying to possess me.

These tools were given to narcissistic people with the capacity for evil in order to get them drunk with power; once they were hooked they were told the only way to maintain their power was to support the movement. They would protest anything, make all the calls, show up to state capitols in droves just to keep their precious fix.

At least crack dealers don’t require child abuse as payment.

I don’t know how to express the rage I’m feeling right now. I was used. My nightmare was all just a game to them. And now the patriarchs go on the radio and laugh about it. Because it’s funny. Because me, little four-year-old me, huddled under a blanket in the dark, terrified and hurt and bleeding and sore and begging god to forgive me for things other people had done, is funny to them.

I’m out of words.

I Was Expelled From PHC: Tim Raveling’s Story

Homeschoolers U

I was expelled from PHC in 2009 after writing a paper declaring to the world that I was no longer a Christian.

I left happily, and without looking back.

PHC was small and incredibly insular. There were students there who, like “Esau”, had no idea of what went on off campus, behind closed doors, and to those of us who didn’t quite fit in with the administration’s idea of what PHC students should be. There were students who described the horrific experiences of some of my friends with words like “allegedly,” and who could never imagine any members of the school’s administration ever acting less than saintly.

But that insularity didn’t end with the uber-conservative circles of on-campus students. I arrived in the semester following the so-called “schism,” wherein several professors were booted for being more “liberal arts” than they were “Christian,” and the first good friends I made were students who had gone through that, most of whom were bitter at the school for destroying the educational environment they’d fought so hard to preserve. PHC was central to many of my friends, and when we’d gather off-campus to drink illicit wine they’d often rant for hours about the various ways in which the admin had fucked them over. Even in our anger and betrayal, we still focused inwards, on PHC, on ourselves, on our tiny little community in this great big world.

As for me, though, the most important experiences I had happened in the cracks between my time on campus. I spent one Thanksgiving with a friend of mine, a ribbon dancer in New York City, and her four Kuwaiti friends, where I got stoned for the first time and realized what reggae was for. I spent the next sleeping on the streets in DC and volunteering at a homeless shelter for Thanksgiving dinner. I spent less and less time with fellow students and more and more time with random locals in the Purcellville coffee shop, where I’d draw pictures and people would ask me if PHC was a cult.

When I finally took the trip that changed my life, in the summer of 2009, I came back no longer able to believe in the Christian god, but more, no longer able to care much about the internal drama of this little school that had, when I’d arrived at it, been everything to me. I’d spent the summer in Kurdistan, where the Turkish army had recently burned the farms of a few dozen Kurdish families to the ground, and Damascus, which was at the time still firmly under Assad’s rule, and Athens, where the first riots of the oncoming economic crisis were already in full swing.

So I came back, wrote my paper, burned my bridges, and left.

That was one of the best decisions I ever made.

And yet, the digital age being what it is, I still get ricochets from time to time of PHC drama. Talk to students who are where I was before my trip. Talk to alumni still caught up in the scrabbling, grasping drama of the place. And I feel bad, because guys: it doesn’t have to be this way.

So. You. PHC student. Not the ones who don’t see anything wrong with the place, but you, the ones who do. The ones that are wondering right now if you haven’t made a horrible mistake. If you haven’t wasted the last two years of your life. The ones who are maybe already out, but still revolving around the bitterness of PHC’s betrayal of what it promised you.

It gets better. Whatever PHC’s done to you, know this: it is irrelevant. It is a tiny little outpost of a rotting political movement, and it does not matter. Mike Farris and Graham Walker are obssessed with being the biggest fish in their rapidly stagnating little pond, and once you step out of it, they cannot follow you.

Look up. The world is big and wonderful and scary and there is real shit to be done out here. Sell your stuff. Pack a bag. Hit the road. Do some drugs. Have safe, consensual sex with guys, or girls, or both. Make friends who are pagans and anarchists and communists, friends who have never heard of PHC, friends who are baffled by the very idea of young earth creationism and voting for Rick Santorum.

As for me, I’ll be down in New Orleans, building a communist bookstore. If you’re still at PHC, trying and failing to fit in, feeling stifled and trapped by oversized patriarchal egos, just keep this in mind:

We could always use a few more hands, and bus tickets are cheap.

Beall Phillips, Wife of Doug Phillips, Accuses HSLDA’s Michael Farris of “Gross Error,” “Bully Pulpit”

Beall Phillips, wife of disgraced homeschool leader Doug Phillips. Photo source: Facebook.

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

In a curious turn of events, Beall Phillips — wife of disgraced homeschool leader Doug Phillips, who was accused of sexual assaulting his family’s nanny — has come out swinging against HSLDA’s Michael Farris. Yesterday Farris released his white paper “A Line in the Sand,” where he criticized both Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard, saying, “The philosophies of Gothard and Phillips damage people in multiple ways.” The white paper got the attention of both WORLD Magazine and Shawn Mathis at the Examiner.

Earlier today, however, Beall Phillips left both a public comment on HSLDA’s Facebook page as well as a public status on her own Facebook page accusing Farris of nothing less than lies and misrepresentation. (This is not the first time Beall has gone to bat for her husband. In April of this year she appeared on a local television show with her husband, declaring that, “I think God wanted to draw us together and do something much bigger than us or our family’s story.”) Beall argued there were “gross errors” in Farris’s accusations, such as:

(1) Doug Phillips never taught “that women in general should be subject to men in general,” Beall says, pointing to the fact that, “For about the last 6 years, you and I have sat around the same table for board meetings. Yes, you and I (a woman) were on the same board.”

(2) Despite Michael Farris claiming that patriarchy teaches “Women should not vote,” Beall says, “I have voted as my conscience dictated since I was 18. So do my sons and so will my daughters.”

Here is the full text of Beall’s statement (which, note, is apparently “part one” of a series of statements):

Well, Mike, your article about Doug was, at the very least, in bad taste, and your representation of what Doug and I believe and what we have taught through Vision Forum was rife with gross error.

I have known you for 23 years. I have seen you in many circumstances, some admirable, some not admirable. For about the last 6 years, you and I have sat around the same table for board meetings. Yes, you and I (a woman) were on the same board. You came to Doug’s dad’s funeral in April 2013 with some kind words. Somehow I missed the letter of compassion and concern for my family this year. You have my email address and phone number.

I know, it’s so much faster and easier and cleaner to publish an article and put it on the Internet for how many thousands of people?

How much courage does it take to kick a man who is out of business, out of ministry, and publicly humiliated?

Your caricature of our views would be humorous if it were not so grossly offensive.

Let me help you with a couple of things. I have voted as my conscience dictated since I was 18. So do my sons and so will my daughters. I’m glad for Vickie that she is not under Dennis Rodman’s authority. And I am glad that I am not under your authority. I would choose my husband again any day.

Maybe we can discuss all the other concoctions in your article over coffee sometime. My daughters might want to join us to speak for themselves. If you will sit and listen to them.

Until then, please take my family off your membership list immediately. I do not think you are qualified to represent my children or me in any capacity.

Doug has chosen not to respond, but I will not sit idly by while you use your bully pulpit to malign and misrepresent my husband, my company (yes, I, a woman, was an employee of Vision Forum) my family, and myself.

Please note, this is part one of my response as well.

(You can view a PDF of the statement archived on HA here.)

This conflict — bordering on drama – ironically goes to show the utmost importance of what people like Libby Anne and myself have been saying: Michael Farris does not understand patriarchy and that actually matters. It matters a whole hell of lot.

When someone like Farris constructs straw men of people like Doug Phillips, that helps no one. It obfuscates the real issues and alienates through misrepresentation the people that need to see the damage that their ideas have on people. It also raises the suspicion that Farris is not actually interested in dismantling patriarchy and is more interested in throwing under the bus people who are already down or those against which he already has vendettas.

Straw men do not help homeschool kids or alumni — and they do not help Farris, either, especially when someone like Beall Phillips calls his bluff. In fact, it makes our job of helping homeschool kids and alumni that much harder.