HSLDA’s Will Estrada Endorses Ted Cruz

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

In a public Facebook status today, HSLDA Director of Federal Relations Will Estrada declared his endorsement of Senator Ted Cruz for President.

“I am proud to endorse Ted Cruz for President,” Estrada says, “and to be named one of the national co-chairs of the ‘Homeschoolers for Cruz’ coalition.” The coalition, announced today on Cruz’s website, boasts “an astounding 6,670 members.” You can watch Cruz’s video announcement of the coalition below:

According to Cruz’s website, “The group represents homeschool communities across the country who are dissatisfied with their local school districts, the recent implementation of Common Core, or just wish to be more involved in their children’s upbringing.” The coalition is co-chaired by Estrada, Quiverfull advocate Marlin Bontrager, and former Mike Huckabee campaigner Vicki Crawford. Last year Crawford arranged to have Cruz speak at the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators’ (NICHE) Homeschool Day at the Capitol on March 18, saying, “He’s the perfect match for us [homeschoolers].”

Estrada’s endorsement of Cruz comes at a curious time, considering the efforts HSLDA has made over the last couple years to distance itself from the Christian male supremacy movement known as “Christian Patriarchy.” Marlin Bontrager, who co-chairs the coalition with Estrada, is a long-time supporter of the now-disgraced Christian Patriarchy advocate Doug Phillips and his organization Vision Forum. Bontrager has his family in ATI, both performing as well as participating in the Children’s Institute, ALERT Academy, and other ATI institutions. Bontrager endorses Above Rubies, the Duggar family, and Michael and Debi Pearl.

Marlin Bontrager, co-chair of the “Homeschoolers for Cruz” Coalition with Will Estrada, poses with his two daughters next to Doug Phillips and his daughters at a Vision Forum event. Photo via the Bontrager Family Singers website.

Last year Ted Cruz was a featured speaker at both the National Religious Liberties Conference, organized by outspoken Christian Patriarchy advocate Kevin Swanson, as well as Bob Jones University, a heavily patriarchal school recently rocked by major sexual abuse allegations. Last November Cruz also was excited and proud to receive the endorsement of Flip Benham, who has long been a supporter of the Institute in Basic Life Principles, also a heavily patriarchal (and legalistic) organization founded by the now-disgraced Bill Gothard. Gothard faces sexual harassment accusations from 30 women, 5 of whom are suing IBLP.

According to Cruz’s website, 82 other individuals have been selected to be “leaders” in the Cruz/homeschool coalition. These individuals are:

Leslie Beck
Joshua Bontrager
Carson Bontrager
Mitchell Bongtrager
Allison Bontrager
Chelsy Bontrager
Becky Bontrager
Joseph Brown
Gary Bryan
Kim Bryan
Caleb Burke
Gary Buske
Jason Conner
Mary Cory
Thomas Cory
Jacob Cowman
Samantha Cowman
Dale Crawford
Jeanette Davis
Nate Day
Amy Deace
Steve Deace
Mark Deford
Joe Desaulniers
Sadie Desaulniers
John Desaulniers
Wes Desaulniers
Allison Desaulniers
Tina Dicks
Bethany Dorin
Mary Dorin
Tyler Dorin
Benjamin Dorin
Bryan English
Amy English
Allan Frandson
Amanda Friedl
Bethany Gates
Kristi German
Tom German
Will Ghormley
Judy Goodman
Rob Goodman
Dennis Guth
Mike Habermann
Greg Heartsill
Adam Horning
Brian Kelly
Jan Kendall
Spencer Keroff
Joel Kurtinitis
Kelsey Kurtiitis
Byron Linden
Tim Lubinus
Preston Martens
Kaylee Morris
Marie Morris
Josie Morris
Heather Nandell
George Nelson
Vance Nordaker
Michelle Ober
Rhonda Paine
Kristine Pfab
Ron Richardson
James Snow
Deanna Snow
Jeff Stillwell
Joseph Stillwell
Josiah Stillwell
Kim Stillwell
Kevin Subra
Judith Trumpy
James Unger
Adam Vandall
Tasha Vos
Erin Watkins
Daniel Watkins
Sue West
Darran Whiting
Debi Zahn
Karice Zahn

In other news, Ted Cruz’s super-PAC is being led by David Barton, a controversial historian also popular among conservative Christian homeschoolers.

Archives of above links: Estrada’s endorsement of Cruz | “Homeschoolers for Cruz” Coalition announcement | Bontrager’s “Recommended Resources”

Evidence of HSLDA’s Anti-LGBT Advocacy Disappears From Their Website

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has never been subtle about their dislike of LGBT* people or their impassioned advocacy to ensure that LGBT* people are denied human rights and education. In 2004, HSLDA promoted a constitutional amendment that would ban gay and lesbian couples from not only the institution of marriage but also civil unions. They also created two pages on their website, one entitled “Why HSLDA is Fighting Against Same-Sex Marriage” and the other entitled “Questions and Answers Regarding a Constitutional Amendment on Same-Sex Marriage.” Both made explicit how much HSLDA perceived same-sex marriage as a threat to the very foundations of Western Civilization and threatened human rights everywhere. In 2006, the group again lobbied for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. HSLDA’s Director of Federal Relations, Will Estrada, personally filed HSLDA’s lobbying report. And in 2012, HSLDA Michael Farris made headlines for threatening LGBT* students from Patrick Henry College, a college created and funded by HSLDA.

Yet over the last 2 years, HSLDA has attempted to sweep all this under the rug. In a August 2014 interview with ThinkProgress, “[Will] Estrada said that the group no longer lobbies on this issue and that he did not know why it had done so then” — even though Estrada himself filled HSLDA’s 2006 lobbying report against same-sex marriage. Estrada later claimed that HSLDA fights “for the gay teen being bullied and his mom wants to homeschool him” — making no mention of the fact that HSLDA will also do everything it can to keep those gay teens from later getting married, getting jobs, keeping jobs, or going to college.

Most recently, HSLDA has quietly removed their most anti-LGBT web pages, including the aforementioned “Why HSLDA is Fighting Against Same-Sex Marriage” and “Questions and Answers Regarding a Constitutional Amendment on Same-Sex Marriage” pages. The only main anti-LGBT page remaining on their website is “Critical Decision on Text of Constitutional Amendment Protecting Marriage,” wherein Michael Farris declaims that, “The only way that we can stop same-sex marriage from infecting every state in the nation is to amend the U.S. Constitution.” And Farris minces no words as to what his goal is: “This may be the only time in U.S. history that we can stop the homosexual movement from obtaining full rights of marriage.”

HA has archived as PDFs all three pages here, here, and here.

Homeschooled Kids Matter: A Response to Will Estrada

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Recently Will Estrada, HSLDA’s Director of Federal Relations, posted on social media an image of himself and HSLDA’s Deputy Director of Federal Relations Andrew Mullins heading to Washington, D.C. with the statement, “Snow won’t keep us from fighting for freedom on behalf of millions of homeschoolers around the world!” A homeschool alumna commented on the image, saying, “Smiling won’t keep home school kids from dying from abuse and neglect.”

Will Estrada responded (and fellow HSLDA attorney Mike Donnelly agreed with in a subsequent comment) with the following:

We’re fighting for homeschool freedom for ALL kids so they can escape bad public schools. For the gay teen being bullied and his mom wants to homeschool him. For the Christian teen who is told she can’t read her Bible. For the kids in public school who are being sexually abused (see this story: http://www.slate.com/…/is_sexual_abuse_in_schools_very…)

That catchy little slogan “all kids matter” rings hollow because HA and CRHE do nothing to help the kids in the situations above. We do. By fighting for homeschool freedom so parents, not faceless government bureaucrats, can protect their kids.

Which brings us to the major difference between HA/CRHE and HSLDA: HA/CRHE turn to the tired old liberal position: find something wrong, and add more government regulation and laws. Whereas homeschoolers find something wrong and turn to freedom. That’s why homeschool parents continue to win. Sure, HA/CRHE will continue to get little quotes in the NYT, but it’s why homeschool parents, not HA/CRHE are winning in states like VA, PA, IL, MA, and others.

Here is an image of the interaction:


Since Estrada seems unfamiliar with what HA/HARO actually is and does, and confuses us with the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), I figured I’d clear up some things for him:

HA is Homeschoolers Anonymous, an internet project of the non-profit organization Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out (HARO). As an organization, HARO gives its unqualified support to children who experience a negative or threatening environment in public schools. This is why, from day one of our organization’s launch, we have made explicit that we support homeschooling. As HARO’s FAQ page states, “We believe that homeschooling is a powerful, useful tool. It represents a democratic approach to educational progress, innovation, and creativity. It allows a child’s learning environment to be tailored to individual and personal needs. When homeschooling is done responsibly, it can be amazing.”

HARO’s mission is to support homeschooling families and communities by educating those families and communities how to make homeschooling safer and more supportive to at-risk children. We created a free curriculum on child abuse awareness that such families and communities can download and utilize. Our presentation Facing Our Fears: How the Voices of Homeschool Alumni Can Help Homeschooling gives multiple constructive suggestions for how homeschoolers can rethink certain ideas that have created problems for alumni. We have more such curriculums and presentations in development. We are currently offering a scholarship for homeschool alumna who are entering STEM fields.

So yes, Estrada, HARO does help kids who want to be homeschooled… by helping to make sure homeschooling is a place that they actually want to be and in which they will thrive.

In contrast, here’s the sad truth about what Estrada said: HSLDA’s “help” for these children ends the day they become homeschoolers. Estrada and his organization are “fighting for freedoms” for homeschooling parents; they have no interest in fighting for the freedoms and rights of homeschooled children. In fact, HSLDA — and Estrada himself — have repeatedly gone on record opposing any rights for children. They refused to launch a public awareness campaign about child abuse for their members. They have made light of educationally neglected children. They have gone to bat for parents who put their children in cages. They have defended convicted child abusers. They have given legal and financial support to more than one abusive high-control group. They have promoted books that encourage physical child abuse and gave a Lifetime Achievement Award to a man who has been accused since the 1980’s of sexually harassing and molesting over 30 women. They even refused to help a homeschool mom who was desperate for guidance after her child was allegedly molested by the child of another homeschool leader.

HSLDA has made the lives of numerous homeschooled children a nightmare.

There are homeschooled children who remained trapped in abusive homes because of HSLDA

So while HARO believes strongly in the power of homeschooling and believes it should be an option for children (especially at-risk children), we are not going to give Estrada gold stars for pretending that somehow bullied LGBT* kids can “escape bad public schools” because of HSLDA. He doesn’t get to whitewash his organization’s history towards either children’s rights or LGBT* issues. And we refuse to entertain Estrada’s revisionist attempt to clothe HSLDA as a champion of LGBT* children when he and his organization daily and explicitly contribute to their dehumanization and oppression.

Finally: HARO is not the same organization as the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), which Estrada could have discovered with a simple Google search. HARO has never been quoted in the New York Times. But if we ever have the opportunity, we would tell the newspaper the same thing we would tell Estrada: that HARO’s position is neither to “add more government regulation and laws” nor to “turn to freedom”; HARO’s position is that we must stop turning a blind eye to the children left damaged and abandoned when organizations like HSLDA value “winning” more than actual children’s lives.

Since HSLDA has made clear they are willing to let homeschooled children be the collateral damage of their “winning” strategies, others must rise to the occasion and do the hard work of protecting those in harm’s way. This is the task to which HARO has dedicated itself.

Homeschooled kids do matter. The question is whether or not HSLDA will someday acknowledge that fact.

The False Testimony of Will Estrada on HSLDA and Same-Sex Marriage

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

On August 26, 2014, ThinkProgress reporter Josh Israel published an article entitled “Why Conservative Christian Homeschoolers Are Fighting Standards That Don’t Apply To Them.” Israel’s article focused primarily on HSLDA’s opposition to Common Core. However, he also discussed the fact that HSLDA has long involved itself — and its members’ money — in lobbying that has no obvious relation to homeschooling. One of HSLDA’s non-homeschooling targets has been, and continues to be, the legalization of same-sex marriage. Israel interviewed both myself and Will Estrada (HSLDA’s Director of Federal Relations) on this matter:

One common attack on HSLDA has been that its work often extends to topics that are not directly connected to the rights of homeschoolers…In the 2006 [sic], the group even lobbied for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. A statement on the group’s website explained that because “Same-sex marriage attacks the traditions of the family in western civilization,” it thus constitutes an “attack on parental rights.” Estrada said that the group no longer lobbies on this issue and that he did not know why it had done so then.

Ryan Stollar, executive director of Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out (a group of former homeschoolers who work within the movement to protect the rights of current homeschool kids), told ThinkProgress that he believes the issues the leaders of HSLDA “have chosen and continue to choose to focus on are not necessarily that issues that are in the best interest of the homeschooling movement,” and may be “actively jeopardizing” it. He cites “right-wing extremism,” positing that “making opposition to same-sex marriage a homeschooling issue is shooting [themselves] in the foot” in their attempt to represent the broader movement.

As seen above, Estrada claims that HSLDA “no longer lobbies on this issue.” He even claims that he “did not know why it had done so then.” Estrada would know: he is HSLDA’s Director of Federal Relations. HSLDA says that his job is “to serve as HSLDA’s federal lobbyist.” Surely HSLDA’s federal lobbyist would know what HSLDA is lobbying for and why.

But either Will Estrada is strangely ignorant of his own organization’s agenda against same-sex marriage or he blatantly lied to Josh Israel.

Note that Israel said that, “In the 2006, the group even lobbied for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.” The link that Israel provided takes the viewer  to a lobbying report filed by HSLDA in 2006 regarding the amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Look who signed it:

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Will Estrada himself filed the report.

Yet he “did not know why it had done so”?

Furthermore, if Estrada was not sure why he himself did so (and his organization continues to do so), HSLDA has conveniently made public since 2004 an official page on their website. It’s entitled, “Why HSLDA is Fighting Against Same-Sex Marriage.” It continues to exist to this day. It does not say HSLDA “no longer” fights same-sex marriage. Rather, it declares HSLDA continues to fight it. And the reasons are quite clear:

“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. This is a battle the homeschooling movement cannot afford to lose.”

What of Estrada’s other claim, that “the group no longer lobbies on this issue”?

This, too, is blatantly false. Let’s take a look at just the last two years:

  • HSLDA opposed Hawaii House Bill 1109 because it would legalize same-sex marriages. On January 28, 2013, HSLDA declared they would “Oppose” the bill because, “HSLDA supports traditional marriage.”
  • HSLDA opposed Texas Senate Bill 480 because it would create civil unions for same-sex couples. On February 13, 2013, HSLDA declared they would “Oppose” the bill because, “HSLDA supports traditional marriage as part of the foundation of the Western tradition supporting parental rights.”
  • HSLDA opposed Texas House Bill 1300 because it would legalize same-sex marriage. On February 25, 2013, HSLDA declared they would “Oppose” the bill because, “HSLDA supports traditional marriage as part of the foundation of the Western tradition supporting parental rights.”
  • HSLDA opposed Texas House Joint Resolution 78 because it would repeal Texas’s traditional marriage amendment that excluded same-sex couples from the state’s definition of marriage. On February 25, 2013, HSLDA declared they would “Oppose” the bill because, “HSLDA supports traditional marriage as part of the foundation of the Western tradition supporting parental rights.”
  • HSLDA opposed Delaware House Bill 75 because it would legalize same-sex marriage. On May 21, 2013, HSLDA declared that, “Given HSLDA’s interest in preserving traditional marriage, this bill should be opposed.”
  • HSLDA opposed Rhode Island Senate Joint Resolution 708 because it would legalize same-sex marriages. On July 3, 2013, HSLDA declared they would “Oppose” the bill because, “HSLDA supports traditional marriage and the traditional family.” HSLDA then linked the the article “Why HSLDA is Fighting Against Same-Sex Marriage” — as recently as 2013.
  • HSLDA opposed Pennsylvania House Bill 1647 because it would legalize same-sex marriage. On September 11, 2013, HSLDA declared they would “Oppose” the bill because, “Given HSLDA’s support of traditional marriage between one man and one woman, this bill should be opposed.”
  • HSLDA opposed Pennsylvania House Bill 1688 because it would legalize same-sex marriage. On October 24, 2013, HSLDA declared they would “Oppose” the bill because, “Given HSLDA’s support of traditional marriage between one man and one woman, this bill should be opposed.”
  • HSLDA opposed Hawaii Special Second Session Senate Bill 1 because it would legalize same-sex marriage. On November 14, 2013, HSLDA declared they would “Oppose” the bill.
  • HSLDA opposed Hawaii Second Special Session House Bill 6 because it would legalize same-sex marriage. On January 1, 2014, HSLDA declared they would “Oppose” the bill because, “HSLDA supports traditional marriage” and “opposes the establishment of same-sex marriage.”
  • HSLDA opposed Hawaii House Bill 1109 and Senate Bill 1369 because they would legalize same-sex marriage. On May 1, 2014, HSLDA declared they would “Oppose” these bills because, “HSLDA supports traditional marriage.”

HSLDA has not changed their position on same-sex marriage nor have they stopped lobbying on this matter. They continue to publicly oppose same-sex marriage and they urge their members to similarly mobilize, as evidenced in this e-lert they sent out just a few years ago in 2012:

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Also in this e-lert HSLDA once again explains why they oppose same-sex marriage:

Why is HSLDA opposed to these bills? Our freedom to educate our children is based upon the foundation of marriage and traditional  family. In many of the cases before our courts, parental rights are based on “Western civilization concepts of the family.” Same-sex marriage attacks the traditions of the family in Western civilization upon which the foundation of parental choice in education and basic parental rights are based.

Yet despite repeated mobilization against same-sex marriage all the way through 2013 and 2014 (each mobilization with explicit reasons for why), Estrada had the gall to not only tell ThinkProgress reporter Josh Israel that HSLDA “no longer lobbies on this issue,” but to play clueless about “why it had done so.”

“Excellent speech becomes not a fool: much less do lying lips a prince.” ~ Proverbs 17:7

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.

A Brief History of ATI and HSLDA’s Relationship

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Numerous discussions have arisen online about the relationship between HSLDA and IBLP/ATI. The following is a detailed account of what can be publicly confirmed about that relationship.

Originally called the Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts (IBYC), The Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) was founded in 1961 by Bill Gothard for the purpose of “introducing people to the Lord Jesus Christ.” IBLP’s headquarters are in Oak Brook, Illinois. IBLP has a number of educational programs, one of which is the Advanced Training Institute (ATI, previously ATIA). ATI — which HA covered during our “Inside ATI: A Homeschooling Cult” series — is IBLP’s homeschooling program, the core curriculum of which are the “Wisdom Booklets,” described by IBLP as “a 3,000-page amplification of the Sermon on the Mount.”

According to the Advanced Training Institute, “In the scope of the ATI curriculum, the Bible is the main textbook, the Wisdom Booklets are the core curriculum.” That “core curriculum” began development in 1984 by a team that worked under the direction of 3 individuals: Bill Gothard, Dr. Larry Guthrie, and Inge Cannon.

Bill Gothard and Michael Farris

Bill Gothard, as previously stated, is IBLP’s founder.

Less known, however, is that Michael Farris and his wife Vickie embraced the Quiverfull lifestyle specifically because of him.

As documented in Kathryn Joyce’s Quiverfull, Michael Farris “came to his Quiverfull beliefs through the ministry of Bill Gothard.” In the 1980s, Gothard preached that God should determine family size. And “one of Gothard’s early converts was [HSLDA’s Michael] Farris, who was already primed for the message of letting God control Vickie’s fertility by early anti-contraception literature and his immersion, in the late 70’s, in a conservative Christian movement in Washington State.”

Vickie Farris herself explains this in her book A Mom Just Like You, saying,

Mike had recently been ordained through our local church in preparation for his new job in Washington, DC. He was invited to a pastors’ seminar taught by Bill Gothard, and one of the things Bill discussed that day was the fact that children are always mentioned in the Bible as unqualified blessings… He encouraged the men at the seminar to have as many  children as their faith could handle! When Mike came home and told me the things Bill had said, we decided then and there, with some trepidation, to trust God and stop using birth control. (page 68)

This influence led Vickie to pass on the message and “encourage other women to reject birth control methods and embrace motherhood.”

Inge Cannon and HSLDA

A graduate of Bob Jones University, Inge Cannon was truly the overseer of launching ATI’s Wisdom Booklets in 1984. According to HSLDA’s accounting, it was while working at Maranatha Baptist Bible College that “she was first introduced to the concept of home education. Bill Gothard, founder and president of the Institute in Basic Life Principles, invited Inge to attend a special conference to plan the foundation of the Institute’s home education curriculum, the Advanced Training Institute of America.” In 1985, Cannon moved to Oak Brook specifically “to direct the ATIA program.” She then continued to develop ATI — both the program itself and the curriculum — until 1990. In 1990, after 6 years of working with Gothard and directing ATI, Michael Farris himself sought her out to find a Director of HSLDA’s new division, the National Center for Home Education. She filled the position herself, becoming “the first executive director of the National Center.”

It ought to be stressed that Inge Cannon is responsible for the ATI curriculum — especially the Wisdom Booklets. More than that, as documented by Jeri Lofland, Cannon discouraged young people from going to college during ATI conferences in Knoxville. As Lofland notes,

I was just one of thousands of young people who were told that we didn’t need college credits, that college would corrupt our minds with “vain philosophies” and threaten our faith, that there are some things “God doesn’t want us to know”, and that employers would come looking for us because of our diligence, obedience, and virtue. So, many of us dutifully eschewed degrees in favor of home-based study.

Cannon being recruited by HSLDA’s Michael Farris was not mere coincidence. Cannon herself points out that she and her work is officially “endorsed” by not only Bill Gothard, but Michael Farris (as well as Bob Jones, III).

Larry Guthrie, Inspiring Speaker

The third person overseeing the development of the Wisdom Booklets in the 1980s was Larry Guthrie. In addition to writing “science and medical curriculum materials” for ATI, Guthrie is “the former director of the Children’s Institute”. The Children’s Institute, as discussed by Lana Hope, was where children “started learning about the umbrella of authority from the age of 5.” He also wrote some of the Character Sketches sold by Gothard’s ALERT program.

Still a keynote speaker at homeschool conferences, Guthrie has been promoted by HSLDA as “inspiring.” In 2011, HSLDA promoted the Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators Annual Conference and Curriculum Fair, featuring Guthrie. Similarly in 2013, Peter Kamakawiwoole, HSLDA Staff Attorney, encouraged HSLDA members to attend a conference with Guthrie as keynote speaker.

Beyond Curriculum Developers

The warm camaraderie and partnerships between ATI and HSLDA extend beyond the direct relationships between ATI’s Wisdom Booklet developers (Gothard, Cannon, and Guthrie) and HSLDA. Dianne Hurst, ATI’s grammar curriculum developer, was featured on HSLDA’s Home School Heartbeat for a week. Hurst is also married to HSLDA’s Membership and Human Resources Director, Chuck Hurst. Steve Wells, who worked with Gothard and ATI to develop an online distance learning engineering program (the parent to IBLP’s Telos Institute and Verity College), also appeared on Home School Heartbeat for a week. Inge Cannon was similarly featured on Home School Heartbeat — and more than once.

Vicki Bentley, HSLDA’s coordinator for Toddlers to Tweens and Group Services, recommends ATI for “Bible/Character Training” in the Virginia Homeschool Manual she compiled.

In the 2008 edition of HSLDA’s Court Report, HSLDA featured a history of “The Early Days of Homeschooling.” HSLDA highlights Bill Gothard and Inge Cannon, saying ATI “helped many families get started.” Additionally, ATI is featured on HSLDA’s official curriculum list. ATI is also an HSLDA Discount Group, and just last summer HSLDA promoted an ATI “success story” in Court Report.

In 1989, prior to Inge Cannon joining HSLDA, she helped support a memorandum in Ohio written by HSLDA’s Michael Smith. This memorandum explained “that there is no legal requirement in Ohio that a homeschooling instructor possess a college degree.” According to HSLDA,

Mrs. Inge Pohl [Cannon], Director of Education for the Advanced Training Institute of America (a nationwide homeschool program), testified at trial in North Dakota that in testing 5,000 youngsters pursuant to their program, they found no significant correlation between the parents’ education and their children’s success in testing.

ATI and Patrick Henry College (started and initially funded by HSLDA) also share a rich donor. Dr. James Leininger, a Texas physician, homeschooling parent, and part-owner of the San Antonio Spurs, has long bankrolled conservative Christian projects. He was a founding director of Vision Forum. He served on the Advisory Board for IBLP. And not only was he “one of the first and most significant contributors” to HSLDA’s Patrick Henry College, he also is currently on that college’s Board of Trustees.

Jordan Lorence, ATI, and HSLDA

More than anyone, Jordan Lorence represents the working relationship between ATI and HSLDA. (You might recognize Lorence most recently as the lawyer representing the New Mexico photographer who refused to photograph a same-sex ceremony.)

In the late Christopher Klicka’s book Home School Heroes: The Struggle & Triumph of Home Schooling in America (a book endorsed by Lorence himself, which you can see on the book’s back cover), Klicka points out that Lorence worked with HSLDA from the very beginning. Starting in 1984, Lorence worked part-time for HSLDA and handled legal contacts with homeschoolers. It was Lorence, along with Michael Farris, that interviewed Klicka when he was hired by HSLDA.

In 1985, Lorence served as HSLDA’s Director.

In 1991, Lorence became a full-time staff attorney for HSLDA, focusing on HSLDA’s presence in Canada.

During this time, Lorence also worked with Bill Gothard and IBLP/ATI. Lorence spoke for several years at ATI conferences held in Knoxville and Oklahoma; he was a welcome and well-known guest. There is an online record of his presentation at a 1994 ATI conference in Knoxville. In 1996, Lorence represented IBLP in the court case Institute in Basic Life Principles, Inc. v. Watersmeet TP.

Jordan Lorence  also played an instrumental role in Oak Brook College of Law, as discussed next.

Oak Brook College of Law and HSLDA

The final and most significant relationship between ATI and HSLDA involves Oak Brook College of Law.

Oak Brook College of Law (based in Fresno, California but sharing the same name as IBLP’s geographical location — namely, Oak Brook, Illinois) was launched by ATI itself. In fact, OBCL is still listed on IBLP’s website as one of IBLP’s educational programs and their graduation ceremonies were held at IBLP Training Centers. Not only that, but law students at OBCL study Bill Gothard’s Basic Seminar material.

Law students do not simply study Gothard’s Basic Seminar material, however.

According to Oak Brook’s official college policies as of last year, a “prerequisite for admission” into the school is “attendance at all the sessions of the Seminar in Basic Life Principles sponsored by the Institute in Basic Life Principles.”

When OBCL was launched in 1995, it was done so as a joint effort between ATI and HSLDA stakeholders. Bill Gothard served as the law school’s Chancellor (and he still is the Chancellor), Michael Farris served on the Board of Trustees, and former HSLDA director and staff attorney Jordan Lorence served (and continues to serve) as the school’s Constitutional Law Professor as well as is Chairman of Oak Brook’s Board of Advisors. ***

The relationship continued when graduates of Oak Brook faced difficulties taking the bar in states other than California. In 2005, HSLDA specifically supported Texas House Bill 826 (which ultimately failed to pass) because “homeschoolers who graduate from the distance-learning school Oak Brook College of Law in California are currently prohibited from taking the Texas Bar Exam.” HSLDA highlighted that Oak Brook students “have worked as Legal Assistants for the HSLDA Legal Department” and HSLDA “hired two graduates of the school to work as lawyers in our office.”

Graduates of Bill Gothard’s law school have indeed gone on to work for HSLDA. HSLDA attorney Darren Jones graduated from Oak Brook. Will Estrada, HSLDA’s Director of Federal Relations, graduated from Oak Brook. HSLDA Legal Assistant Elliot Ko graduated from Oak Brook. HSLDA attorney Tj Schmidt graduated from Oak Brook. Former HSLDA legal assistant Daniel Beasley graduated from Oak Brook.

*** Update, February 15, 2014: Jordan Lorence emailed Homeschoolers Anonymous on February 10 and said that, as of February 10, he had “resigned from all of [his] connections with Oak Brook College of Law.” There is no official statement from the college itself on the matter. However, a screenshot from Oak Brook’s website on January 20 shows Lorence listed as faculty; their current faculty page no longer lists him.