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The Third Wave of Homeschool Persecution

From a speech delivered by HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris at the Christian Home Educators of Ohio conference on October 7, 2010

A THIRD WAVE OF ARGUMENT that seeks to curtail or crush the homeschooling movement—specifically, the Christian homeschooling movement—is coming. You need to know about it. You need to get ready to fight it.

Freedom of religion is under attack.

Unlike the first two waves, it is based on an essentially true factual premise, whereas the first two waves were based on faulty factual assertions.

The first wave of attack on homeschooling was based on the argument that homeschooling simply could not deliver a proper program of academic instruction. This assertion has been decisively proven false and is no longer believed by any credible person on any side of the homeschooling debate.

The second wave of attack was based on the all-too-familiar whine, “What about socialization?” But, because the first generation of homeschoolers has participated in a huge number of community activities while being home educated and is now entering the world of college and the workforce, tens of millions of people now know people who have been homeschooled. And the vast majority of people who know a child who has been homeschooled for a number of years would simply laugh at the idea that there are socialization problems from this approach to education.

There is a bit of work left to completely eradicate this second false assertion, but another decade of homeschoolers entering the workforce and the world of adulthood should pretty much take care of the need we have for societal acceptance of the truth: homeschoolers get along well with others—even those who radically differ from them.

But there is a third wave coming. And I doubt that many of you have any idea of the intensity and breadth of the elitist movement that is taking dead aim at our movement. This time, they are armed with an argument that is essentially true.

Now when you read their material, they exaggerate the facts, they invent hypothetical examples that are so far-fetched as to be laughable; but when you dig down and look honestly at their charges, they are essentially correct.

Here is their assertion. Christian homeschooling parents are effectively transmitting values to their children that the elitists believe are dangerous to the well-being of both these very children and society as a whole.

What are those values? Homosexuality is a sin. Men should be the leaders of their families. Jesus is the only way to God. All other religions are false.

I could go on. But what the elitists really mean is the set of religious beliefs that they label as fundamentalist Christianity.

The March of a New Orthodoxy

Kimberly A. Yuracko, a professor from the prestigious Northwestern University School of Law, wrote an article for the California Law Review claiming that there are legal and constitutional limits on the ability of homeschooling parents “to teach their children idiosyncratic and illiberal beliefs and values.” She contends that there must be new legal approaches to mandate government control of the educational choices for those children whose “parents want to teach against the enlightenment.”1

States delegate power over children.

In the May 2010 edition of the William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal, Catherine Ross, a law professor from George Washington Law School, published a broadside aimed at the hundreds of thousands of families homeschooling represents. Her article was entitled “Fundamentalist Challenges to Core Democratic Values: Exit and Homeschooling.”

Listen to how she begins:

This Essay explores the choice many traditionalist Christian parents (both fundamentalist and evangelical) make to leave public schools in order to teach their children at home, thus in most instances escaping meaningful oversight. I am not primarily concerned here with the quality of academic achievement in the core curricular areas among homeschoolers, which has been the subject of much heated debate. Instead, my comments focus on civic education in the broadest sense, which I define primarily as exposure to the constitutional norm of tolerance. I shall argue that the growing reliance on homeschooling comes into direct conflict with assuring that children are exposed to such constitutional values.2

Listen to her again, later in the same article:

Many liberal political theorists argue, however, that there are limits to tolerance. In order for the norm of tolerance to survive across generations, society need not and should not tolerate the inculcation of absolutist views that undermine toleration of difference. Respect for difference should not be confused with approval for approaches that would splinter us into countless warring groups. Hence an argument that tolerance for diverse views and values is a foundational principle does not conflict with the notion that the state can and should limit the ability of intolerant homeschoolers to inculcate hostility to difference in their children—at least during the portion of the day they claim to devote to satisfying the compulsory schooling requirement.3

Again, Professor Ross continues:

If a parent subscribes to an absolutist belief system premised on the notion that it was handed down by a creator, that it (like the Ten Commandments) is etched in stone and that all other systems are wrong, the essential lessons of a civic education (i.e., tolerance and mutual respect) often seem deeply challenging and suspect. If the core principle in a parent’s belief system is that there is only one immutable truth that cannot be questioned, many educational topics will be off limits. Such “private truths” have no place in the public arena, including the public schools.4

And, finally, Professor Ross tells us what she thinks should be done about us, in addition to imposing testing requirements and all manner of academic regulation.

I propose that we add to the civics education goals of the state, including lessons on mutual respect for diverse populations and viewpoints as a mandatory curricular requirement. As I observed above, some homeschoolers doubtless are committed to diversity, and this requirement would not conflict with their educational agenda, but this is not the group that concerns me. Imposing curricular requirements about respect for diverse viewpoints will be seen as undermining the most authoritarian conservative homeschoolers—those who believe in an absolute truth which forms the basis of the education they provide their children. Unfortunately, the unavoidable counterpart of a belief in absolute truth is that other belief systems are mistaken at best, and at worst, evil.5

Professors Yuracko and Ross are far from alone in urging these positions. Professor Martha Albertson Fineman, from the Emory University School of Law, wrote in 2009 of her fear of parents with “oppressive, hierarchical belief systems.”6 She says,

Indeed, the long-term consequences for the child being home schooled or sent to a private school cannot be overstated. The total absence of regulation over what and how children are taught leaves the child vulnerable to gaining a sub-par or non-existent education from which they may never recover. Moreover, the risk that parents or private schools unfairly impose hierarchical or oppressive beliefs on their children is magnified by the absence of state oversight or the application of any particular educational standards.7

So what does she recommend should be done about all of us?

Private education should be banned. All of it. Private schools, religious schools, homeschools.

. . . [T]he more appropriate suggestion for our current educational dilemma is that public education should be mandatory and universal. Parental expressive interest could supplement but never supplant the public institutions where the basic and fundamental lesson would be taught and experienced by all American children: we must struggle together to define ourselves both as a collective and as individuals.8

Fineman’s comments come from a book entitled What Is Right for Children? The Competing Paradigms of Religion and Human Rights.

The closer I get to my LLM (master of laws) degree in public international law from the University of London, where I have focused on human rights law, the more I agree with the subtitle of Fineman’s book—with one small caveat.

But first, one needs to know how internationalists define human rights. To the United Nations crowd, human rights contain five categories of rights: economic, social, cultural, political, and civil rights. The civil and political rights are closely parallel to the American Bill of Rights. But economic, social, and cultural rights mandate global socialism and religious syncretism.

Thus, when one pulls open the cover and really looks at the worldview of UN theories of human rights, it is beyond debate that it is incompatible with faithful, biblical Christianity.

My University of London textbook cited Religious Liberty and International Law in Europe by Malcolm Evans in regard to the idea of adopting an international convention on religious liberty. Evans describes a very strange notion of liberty:

“If this means anything, it means that the freedom of religion does not include the right to adhere to a religion which is intolerant of the beliefs of others. On this view, ‘Human Rights’ has itself become a ‘religion or belief’ which is itself as intolerant of other forms of value systems which may stand in opposition to its own central tenets as any of those it seeks to address.”9

Make no mistake about it. This is the march of a new orthodoxy. It is a competing religion. You are one of its adherents if you say that all roads lead to God. If you refuse to subscribe to this article of faith, your rights won’t be protected; you will be persecuted.

Mandatory Tolerance

Article 29 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) affirmatively mandates certain things that must be taught to all children. This mandate applies to public schools, private schools, homeschools, Sunday schools, parents who are just talking to their kids at dinner, and even the content of television programs.

Here is one clause from Article 29: “The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin . . . .”10

Now you understand what they mean to accomplish with mandatory teaching of tolerance. They aim to stop you from teaching your own children that Jesus is the only way to God. The American Bar Association (ABA) recognized all of this years ago in a book it published promoting the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. According to the ABA, a church school that taught that other worldviews are unacceptable and that Jesus is the only way to God would be teaching lessons that “fly in the face” of Article 29 of the CRC.11

The human rights movement promotes the notion that a child’s right to an education—specifically a tolerant education of the sort we see outlined in Article 29 and explained by professors Evans, Yuracko, Ross, and Fineman—declares that the child’s interests flow from the state. Thus, the state stands superior to the parent. Here is what Yuracko says on this very point:

This argument about the constitutionally mandated minimum education that states must require of homeschools is critically important for two reasons. Conceptually, it rejects the dominant HSLDA view that parents possess absolute control over their children’s education. It highlights the legal distinctness of parents and children and emphasizes that parental control over children’s basic education flows from the state (rather than vice versa). States delegate power over children’s basic education to parents, and the delegation itself is necessarily subject to constitutional constraints.12

Let me quote that again. “States delegate power over children to parents—not vice versa.”

The motive is to stop Christianity. The theory that advances their motive is that the state comes first in a child’s life. And I am proud that at least one of these professors recognizes that HSLDA is their chief opponent.

These advocates of children’s rights love to wrap themselves in the mantle of international human rights. But do their radical theories about parents, children, and education comport with the recognized principles of human rights?

A Prior Right

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted in 1948 by the UN General Assembly, is considered the grand foundation of all international human rights documents. Its adoption was not an act of international law, but an aspirational document pointing nations to public policy positions that were believed to protect human rights. Article 26 contains this provision:

“Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”13

It is an article of faith among international human rights advocates that the launch of the human rights movement was a global response to the atrocities of Nazi Germany. Hitler claimed a prior right to choose the education and philosophy for children of his Reich. The UDHR repudiates this Nazi position and solidly places the choice of education first with the parent. Our rights are prior to any government claims over our children.

This philosophy was repeated in a document that is considered a component of the International Bill of Human Rights—the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.

It says in Article 13:

The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to choose for their children schools, other than those established by the public authorities, which conform to such minimum educational standards as may be laid down or approved by the State and to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.14

Parents get to choose the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions. Even fundamentalist Christians are included in this declaration.

Crushing Dissent

Listen to what one sensible international law professor says about the theories of these radicals of human rights. Professor Cole Durham describes various state approaches to religious liberty. Going from one extreme to the other, he lists:

  • Absolute theocracies (for example, stereotypical Islamic fundamentalist regimes)
  • States with established churches (Great Britain is one example: “maintains an established church, but guarantees equal treatment for all other religious beliefs”15)
  • States with endorsed churches (countries where a particular church is recognized as holding a special place in the culture and history, such as Spain)
  • Cooperationist regimes (Germany today, where the government cooperates with and even funds religious institutions, but does not single any out for special recognition)
  • Accommodationist states (some in U.S. theory; maintain “a posture of benevolent neutrality toward religion”16)
  • Separationist states (“rigid separation of church and state”17—for instance, Stalinist regimes)

“As state influence becomes more pervasive and regulatory burdens expand, refusal to exempt or accommodate shades into hostility,” notes Durham.18 Of the separationist states, the author says:

More extreme forms of separationism make stronger attempts to cordon off religion from public life. One form this can take is through tightening the state monopoly on certain forms of educational or social services. In the educational realm, the state can ban home schooling altogether, can proscribe private schools, or can submit either of the foregoing to such extensive accreditation requirements that it is virtually impossible for independent religious education to function.19

The “more extreme forms” of the separationist (or Stalinist) approach to religious freedom want to ban or heavily regulate homeschooling and private religious schools. We have American law professors—lots of them—advocating for the extreme forms of Stalinist-style separationism as it is applied to private and home education.

These people do not embrace a true theory of human rights any more than the Soviet Union and Communist China. Both regimes ratify human rights treaties and then behave as they please, crushing those whose dissent they cannot tolerate.

Professors Ross, Yuracko, and Fineman may think that our views fly in the face of the requirements of Article 29 of the CRC. But their views fly in the face of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Constitution of the United States of America.

It will not be surprising to any of you to learn that the CRC is the first international human rights document dealing with parents and children that fails to embrace the prior right of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children.

The “It takes a village to raise a child” crowd believe that all children are children of the village. Any parental decision-making authority regarding education is a mere delegation of a core power from the government, and all prior claims over the development of the hearts and minds of children reside with the village and not with the family.

Have I gotten your attention?

We should not think this is without consequence, that it is just a bunch of crazy feminist law professors running amuck.

Twenty years ago, the legal elites started chanting for the recognition of same-sex marriage. They are using the legal system to accomplish this and today they are winning, and proponents of traditional marriage are deeply on the defensive.

If we do not take these threats seriously, it means we have neither common sense nor spiritual perception.

In September, HSLDA sponsored its annual conference for state homeschooling leaders. We invited a number of special speakers—but we didn't give them a topic and we didn't have an announced theme for the conference. But there was a theme—it was just not arranged by us.

Erwin Lutzer felt compelled by God to warn us that trouble is coming if we name the name of Christ. Phil Tuttle warned us: Trouble is coming if we name the name of Christ. Mike Smith related to us a warning he heard in a message by John MacArthur: America is headed for trouble—especially for those who name the name of Christ.

And then I delivered the speech on which this article is based. The other people were prompted by God to give a warning that trouble was coming for Christians and for homeschoolers in particular. But I gave the audience the names of some of the wannabe persecutors, cited their articles, revealed their plans, explained their theories, and read some of their arguments.

You now know a great deal about those who intend to bring trouble to the homeschooling movement because many of us love Jesus and teach our children that He is the only way to God. If we do not take them seriously, we are fools.

But please let me be clear, all homeschoolers—regardless of their religious affiliation—will be impacted by the theories of Fineman et al. They have taken dead aim at the broad concept of parental rights, although their foremost objection is to the philosophical content of Christian education.

The Preparation

So, what do we do? There are three points I would like to suggest in response to these incredibly dangerous threats.


First, we must fortify the team and structures that won the initial battles for homeschooling freedom.

The law review articles I have quoted from describe homeschooling’s success as a political miracle. And it is! We took on the biggest educational lobbying group in the United States—the National Education Association-and we won. Now I give God all the glory for this, but it behooves me to mention what strategies won the battle. We need to recognize the methods and instrumentalities that were used by God to bring about our initial victory.

This is not the time to be abandoning state homeschooling organizations. We all know that God used and blessed state organizations, especially through their annual conventions, to build, inform, motivate, and turn out the team to win battles in state after state. Local support groups that pass along critical information about legal and political threats are also absolutely essential to our future defense, as they were in the past.

This is not a time to be fat and happy. It is the time to get fit and ready for battle. Strong state and local organizations are absolutely essential to the fight that is coming from the village people like Ross, Fineman, Yuracko, Evans, Clinton, Boxer, and Obama. HSLDA will continue to play a key role in this battle as well. We have been litigating and lobbying at all levels since 1983. Home School Legal Defense Association is mentioned by name in 108 law review articles. These law review articles reflect the begrudging respect that our philosophical opponents give to our efforts.

And we need you to be a part of the team—with HSLDA, state organizations, and local groups. Our team needs to get fit and ready to inform, encourage, motivate, and lead our people into the political and legal battle to defend our freedom to communicate our faith to our children.

The victory will depend on our faithfulness to God. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (II Chronicles 7:14, New International Version).


The second response to the academic elitism that threatens homeschooling is this: We must defeat the CRC and pass the Parental Rights Amendment.

I saw a comment on Facebook recently: “Those who say that something can’t be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.”

I agree with what Pastor Lutzer said at our recent conference. His sense is that there is some time remaining before the full impact of the judgment. And as God did so often in the Old Testament, when one generation responded correctly, He delayed the impending judgment.

We need to stand up for a permanent protection for parental rights. In another 20 years, it will be too late.


Finally, God is our protector and we must never, ever, ever give up.

Let me share with you my favorite passage about those who must face injustice.

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8, NIV)

When should we pray? Always! When should we give up? Never.

This is one spot in which I may disagree with some of those who share my view that persecution is coming. They say we have already lost the culture war. I think I know what is meant and I agree to a point. But, there is a deeper truth and it is a truth that homeschoolers have lived—especially those of you who have been at this a while. Homeschoolers have suffered direct persecution before in this country. We have been prosecuted. We have been threatened. We have been ostracized. We have been criticized by our families. We have as much as or more experience with direct persecution than any other segment of the American Christian population.

Homeschoolers need to show the Body of Christ how to respond to the days that are coming. Persecution is on its way. It is in the law reviews today. It will be in the courtrooms tomorrow. They are going to try to win. They are going to throw everything at us they can. The attitude we need is like that displayed by Gandalf in a memorable scene in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Facing his mortal enemy who is the very embodiment of evil, Gandalf shouts with unbending resolution, “You shall not pass!”

Truth is on our side. Freedom is on our side. The American Constitution is on our side. And all of that matters, so long as we remain faithfully on God’s side. Stand up for Jesus, and He will never leave us or forsake us.

The persistent widow got justice. We have seen this parable proven true in our lives already—homeschooling went from the shadows to clear legal protection. Our enemies say that this was a political miracle and they are right. And it is a miracle that God can work again! We can lead the rest of the believers in America not in a path of mere resistance, but in a confident march to victory, not because we are huge in numbers or mighty in our own strength. We are assured of victory because “greater is he that is in [us], than he that is in the world” (I John 4:4, King James Version).


1 Kimberly A. Yuracko, “Education Off the Grid: Constitutional Constraints on Homeschooling,” California Law Review 96 (February 2008): 183.

2 Catherine Ross, “Fundamentalist Challenges to Core Democratic Values: Exit and Homeschooling,” William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal 18 (May 2010): 991.

3 Ibid., 1005.

4 Ibid., 1006.

5 Ibid., 1008.

6 Martha Albertson Fineman, “Taking Children’s Interests Seriously,” in What Is Right for Children? The Competing Paradigms of Religion and Human Rights, ed. Martha Albertson Fineman and Karen Worthington, 229-37 (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2009), 233.

7 Ibid., 235.

8 Ibid., 237.

9 Malcolm D. Evans, Religious Liberty and International Law in Europe (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 260.

10 UN General Assembly, Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc.htm.

11 Susan H. Bitensky, “Educating the Child for a Productive Life: Articles 28 and 29,” in Children’s Rights in America: U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child Compared with United States Law, ed. Cynthia Price Cohen and Howard A. Davidson, 167-96 (NP: American Bar Association, 1990), 182.

12 Yuracko, “Education Off the Grid,” 132.

13 UN General Assembly, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/.

14 UN General Assembly, International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, 1966, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cescr.htm.

15 Cole Durham, “Perspectives on Religious Liberty: A Comparative Framework,” in International Human Rights in Context: Law, Politics, Morals, ed. Henry J. Steiner, Philip Alston, and Ryan Goodman, 3rd ed., 570-74 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 572.

16 Ibid., 573.

17 Ibid.

18 Ibid.

19 Ibid.