No Right To Homeschool

If you haven’t heard about this story yet, you need to read this. A court in New Hampshire has denied a mother’s right to homeschool her child. The judge said that the child “appeared to reflect her mother’s rigidity on questions of faith” and ordered the child to attend public school for the 2009-2010 schoolyear.

For the full story, read here, here, and here. Last week, Albert Mohler devoted an entire episode of his radio program to this issue. Listen to it below.

[audio:http://www.sbts.edu/media/audio/totl/2009/AMP_09_08_2009.mp3]

This ruling is nothing short of astonishing. If a court can weigh-in like this against the wishes of a child’s parent and legal guardian, then something is really wrong. Every parent in America should be paying attention to this story.

25 Responses to No Right To Homeschool

  1. Nathan September 14, 2009 at 9:54 am #

    At one level this is very sad. At another it is not surprising at all. It has only been 25 years or so that courts and state officials were threatening jail time for parents who home-schooled their children. They stated at the time that the children would not receive adequate education and that they would be socially limited.

    Time has proven that home-school children are typically academically superior and socially just as connected.

    Welcome back 1984 – Big brother is watching

  2. ex-preacher September 14, 2009 at 1:10 pm #

    What the Christian right – including your post – conveniently forgets to mention is that the one insisting that the girl attend public school is her father. This is a cistody case, not a homeschool vs. public school case.

  3. ex-preacher September 14, 2009 at 1:11 pm #

    “custody case”

  4. Nathan September 14, 2009 at 1:23 pm #

    Custody has already been determined by the court and the girls mother has primary custody. As for the father having the ability to teach the girl his worldview and/or his religious views is not in question.

  5. Darius T September 14, 2009 at 2:12 pm #

    Ex-preacher, as Nathan pointed out, custody is not in view here at all. It has to do with religious freedom, which the judge shows he does not support that right.

  6. ex-preacher September 14, 2009 at 10:47 pm #

    Perhaps custody is not the proper term, but the case revolves around the father’s objections to the way his daughter is being raised. The scare headlines used by the religious right leave the impression that a court just randomly ordered a mother not to homeschool. This is very misleading – even dishonest.

  7. Nathan September 15, 2009 at 7:57 am #

    ex-preacher,

    If you are saying that the court has the right to tell a parent (whether its a divorce situation or not) that they cannot teach their own religious values to the child, then you don’t believe in the 1st Ammendment of the Constitution.

    The mother is not breaking any laws by teaching the girl about Christianity. The father, during his time with the girl, would have every right to teach his religious views (or none at all) to the child. For a court to intervene is preposterous and this will be overturned, otherwise the US Constitution is worthless.

    But, the judge in the ruling is attempting to hide under the guise of home-schooling instead of coming out directly and saying this mother does not have 1st Ammendment privileges. And that is very dangerous for all other home-school parents.

    You are right, it is misleading and dishonest. But it is the judge who is misleading and dishonest.

  8. ex-preacher September 15, 2009 at 1:26 pm #

    No, Nathan, I’m not saying that a court has the right to tell a parent that they cannot teach their own religious values to the child. The court didn’t say that either.

    If you haven’t done so, please read the decision itself:
    http://www.telladf.org/UserDocs/KurowskiOrder.pdf

    The only reason the court is involved is because under the parents divorce decree, “the parties agreed to joint decision-making responsibility for Amanda, including a provision requiring them to engage a mediator or parenting cordinator if they disagree about major decisions for Amanda. The parties reserved for the Court the issue whether Amanda would attend public school for the 2009-2010 school year.”

    The Guardian ad Litum and a counselor (sought by the mother as I understand) “concluded that Amanda’s best interests . . . would be best served by exposure to a public school setting. . .” In the process of counseling, Interestingly, Amanda “challenged the counselor to say what the counselor believed, and she prepared some highlighted biblical text for the counselor to read over and discuss, and she was visibly upset when the counselor did not complete the assignment.”

    The judge said, “the Court is extremely reluctant to impose on parents a decision about a child’s education . . . Considering the testimony of both parties and the Guardian ad Litum, and by the standards of a preponderance of the evidence, the Court concludes that it would be in Amanda’s best interests to attend public school.”

    With regards to religious instruction:
    “In reaching this conclusion, the Court is mindful of its obligation not to consider the specific tenets of any religious system . . . and therefore the Court has not considered the merits of Amanda’s religious beliefs. . . The Court declines to impose any restrictions on either party’s ability to provide Amanda with religious training or to share with Amanda their own religious beliefs.”

  9. Nathan September 15, 2009 at 1:49 pm #

    ex-preacher, you are cherry picking comments.

    With regards to religious instruction:
    “In reaching this conclusion, the Court is mindful of its obligation not to consider the specific tenets of any religious system . . . and therefore the Court has not considered the merits of Amanda’s religious beliefs”

    Justice Lucinda Sadler also said she “believes that exposure to other points of view will decrease Amanda’s rigid adherence to her mother’s religious beliefs, and increase her ability to get along with others and to function in a world which requires some element of independent thinking and tolerance for different points of view.”

    Decrease her rigid adherence to her religious beliefs? Tolerance for different points of view? Who gets to decide what that tolerance is?

    Justice Sadler also said that Amanda “appeared to reflect her mother’s rigidity on questions of faith . . . Amanda’s relationship with her father suffers to some degree by her belief that his refusal to adopt her religious beliefs and his choice instead to spend eternity away from her proves that he does not love her as much as he says he does.”

    So now the court will determine the child’s religious training and that is based on whether or not the child is home-schooled? That is a preposterous statement unless the court expects teachers in the public school to either dissuade Amanda from her “rigid” views or proselyte her with other religious views.

    If the child is being adequately educated then the father cannot bring charges based on religion to this case. And for the court to rule based on explanations of religious beliefs is outside the bounds of the Constitution.

    Point is this: The father can’t persuade his kid to be an atheist, so he is ticked off.

  10. BPRjam September 15, 2009 at 3:51 pm #

    My perspective is NOT that the court is ruling based on religion, as Nathan implies, but is mediating a civil matter in which one person has a grievance against another.

    In fact, the court seems to be reluctant to rule at all, but since the court must chose between a mother who desires strict religion education, and a father who wants the child dissuaded from religion, how should the court chose? By what criteria? And what solution would NOT be considered a ruling against the “religion” of one of her parents? In short, this was a no-win for the court. I don’t know what they should have done differently given the context of the case. (Plus, this has nothing to do with constitutional rights.)

    On another note, I’d like to see more discussion on whether or not good Christian education should generate a child who believes that love is based on a particular belief system, such as what the court document indicates.

  11. BPRjam September 15, 2009 at 3:55 pm #

    Hmmm, I said that first sentence wrong. It should read,

    “My perspective is that the court is NOT ruling based on religion, which is what Nathan states…”

  12. ex-preacher September 15, 2009 at 4:04 pm #

    Well said, BPRjam. This was a tough case and it is apparent that the judge did not enjoy the position of determining the child’s education.

    The judge had to make a determination on schooling (NOT religious instruction) based on the evidence available and the recommendation of the Guardian ad Litum. My lawyer friend tells me that the Guardian ad Litum is a person appointed by the court to look to the best interests of the child in a situation where the mother and father are divorced and are in disagreement over the child’s care.

    Yes, Nathan, it does have to do with religion – but the dispute is between the mother and the father, not between the state and church.

    I can certainly see where individuals might reasonable disagree with the judge’s decision, but to needlessly scare people with a “government taking away children” type headline is highly misleading.

    I realize that some evangelicals have bought into a persecution complex and victim mentality, but using this case as fodder is absurd.

  13. ex-preacher September 15, 2009 at 4:09 pm #

    Question for Nathan: Should the father have no say about homeschooling and its influences on his child?

    One more: If the situation were reversed with a mother who was homeschooling the child with atheistic or Wiccan or devil-worshipping curriculum and the father wanted the child in a public school with some Christians, would you feel any differently?

  14. Christi September 15, 2009 at 11:11 pm #

    Thanks Ex-preacher and BPRjam for going to bat for the other view point esp. on a forum such as this where you are without a doubt the minority and will get beat up for it.

    Nathan I think your last post hurts your argument more than it helps. I am a homeschooling mother who was raised by religious right parents. I fight everyday to overcome the abuse/damage that was done to me in the name of God and fear at times that I continue the cycle in my own children in the places where I remain ignorant. I expose myself on a continual basis to other view points so as NOT to become like my parents who are so very disconnected from the very world they are to be in so that they might be salt and light…instead they repel everyone who is not just like them b/c of how they live out what they believe.

    I would not want to be in the shoes of the court and respect the court for wishing to be elsewhere…still in light of my own upbringing, even as a home schooling mom myself, I applaud the courts for looking out for Amanda’s best interest.

    If this is what the religous right applauds as a witness to her father:

    “Amanda’s relationship with her father suffers to some degree by her belief that his refusal to adopt her religious beliefs and his choice instead to spend eternity away from her proves that he does not love her as much as he says he does.”

    it is SICK!! Amanda has most definitely been religiously abused and is manipulating her father for Jesus…WHAT A MESS!!!

  15. DennyReader September 16, 2009 at 1:26 am #

    Question for ex-preacher: Should the mother have no say about public schooling and its influences on her child?

    One more: If the school was teaching the child with atheistic curriculum and the mother wanted the child in a homeschool with a bit Bible reading, would you feel any differently?

  16. Nathan September 16, 2009 at 8:54 am #

    ex-preacher and BPRjam,

    While you both are arguing that the issue is the father wanting the child to be in public school vs. the mother wanting the child to be home-schooled, you both have not acknowledged that the judge ruled, in no small part, that the child needed to be in public school because of the rigidity of the religious viewpoint of the mother and that the mother was imposing this on the child. Furthermore, the child needed public schooling to augment her rigid views on religion.

    Do either of you not see how the 1st Ammendment is being shreaded here? As DennyReader said, what would be your position if the judge ruled in the opposite and said the child should go home and learn Christian values. What do you think the ACLU and other groups would be doing right now. This would be front-page news decrying government involvement in religion.

  17. Nathan September 16, 2009 at 8:58 am #

    And to answer your question specifically ex-preacher it is NO. The father in the case you presented should use his time with his child to instruct, pray, and nurture his beliefs. The father in this story said specifically that he doesn’t speak with his daughter about religion much. But he wants the court to do it for him.

  18. Brian Krieger September 16, 2009 at 9:15 am #

    This story has me really torn in a way. Ep and BRM are right, that this was born out of a custodial duty dispute (I think fathers too often get a very short end of the court system there, hence the “torn” part), but that is not the reasoning for the decision rendered by the judge. This isn’t a mediation case. The judge alluded that harm was being done in the home due to the child being unlikely to “seriously consider adopting any other religious point of view.”. A couple of paper quotes:

    The court found Amanda to be “generally likable and well liked, social and interactive with her peers, academically promising, and intellectually at or superior to grade level.” Nonetheless, reasoned the court, “it would be remarkable if a ten-year-old child who spends her school time with her mother and the vast majority of her other time with her mother would seriously consider adopting any other religious point of view.”

    The judge ignored New Hampshire state law, which requires evidence of harm to a child before removing her from the home-school situation, and interposed an arbitrary basis for removal — that the child “appeared to reflect the mother’s rigidity on questions of faith,” and “would be best served by exposure to different points of view at a time in her life when she must begin to critically evaluate multiple systems of belief and behavior.”

    This isn’t a decision based in “the father has rights, too” (which, btw is what gives me such great pause when initially reading about this). That would be understood. This is a decision based on a tenet of the judge feeling that the 10-year old needed to be forcibly exposed to other points of view.

    Also, as an aside, I understand it to be the court (not chosen by the mother) who appointed the overseer in the home after the father failed in ’06 to force the girl into public school.

    BTW, a funny line from WSJ: In a state whose motto is “Live Free or Die,” this is an extraordinary line of reasoning.

  19. ex-preacher September 16, 2009 at 1:05 pm #

    Yes, it is about “the father has rights, too.” The judge did not reach this conclusion out of thin air – the Court was siding with the father and the Guardian ad Litum in agreeing the child’s best interest was served in going to public school and being exposed to other viewpoints. It is misleading to suggest that the judge is simply stepping in out of nowhere to order a child not to be homeschooled.

  20. DennyReader September 16, 2009 at 4:03 pm #

    This is about what the father wants, as a matter of fact, it is all about what the father wants. The courts and the guardian have sided 100% with the father without any consideration for the mother. Nathan is right; the judge is a bigot against the religious beliefs of the mother because he made a value judgment about the mother’s belief system. This is a religious indictment of the mother’s beliefs and affirmation of the atheistic value of the father. You can argue that the case is about spousal dispute but the judgment of the case is all about the religious beliefs of both parties.

  21. ex-preacher September 16, 2009 at 10:54 pm #

    I missed where it says the dad is an atheist. Could you point that out to me? I also didn’t see the mother’s religious affiliation mentioned anywhere.

    The judge clearly ruled that each parent has complete freedom to share his/her relgious beliefs with their daughter. I think hundreds of millions of people could testify that going to public school doesn’t prevent your parents from sharing their beliefs with you.

  22. DennyReader September 17, 2009 at 1:36 am #

    Did someone say the dad is an atheist? We do know this about the father.

    She acknowledges that she shares those beliefs with Amanda, but denies that she pushes Amanda to believe the same things. In fact, she testified that Amanda told the counselor that she was upset with the parenting schedule because her father “bombards her constantly” about her faith and won’t let her alone about it.

    I think hundreds of millions of people could testify that going to public school doesn’t prevent your parents from sharing their beliefs with you.

    This is a red herring. No one has suggested otherwise have they? The problem with what this judge did was indicting Ms Voydatch’s religious beliefs as too rigid, and thus affecting Amanda’s social development.

  23. Matthew Staton September 17, 2009 at 1:45 pm #

    The court found Amanda to be “generally likable and well liked, social and interactive with her peers, academically promising, and intellectually at or superior to grade level.” Nonetheless, reasoned the court, “it would be remarkable if a ten-year-old child who spends her school time with her mother and the vast majority of her other time with her mother would seriously consider adopting any other religious point of view.”

    Some people are terrible at homeschooling and they harm their kids. Our society views education as required for children. It stands to reason that if there is good reason to believe that a child is receiving a substandard education, perhaps demonstrated by low test scores, the court will intervene and force a change. The dad would have a justifiable complaint if his daughter were being given a substandard education.

    The judge here did not cite test scores, syllabus, or even kind and amount of activities. On the contrary, the court found the girl was intelligent and sociable. IOW, the mom is a success and deserves a pat on the back.

    Anyone who has been a parent of a 10-year-old knows that kids are just starting to think critically at this stage. Ten is pretty young to have to impress a judge with one’s religious flexibility.

    Some questions:
    – Is it the case that US expected to differ significantly from their parent’s (or parents’ as the case may be) religion?
    – How is a 10-year-old supposed to impress a judge that she is sufficiently independant of her mom in religious matters?
    – Is there an established standard in New Hampshire to determine if a child accepts her parent’s religion too deeply?
    – Are school children in NH often tested against such a standard?

    I don’t know the details of what the mom is teaching the child. Perhaps the mom is using religion to manipulate the daughter against the dad.

    But it is startling that the judge cited religious inflexibility in overriding the parent’s will for the child. Separation of Church and state SHOULD mean that the court doesn’t intervene to tell people’s children what to believe. It seems to me that this judge commited violence against religious freedom.

  24. CrisisMaven January 30, 2010 at 5:04 pm #

    Strange, when you come to think of it: one US judge grants a German family political asylum because they’re harassed in Germany for the VERY same reason this NH mother is now denied the same rights!
    By the way, I have started a blog which will comprise study literature in a more entertaining form than standard textbooks, see
    CrisisMaven’s Economics Study Guide. It also contains a Reference List which aspires to eventually become the “one stop shop” for all economic data series, history, bibliographies etc.

  25. Out of the box February 11, 2010 at 1:57 pm #

    What a slippery slope, the judge in our case said that home schooling was not “normal” and he would rather see children in public school. In addition he stated that if there are bullies at the schol maybe he just need to hit them back….?

    Sole custody, physical custody, mother home schooling children ( ages 10 and 11) was court ordered to return her children to public school despite discusssing and considering father’s wishes in mediation and following all Illinois laws and regulations regarding home schooling. Months later Father was able to get an ex parte order to demand that the children were returned, GAL agreed that the previous school was a good school but did not identify why home schooling was not in the best interest of the children nor did the judge.
    Mother was not allowed to tell them why they had to leave home schooling despite doing very well and being ahead of classmates their age. Judge recommened that the oldest child fight back with the bullies at school since there are always bullies in life…I can agree on the bullies in life no matter how old you are but that is about it.

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