Advancing Religious Liberty
1/6/11 at 01:51 PM 0 Comments

Mom’s Homeschooling Views Work for Her Child but Not for NH Judge

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Author: ADF Senior Counsel Joseph Infranco

A homeschool case being argued in the New Hampshire Supreme Court  Jan.  6 is a window into the kind of subtle bias against Christianity that permeates  our modern institutions. Only, in this case it’s not even subtle. The reasoning of a lower court is a jolting revelation of how biblical Christian values may be publicly marginalized.

People believe in and express strong opinions on all kinds of subjects. When the subject violates the politically correct orthodoxy, however, the rules of engagement change because “we don’t want to encourage that kind of thinking any longer.” It’s something like the grown-up version of shunning the kid in the schoolyard who doesn’t dress or speak the “right way.” Suddenly, certain subjects, i.e. Christian views, must be corrected at all costs; even at the expense of parental rights.

The controversy in NH started in a common enough way – with a divorce, and a young daughter, Amanda, begotten in the marriage. For the first eight years the matter of schooling was more or less agreeably compromised with the mother home schooling Amanda, while providing occasional classes at the local public school. The plan was successful by anyone’s measure of progress; Amanda excelled academically, and all agreed she was  well-socialized and happy. At some point, however, the father decided he would rather see their daughter in public school, and applied pressure for the mother to end the home school arrangement. The mother, on the other hand, wanted to continue the personal attention and emphasis on religious values inculcated through the existing arrangement – an arrangement that by all accounts was highly successful.

Of course, when divorced parents don’t agree, courts inevitably get involved. But, judges must take great care not to take sides in religious disputes. The big surprise came when a judge ordered Amanda to attend government-run school, not on the basis of educational progress, but to counter what the court believed was a  narrow religious world view, and to “expose” the girl to a “variety of points of view.” As the judge saw it, “ (i)t 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. Amanda’s vigorous defense of her religious beliefs to the counselor suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view.” Come again? Doesn’t every parent rightfully have this kind of influence over their children?

Now imagine mom was a vegetarian, or an ardent anti-war pacifist. Would a court muse that a ten year old child has been wrongly denied the carnivorous point of view, or should be exposed to military and pro-war types to broaden her thinking? Or perhaps that the narrow views of a Democrat Party official needed to balanced with exposure to Tea Party philosophy. After all, the child is only ten years old; how can she know what she really thinks about health care until she hears other views? More to the point imagine a Muslim parent being told this veil thing is too restrictive; how will young Fatima know if she really wants to follow Islam or wear a burka until she hears Lady Gaga on some other kid’s iPod?

The rules change, though, if the context is some type of Christian orthodoxy that actually believes in something like (gasp) a traditional religious view of right and wrong, or even sin.  Overall, a court has no place in evaluating the merits of religious upbringing – unless, of course, it violates the new orthodoxy of relativism. After all, we can’t have kids thinking that sort of stuff any longer, can we?

This post originally appeared here.

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