Monday, March 10, 2008

Another POV on California and HSLDA

Melissa Wiley recently wrote to me with another point of view on the homeschooling situation. She's given me permission to post it here. It's good to hear all sides to the story!
Thanks so much for passing this on. Laura offers some very helpful information here, but I would strongly disagree with her recommendation to join HSLDA posthaste, especially her statement that this is imperative for CA hs'ers. I would advise anyone to do a great deal of digging and research about the things HSLDA lobbies for before making a decision whether to give them money and support. This organization's push for writing homeschooling into federal legislation could, many people believe, wind up having negative ramifications for all homeschoolers down the road.

(Additionally, Michael Farris, who heads HSLDA, is also the founder and president of Patrick Henry College, an institution which requires faculty members to sign a statement of faith whose wording makes it impossible for a Catholic to sign. Faithful Catholics are not welcome on the staff there. But that is a secondary issue, offered only as background regarding the point of view held by this person who has gained a great deal of political influence in his role as head of HSLDA and who purports to represent the best interests of all homeschoolers. I do not believe he represents *my* best interests.)

The CA statewide homeschooling associations are recommending against signing the depublish petition, but that again is a decision we should all read up on (both sides) before making.

I heartily agree with Laura that prayer is important right now! But I would urge everyone not to be overly alarmed about this situation. There has been a LOT of sensationalism in the media. It is important to know that NO LAW HAS BEEN CHANGED or overturned here; this court's ruling (a bad ruling, no doubt about it) interprets the law differently than has been the case in CA for decades. According to this court's ruling, I and thousands of parents like me are homeschooling illegally right now--but this ruling is unlikely to be enforced at a local level, and it will almost certainly be overturned if the case goes to the state Supreme Court; or it will be depublished, as Laura describes.

I haven't done all the research yet myself as to the wisdom of signing the depublish petition, so I can't speak to that recommendation. But I do strongly disagree with the notion that joining HSLDA is "imperative."

I very much appreciate the concern and prayers of all of you as this bizarre situation unfolds!

Thank you Lissa.

Addendum: Click on the Comments to read Melissa's additional thoughts on signing the depublishing petition.


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for your insights and "take a breather" attitude. I think this case is one of those that has potential to be a BIG headache for homeschoolers ... and probably not just in California. But I also think this case could fizzle out.

The interesting points are:
1. the family was accused of many things incidental to the homeschooling -- but of course, homeschooling gets the brunt of the bad publicity. This issue can go either way.
2. HSLDA didn't even know what was going on until the public announcement of the Court's ruling.
3. signing the petition does not mean you have to join HSLDA; however, in signing, you do register your name, address and email -- I'm picturing tons of email heading my way now.
4. the troubling issue, in my mind, is that the court went beyond the case at hand to broad-brushstroke all homeschoolers rather than limiting the case to the facts/family involved.

Homeschoolers are a definite force ... and I believe HSLDA is trying to harness that power for it's own agenda. I personally don't belong to HSLDA, and probably wouldn't support them in everything but occasionally I do agree with their stance.

I worry about the ramifications of this and the other exploited stories out there where folks abuse their children or do horrendous things to them and give ALL homeschoolers a bad name. But I don't think ... and I pray that this won't be the case ... that a federal law regulating hs in all states is a good plan -- and as you mention, is probably on HSLDA's agenda.

Thanks again for your thought-ful analysis of the situation. A calming voice in the midst of the drama is always a welcome thing.

Prayers for all homeschoolers, legislators and judiciary!

Anonymous said...

Have you been following the coverage at Bending the Twigs (Crimson Wife's blog? - she lives in the SF Bay Area) - her coverage seems to be quite good.

I am also rather leery about HSLDA. Here in Wisconsin, the situation is such that people tend to either support the state organization or HSLDA and not both. The state organization predates HSLDA and is responsible for the very manageable state laws. HSLDA has jumped in with little regard or concern for what the state organization has worked so hard on. My impression is that the fundamentalist Christians in Wisconsin (with a specific organization that runs a huge conference in the area that has a similar statement of faith - excluding Catholics - that Patrick Henry College does - even for the VENDORS) support HSLDA and the rest (tends to include all of the seculars and all of the Catholics, LOL) support the state organization.

Unknown said...

Maureen, thanks for sharing information here.

I've had a chance to do a bit more reading on the depublish option and the HSLDA petition to depublish. As I understand the situation, it does seem that having the ruling depublished would be the best scenario here (better than having the case go to the state Supreme Court).

However, the HSLDA petition may not be the best idea. Larry Kaseman, a homeschooling advocate I have great respect for, puts it like this (in a letter to Wisconsin homeschooler):

HSLDA has gotten involved and is circulating and strongly urging people to sign a petition addressed to the California Supreme Court. WPA suggests that homeschoolers NOT sign the petition for several reasons, including the following:

- The major California homeschooling organizations, including those that are religiously based, have not called for signing the petition. In fact, there is concern about possible backlash if lots of people contact the court. WPA has consistently argued that homeschooling issues in a given state should be addressed by homeschoolers in that state and has opposed intervention by "outside experts."

- Because HSLDA is not a party to the case, it does not have the authority to submit the petition and signatures to the California Supreme Court.

- HSLDA has a history of inserting itself into highly visible court cases. When the cases have been decided in favor of homeschoolers, HSLDA has tended to take undue credit. Many more of the cases have led either to a decision that limits or undermines homeschooling freedoms or one that leads to legislation that regulates homeschooling strongly and unnecessarily.

Larry Kaseman,Executive Director
Wisconsin Parents Association

Anonymous said...

Being a Catholic HSLDA member, I was disturbed about HSLDA being unfriendly to Catholics. I had not heard this before. In light of this post, I asked HSLDA to clarify their position on this matter. This is their reply.

-----Original Message-----
From: HSLDA Legal Dept. []
Subject: Re: Catholic question

This criticism of HSLDA stems from a President's Corner in the March 2007 issue of the Court Report. Mike Smith was quoting from a book on Tyndale written by Mike Farris. This is the article if you'd like to read it and no longer have your copy of the Court Report.

We did post an apology on the website, because unfortunately were taken by total suprise that so many were offended by the article. Below is an excerpt letter that Mike Smith wrote at the time to explain how this comment came about:


"I am deeply sorry that my column in the March/April 2007 edition of The Home School Court Report, has offended so many of our Catholic members and supporters by using William Tyndale as an example of a hero who lived and died for religious liberty by translating the Bible into English for the common man.

I wanted to assure you that we at HSLDA have no desire or intentions to discredit your Catholic faith in any form. We recognize that we do have areas of differences with our beliefs that we simply have to agree to disagree. However, our purpose for existence is to advance and protect homeschool freedoms for homeschooling parents regardless of their faith or beliefs.

By way of explanation, our intent was to offer an example of someone who stood for freedom, not to offend anyone, misrepresent the Catholic Church or express or imply any kind of anti-Catholic bias. To that end, I extend my apologies to anyone who was offended by the column. Although our research indicates that Tyndale was tried for heresy by a commission of the church during his sojourn in Antwerp (in present-day Belgium) and burned at the stake under Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, the fact remains that Catholics and Protestants have both been the persecutors and the persecuted at times throughout history, and it is for this reason that the Catholic church was not even mentioned in the article.

Therefore, I want to assure you that HSLDA has no desire to offend Catholic families and we will certainly keep your letter in mind as we evaluate the content of material that will be published in any of our publications in the future."


I just want to say personally that I have worked at HSLDA for 19 years and have never heard anyone speak ill of Catholics. I understand the sensitivity that Catholics have to these issues that often Protestants are oblivious to. I understand because I am in a Bible study where half of us are Catholic. I know that Mike Smith would never knowingly offend our fellow Catholic believers. I do think that many Protestants just don't understand how Catholics feel on some issues. I know Mike Smith really regretted the outcome.

I don't know how else to assure you that there is no anti-Catholic bias at HSLDA.

Pat Ramirez
Legal Assistant for CA
Attorney Michael Smith