Approved by the CRHE Board of Directors, October 12, 2021
Last week, the New York Times reported that Michael P. Farris, founder and current board chair of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), played a key role in attempts to overthrow the 2020 presidential election. According to the Times, Farris helped recruit Texas attorney general Ken Paxton to file a constitutionally and ethically dubious complaint against Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, and Wisconsin, and wrote an initial draft of the complaint Paxton eventually filed. The Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit shortly after receiving it.
The Coalition for Responsible Home Education, the nation’s only nonpartisan advocacy organization founded and run by homeschool alumni to advocate for homeschooled children, affirms our support for free and democratic elections and condemns these reported efforts by HSLDA’s founder to undermine American democratic processes. Farris’s attempts to overthrow the election are merely the latest entry in a long record of allowing and encouraging harm to others, including homeschooled children, in pursuit of his extremist political goals. His history of extremism has left a regrettable mark on the culture of the modern homeschooling movement.
Under Farris’s leadership, HSLDA has led efforts to strip away basic legal protections for homeschooled children in every state. Farris’s speeches, fiction, and rhetoric have encouraged a subculture of fear and hostility toward child protection efforts that undermines attempts to ensure the safety of homeschooled children who are abused and neglected. The anti-child sentiments that Farris nurtured in HSLDA were reflected in 2005, when an HSLDA attorney said of a father who imprisoned his children in cages, “I think he is a hero.” In the absence of necessary legal protections, at least 156 children have been murdered in homeschool settings over the past twenty years, a rate higher than the national average among school-age children.
Farris has long promoted extremist views that stand outside the values of mainstream Americans. His opposition to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been ratified by every other country in the world, is largely responsible for preventing its ratification in the United States. Alliance Defending Freedom, where Farris is currently president and CEO, is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its record of anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry. Overall, Farris has tried to lead the homeschooling movement toward a position that views children as property to be indoctrinated into service as soldiers for his culture war.
CRHE believes that homeschooling can be a valuable and enriching experience when done responsibly, and we have an affirmative vision for the homeschooling movement, laid out in our Bill of Rights for Homeschooled Children. We call on homeschool alumni, homeschooling parents, legislators, and all those who love and care for homeschooled children to reject the antidemocratic extremism espoused by Michael Farris and to join us in promoting a vision of homeschooling that is child-centered, fact-based, inclusive, and empowering for all homeschooled children.