Michael Farris’ Strange Allies

Michael Farris, chairman of the Homeschool Legal Defence Association (HSLDA) and president of ParentalRights.org, has established himself as a leading figure in the Christian homeschool movement.  His suspicion of the state and his emphasis on parental rights–his definition of liberty. In my last blog post, I published documentation of homeschool parents’ reactions to revelations of abuse within the Christian homeschool movement. The themes revealed–anti-statism and a consuming, passionate belief that parents know best–reflects in micro the message Farris so effectively peddles at the national level. These concerns make for some strange bedfellows, as a close examination of ParentalRights.org’s list of allied organizations reveals. Allies include AbleChild, an anti-psychiatry organization affiliated with the Church of Scientology, and Glenn Beck’s Black Robe Regiment. Several allies erroneously link vaccines to autism and other forms of ‘vaccine injury.’ These allies include the Canary Party. Given Farris’ belief that parental rights are absolute, even divinely derived, his alliance with organizations that lobby for the end of state interference in private affairs is not a surprise.

However, the other entries on this list of allies reveals a new facet to Farris’ parental rights advocacy. Nine allies lobby for fathers’ rights, either explicitly or under the guise of ‘parental alienation syndrome’ or ‘shared parenting.’ Superficially, these sound like benign causes. Nobody sane wants to deprive fathers of their rights, or alienate children from their parents. Shared parenting sounds entirely fair–and in many cases, it is.  But further research reveals another, more sinister reality. The overlap between the fathers’ rights movement and men’s rights activism has been well-documented by a variety of media sources. Both are often referred to as the ‘domestic abusers’ lobby’ and with reason. The leaders of Fathers and Families, listed as one of ParentalRights’ allies, actively lobbied against the passage of the Violence Against Women Act. According to the members of Fathers Unite, another ParentalRights ally, the judicial system systematically discriminates against men in divorce and custody proceedings. This is a common complaint of men’s rights activists. According to the Fatherhood Coalition, yet another ally, this amounts to nothing short of a war on fatherhood itself.  And let’s not forget Farris’ association with Doug Phillips of Vision Forum, an organization that explicitly promotes extreme female submission and discourages the higher education of women. The enemies here are mothers, and by extension, a judicial system that supports them unconditionally.

So why would Farris ally himself with these groups? After all, he supports parental rights, and mothers are parents. The healthy families Farris promotes are, presumably, also free of domestic violence. His alliance with this movement therefore appears to be totally contradictory. But for those of us who grew in conservative Evangelical and fundamentalist families, the reason is obvious: Farris allies with these groups because the only rights he really seeks to preserve are father’s rights. His primary interest is the protection of the patriarchy. No fault divorce, the Violence Against Women Act, and current custody laws threaten paternal supremacy. Farris fights for limited government because the state’s interference in domestic affairs usurps the role his movement assigns to fathers. If Farris and allies succeed in their goal of establishing parental rights as a constitutionally recognized right, the cultural hierarchy he seeks to protect will be successfully embedded in federal law. And let’s be clear: that is their ultimate goal. Homeschooling is merely a means unto an end.

Michael Farris’ unusual allies are further evidence that he, and the organizations he has founded, have no intention of addressing abuse within their ranks. They can’t. If they acknowledge that abuse is a problem, then the limitations of the cultural hierarchy they promote will become publicly evident and will become more difficult for them to successfully argue that it is superior to mainstream alternatives. Failures in leadership typically demand a change in leadership, and the patriarchy cannot sustain this. If homeschool parents are truly concerned for the well-being of children, it is therefore in their best interest to separate from Michael Farris, HSLDA and their allies.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has more information on the men’s rights movement. 

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14 thoughts on “Michael Farris’ Strange Allies

  1. Good stuff, Julie Anne. The whole thing really is too bad. There is no question that the state can get out of hand and has done so before. Sometimes there are people in the state who think they know better than all Christian parents what is best for children. That has to be opposed. But the sad thing here is that an organization that could be effective in doing good turns itself into another threat to the family and perhaps one that is even more damaging – patriarchalism. Home schooling has a very valid place in our day and age, but when it gets infected with Vision Forum type philosophies, it goes bad and really so many of those philosophies have really nothing to do with the basic education of our children. This all sounds like fertile ground for more scandal as abuses are exposed and again, sadly, it will all reflect badly on the name of Christ, which these people claim for themselves. We in the church – Christians – need to be leading the charge against this stuff.

  2. I recently attended a homeschool convention where Farris was a speaker. I was unable to connect any of your conclusions with his motivations in the four hours I heard him speak on several topics. To the contrary, I found his arguments to be based on independence and parents choice, while giving the credit for home education to those who deserve it….mothers. He even singled out single mothers who sacrifice to homeschool their children as exceptional heroes.

    If all of your conclusions are based on a list of allies from a website and nothing more, I suggest you dig a bit deeper. Why not have a discussion with Farris himself?

  3. I’m uncomfortable with that because of the abuses of power which are well-documented within CPS. Look no further than than the current news cycle to see Federal abuses of power at every level, including the IRS and NSA’s spying on citizens.

    Let’s not be selective in our crtitcisms.

    As for educating my children from home, that decision is based on the public school’s recommendation. They are unable to educate children who have entered the system significantly ahead of their peers. A five year old who can read, for example, will sit and read to themselves all day while the other kids are introduced to letters and numbers.

    I don’t blame the system, or the teachers, for the disparity. Parents who don’t invest time in their children are unfortunately common and expect the state to make up for their lack of effort. The results can be seen in every classroom around the country. All educators are in agreement on this.

    I am thankful for the freedom to educate our children at their pace.

    Best,

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