Robert Kunzman: The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child vs. the Parental Rights Movement
Today’s post is from Robert Kunzman, author of Write These Laws on Your Children: Inside the World of Conservative Christian Homeschooling. Kunzman spent ten years as a high school teacher, coach, and administrator and is currently an associate professor in the Indiana University School of Education. He is also the author of Grappling with the Good: Talking about Religion and Morality in Public Schools.
Quick—who are the only two nations who haven’t ratified the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child?
Somalia is one of them—no bonus points for that guess. Who else stands against the 193 nations who’ve ratified the treaty? None other than the United States of America. This may change under the Obama administration; U.N. ambassador Susan Rice recently proclaimed the situation a disgrace and indicated that U.S. ratification of the treaty was under active discussion.
But not if the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has their way. Calling the UNCRC “anti-family” and “anti-American,” they have urged their 80,000 members—as well as those who’ve joined ParentalRights.org, a “grassroots” organization founded by HSLDA—to voice their opposition. To further their cause, they have been a driving force in promoting a Parental Rights Amendment, which now has more than 110 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives.
Why does the most powerful and prominent homeschool advocacy organization in the world see the UNCRC as such a threat? Ultimately, it’s an argument about who should have a say in the raising and educating of children.
I’ve spent the past five years exploring the world of homeschooling from a variety of angles, traveling the country and visiting with families in their homes, observing their homeschooling practices and talking with them about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. I quickly discovered that the range of philosophies, methods, and outcomes is vast indeed. But one fundamental conviction among homeschool parents emerges again and again: the state has no business telling them how to raise or educate their children.
This conviction is especially strong among conservative Christian homeschoolers, who most observers agree constitute the largest subset of the likely two million homeschoolers in the United States (HSLDA describes itself as a Christian organization). Not infrequently, parents pointed to the biblical passage of Deuteronomy 6:6-9 when explaining to me their motivation to homeschool. The Message, a popular Bible paraphrase, puts it this way: “Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night.”
This orientation toward parenting and education helps explain why homeschool parents are particularly resistant toward any government role or authority in the education of their children. Good parents (whether homeschoolers or not) see education, broadly construed, as part of their job description: raising a child involves constant teaching, and the most important lessons in life generally occur outside of school walls. But most homeschoolers take this a step further. They don’t see any real distinction between this broader notion of education and formal schooling itself—which makes sense, if homeschooling is just woven into the fabric of everyday family life. And if homeschooling is seen as simply part of parenting, then it becomes easier to understand why many homeschool parents view government oversight of education as an unjustifiable intrusion into their sacred domain.
For conservative Christian homeschoolers, educating their children is a God-given right and responsibility, and one they can delegate only at great moral and spiritual peril. Like many in the broader homeschool population, conservative Christians see homeschooling as a twenty-four-hour-a-day, all-encompassing endeavor. For them, perhaps more explicitly than other homeschoolers, homeschooling is a shaping not only of intellect but—even more crucially—character. This means more than just moral choices of right and wrong; character is developed through the inculcation of an overarching Christian worldview that guides those moral choices. These parents share a fierce determination to instill Christian character in their children, a process that entails protecting them from the corrupting influences of broader society. To accomplish this, the family becomes the defensive bulwark and sanctuary wherein children are prepared for eventual engagement with the world.Parental interests aren’t the only ones at stake in the educational process, of course. A democracy depends upon the cultivation of informed citizens who can deliberate respectfully about the best ways to live together. And while most parents naturally believe that their efforts are dedicated to what’s best for their children, in reality this isn’t always the case; as the UNCRC asserts, children have their own educational interests at stake as well. But in the context of homeschooling—the ultimate in educational privatization—how to define and protect these various interests remains a complicated and contested question indeed.
Reconstruction Theology in Home Education – Mary McCarthy
In many posts I have attacked sham homeschools and the people behind them. It is not just that children are subjected to this abuse that is the problem, although that cries out for retribution. It is the fact that a powerful and wealthy lobby of fanatics has devised and is successfully implementing a plan to use children as instruments in the takeover and destruction of our free society. The danger is real and these people must be stopped. Meanwhile the country sleeps on, unaware of the danger and certainly not doing much to avert a looming catastrophe. It would be a serious mistake to discount these people as deluded buffoons. They managed to take over the Republican party because the leaders of that party discounted them, or stupidly threw in their lot with them. They have made startling inroads into the officer corps of our military and managed to engineer eight years of G. W. Bush as president. Who if not a dominonist himself is certainly a sympathizer.
The following article is a succinct overview of who the actors are and can serve as a reference for further research and study.
“The stranger in ancient Israel did not serve as a judge, although he received all the benefits of living in the land. The political question is this: By what biblical standard is the pagan to be granted the right to bring political sanctions against God’s people? We recognize that unbelievers are not to vote in Church elections. Why should they be allowed to vote in civil elections in a covenanted Christian nation? Which judicial standards will they impose? By what other standard than the Bible?”
- Gary North of Institute For Christian Economics
In order to more clearly understand the increasing divisiveness in homeschooling and the various leaders involvement in a political religion, it is necessary to become familiar with some of the facets of Christian theology and theocracy.
“Theocracy, the direct rule of a nation by God through divinely selected spokesmen, has many exemplars in the modern world. Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq are nations with obvious theocratic tendencies. Israel’s political parties exhibit growing theocratic patterns. In the United States, the Christian Reconstruction movement proposes the purest form of theocracy. Reconstructionism believes that the law given for the political and legal ordering of ancient Israel is intended for all people at all times; therefore American is duty bound to install a political system based entirely on biblical law.”
Reconstructionist theologian David Barton offered this definition: “The Christian goal for the world is the universal development of Biblical theocratic republics, in which every area of life is redeemed and placed under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the rule of God’s law.”
The term ‘dominion theology’ comes from Genesis 1:26-28 of the Bible where God’s purpose for man is stated: Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created man in his own image And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (RSV)
Sometimes termed ‘dominion’ or ‘kingdom’ theology, “dominionism revolves around the idea that Christians and Christians alone, are Biblically mandated to occupy all secular institutions until Christ returns. An earlier source of dominion theology was an evangelical philosopher named Francis Schaeffer Schaeffer’s 1981 book, A Christian Manifesto remained one of the Christian Right’s most important texts into the 1990′s.”
Many of the leaders of the so-called hard or Christian Right are followers of the teachings of Rousas John Rushdoony. R.J. Rushdoony is the spiritual leader of Chalcedon Foundation, a California organization dedicated to Christian Reconstruction. According to the Foundation, a Christian Reconstructionist is a Calvinist, holding to the principles that God, not man, is the center of the universe and beyond; a Theonomist, believing that God’s law is found in the Bible; a Presuppositionalist, believing that he holds to the Faith because the Bible says so and has no need to prove it; a Postmillennialist believing that Christ will return to earth only after the Holy Spirit has empowered the church to advance Christ’s kingdom in time and history and a Dominionist taking seriously the Bible’s commandment to the godly to take dominion in the earth. “The Christian Reconstructionist believes the earth and all it’s fullness is the Lord’s; that every area dominated by sin must be ‘reconstructed’ in terms of the Bible. This includes, first, the individual; second, the family; third, the church; and fourth, the wider society including the state.”
The Dominion theology movement places Judeo-Christian biblical law above any and all constitutional law, including the U.S. Constitution. “Postmillienialists believe that righteous human beings, essentially servants of Christ, must achieve positions of influence in societies in order to prepare the world for the Messiah’s return.”
In his excellent 1996 book, With God on Our Side, William Martin used a sampling of the views of several noted Reconstructionists to give a sense of how a Reconstructed America would be: “The federal government would play no role in regulating business, public education, or welfare [S]ome government would be visible at the level of counties but citizens would be answerable to church authorities on most matters subject to regulation income taxes would not exceed ten percent – the biblical tithe – and social security would disappear [P]ublic schools would be abolished in favor of home-schooling arrangements, and families would operate on a strict patriarchal pattern. The only people permitted to vote would be members of ‘biblically correct’ churches. Most notably, a theonomic order would make homosexuality, adultery, blasphemy, propagation of false doctrine, and incorrigible behavior by disobedient children subject to the death penalty, preferably administered by stoning a reconstructed America would have little room for Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, or even non-Reconstructionist Christians. ‘The Christian’, one Reconstructionist author has asserted, ‘must realize that pluralism is a myth R.J. Rushdoony, also regards pluralism as a heresy, since, in the name of toleration, the believer is asked to associate on a common level of total acceptance with the atheist, the pervert, the criminal, and the adherents of other religions.”
Other noted Reconstructionists include Greg Bahnson, David Barton of WallBuilders, Inc., David Chilton, Gary DeMar of American Vision and Worldview Magazine; Ted DeMoss of Christian Business Men’s Committee; Kenneth Gentry, Jay Grimstead of Coalition on Revival; James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church; Tim LaHaye of American Coalition for Traditional Values; Mrs. Connie Marshner of Free Congress Foundation; Rev. Joseph Morecraft; Gary North of Institute for Christian Economics; Mark Siljander of Global Strategies, Inc.; Randall Terry of Operation Rescue and Rev. Donald Wildmon of American Family Association. Dr. Kennedy, Rev. LaHaye, Mrs. Marshner, Mr. North, R.J. Rushdoony, and Rev. Wildmon are all members of the Council For National Policy.
“Whether it is acknowledged or not, Reconstructionism has profoundly influenced the Christian Right. Perhaps its most important role within the Christian Right can be traced to the formation in 1982 of the Coalition on Revival (COR) Founded and headed by Dr. Jay Grimstead, COR has sought in this way to create a transdenominational theology The COR leadership has significantly overlapped with the Christian Right, and has included: John Whitehead, Don Wildmon Tim LaHaye and D. James Kennedy, Randall Terry Steven Hotze, Rev. Glen Cole Michael Farris Robert Dugan Bill Dannemeyer Mark Siljander R.J. Rushdoony, Gary North, Joseph Moorecraft, David Chilton, Gary DeMar and Rus Walton.”
It is difficult for secular homeschoolers to understand the apparent double standard when Christian homeschoolers are discriminatory against them at the local support group level, while at the same time, courting their efforts when it comes to state or national political causes. Understanding Reconstructionist Theology and Theocracy is important because it reflects understanding on the division in the homeschooling community between secular and religious members, and the theocratic motivations of politically manipulating the community.
Gary North declared, “All long-term social change comes from the successful efforts of one or another struggling organizations to capture the minds of a hard core of future leaders.” Reconstructionists believe that Christian schools and the homeschooling movement are the key to capturing those minds. Joseph Moorecraft said in 1987, that the Reconstruction movement was made up of a small number but expected a massive acceleration in 25 to 30 years ‘when those kids that are now in Christian schools have graduated and taken their places in American society, and moved into places of influence and power.’
When it comes to politics, the principles are simple: “The long-term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise. Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of God by submitting to His Church’s public marks of the covenant–baptism and holy communion–must be denied citizenship, just as they were in ancient Israel.”
“Gary North claims that ‘the ideas of the Reconstructionists have penetrated into Protestant circles that for the most part are unaware of the original source of the theological ideas that are beginning to transform them.’ North describes the ‘three major legs of the Reconstructionist movement’ as ‘the Presbyterian oriented educators, the Baptist school headmasters and pastors, and the charismatic telecommunications system.’ What this means is that hundreds of thousands of Pentecostals and charismatic Christians, as well as many fundamentalist Baptists, have moved out of the apolitical camp. Many have thrown themselves into political work – not merely as voters, but as ideologically driven activists, bringing a reconstructed ‘Biblical world view’ to bear on their area of activism.”
In his well researched 1995 book, Home Schooling: The Right Choice, Christopher Klicka frequently quotes Reconstructionst writers, notably Rushdoony and Barton. In addition to including Rushdoony’s “The Difference Between Christian Education and Humanistic Education”, the book’s forward was written by D. James Kennedy and many of the ideals expressed seem Reconstructionist, however, he does not state specifically that he is a Reconstructionist.
The relationship between Michael Farris of HSLDA and Tim and Beverly LaHaye goes back to the early 1980′s when Michael Farris was head of the legal department of Concerned Women for America. Tim LaHaye was attempting to start a television ministry which failed. In 1983 he started the American Coalition for Traditional Values which was similar to the now defunct Moral Majority, its goal being to mobilize Christians to register and vote. Some accounts indicate Michael Farris was deeply involved with ACTV while others do not mention his involvement. ACTV closed down shortly after the 1986 elections. However, Tim LaHaye withdrew from his television ministry when it was publicized that his church was funding an anti-Catholic group. In 1985 he further withdrew after it became known that CWA had accepted ‘generous help’ from the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church which teaches the divinity of the Rev. Moon in direct conflict with Christian teachings. In 1987 Rev. LaHaye was forced to resign as co-chair from Jack Kemp’s presidential campaign because newspapers printed divisive passages from his writings, which were anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic.
The New York Times profiled Michael Farris’ campaign for Lt. Governor of Virginia as part of a series of articles about Christians in politics. It is noted that Michael Farris’ name appeared as a co-author of a policy paper by Jay Grimstead’s “Coalition on Revival, which has called for the United States to reclaim itself as a ‘Christian nation.’ (Farris says that he only worked on an early draft of the document and that the organization included his name without his permission.)”
Michael Farris, in his 1992 book, Where Do I Draw The Line?, addressed Reconstructionism. He quotes Francis Shaeffer’s Christian Manifesto to explain our nation’s slide into its current cultural condition but he also takes an opportunity to note that, “there are those who advocate the idea that America should enact the Old Testament law right down to the rules for conducting trials. I am not one of those people but I do believe the moral principles of God apply to every age.”
However, when discussing classical education in The Future of Home Schooling, he recommends as “one of the best programs I have seen that offers a clearly Christian classical education is David Quine’s World Views of the Western World World Views is a three-year program that is built largely around the works of Francis Schaeffer. Students still read Homer, Socrates and Machiavelli. But these are balanced not only by Schaeffer’s works, but also by St. Augustine, Luther and Calvin.”
As homeschoolers we should be very careful not to assign guilt by association. It is probable that some of the individuals involved in homeschooling and/or HSLDA are Reconstructionists, while others who associate with them are not. Prominent Reconstructionists are often given a forum to advance their cause at HSLDA conferences but it is unknown whether HSLDA itself is a Reconstructionist organization. HSLDA has ties to the Reconstructionist movement through former employees such as Doug Phillips, the son of prominent Reconstructionist Howard Phillips, founder of the U.S. Taxpayers Party and HSLDA founder James Carden who was instrumental in introducing the concept of home schooling to Bill Gothard, himself a prominent Reconstructionist. Carden was among the 100 families who piloted the Advanced Training Institute of America (ATIA) program in 1984/85. Board member Jeff Ethell may have been influenced by Reconstruction ideas while a student at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, where noted Reconstructionist Cornelius Van Til taught for nearly 50 years. In his 1959 book, R.J. Rushdoony lavishly praised Van Til’s philosophy and the influence it had on him.
Christopher Klicka attended Regent University where ‘longtime Dean of the Law School, Herb Titus used Rushoony’s book in his introductory law course “Christopher Klicka, who has been deeply influenced by R. J. Rushdoony, writes: ‘Sending our children to the public school violates nearly every Biblical principle It is tantamount to sending our children to be trained by the enemy’ Klicka also advocates religious selfsegregation and advises Christians not to affiliate with non-Christian homeschoolers in any way. ‘The differences I am talking about have resulted in wars and martyrdom in the not too distant past.’ According to Klicka, who is an attorney with the Home School Legal Defense Association, ‘as an organization, and as individuals, we are committed to promote the cause of Christ and his Kingdom.”
Former HSLDA employee Inge Cannon was previously employed by Bill Gothard’s Institute of Basic Life Principles where she was involved with the development of ATIA’s homeschool curriculum. Several of HSLDA’s interns come from or plan to attend Oak Brook College of Law and Government Policy which is part of Bill Gothard’s ATIA. Also, Tim LaHaye, considered to be a prominent Reconstructionist, is associated with Michael Farris’ Madison Project as well as having ties to him through Concerned Women for America. Many of the ideals, particularly exclusivism and selfsegregation as promoted by prominent Christian homeschooling leaders like Christopher Klicka and Gregg Harris, are Reconstructionist in nature. As homeschoolers we must be careful when examining the religious motivations of our fellow homeschoolers not to attach labels which may not be appropriate. However, it would be more honest of HSLDA and others to define their belief status when placing themselves in positions of moral authority over homeschoolers, who are perhaps of other, contrary, beliefs.
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