Ted Cruz made an effort to win over an influential subgroup of conservative evangelicals this week, announcing the formation of a “Homeschoolers For Cruz” coalition. While an estimated 1.8 million children in the U.S. are homeschooled, Cruz is aiming at a very specific segment of these: the politically powerful Christian conservative homeschooling movement.
Signaling this, one of the three co-chairs of the new coalition is William Estrada, an official with the influential Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). Another is Vicki Crawford, a homeschooling mom and conservative activist who used to work at the Iowa conservative group The Family Leader and has helped to mobilize homeschoolers in her state to back Mike Huckabee, Michele Bachmann and the effort to oust state supreme court judges who ruled in favor of marriage equality. As of November, Crawford was also a paid Cruz campaign staffer.
Another important faction in the conservative homeschooling movement is also represented in Cruz’s coalition by the final co-chair, Marlin Bontrager, whose family singing group performed at the Iowa event where the coalition was announced.
A hint at Bontrager’s ideology can be found in his statement in the Cruz campaign’s press release, in which he notes that he is “a homeschooling father of ten and the leader in my home.” Homeschoolers Anonymous reports that, as his “leader” comment hints, Bontrager is indeed an adherent of the “Christian Patriarchy” movement, which has been rocked by a number of scandals in recent years:
Estrada’s endorsement of Cruz comes at a curious time, considering the efforts HSLDA has made over the last couple years to distance itself from the Christian male supremacy movement known as “Christian Patriarchy.” Marlin Bontrager, who co-chairs the coalition with Estrada, is a long-time supporter of the now-disgraced Christian Patriarchy advocate Doug Phillips and his organization Vision Forum. Bontrager has his family in ATI [Bill Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute], both performing as well as participating in the Children’s Institute, ALERT Academy, and other ATI institutions. Bontrager endorses Above Rubies, the Duggar family, and Michael and Debi Pearl.
We provided a brief summary of “Christian Patriarchy” last year when the Duggar family, who are also associated with the movement, were facing their own scandal:
The Quiverfull ideology, as Kathryn Joyce explained in her fascinating book “Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement,” is shared by a loose coalition of families living out a theology of “male headship and female submissiveness” in which a woman is expected to submit fully to her husband’s leadership while giving birth to, raising and homeschooling as many children as possible in order to repopulate the Earth with what one proponent called “warriors for God.”
As Homeschoolers Anonymous points out, Cruz also spoke last year at a conference led by Kevin Swanson, a radical pastor who has himself advocated Christian Patriarchy, as did several other speakers at the conference.