Michael Farris, one of the leaders of the conservative homeschooling movement and the founder of Patrick Henry College, issued a harsh condemnation of the “Christian patriarchy” movement today, calling the ideology famously promoted by the Duggar clan “dangerous” and saying that it hurts the homeschooling movement’s image.
Two leaders of the Christian patriarchy movement — Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard — have been hit with sexual harassment and abuse charges in the past year, which has drawn attention to the movement’s teachings — extreme even within the Religious Right — that women should be completely submissive to the men in their lives.
These scandals hit shortly after the New Republic exposed Patrick Henry College’s failure to address sexual assault on its campus, home to many former homeschoolers.
In a newsletter article released today, Farris slams Phillips and Gothard’s Christian patriarchy (or “Quiverfull”) ideology, and also faults them for harming the image of the conservative homeschooling movement, writing, “if officials believe that the homeschooling movement promotes teachers and ideas that inherently treat women as second-class citizens or result in physical or sexual abuse of children, then we can expect that homeschooling freedom will be negatively impacted.”
Two prominent speakers on the homeschooling circuit have experienced dramatic falls from favor due to admitted sin. Bill Gothard and Doug Phillips have both been accused of serious sins involving young women. The accusations are sexual in nature. Both men have admitted to some form of sin with regard to these accusations, although each has disputed some of the details. Gothard disputes that his sins were sexual in nature. Phillips admits to an improper physical “relationship” with one young woman.
But with these recent scandals in view, we think it is now time to speak out—not about these men’s individual sins, but about their teachings. Their sins have damaged the lives of their victims, and should be addressed by those with the appropriate legal and spiritual authority in those situations, but their teachings continue to threaten the freedom and integrity of the homeschooling movement. That is why HSLDA needs to stand up and speak up.
Frankly, we should have spoken up sooner. How much sooner is hard to say. There is a subtle difference between teaching that we simply disagree with and teaching that is truly dangerous. While we did not directly promote their teachings using our own resources, we did allow Vision Forum to buy ad space to promote their products and ideas. We were wrong to do so. And we regret it.
What has changed our minds are the stories we are now hearing of families, children, women, and even fathers who have been harmed by these philosophies. While these stories represent a small minority of homeschoolers, we can see a discernible pattern of harm, and it must be addressed.
If public policy makers believe that the homeschooling movement promotes teachers and teaching that have a strong likelihood of damaging people—particularly children and women—then our freedom will suffer. Treating children well and treating women well is intrinsically the right thing to do. But it is also the necessary thing to do if we wish to preserve our liberty.
And far too many families, children, and parents have already been harmed. This must change.
Much of the spread of these philosophies has been done through homeschool conferences and conventions. Teachers who claim that they speak for God on matters of personal opinion should be suspect. Conference planners need to be very careful about whom they promote as speakers. And I believe it’s wise to carefully evaluate the messages we hear from any speaker.