A leader in the conservative homeschooling movement and the founder of Patrick Henry College recently publically criticized the teachings of two leaders formerly popular among homeschoolers, Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard, who both stepped down from their positions following allegations of sexual misconduct.
Michael P. Farris, who founded the Home School Legal Defense Association, issued a harsh condemnation of the "Christian patriarchy" ideology, calling it "dangerous" and arguing that it hurts the image of the homeschooling movement.
Proponents of Biblical patriarchy include Doug Phillips, who worked with Farris at HSLDA for several years before launching the The Vision Forum Inc. and Vision Forum Ministries with his wife Beall. Last year, Phillips resigned from the ministry after admitting to an inappropriate relationship with a young woman.
Gothard was also a prominent speaker and author in the homeschool community and held to conservative views concerning women and family. He was also president of the Institute in Basic Life Principles--a position from which he resigned in March following allegations of sexual misconduct with multiple women.
"[W]ith these recent scandals in view, we think it is now time to speak out," wrote Farris, currently chairman of HSLDA, on the organization's website. "[T]heir teachings continue to threaten the freedom and integrity of the homeschooling movement. ... Frankly, we should have spoken up sooner."
Farris continued to argue that Phillips' kind of patriarchy "offers an imbalanced and (in my personal opinion) unbiblical view of the roles of men and women." Farris slammed the ideas propagated in the patriarchal movement that "women should not vote," that "higher education is not important for women," or that "unmarried adult women are subject to their fathers' authority" or should stay home until they marry. These demands, Farris wrote, were "not universal commands from God."
Farris also said that the HSLDA regretted granted Vision Forum Ministries online advertising space "to promote its products and ideas. We were wrong to do so."
In regards to Gothard's teachings concerning women and family, Farris called them unbalanced and legalistic, writing: "In this sense, legalism occurs when someone elevates his personal view about wise conduct to a level where it is claimed that this person's own opinions are God's universal commands."
However, Farris acknowledged that families should form their own opinions: "It is not sinful to hold a very conservative view of gender roles or child rearing. If people believe such ideas are wise, then our legal system should protect their choices, provided those choices do not result in abuse."
World Magazine reports that HSLDA and Farris have faced particular pressure to respond to Phillips and Gothard in the past year from some former homeschooled students who have claimed they were abused in various ways by their parents. Patrick Henry College has also been criticized for its failure to address sexual abuse issues on campus.
"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," Farris wrote. "While these stories represent a small minority of homeschoolers, we can see a discernible pattern of harm, and it must be addressed."
In concluding the statement, Farris and HSLDA President J. Michael Smith said that their organization would continue to defend homeschool families regardless of their views concerning patriarchy: "We serve all homeschooling families-regardless of their religious or cultural views."