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1994: The Big Picture

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1994: The Big Picture

This year has been a monumental one for home schoolers in terms of battles for freedom from federal control. Michael Farris (assisted by Doug Phillips) here recounts the battles with a view toward the philosophical "big picture."

When the history of the fight for home-schooling freedoms is written, 1994 will probably be remembered as the year in which the federal government really began an earnest assault on parental liberties and family freedoms. George Miller's attempt to impose certification on all teachers in America would have dramatically truncated the right of parents to direct the education of their children. Hillary Clinton's ongoing efforts to have the federal government control medical decisions made by all Americans would substantially interfere with the right of parents to make a number of health-related decisions for their children. Stephen Breyer's appointment to the Supreme Court was very troublesome because of his expansive views of government power over the choices which parents could make regarding their children's education. Goals 2000 proceeds upon an assumption that local schools cannot make adequate educational decisions for the children in those districts. It is no happenstance that local decisions are the only level of educational decisions which parents can impact in a meaningful way. Goals 2000 empowers the federal bureaucracy, which inherently disempowers parents, concerning meaningful educational decisions.

During the 1992 presidential campaign, there was a significant moment which highlighted this philosophy. The presidential debate in Richmond, Virginia, featured questions from the audience from people who were supposedly undecided. A man stood and said something very close to this, "You are the parents. We are the children. If you are elected, how will you take care of your children?"

Parents furnish their children with health care, education, and decisions. The Clinton administration seems more than willing to be the federal parent to a nation of citizen-children. But in fairness, we should say that the Clinton agenda is more of a dramatic and rapid completion of a long march rather than a complete about-face.

Home schoolers have been at the forefront of efforts to push the American agenda in the direction of freedom. We have gained a degree of freedom for our educational choices which has begun to faintly resemble the freedoms our forefathers envisioned. Perhaps it is because we have begun to taste true freedom that new efforts of government intrusions into our lives and our families taste so awful.

Despite our fondest hopes, this philosophy of government is not likely to be completely replaced anytime soon. One of the reasons for this is that many members of both major parties embrace to some degree the statist view that government should solve all (or most) of our problems.

What we need is a healthy distrust of any and all laws-especially government efforts to "solve our problems" or "meet our needs." All such laws stem from a presumption that if we are left to spend our own money and make our own decisions we would make foolish choices. For example, if taxpayers were left to our own choices, we would never sufficiently fund educational bureaucracies but would limit spending to teachers, textbooks, and buildings. Nor would we ever spend the critical money necessary to pay for performance "art" the NEA has decided is so essential to American existence. And we certainly would not spend money on the federal studies to try to figure out why inmates want to escape from prison or to teach college students how to watch television.

The very existence of home schoolers represents a direct attack upon those who think that if government doesn't meet needs they won't be met. We can expect that this battle will be long and drawn out and we should not be surprised when we find ourselves fighting for the principles of freedom against those who espouse the salvation of mankind through government programs.

We also need to be alert to temptations to simply Christianize a socialistic program. If the federal government decides to get into the business of subsidizing day care, the correct response should be: "The United States Constitution does not give the federal government any authority to undertake such an enterprise. Moreover, the proper purposes of government are to protect, life, liberty, property and to punish those who do evil. Subsidizing day care doesn't fall into any of these categories." But far too often, some Christian and conservative advocates will concede defeat on the fundamental issue and will resign themselves to trying to ensure that churches are allowed to participate in this program of government subsidies.

It is not a proper purpose of government to advance the kingdom of God through government subsidies. We must direct our efforts to ensure that government protects freedom so that the kingdom of God can be advanced by churches and individual believers.

When I was campaigning for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, I often described my views as "pro-family." My opponent would bristle, claiming that he was not "anti-family." The real opposite of being "pro-family" is being "pro-government." Ask any politician this question: "What agency in society do you empower through your legislative initiatives to solve our problems?" Most, if they answered honestly, would have to say that they are in the business of empowering government to solve our problems.

The authors of the First Amendment knew something very important. They knew that laws are the opposite of freedom. They did not phrase the First Amendment in terms which "grant rights" to the citizenry. They knew that true rights come from God. Nor did they phrase the First Amendment in terms of protecting rights. Rather they said that Congress should pass "no law" infringing on religious freedom, freedoms of speech, press, or assembly. The founders understood that any law inherently diminished someone's freedom to some degree.

Absolute freedom is anarchy. Absolute government is tyranny. America in 1994 is much closer to tyranny than it is to anarchy.

We need to remember that the purposes of government are limited. We need to enforce the limitations on federal power inherent in the Constitution-especially the Tenth Amendment. We need to have a long-range view of the battles we are currently facing.

And we especially need to remember that time and time again we have seen deliverance for our movement through the hand of God and the hard work of the grassroots home-schooling families who have stood firmly, demanding that they be treated with the dignity and respect deserved by citizens in a freedom-loving nation.

When we worked for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, we had a long and hard fight, but it ended with total victory. When liberals wanted a vaccination tracking and registry system, we were able to obtain protective language in S.732.

The best days of America are yet ahead, if we remember the principles of freedom, work time and time again to protect our liberties, and pray for the blessing of God.