Originally Sent: 1/13/2014

From the HSLDA e-lert service…
Home School Legal Defense Association

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Call Now to Thwart Attack on Faith-Based Homeschooling

Homeschooling in Virginia

Help defend religious liberty.

Senior Counsel Scott Woodruff answers questions and assists members with legal issues in your state. He and his wife homeschooled their children.

Dear HSLDA Members and Friends:

For nearly 40 years, faith-based families have been able to homeschool under Virginia’s religious exemption statute with the quiet peace and security of knowing that their right to teach their children that God is the beginning of wisdom in every subject was unquestioned.

Last week, however, Delegate Thomas Rust (R-Fairfax, 86th District) filed a legislative measure (HJ 92) that throws your rights into question and confusion by urging the Virginia General Assembly to ask the Department of Education to “study” the religious exemption statute.

Asking to conduct a study is a back-door way of saying that something should be questioned.

We must accept the possibility that Rust’s call for a study is a mere pretext, and that his true intention is to try to take away some of your freedom once the study gives him some “cover.” At the very least, it’s fair to conclude that he thinks you may have too much freedom right now!

The real question is whether he understands that his first and most important job is to protect the freedom you now enjoy. Filing this measure shows that Rust understands neither the basic principles of liberty nor the Virginia Constitution.

Last week I asked Rust to withdraw his measure. He has not responded to me. A delegate who homeschooled his own children also personally asked Rust to withdraw the measure. I am optimistic, however, that Rust will listen if he receives a courteous phone call from you and the many other families who homeschool in Virginia.

Action Requested

This is a time of unusual urgency—a time for all Virginia homeschoolers to stand together in unity for mutual strength. Together, we are a mighty force for freedom. Whether or not you have ever homeschooled under the religious exemption, please:

1. Call Delegate Rust and respectfully ask him to withdraw HJ 92. Your message can be as simple as: “Please withdraw HJ 92. No study is needed. The religious exemption statute is a cornerstone of religious and educational freedom and should not be thrown into question.” Or you can use information below to develop your own personal message. Every phone call is important. We urge husbands and wives to separately call on their own. His phone may become quite busy. Be patient and keep calling until you get through. His phone number is (804) 698-1086.

2. Please send an email to Delegate William Howell, the chairman of the House Rules Committee, which currently has jurisdiction over HJ 92, and urge him in your own words to oppose the measure. The Committee could quickly kill it even if Rust does not withdraw it. His email is delwhowell@house.virginia.gov.

3. Many homeschoolers are unaware of this threat. Please reach out to families who may not be well connected, offer them a copy of this email, and ask them to join ranks with you to help turn the tide.

4. If you live in Del. Rust’s district (Western Fairfax County and part of Eastern Loudoun County) and would like to talk to him face-to-face, please contact me so I can give you a more detailed briefing before you meet with him.

The Home Educators Association of Virginia, the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers, and HSLDA are united in opposing HJ 92.


A study by Dr. Brian Ray showed that students homeschooled under the religious exemption score 33 percentile points higher than others on standardized tests.

No study is necessary. All five of the questions that HJ 92 proposes can be answered without a study.

The first question is how school boards decide if an exemption should be granted. The simple answer is that they follow the clear requirements of the statute. The statute gives school boards significant latitude in the administrative procedures they want to follow.

The second question is whether the school board ever reviews its decision. Laws already on the books would allow a school board to review its decision if there is evidence that would justify a review.

The third question is whether school boards require an exemption to be renewed. The simple answer is that some do and some don’t.

The fourth question is whether school boards monitor the education of exempted students. The simple answer is no, since they are exempt from all government education mandates.

The fifth question is whether the religious exemption statute should be amended to better carry out the state’s duty under the Virginia Constitution to provide free public education and compulsory attendance. The simple answer is that the religious exemption statute was never intended to implement those duties. It implements a more important part of the Virginia Constitution: Article 1, Section 15, which guarantees the free exercise of religion. And it implements the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as construed in the landmark Wisconsin v. Yoder case.

One homeschool graduate recently criticized the religious exemption statute claiming that because it allowed his parents to homeschool him without government mandates, he had to take remedial classes when he enrolled in community college. This simply does not hold water. Sixty percent of all community college students take at least one remedial or developmental class. And despite the supposedly bad education he got at home, now he attends Georgetown University, one of the nation’s top 25.

Between 1976 when the religious exemption statute was enacted and 1984 when the home instruction statute was enacted, religious exemption was the only way to homeschool legally. It’s not likely, but if the home instruction statute were ever repealed, the religious exemption statute would still allow families to homeschool their children if they believe that enrolling their children in public school is against God’s will for them.

A number of Virginia Amish families stop providing formal education to their children once they finish 8th grade. These families could be in danger of criminal prosecution if the religious exemption statute is threatened. Many other deeply religious families place such an emphasis on separation from the state that they would refuse to file a notice of intent if the religious exemption were not available. They, too, could be in danger of prosecution if the exemption is threatened.

The religious exemption statute works so well and with so little controversy that during its 37 years of operation, it has generated only one lawsuit that has come before the Virginia appellate courts.

Technically, HJ 92 is a “House joint resolution,” not a bill.

Thank you for standing with us for freedom!


Scott A. Woodruff
HSLDA Senior Counsel

P.S. We greatly value you and your support—it is a privilege to serve you! If you or someone you know is not a member of HSLDA, will you consider taking a moment today to join or recommend us? Your support enables us to defend individual families threatened by government officials and protect homeschooling freedom for all. Join now >>

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