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August 24, 2012

Update: “Diversity” Education for Homeschoolers

Scott Woodruff answers questions and assists members with legal issues in Missouri. He and his wife homeschooled their children. Read more >>

On August 3, 2011, we cautioned homeschool families in Springfield, MO, to carefully watch the Task Force for the Mayor’s Commission on Human Rights because it hinted at a possible government program to educate homeschool families on “diversity,” implying an effort to get them to accept homosexual behavior.

We have good news and bad news to report.

The good news is that the proposed ordinance outlawing discrimination in housing, employment and for-pay services based on sexual conduct has been amended to take away the commission’s power to “educate” the public (see lines 21, 43 and 55 of the ordinance online). The other bit of good news is that there is at least some level of protection for churches in their hiring decisions (see lines 238–244).

Businesses Affected

The bad news is that even with recent amendments, home-based, mom-and-pop, budding teen entrepreneur, and homeschool support businesses could find that they face a terrible dilemma. If their conscience tells them they should not give any implied support to homosexual conduct, they may strongly prefer to not offer their services (wedding cake baking, wedding photography, babysitting, flower arranging, bed and breakfast, tutoring, piano lessons, house-cleaning—literally anything that could earn a dollar) in a particular situation. But if they refuse to offer their services, they could be prosecuted for violating the ordinance, if it passes.

Homeschoolers are some of the most amazing entrepreneurs in the world. They are also, by and large, people of strong moral convictions. Because of these two factors, this ordinance would impact them more than others.

While the ordinance says nothing about homeschooling, many homeschool entrepreneurs would end up as “collateral damage.” We will never know how many budding businesses—which might have grown to provide jobs to hundreds—will be snuffed out or never created because the entrepreneur preferred to let the business plan die rather than violate his conscience.

Deeply Held Views

Some large businesses have hundreds, thousands, or even millions of owners. No individual expects that his or her one conscience will inform the corporate conscience. But a business that is owned by one person, or a family, will often aspire to operate their little business in complete conformity with their deeply held views of right and wrong. They do not shelve their conscience when they buy a cash register.

We don’t force men who believe war is sin to pick up a rifle and fight. We graciously allow them to be exempted as conscientious objectors. Even though it means some other individual will have to stand in the line of fire to take his place, we prefer to protect that one man’s conscience. That is noble and right. We can hold our heads up high.

A glaring defect of the proposed ordinance—not cured by the helpful amendments already made—is that there is no provision to respect the consciences of the individual or family who operates a very small business. This is not a minor defect. It is reprehensible. It is out of our national character.

“The ends justify the means,” is a phrase sometimes heard to rationalize that it is acceptable to do wrong if it will produce a good result. But no amount of rationalizing can turn a wrong into a right. Violating the conscience of small business owners is wrong. No amount of posturing about supposed equality can change that.

We do not intend this article as a comprehensive response to the ordinance. But we hope it provokes a thoughtful discussion. HSLDA is not requesting that families take action. But we know you will follow your conscience.


The bill referred to above is council bill 2012-226. A separate bill has been filed, council bill No. 2012-248 (sponsored by Councilmember Seifried) that would put an ordinance amendment to a vote of the citizens. Tonight (August 27) the city council may consider the Seifried bill as well as Council Bill No. 2012-226.

The Seifried bill is different in several respects from bill 2012-226. Here are several significant differences:

  • Bill 2012-226 deletes the Commission’s power to launch educational programs. The Seifried bill does not.
  • Bill 2012-226 requires the Commission to dismiss frivolous complaints if there is no probable cause that a violation has occurred. The Seifried bill does not.
  • Bill 2012-226 gives protection to any non-profit organization that a religious organization operates, supervises or controls if the purpose and character are primarily religious. The Seifried bill’s protection is much narrower.
  • The Seifried bill allows the Commission to pursue complaints of a wide scope; bill 2012-226 only allows complaints related to a violation of the ordinance.
  • Bill 2012-226 takes away the Commission’s power to issue subpoenas. The Seifried bill does not.
  • Bill 2012-226 makes it a violation to file a knowingly false complaint; the Seifried bill does not.