Henry Neufeld and Timothy Sandefur (here and here) have both blogged about the NC divorce case that I highlighted yesterday.  Both point to a PDF of the judges ruling in the case, and note that there is more to the ruling on schooling.

Mrs. Mills has joined the Sound Doctrine church, a church that many who have “escaped” from it (that’s the term they, in fact, use) say has anything but sound doctrine.  After reading excerpts of the affidavits in the ruling, I would have to agree.

The concerns that Mr. Mills had to homeschooling included misconceptions that those don’t homeschool typically have about the practice; that it did not expose the Mills children to “the real world” and didn’t give them a “firm foundation for their future social relationships”.  Some of their extra-curricular activities are listed, and it sounds like they could easily find socialization in those.  He also said that it was his understanding was the the homeschooling was temporary.

At the end of the section about schooling, he does mention that some of this included religious training from this Sound Doctrine church, which he was concerned about.  Fair enough, but here is where we find ourselves at a decision that could, contrary to Mr. Neufeld’s and Mr. Sandefur’s thoughts, have widening influence.  The judge finds that it would be in the best interest of the children to pull them out of a schooling situation where, the judge agrees, the children have “thrived academically”.  There can be only two reasons for this based on what’s in the ruling; either it’s the “only temporary” issue or it’s the religious issue.

If it’s because the understanding was that homeschooling was to be only temporary, then perhaps some other education needs to be done to make sure that this isn’t being nixed by the husband because of misconceptions about homeschooling.  The whole “real world socialization” idea has been thoroughly debunked.  And on page 7, point #5, the judge “clearly recognizes the benefits of home school”.  So this appears not to be the main reason.

Which brings us to the religious issue.  After conceding the benefits of homeschooling, the judge, in the same point, then agrees to Mr. Mills’ request to “re-enroll the children back into the public school system and expose them and challenge them to more than just Venessa Mills’ viewpoint.”  This is where it gets dicey.

Others cited in the ruling consider the Sound Doctrine church to be a “cult”, and I’m not in a position to disagree with them.  The behavior of Mrs. Mills tends to back up their assertions.  However, if this ruling is made specifically to expose the children to other viewpoints, than any homeschooler of any religion or philosophy could have their choice annulled by a court for that reason, cult or not.  (I imagine, indeed, a judge that took children out of an atheist homeschooling situation to “challenge” that viewpoint would find all sorts of “friend of the court” briefs from the ACLU.)  The mother could lose custody of the children based on her religious beliefs and how those beliefs translate into abuse, but, while even that is a difficult thing for a court to decide, that is not, as I read it, the reason that the children are being sent to public school.

There’s that poem that has lines “First they came for ___, and I did not speak up because I wasn’t a ___.”  It’s been used and misused over the years, but I think it applies here.  I don’t think we can see this ruling and not feel some concern over perhaps government coming for Christians or Jews, or whatever other religion that a judge thinks needs to be “challenged”, on the say-so of an aggrieved spouse.  Whether the grievance is valid or not, or whether the religion is a cult or not, it should be cause for concern.

Filed under: DougEducationGovernmentHomeschoolingJudiciaryReligion

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