Michael Farris, J.D., LL.M.


Banning homeschooling does not violate rights: U.S. Attorney General’s office

Michael Farris, J.D., LL.M.
By Michael Farris LL.M.

Editor's Note: Michael Farris is the Founder and Chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association.

February 12, 2013 (HSLDA) - Having immersed myself for about eight days in writing a brief for the Romeike family (a German homeschooling family who fled to the United States for political asylum), I wanted to share some insights I gained into the view of our own government toward the rights of homeschooling parents in general.

You will benefit from some context.

The U.S. law of asylum allows a refugee to stay in the United States permanently if he can show that he is being persecuted for one of several specific reasons. Among these are persecution for religious reasons and persecution of a “particular social group.”

In most asylum cases, there is some guesswork necessary to figure out the government’s true motive—but not in this case. The Supreme Court of Germany declared that the purpose of the German ban on homeschooling was to “counteract the development of religious and philosophically motivated parallel societies.”

This sounds elegant, perhaps, but at its core it is a frightening concept. This means that the German government wants to prohibit people who think differently from the government (on religious or philosophical grounds) from growing and developing into a force in society.

Dressed-up Totalitarianism

It is thought control. It is belief control. It is totalitarianism dressed up in politically correct lingo.

But my goal today is to not belabor the nature of German repression of homeschooling; rather I seek to reveal the view of the United States government to all of this.

The Romeikes’ case is before the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The case for the government is officially in the name of the Attorney General of the United States. The case is called Romeike v. Holder. Thus, the brief filed by the U.S. Department of Justice is filed on behalf of the attorney general himself—although we can be reasonably certain he has not personally read it. Nonetheless, it is a statement of the position of our government at a very high level.

We argued that Germany is a party to many human rights treaties that contain specific provisions that protect the right of parents to provide an education that is different from the government schools. Parents have the explicit right to give their children an education according to their own philosophy.

While the United States government argued many things in their brief, there are three specific arguments that you should know about.

No Homeschooling? No Problem.

First, they argued that there was no violation of anyone’s protected rights in a law that entirely bans homeschooling. There would only be a problem if Germany banned homeschooling for some but permitted it for others.

Now in reality, Germany does permit some people to homeschool, but it is rare and in general Germany does ban homeschooling broadly—although not completely. (Germany allows exemptions from compulsory attendance for Gypsies and those whose jobs require constant travel. Those who want to stay at home and teach their own children are always denied.)

But, let’s assess the position of the United States government on the face of its argument: a nation violates no one’s rights if it bans homeschooling entirely.

There are two major portions of constitutional rights of citizens—fundamental liberties and equal protection. The U.S. Attorney General has said this about homeschooling. There is no fundamental liberty to homeschool. So long as a government bans homeschooling broadly and equally, there is no violation of your rights. This is a view which gives some acknowledgement to the principle of equal protection but which entirely jettisons the concept of fundamental liberties.

A second argument is revealing. The U.S. government contended that the Romeikes’ case failed to show that there was any discrimination based on religion because, among other reasons, the Romeikes did not prove that all homeschoolers were religious, and that not all Christians believed they had to homeschool.

Targeting Individual Rights

This argument demonstrates another form of dangerous “group think” by our own government. The central problem here is that the U.S. government does not understand that religious freedom is an individual right. One need not be a part of any church or other religious group to be able to make a religious freedom claim. Specifically, one doesn’t have to follow the dictates of a church to claim religious freedom—one should be able to follow the dictates of God Himself.

The United States Supreme Court has made it very clear in the past that religious freedom is an individual right. Yet our current government does not seem to understand this. They only think of us as members of groups and factions. It is an extreme form of identity politics that directly threatens any understanding of individual liberty.

One final argument from Romeikes deserves our attention. One of the grounds for asylum is if persecution is aimed at a “particular social group.” The definition of a “particular social group” requires a showing of an “immutable” characteristic that cannot change or should not be required to be changed. We contend that German homeschoolers are a particular social group who are being persecuted by their government.

The U.S. government says that Germany’s ban on homeschooling does not meet this standard because, of course, the family can change—they can simply stop homeschooling and let their children go to the public schools. After all, the U.S. government says, the children are only in public schools 22-26 hours a week. After that the parents may teach what they want.

Faulty Understanding

There are two main problems with this argument. First, our government does not understand that families like the Romeikes have two goals when they chose homeschooling. There are things they want to teach and there are things they want to avoid their children being taught in the government schools.

Does anyone think that our government would say to Orthodox Jewish parents, we can force your children to eat pork products for 22-26 hours per week because the rest of the time you can feed them kosher food?

Freedom for the mind and spirit is as important as freedom for the body and spirit.

This argument necessarily means that the United States government believes that it would not violate your rights if our own government banned homeschooling entirely. After all, you could teach your children your own values after they have had 22-26 hours of public school indoctrination aimed at counteracting religious and philosophical views the government doesn’t like.

The second problem with this argument goes back to the definition of immutability. Immutable means a characteristic that cannot be changed or “should not be required” to be changed.

No one contends that homeschooling is a characteristic that cannot be changed. We simply contend that in a free nation it is a characteristic that should not be required to be changed.

Germany has signed international treaties which proclaim that parental rights are a prior right over any views of the government when it comes to education. In fact, the movement for the adoption of these treaties came in reaction to the world’s horror at broad-ranging attack on human rights that Germany perpetrated in the events surrounding World War II. Nazi Germany believed that the children belonged first to the state. The world community answered that and said, no, parental rights are prior to those of the government.

Eliminating the Right to Choose

When the United States government says that homeschooling is a mutable choice—they are saying that it is a characteristic that a government can legitimately coerce you to change. In other words, you have no protected right to choose the education for your children. Our nation could remove your ability to homeschool and your choice would be mutable—since the government has the authority to force you to implement their wishes.

The prospect for German homeschooling freedom is not bright. But we should not reserve all of our concern for the views of the German government. Our own government is attempting to send German homeschoolers back to that land to face criminal prosecutions with fines, jail sentences, and removal of custody of children.

We should understand that in these arguments by the U.S. government, something important is being said about our own liberties as American homeschoolers.

The Attorney General of the United States thinks that a law that bans homeschooling entirely violates no fundamental liberties.

It is important that Americans stand up for the rights of German homeschooling families. In so doing, we stand up for our own.

Reprinted with permission from the Home School Legal Defense Association.


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Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent


Paris climate summit kicks off with Prince Charles bemoaning our ‘crowded planet’

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent
By Jeanne Smits

PARIS, December 1, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- The COP21 – or 21st edition of the Conference of Parties on “climate change” – got off to a spectacular start on Monday with 150 heads of state joining to speak of the “urgency” of the fight against “anthropogenic” global warming. Even though many scientists disagree with the theory that man’s carbon emissions are causing the planet to heat up, and a good number believe that there has been at least a “pause” in global warming for over 18 years, an overwhelming majority of politicians at the helm of their respective countries are touting emergency measures to keep carbon emissions down. Underlying all this is the Malthusian idea that the Earth’s population is no longer “sustainable.” If man is to blame, that means there are too many human beings on the planet.

That was in fact one of the first points made on Monday, when the 150 heads of state took turns to make 6-minute speeches fraught with urgency and alarm. So many had accepted French President François Hollande’s invitation they had to be separated into two groups in parallel events. As a special guest, the Prince of Wales was one of the first to speak.

jeann“On an increasingly crowded planet,” he said, “humanity faces many threats – but none is greater than climate change.” Prince Charles named several challenges linked to global warming: “our ability to feed ourselves; to remain healthy and safe from extreme weather; to manage the natural resources that support our economies, and to avert the humanitarian disaster of mass migration and increasing conflict.”

What with the Paris terrorist attacks on November 13, the rise of the Islamic State and the spectacle of thousands of migrants crossing the southern borders of Europe all summer, this was an obvious play on people’s feelings of fear and desire for security. The operative words are of course “an increasingly crowded planet.”

Now the participants at the COP21 are, in the main, not using the words “overpopulation,” “population control,” or “family planning,” if we can go by press releases at least. But the idea is very much under the surface. The choice of Prince Charles as one of the first keynote speakers at the very opening of the Paris conference makes the point: he has long been making it clear that there are too many human beings around and that it is high time traditional respect for human life adjusts itself to reality.

In 1992, he was already discreetly accusing the Vatican of being part of “certain delegations” who are “determined to prevent discussion of population growth.” In June 2010, during a lecture marking the 25th anniversary of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies of which he is a patron, Prince Charles said the population of Lagos in Nigeria has risen from 300,000 to 20 million in his lifetime: “I could have chosen Mumbai, Cairo or Mexico City; wherever you look, the world’s population is increasing fast. It goes up by the equivalent of the entire population of the United Kingdom every year. Which means that this poor planet of ours, which already struggles to sustain 6.8 billion people, will somehow have to support over 9 billion people within 50 years.”

Speaking of the “very difficult moral questions” raised in this context, he added that we should come to a view that balances “the traditional attitude to the sacred nature of life” with religious teachings that urge humans to “keep within the limits of Nature’s benevolence and bounty.”

This is in obvious defiance towards traditional condemnation of contraception and might even be construed as justifying abortion.

Three years later, in 2013, the Prince of Wales published an official endorsement of Paul and Anne Ehrlich’s (authors of The Population Bomb) latest report on overpopulation, which pleads for universal access to (chosen) contraception and “legal and safe” abortion, on his official website.

All this was left unsaid at the COP21 but it does enter the logic of the talks, as confirmed by international bodies such as the United Nations and its agencies that promote population control in exchange for development aid.

In another noteworthy event, this time on the side of COP21’s first day official meetings, Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, met with Barack Obama and François Hollande on Monday afternoon to discuss his “Breakthrough Energy Coalition,” an initiative he is taking together with Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) and his wife, Dr Priscilla Chan, as well as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Alibaba founder Jack Ma, and Xavier Nell, the French founder of Free, an internet provider, who made his first fortune with a pioneering French information network Minitel, where he “sold” erotic services in the 1980s.

Bill Gates and his billionaire counterparts are aiming to invest millions in “clean” energy, together with widespread public investment, in order to make the field attractive to investors.

But “philanthropist” Bill Gates and his wife Melinda are also well known for their action in favor of population control and the distribution of contraceptives in poor countries. All the major companies involved in the initiatives are proponents of LGBT rights as are many sponsors of the COP21 in France.

At least one advisor to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is officially taking part in the COP21 on the chapter of “green agriculture.”

Pope Francis himself has reiterated his support for the COP21, hoping together with François Hollande that the talks will lead to a “binding” agreement where rich countries will help poor ones, both technically and financially, to go ahead with the “ecological revolution.” On Monday, the pope called on the international community to realize that global warming is driving the world “to the brink of suicide.”

Saying he was “unsure” of the COP21’s outcome, he added: “All I can say is that it’s now or never.” He was speaking to the press in the airplane that was bringing him back to Rome from his African journey.

As the major anti-global warming demonstration that was to have taken place on Sunday in Paris was canceled because of the November terrorist attacks, the French authorities suggested would-be demonstrators send a pair of shoes to the “Place de la République” to represent them there. Pope Francis agreed to “sign” one of the pairs with the inscription Laudato si’. They were placed there together with two pairs of shoes bearing the cards of Cardinal Peter Turkson and Cardinal Claudio Hummes who personally presented a petition by 800,000 Catholics from 130 countries in support of the COP21 at an interreligious event in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, last Saturday.

Cardinal Turkson, who will be representing the Holy See during the second phase of the climate conference, has taken advantage of his position as president of the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice to encourage 5,100 bishops and 413,000 priests to commit themselves in favor of the Paris summit, asking them to check out demonstrations and other events in their dioceses in favor of fighting climate change.

A new “Advent”?


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Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben


Saying abortion is ‘killing babies’ is not hateful, it’s the truth: Ben Carson (video)

Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben
By Ben Johnson

December 1, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - Dr. Ben Carson is walking back statements he made over the weekend that seemed to accuse the pro-life movement of spewing "hateful rhetoric."

Dr. Carson told "Face the Nation" on Sunday that there was "no question" that overheated words on "both sides" of the abortion debate may have frayed our social discourse and contributed to Robert Lewis Dear's decision to open fire inside a Planned Parenthood last Friday.

Police have not yet determined Dear's motive, though his mental state has been questioned.

Members of the pro-life community recoiled at the notion that they had engaged in hate speech. "Dr. Carson is sorely misinformed," Lauren Muzyka, the executive director of Sidewalk Advocates for Life, told LifeSiteNews. He "must reacquaint himself with the pro-life movement he loves and claims" as his own.

“Doctor Carson just ended his presidential candidacy," Operation Rescue President Troy Newman told Breitbart News.

On Monday night, Carson appeared on "The Kelly File" on Fox News to address the controversy touched off just 36 hours earlier.

All pro-life leaders "need to do is look at my record," he said.

"I've spent my whole life as a pro-life advocate, trying to save lives" as a surgeon, including operating on premature babies. Carson, a frequent speaker at women's pregnancy centers, added, "I don't think any candidate has been as involved in raising as much money for pro-life issues as I have."

"So, when something is said that someone might try to interpret as anti-pro-life, that's just silly," he said.

When asked what pro-life statements rose to the level of "hateful rhetoric," Carson said he had in mind anyone who would say he "can understand why somebody would come into...an abortion clinic and shoot it up."

Saying that abortionists are "killing babies" does not count, though. "I say that myself," he said. "I don't think that's hateful rhetoric; that's just the truth."

On the other side of the debate, those who favor abortion "engage in such hateful rhetoric by saying that anybody who doesn't want a woman to have an abortion is anti-woman," he said.

Dr. Carson, speaking in his usually low and measured cadences, called for a calm discussion of the rights proper to unborn children to replace shouting.

"Somebody has to be the mature one," he said. "I think the appropriate people to do that are gonna be the pro-life people, because they have much better arguments."

"It's very difficult for somebody who is pro-abortion to sit down and explain why it's OK to take this little baby who has features that we can all recognize – eyes and ears and hearts – and pull them apart," he said. "They have to be able to explain that."

Before switching to another topic, Megyn Kelly wondered if the Planned Parenthood feeding frenzy provided "evidence of the bias in some of these reporters...who are on the pro-choice side" and "think any expression of...the pro-life stance is angry rhetoric.”

Dr. Carson had just completed a tour of Syrian refugee camps in Jordan. He said the displaced persons he spoke to did not want to come to the United States but wanted to return to their homes.

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Fr. Mark Hodges

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Man threatened surrogate with financial ruin if she refused to abort his triplets

Fr. Mark Hodges
By Fr. Mark Hodges

WOODLAND HILLS, California, December 1, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – While pro-abortion "Catholic" New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to legalize commercial surrogacy, a case in point demonstrates the ludicrousness of the loveless practice.

A Georgia man hired a California woman to carry his child in her womb, via in vitro fertilization, for $33,000. Practitioners fertilized a 20-year-old donor's three eggs with the rich man's sperm and implanted the conceived humans in Melissa Cook's womb earlier this year, in the hopes that one might survive.

Melissa Cook has never met the father of the children she carries.

It is normal practice, with in vitro fertilization, to implant more than one conceptus, because in most cases, most or all of the babies die.  "Extras" are discarded to die as well.

But all three of the babies implanted in Cook defied the odds. Instead of carrying the Georgia man's baby, Cook was found to be carrying three of his and the 20-year-old stranger's babies – triplets.

Overwhelmed by the thought of fathering triplets, the Georgia man sent Cook a letter demanding that she abort one extra baby. He called it a "selection reduction" and commanded her to kill the child per their surrogate contract.

Cook balked. "They are human beings. I bonded with these kids. This is just not right," she told The Post.

The Georgia man's lawyer threatened Cook with financial ruin. "His remedies where you refuse to abide by the terms of the agreement, are immense" the lawyer's letter reads, enumerating "loss of all benefits under the agreement, damages in relation to future care of the children [and] medical costs associated with any extraordinary care the children may need."

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He further demanded that Cook get an abortion in less than 24 hours of receipt of his letter. Cook, who is a mother of four and a surrogate to a fifth child previously, is now 17 weeks pregnant.

"I have to reduce. I'm scared. I don't want to suffer," Cook, who is separated from her husband, fretted.

"This sad story highlights the fact that surrogacy is based in the sick idea that a human being is a commodity that can be bought and sold, threatened and killed, all at the whim of the powerful," Stephen Phelan, director of mission communications for Human Life International, told LifeSiteNews.

"Here, a mother is threatened by being held to a contract that she mistakenly signed, understanding too late that she signed away her own freedom and risked the life of her unborn child," Phelan said.

Director Phelan noted, "These cases are not anomalies. They perfectly follow the logic of slavery and abuse that underlie the life-as-commodity view, even when these practices are sold as affirming life."

"We pray that those who currently see in vitro fertilization and surrogate motherhood as 'pro-life, pro-woman and pro-child' will reconsider and fight any law that allows or encourages the practices," Phelan concluded.

Jennifer Lahl, head of the Center for Bioethics and Culture, commented, "Why on Earth would Cuomo want to set up a system like this in New York? It's parent breeding."


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