Home School Upheaval: Texas Court Rules Against Religious Freedom Right To Unregulated Home Education

Aug 16, 2014

By Sarah Jones

Texas families do not have a religious freedom right to home-school absolutely free of any regulation, a state court of appeals ruled last week. The decision is a setback for Michael and Laura McIntyre, who removed their nine children from a private school in order to educate them at home.

Relatives quickly discovered that very little education ever took place. The family ostensibly set aside space in a motorcycle dealership it co-owned with Michael McIntyre’s twin brother, Tracy, as a “classroom.” Tracy soon noticed that the classroom didn’t actually get used for its stated purpose.

From the ruling: “While the children would sing or play instruments, he never saw them reading books or doing arithmetic, nor did he observe any computers or other school equipment.”

Tracy McIntyre later overheard one of the McIntyre children say that “they did not need to do schoolwork because they were going to be raptured.”

The family’s oldest child was so desperate for a real education that she ran away from home in an attempt to enroll herself in high school. Without any academic records, the school didn’t know which grade to place her in; after testing, the 17-year-old was placed in the freshman class, far behind the rest of her age group.

Naturally, the school district intervened – and that’s when the McIntyres called upon the resources of the Religious Right. When confronted with a request for details about their curriculum, the family decided it was being unfairly harassed and requested help from the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), a Christian legal advocacy organization founded and run by Religious Right figurehead Michael Farris. (Farris is also the founder and chancellor of Patrick Henry College, an unaccredited Evangelical college in Purcellville, Va.).

45 comments on “Home School Upheaval: Texas Court Rules Against Religious Freedom Right To Unregulated Home Education

  • @OP – When confronted with a request for details about their curriculum, the family decided it was being unfairly harassed and requested help from the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), a Christian legal advocacy organization founded and run by Religious Right figurehead Michael Farris.

    I wonder if their lawyers who were arguing about details of a curriculum, were home-schooled in illiteracy?
    Still faith-thinking is faith-thinking and business is business!



    Report abuse

  • 2
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    Talk about child abuse! It says a lot when a 17 year old teen has to run away from home and take charge of her own future because her parents are too clueless and irresponsible to do their basic duty as parents. It’s pretty much the same as if she didn’t have any parents at all.

    It really gets my goat when I see such spectacularly ignorant, outrageously incompetent parents make nine (9!!! – count them) children and then proceed to completely screw up their future by denying them an education. Poor kids…

    I’m glad the Texas Court ruled on the right side of this issue but personally, I think those “parents” ought to go straight to jail (without passing GO and without collecting $200).



    Report abuse

  • As an American, this doesn’t surprise me. I’ve lost “faith” that these people can ever be educated. (not the children)
    This comes from years of brainwashing from their parents and grandparents.
    Out of nine children several of them will turn out to be logical.
    And the cycle is repeated.



    Report abuse

  • Although I’m glad the court made the rational decision, unfortunately, as I suspected, they did not come to their decision on sound rational thinking.
    In fact, the precedent the court refers back to, as justification for rejecting the McIntyre’s religious protection argument, is itself unsound.

    From the court's decision:
    ” In post Yoder opinions, the Supreme Court has held that “a law that is neutral and of general applicability need not be justified by a compelling governmental interest even if the law has the incidental effect of burdening a particular religious practice.”

    This almost sounds like the court is taking the rational stance that says adherence to secular law should supersede any religious practice if they are in conflict. But ofcourse, this is not what they are saying.
    The use of the word “incidental” is the result of the same lapse in critical thinking that was responsible for the Yoder decision; giving religion unmerited respect and unprecedented power in the secular world; effectively validating their exemption from having to abide by secular law and rational legislation. Thus, the court, by rendering a decision based on the adopted “incidental” standard of burden, and concluding that the burden to the McIntyre’s religious sensibilities hadn’t met that standard, implicitly recognizes the special status of religion. An irrational accommodation.

    From the court's decision:
    “The McIntyres have produced no evidence that they are similarly situated to the Old Order Amish in Yoder. They have failed to raise a fact issue that a sincerely held religious belief was substantially burdened.”

    critical thinking. fail.



    Report abuse

  • This is no different than the State of Michigan allowing the Amish to pull their kids from school after the 8th grade. Makes it difficult to choose a different way of life if the kids don’t want to remain Amish.



    Report abuse

  • I ofcourse meant that they hadn’t met the standard of burden regarded as “substantial”.
    No doubt it is a mystery to the court, as it is a mystery to any critical thinker, how they determine the legitimacy of one religious “burden” over the other. For example, could having to learn about evolution be considered a substantial religious burden. What are the possible arguments from those that would say it is substantial, and more importantly, do those arguments meet the standard of burden for rationality. Why evolution and not cosmology anymore?

    Also I can’t help but feel disheartened that the court judges, the ones we look to as the standard bearers for sensible thinking, couldn’t use their legalese magic to connect the education of our country’s future generation with being considered a compelling government interest. Specifically this has to do with the Yoder case, but it is also applicable in this case as well as many others that involve religion and youth education.

    This is from the court decision:

    “The Supreme Court reiterated that there “is no doubt as to the power of a State, having a high responsibility for education of its citizens, to impose reasonable regulations for the control and duration of basic education.” The court conducted a balancing test and ultimately concluded that, based on the unique facts of the [Wisconsin v. Yoder] case, the statute impermissibly infringed on the free exercise of religion without a compelling state interest. ”

    They hint at reaching the reasonable conclusion but then toss it out the window in favor of religious sanctity.



    Report abuse

  • The young human ape is wired to believe authority figures ahead of the evidence of its own eyes and reason, Dr Victoria Horner and others have demostrated. The average US mindset to exclude the state from personal interventions wherever possible may result in the Land of the Free but risks creating the Home of the Brainwashed.

    The unconscionable abuse of children exhibited in the article is not about time lost, but opportunity lost. Learning is at its peak from 18months onwards when the brain has tripled in volume and is as yet mostly unwired with semantic knowledge. Neuron pruning (strengthening the “logic” of associations) is vigorous through childhood and again post puberty when identity and self reliance are developed.

    These periods are mostly a one time deal. Such neural plasticity cannot be rediscovered. Huge potential is lost if they are not fully exploited.

    I know very high achieving Americans who home school because they are horrified by the standards of schooling and cannot afford to pay over the odds for better. I understand that and don’t want to stand in the way of choice BUT homeschooling runs terrible risks. Well intentioned parents often don’t begin to comprehend the risks they are running. All educational processes should be quality controlled by an approved body.

    Libertarians eat it up. Your rights don’t extend to the abuse of your own children. The state has a duty to invest in itself where it is best placed to do so.



    Report abuse

  • phil rimmer Aug 17, 2014 at 6:21 am

    I know very high achieving Americans who home school because they are horrified by the standards of schooling and cannot afford to pay over the odds for better. I understand that and don’t want to stand in the way of choice BUT homeschooling runs terrible risks. Well intentioned parents often don’t begin to comprehend the risks they are running. All educational processes should be quality controlled by an approved body.

    Not even the best parents can provide the role models with the up-to-date expert skills across a whole range of subjects supplied by professional teachers using specialist resources. Parental teaching should be in addition to structured specialist education, not instead of it!
    Of course those with Dunning-Kruger ignorance based confidence, would not see, or recognise, expertise in others! – Or gaps in their own abilities or knowledge!



    Report abuse

  • This immediately reminded me of the family of a school friend of mine who were Plymouth Brethren, only this is worse, much worse.

    My friend struggled for years during his teens to escape the influence of the Brethren, but the last time I saw him he’d succumbed.

    Pity the children.



    Report abuse

  • @Alan Aug 17 8:16am

    Untrained indeed means you Don’t Know what you Don’t Know, the very essence of DK.

    I am inclined to agree with you, and think supervision, assessment, and possibly the insistence on only limited homeschooling for pre-teens would be good. It is those early years and the risk of not apprehending the size of the big wide world and the varieties of people within it that may most impoverish a child’s understanding of what there is to know and the tasks that lie ahead of it. The motivation to learn will depend on an understanding of the scale of those tasks.

    On this point, the fundamentalist world view is most often tiny and potentially crippling of a child’s instinctive need to know.

    The UK is incidentally appalling in its regulation of homeschooling. It is fortunate that the idea of it has not taken hold much over here.



    Report abuse

  • I concur with previous respondents – This is child abuse. And it reminds me of the time I wandered through Amish country in Pennsylvania. The Amish all emphasize to tourists that their kids can leave the faith when they grow up if they want to, but most of them choose to stay. They brag that the retention rate is 90-95 percent. That may be true, but it’s sure not because of the awesomeness of their faith. The kids can’t leave. They are stuck. The Amish accomplish this by not educating them, so that when they are adults they don’t know anything and they can’t go to college or even get their GED. It would take a very driven and self-conscious young adult to be able to break out of that retentive culture/religion. Amish education consists of one teacher and a one room schoolhouse with all grades in the same room. 5th grade is the end, then it’s off to work on your daddy’s farm. How many 17 – 18 year olds are going to be able to get into college or anything with a 5th grade education and pretty much no financial support from parents? Not alot. About 5% infact, hence the 95% retention rate.

    Religious groups should not get a free pass on education. So many tourists look at the Amish with a sort of sweet nostalgia. And so many tourists go through Amish country and say things like “Aww this is the life. Wake up, milk the cows, work hard, eat the fruits of your labour. No computers or technology complicating your life. It seems wonderful.” Does it really seem wonderful? Really? No way out. No way to travel. It’s the age of information and you’re completely out of touch with the entire world. It’s child abuse and it makes me angry.



    Report abuse

  • phil rimmer Aug 17, 2014 at 8:48 am

    I am inclined to agree with you, and think supervision, assessment, and possibly the insistence on only limited homeschooling for pre-teens would be good.

    Hi Phil!
    We’ve been involved in discussions long enough for you to know I tend to go for radical actions to achieve worthwhile objectives.

    I can sympathise with those parents who are faced with poor educational standards in their local schools, but would ask what they have done to improve the situation.
    As you may know from previous discussions, my children attended a local top rated LEA UK primary school. It was not top-notch when I first encountered it, but by the time my eldest reached school age, I had been its chair of governors for a couple of years, so the head and staff knew they would be supported in maintaining and raising standards, and defended from interfering busy-bodies or bureaucrats.



    Report abuse

  • out of touch with the entire world

    Local Amish and Mennonite folks come to town to shop via car, or horse and buggy. The women and children stick together like glue and are very quiet. The young men at the lumber yard are friendly, but oh so shy!

    Think I understand your feeling of calling it ‘child abuse’, but personally I wouldn’t go that far. Guess I read too many reports of child abuse in the u.s. to categorize it as such. Wonder if any get a chance to sneak to a public library for computer access. Love it, or overwhelming for them?



    Report abuse

  • From reading your response, I feel I should add something – It’s the limitation to education that should be changed, not the individuals. You’re absolutely right, the individuals themselves are often lovely people. My concern is that, in most cases, Amish kids have no real opportunity to choose a different life.



    Report abuse

  • the head and staff knew they would be supported in maintaining and raising standards, and defended from interfering busy-bodies or bureaucrats.

    Bravo, Alan! I remain a fan of LEAs, accountable centres of accumulating educational wisdom and excellence.

    My father became a shool governor to good effect and I plan the same should I ever be allowed to retire by my bank manager…

    The acme of teachers may be the Finnish, highly paid and highly autonomous. The key to superb education seems demonstrably that of expertise left to do its thang.



    Report abuse

  • 22
    NMLevesque says:

    Time and time again believers ask for the right to infringe upon the rights of others, and for the most part parents get away with it, but this is just plain absurd. The saddest part is they referenced another travesty as though it’s the reasonable exception, just shy of ‘if only you were Amish’. The bottom line is that children have the right to an education. We need to stop treating the largely unwritten rights of parents as sacrosanct, just because it feels normal, or natural to us as humans; children are not the property of their parents, nor should they be.



    Report abuse

  • 23
    nothink says:

    “So many tourists look at the Amish with a sort of sweet nostalgia.”

    Seriously. We need to wake up. We owe it to the future generation.



    Report abuse

  • It´s funny how the most obvious issue here is completely ignored – the natural law right to be where we want and to learn what we want.

    If I think it´s crazy that these children are learning about religion, that should have no bearing whatsoever on the right of the parents to teach religion. Just like I don´t want any religious group telling me what to teach or not to teach my children.

    Common sense, right? What we need is more people to understand natural laws, not the man made laws that are not real. This is not an issue of science but of morality: the right for everyone to choose what is good for themselves and their family (as long as they are not interfering with other´s natural law rights.)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1pkJaNbzLU



    Report abuse

  • It’s not surprising that education is perceived as the ‘root of all evil’. Keep the kids on the farm and ignorant and they’ll swallow anything, no matter how absurd. No doubt they’re told that the wider community is littered with the Minions of Satan as well, hence their timidity around worldly types. It would require a great deal of effort and dedication to have kids up to scratch in even a primary level. When it comes to high school they’d be completely out of their depth. Shocking!



    Report abuse

  • It depends on what you mean by education. Teaching what is taught in modern public schools may be considered as child abuse by many intelligent persons.

    If you read just about anything from John Taylor Gatto, you will soon understand that public schooling is far, far from being an intelligent option, especially when considering science. And yes, I was publicly schooled and have a college degree in engineering.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_2mZXK6zcU



    Report abuse

  • I personally feel that forcing children to attend public school system is a denial of education and should be a criminal offense. I used to be under the impression that public schooling was obviously a good thing. After reading John Taylor Gatto´s books, it is obvious that we need to change it drastically and make it optional.

    http://www.amazon.com/Dumbing-Down-Curriculum-Compulsory-Schooling-ebook/dp/B0097CYWW4/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1408319297&sr=1-1&keywords=john+taylor+gatto



    Report abuse

  • Precisely. What makes it challenging is that the parents themselves, even though they are the perpetrators, are themselves victims as well, victims of their parents ignorance, and on and on.

    The solution would be to hold all children to an educational standard regardless of religion. But that would make too much sense of course.



    Report abuse

  • Intelligence Aug 17, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    It´s funny how the most obvious issue here is completely ignored – the natural law right to be where we want and to learn what we want.

    Natural laws, are confined to physics. There are no “natural laws” on human “rights”.

    Common sense, right? What we need is more people to understand natural laws,

    “Common sense” intuitions, or opinions are not “natural laws”.

    not the man made laws that are not real.

    Man-made laws are conventions within societies, with effects just as real as physical laws.

    This is not an issue of science but of morality:

    Apart from basic instincts, there are no “natural laws of morality”. It is an error to present a Naturalistic fallacy as support for a personal opinion.

    the right for everyone to choose what is good for themselves and their family (as long as they are not interfering with other´s natural law rights.)

    When you add the bracketed qualification, this becomes an oxymoron, as it unlikely that people will be able to anticipate, or competently evaluate, what is “good”, or all the subsequent consequences of their actions.

    The community needs laws to protect others from the stupidity of some. All opinions are NOT equal!

    I see some people have been exercising their pseudo-rights here:-

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2014/08/how-people-consume-conspiracy-theories-on-facebook/#li-comment-151919



    Report abuse

  • I agree with you about the timidity of religious people Nitya, and I sometimes get the impression that they compensate for it by telling themselves that those who are free of religion, or who believe in a different one to that of their own, are in some way inferior. But that could be prejudice on my part. Or mild paranoia!

    I, of course, hesitate to employ the word “miraculous”, but, my desk is by the window and I can see people coming along the path to the house, and just as I was about to say that I think I can tell from first impressions when someone is religious, a chap walked past the window towards the front door, and I thought to myself, he looks as if he’s religious!

    I’ve just this instant got back to my computer after having had a fifteen minute conversation with him about the Bible, the Qur’an, which Muslims believe contains the final word of God and supersedes the Bible, religions in general and how they contradict one another, what’s going on at the moment in North Iraq, and explaining my world view.

    In doing the latter, I quoted Theodosius Dobzhansky, who said: “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”; my visitor said he disagreed with that.

    So, there you have it, the nonchalant gainsaying of a Nobel Laureate geneticist; it could only come from a person of blind faith, and a timid one at that.

    However, it was an amicable exchange and he furnished me with a pamphlet about http://www.jw.org.

    His bottom line was that he’d made the right choice and that his was the one true faith.

    There’s no answer to that.



    Report abuse

  • Intelligence Aug 17, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    Mark Passio’s Natural Law Seminar

    Seminar??????
    2 hours 2 minutes 37 seconds of semantic waffle ending in a “my dogma is natural law” claim!

    This site is for evidenced, reasoned, critical thinking!



    Report abuse

  • @Stafford Gordon
    Miraculous powers of perception! You must be picking up some subtle cues that are being given off just below the threshold of consciousness. Perhaps it’s an attention to grooming that’s a little too fastidious or conservative. Well done you, in any case.
    I like to think that I’m very good at lie-detection myself. I think that I’m able to detect something even across the airwaves on TV. For example I get the feeling that our loathsome PM, Tony Abbott, is not actually a believer himself though he makes great show of his very public religiousity. I detect an air of insincerity about him revealed by tiny changes in expression, but maybe I’m fooling myself.
    I think those poor Amish kids are the real deal though. They’re true believers who know of nothing different. Unless they’re blessed with unusual intelligence and curiosity they’re stuck! I have a lot of opinions on those sorts of reclusive religions and I suppose this is not the time and place to air them.



    Report abuse

  • Obviously these folks are nuts, but I’m wondering if you guys pour out so much bitterness, insults, and hatred for poor public schools? Is it poor education you hate, or just religion?



    Report abuse

  • We are addressing the issue of poor education. Read the responses. Even poor public schools teach to a standard, a state framework. And there is standardized testing and public schools must maintain accreditation. The examples given in this discussion do not. Truly bad public schools are shut down.



    Report abuse

  • 40
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    Unless they’re blessed with unusual intelligence and curiosity they’re stuck!

    Unfortunately, even that is no guarantee that they won’t be stuck. When the intelligence, curiosity and imagination of gifted children is not properly nurtured and encouraged, it often withers and dies. In a family with religious zealots as parents, talent in children is almost always repressed.

    How many gifted children have been stunted in this way and utterly failed? In fact I think it’s way more tragic in those cases. How many might have otherwise become great scientists, philosophers, explorers, artists or educators?



    Report abuse

  • in this case the children were pulled out of PRIVATE school not public school and given NO education at all, the court is not saying they cant home school their kids but they do have to give them an education of some kind



    Report abuse

  • Hear, hear! Just who stands to benefit by keeping kids ignorant? Certainly not the kids themselves; their chances in life are seriously curtailed without the basics. The country? An uneducated group is a burden to the community.
    No, the church is the ultimate beneficiary. A loyal, unquestioning congregation is easily manipulated. Like putty in their hands!



    Report abuse

  • @ Nitya,

    Nitya, if all you can detect is an “air of insincerity,” I cannot help but suspect you have seriously dysfunctional sincerity receptors.

    I cannot add a link, due to RD.net policy, but you may like to google and glance at “Tracking Abbott’s Wreckage.”

    Sheepdogs prowl there, too.



    Report abuse

Leave a Reply

View our comment policy.