Nine years ago, Mary Lou Brown began educating her children at home. Her school district in New York state filed educational neglect charges against her. She was able to demonstrate that her children were receiving an excellent education, and the charges were dropped. Eight years later, she began home schooling her adopted daughter, Melissa. Once again, the school district filed educational neglect charges against her. They insisted that she comply with New York's home-school regulations. Because of sincere religious objections to the regulations, Mrs. Brown could not fill out the paperwork that her school district demanded.
Social workers came to the Brown home. There they discovered that the Brown children were getting not just an education, but a marvelous education. Melissa Brown, the adopted child, was not able to speak at seven years of age when she came into the Brown home. Today, Melissa reads at a third-grade level, and is learning her multiplication tables. Her social workers were astonished. They determined that there was no neglect, and closed the case.
When the start of a new school year rolled around, the Browns' school district once again filed educational neglect charges. This time the social workers were puzzled. On the one hand, the children were obviously learning. On the other hand, Mrs. Brown steadfastly refused to fill out the paperwork for her school district. HSLDA Attorney Scott Somerville met with the Commissioner of the Department of Social Services in Mrs. Brown's county. After two hours of negotiations, the Commissioner agreed to drop charges against Mrs. Brown. Furthermore, he agreed to request that her name be expunged from the registry of child abusers. Mrs. Brown agreed to report to a Christian school, without being required to register with the state.
Throughout this entire ordeal, Mary Lou Brown steadfastly insisted that she must render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's. By reporting to a Christian school rather than the state, Mrs. Brown's conscience is clear. By accepting her good-faith efforts, the Department of Social Services demonstrated its ability to accommodate her religious freedom.