Trials of Many Kinds
This issue brings you news of two losses in court. One is the trial court loss in South Carolina in our challenge to the law which requires parents to pass a teacher qualification exam. The second is the loss in the Iowa Supreme Court on the issue of teacher certification.
The South Carolina loss is the more surprising. But the decision is only at the trial court level; the appellate process promises a realistic hope for victory. In Iowa the loss was final.
I have to confess that I go through periods of discouragement whenever home schoolers are presented with a legal defeat. The discouragement is mixed with a tinge of (hopefully righteous) anger when the loss is the direct result of open injustice.
We care a great deal about our cases. We are not only lawyers for home schoolers, we are home schoolers ourselves. We defy the traditional rule taught in law school: “Do not become personally involved in your cases.” While my observations are obviously suspect because of personal interest, nevertheless, it is my view that home schoolers are often subjected to open injustice in the courtroom.
In Ohio a few years ago, both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals refused to apply sanctions to an attorney prosecuting home schoolers even though her briefs were repeatedly a month or more late. If she had been prosecuting a burglar, there is little question the case would have been dismissed for such prosecutorial tardiness. The Supreme Court of Iowa's recent decision is plainly wrong from the perspective of objective legal analysis. The Supreme Court of North Dakota made up facts out of thin air to justify denying home schoolers religious freedom in the seminal home-schooling case during that state's heyday of educational repression.
While we do our best to maintain professional decorum, the victories and losses mean much more to us than to lawyers who are “just doing their jobs.” Victory is exhilarating. Defeat is painful. Injustice is maddening.
However — Let me repeat myself — However, even though I still feel these emotions when facing defeats and injustice, I give great glory to God because He has repeatedly taught me that He is the ultimate Advocate and the ultimate Judge. Because of this, my emotional reactions to defeat are becoming more and more subdued. It has been nearly eight years since Mike Smith, Jim Carden, and I started HSLDA. It is still true that no member of HSLDA has ever been forced by a court to stop home schooling; nor have any parents ever been found guilty and then sentenced to jail time. None have ever lost custody of their children. A few have paid fines. That's it. God's legal record is truly astounding.
In James 1, we are told to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” As an attorney, I take this verse about facing trials of many kinds quite literally.
Recently, I came to understand the next verses in a way that changed my outlook on this passage. “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”
For most of my life, I have thought that the instruction about “believing and not doubting” was talking about our state of mind at the time we ask God for wisdom. But I don't think that this is the primary meaning of the verse. I now believe that this is referring to our state of mind at the time we face trials. If we doubt at the time we face trials, we truly are like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the winds of adversity.
The net message of this passage is that we must not doubt when we face times of trial. It is this kind of perseverance in the face of adversity that marks a believer who has become “mature and complete.” This is the kind of stability that comes only from a persistent faith in our God.
Today, I am writing this to encourage myself because the sting of the South Carolina decision is fresh in my mind. But, I know that many of you are also discouraged when you read of legal difficulties your fellow home schoolers still face. And so, it is also for your encouragement that I write these words for publication.
I can't wait to see how God delivers the ultimate victories in Iowa and South Carolina. I know He will. He has done it before in North Dakota, Pennsylvania, New York, Oregon, Ohio.
Michael P. Farris