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May / June 1991
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H. R. 6

Cover Stories

New Iowa Bill Eliminates Certification Requirement While Tightening Truancy Law

HSLDA Sues Pittsburgh School Superintendent


President’s Corner

Across the States

National Center Reports

National Center Reports

Religious Freedom Restoration Act Stalled Due to Pro-life Wrangling

The congressional attempt to restore the free exercise of religion to the level of legal protection guaranteed other fundamental freedoms—the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)—has been stalled in Congress due to wrangling over pro-life issues.

The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) has contended that the RFRA might give pro-choice forces a new argument to support the right to abortion in the event Roe v. Wade is resolved. The United States Catholic Conference has expressed similar concerns.

However, a great number of legal experts on religious freedom (from both the pro-life and pro-choice communities) have examined these claims and concluded that no serious argument could ever be raised under the RFRA to support abortion rights beyond a claim to save the life of the mother. HSLDA's Michael Farris has studied the matter and joined other pro-lifers including the Christian Legal Society, Christian Action Council, Concerned Women for America, the National Association of Evangelicals, and Coalitions for America in reaching the conclusion that the fears are unfounded.

The chief sponsor of the RFRA, Congressman Stephen Solarz [D-NY], has expressed some willingness to place a statement into the Congressional Record which would include a written legal memorandum from three pro-life law professors that the RFRA is not intended to have any effect on the issue of abortion. However, the chairman of the committee has emphatically said that he will not advance this bill if it becomes a battleground over an attempt to forthrightly put the issue of abortion into the actual language of the bill.

Michael Farris talked with the attorney for NRLC, asking him why he was willing to risk 100% devaluation of religious freedom over such a minuscule risk to the pro-life cause. The NRLC attorney responded that their organization was a single issue organization and did not have to balance religious freedom against pro-life concerns.

Letter writing campaigns urging senators and representatives to support this legislation should be held off until the bills are actually introduced in Congress.

Senators Press Administration to Sign United Nations Children's Rights Treaty

Senator Christopher J. Dodd [D-CT] claims it is “intolerable” for the United States to be a “non-player” with regard to supporting the 1989 United Nations treaty on the rights of children. Criticizing the Bush administration for its failure to sign the treaty, Senator Dodd stated, “The world looks to us to take a leadership role on issues like this.”

The Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly on November 20, 1989. Human Events called the U.N. Treaty on Children an opportunity for “government to supplant parents.” Human Life International, in reporting on the UNICEF World Summit On Children held September 29–30, 1990, explained: “Under the terms of the U.N. Convention on the Child, the United Nations grants power to participating governments to determine children's rights in isolation from parents, family and community. Parental rights and responsibilities in relation to their children are to be determined by the State and ultimately by the United Nations. The United Nations, as a deliberative body with multiple economic networks, international participants, and a variety of enforcement capabilities, would retain jurisdiction.”

“…Power is granted to participating governments to determine the ‘rights of the child,’ which are to be enforced by legislative means within all member states. Each child must be registered with the State immediately at birth for the purpose of legal implementation. The state is positioned as the source of all rights for both parents and children. The parent/child relationship is defined in terms of duties owed by parents to children. Parents are declared responsible for implementing the child's right to conditions of living necessary for the child's development. The required ‘conditions of living’ are to be based on a State-recognized standard of living which provides for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral, and social development.

“These requirements go beyond the normal purview of government and raise alarming totalitarian possibilities in which the State defines and limits the personal values to those which are ‘acceptable” to the State. Parental provisions for the child are to be supplemented by the State in order to meet the required State standard.”

Several layers of the Convention provide for U.N. control of world population through the administration of UNICEF.

The frightening thing about Congress’ interest in recommending ratification of this U.N. Convention is that Article VI of the U.S. Constitution provides that “all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding (emphasis added).”

Many Republican Congressmen are climbing aboard the liberal U.N. treaty bandwagon because they want President Bush to come across as being “pro-children.” Senator Jesse Helms [R-NC] is making a strong appeal to the President to examine the treaty closely, citing concerns that parental rights and responsibilities will be abrogated in its enforcement.

Congress Considers Tax Fairness for Families Legislation

Representative Frank Wolf [R-VA] and Senator Dan Coats [R-IN] are sponsoring “The Tax Fairness for Families Act of 1991” (H.R.1277 and S.701), legislation which would immediately increase the dependent exemption to $3,500 per child with the intention of raising it to $7,500 by the year 2000. While these bills do not directly address home schooling, they support family values and protections which reinforce the ability of fathers to provide the economic base the family needs so that mothers can stay at home with their children.

Statistics released by the bill's supporters are thought-provoking in addressing the fact that federal tax policies have been biased against parents with children far too long. Since 1950, the federal tax burden on families with children has dramatically increased. Forty years ago, a median income family of four paid just 2% of its total income in federal payroll and income taxes. Today a similar family pays 24% of its annual income to the federal government. In 1950, the dependent exemption was $600 per child. If this exemption had kept pace with inflation and per capita income, it would be over $7,000. Yet today, parents can claim only $2,050 per child.

The focus of Congressman Wolf's and Senator Coats' efforts is returning each family's money to their own pocketbooks. The bottom line is that the health of society depends upon the fiscal health of families. What society needs is fewer government-mandated benefit programs and more citizen autonomy over the disposition of hard-earned personal resources.

We encourage all home-schooling families to write their senators and congressmen with the urgent appeal that they support H.R.1277 and S.701. Letters to Senators should be addressed: The Honorable…., U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510. Letters to Representatives should be addressed: The Honorable…., U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. 20515.

HSLDA Serves Over 3,000 Families In First Testing Season

The testing service frenzy has abated slightly and the staff have all resumed breathing once again. The unavoidable shipping delays with the test publisher and the myriad of details involved in setting up this program combined to make the first testing season a MEMORABLE experience. Our thanks goes out to all of you who tested with us in April for your patience and for graciously rearranging your scheduled testing sessions.

We thought that families and administrators who participated in the April testing blitz might find the following statistics interesting.

During April….

  • a total of 165 hours of over-time were required to meet our testing obligations.

  • over $12,000.00 in postage was used to mail the testing materials—not including UPS shipments. In the first week alone we went through $5,000.00 on the postage meter.

  • over 1,720 pounds were shipped by UPS.

In the first two weeks of May….
  • over 3,000 test booklets and answer keys were returned for May scoring. Each answer key was checked to verify that the name, address, and grade level sections were completed, and each reusable test booklet was examined through to make certain it was not damaged or marked up.

  • 17 boxes of material, weighing a total of 510 pounds, were shipped to the Psychological Corporation for scoring.

As you can see, a program of this magnitude requires the diligent stewardship of all involved. In this regard, we wanted to alert you to several ways in which you can help us exercise good stewardship.

First, we wanted to remind you that the test booklets for Intermediate 1 through TASK 3, and also the Practice Test Directions (PTD) are recyclable. Administrators and parents both should remind the children (grades 4–12) not to write in their test booklets, but to confine their figuring to the scratch paper provided. And we ask your cooperation, parents, in not writing in the PTD booklets.

Also, because of the delays this year, there were families who did not receive their practice tests prior to their scheduled testing session. The instructions included with the practice test mailing indicated that the PTD booklets were to be given to the administrator and that s/he was to return them to HSLDA along with the completed tests. Therefore, if you discover that you have any PTD booklets “floating” around your house, please take a moment to slip them into an envelope and return them to us.

Secondly, after this pilot testing season is completed, we will be encouraging everyone to register early. The first step will be providing you the opportunity to register for testing when you renew your membership. Not only will this allow us to combine necessary mailings and reduce costs in printing and postage, but it will also allow test supplies to be shipped out several months in advance of the spring or fall testing periods. Early shipping will provide the time needed for a more economical mailing procedure and will also ensure ample time for additions or corrections to orders.

Staff Changes

On March 25, 1991, Barbara Hindman joined HSLDA on a part-time basis to work as financial assistant to the director of membership. In addition to helping with the bookkeeping, she has willingly accepted temporary assignments to meet other office needs, and we appreciate her cheerful assistance.

Native Virginians, Barbara and her husband have three grown children. Barbara learned of HSLDA and the employment opportunity through a friend at church. We are grateful to God for bringing Barbara to work with us!

Angel Fessler arrived on May 13, 1991, to assume the position of assistant to Inge Cannon in the National Center for Home Education. Throughout her growing-up years, Angel has had an increasing interest in helping families maintain their home school freedoms. Her work during the past three years in the home education department at the Institute in Basic Life Principles has prepared her well for this challenging work.

Suzanne Stephens, who has been serving state leaders as NCHE's assistant, will be assuming new responsibilities in connection with the public relations needs of the radio broadcast and HSLDA's publications.

In the position of assistant office manager, we welcome Aaron Fessler to our ranks. Aaron will be instrumental in the set-up and implementation of our new mail room. Aaron has established a successful home business, Cassidy and Nells, through which he developed his business skills.

Angel and Aaron were home schooled by their parents along with their 4 younger brothers and sisters. We are excited to have them here.

Meet Debbie Stevenson

Described by Mike Farris as the “greatest corporate take-over in the history of Christian non-profit organizations,” Debbie Stevenson was “stolen” from Christian Legal Society on April 9, 1990, to become his new assistant.

Her job, as one might imagine, is quite challenging. In addition to her myriad of general duties, she also assists in preparing trial briefs, editing new books, and working at conferences. Debbie's goal is to keep “at least one step behind Mike—he moves so fast that one step ahead is impossible!”

Debbie's nine years with Christian Legal Society serve as an excellent foundation for many of her duties at HSLDA. Not only is she acquainted with Christian attorneys throughout the United States, but she is also familiar with many of the national groups with whom HSLDA has regular contact. It was her job with Christian Legal Society that brought Debbie to the Washington, DC area in January 1981.

Although a Virginian by choice, she grew up in southern California. Following high school graduation, Debbie enrolled in college and earned an Associate of Arts degree in business administration. After completing her degree, Debbie took a job with the FBI, where she worked for the next five and one-half years. There her investigative skills were sharpened, providing a background for several of her responsibilities at HSLDA which include tracking the “pervert” calls many home schoolers have received.

During the time she worked for the FBI, some friends invited her to visit their church. After attending for two months and hearing the gospel preached, Debbie committed her life to Christ.

Three years later, Debbie left the FBI and went to the Philippines as a short-term missionary. Upon her return to the States, she enrolled in Logos Bible Institute's one-year training program, and after graduation she joined the staff at Grace Community Church as secretary to the church administrator. When the administrator left to open a Washington, DC office for Christian Legal Society, Debbie was offered a position as well, and she accepted.

Early in 1990 Mike Farris was looking for an assistant. A mutual friend told him about Debbie and suggested he contact her. Debbie's initial response was less than enthusiastic. Even after Mike convinced her to come out for an interview, Debbie just wasn't sure about the offer. The commute from her home in Fairfax to Paeonian Springs was much too long, and even though she had friends who taught their children at home, she didn't really know anything about home schooling. But as often happens, God changed her mind, and Debbie accepted the responsibility of trying to keep up with Mike Farris.

Debbie says she has never regretted her decision. She loves working at HSLDA with Mike and with the rest of the staff, and her contact with home-schooling families—either by telephone or in person at conferences—is always enjoyable. Her apprehensions about the job change have been resolved as well. In October, Debbie moved into a townhouse in Purcellville, only twelve minutes from the office. She has also had ample opportunity to get acquainted with home-schooling families through the church and her occasional baby-sitting for the Farris’ seven children!

Moving from urban Fairfax to rural Purcellville might seem like moving to a slower-paced life. But Debbie keeps busy with gardening, volunteering as typist for the church, baking bread, and sewing.Jeremiah 29:11–13 expresses Debbie's testimony that God's plans have far exceeded her expectations for what her life could have been.


The “Operation Free Renewal” is greatly appreciated. Your generosity is a wonderful blessing.

Thank you so very much for standing behind our family.

God Bless You All!

Gilbert & Janet Phifer

Fort Lee, Virginia