|The Washington Times||November 2, 2009|
Washington Times Op-ed—Lawyer Inspired Peers to Fight On by J. Michael Smith
by J. Michael Smith
Christopher J. Klicka, senior counsel and director of state and international relations for the Home School Legal Defense Association, died Oct. 12 in Colorado Springs. His death is a tremendous loss.
Chris started full time with HSLDA in 1985 after graduating from law school. During an internship, he researched the laws of all 50 states as they related to the right to homeschool. His treatise, Home Schooling in the United States: A Legal Analysis, which is updated regularly, is the leading authority summarizing the 50 states’ laws.
Chris is survived by his wife, Tracy, and their seven children. Although he died at the very young age of 48 after a 15-year battle with multiple sclerosis, Chris achieved more than most people ever will. For 24 years, he fought valiantly on behalf of homeschool freedom and intervened on behalf of thousands of families to establish their right to teach their children at home. Not only did he fight for homeschool freedom in the courtroom, he helped draft legislation that recognized the right of parents to teach their children at home in dozens of states and testified before numerous legislatures.
He lobbied Congress on behalf of homeschoolers to level the playing field in the military, colleges and universities; as well as issues regarding educational grants and benefits, Social Security and veterans benefits. Through his advocacy, homeschoolers were exempted from requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, a law that could have allowed the federal government to regulate homeschooling.
Because of his interactions with departments of social services as a result of child abuse and neglect investigations, he became an advocate to protect families from abuses by these agencies. He helped write legislation that amended the Child Abuse and Protection and Treatment Act (CAPTA) to establish the right of parents and guardians.
He also persuaded Congress to require that all social workers and police officers be trained on the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure.
Not only was Chris an outstanding advocate for parental rights and homeschool freedom, but he was an even better person. As the MS took an ever-increasing toll, he continued to travel to homeschool conferences around the country, bringing a message of hope and encouragement. He informed the homeschool community that through faith in God, one can do all things.
Many times he could barely stand, gripping the podium to deliver a message that lifted the spirits of thousands of homeschool moms and dads. After all, if Chris could do the things he was doing every day, certainly they could overcome their petty problems and fulfill the calling in their life to teach their children at home.
The homeschooling movement has lost a giant in our struggle for freedom and acceptance. No one individual has done more to bring about the freedom to homeschool in the United States and around the world. Chris also had a heart for international homeschooling and was responsible for starting organizations similar to HSLDA in other countries. His enthusiasm and advocacy for homeschooling is expressed through his books and other writings, and thousands of families homeschool as a result of reading one of his books, hearing him speak at a conference, or getting personal encouragement from him to get started and keep going.
Despite his death, Chris’ legacy will live on. Those of us who worked with him daily, and the thousands of families that have interacted with him through his writing, speaking and counseling, will continue his legacy as we’re challenged by his determination to never give up no matter how difficult the circumstances appear.
Chris had many great character traits, but perhaps the greatest was his love for God, which was reflected in his love for his wife and children. The example he gave through his life and through his death is indelibly placed in the hearts of all of us who knew and loved him. His vision of freedom for families to homeschool will never die in our hearts as we vow to carry that same determination forward to protect and advance the precious right of families to teach their children at home.
Michael Smith is the president of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He may be contacted at (540)338-5600; or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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