Originally Sent: 1/6/2015

From the HSLDA e-lert service…
Home School Legal Defense Association

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Reminder: Homeschool Religious Freedom under Attack in Goochland

Homeschooling in Virginia.

Please attend the next school board meeting.

Senior Counsel Scott Woodruff answers questions and assists members with legal issues in your state. He and his wife homeschooled their children.

Note: This revised e-lert includes a corrected address for the school board meeting.

Dear HSLDA Members and Friends:

With little or no warning to the homeschool community, the Goochland County School Board adopted a homeschool policy in November that violates state law and interferes with the right of parents to guide the religious upbringing of their children.

For families homeschooling under the religious exemption, the policy demands that all children age 14 and older submit their beliefs in writing to the board for examination. They could even be summoned to a hearing where the board could grill them on their faith! This is unacceptable.

Most 14-year-olds haven’t yet developed an adult-level faith. They are still receiving religious training from their parents.

The Virginia religious exemption statute gives families a right to an exemption from school attendance based on the religious training the parents are providing to the child—regardless of what the child believes. The Goochland policy violates this right.

Action Requested

Please attend the school board meeting scheduled for Tuesday, January 13 at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Goochland Administrative Building, in the main board room on the first floor, at 1800 Sandy Hook Road (near the intersection of Sandy Hook Road and Route 6). (An earlier version of this e-lert provided an incorrect address.)

There will be a time during the meeting for public comments. This is your opportunity to stand up, speak, and urge the board to change its policy. If you desire to speak, place your name on the sign-up sheet before the meeting. I plan to be there as well.

You are welcome to draw from the “Background” section below as you consider what to say. Or you may have other reasons for opposing the policy.

Even if you do not desire to speak, please attend! A big turnout will show the board that this is an issue of the highest importance.

Your children are welcome to attend, as appropriate based on their age and behavior skills.

Please share this message with other homeschool families!


When the Virginia Legislature created the religious exemption, they focused equally on the parents and children. But the legislature knew that the beliefs of children are always growing and changing. The legislature knew that parents use these formative years to train their children so they can one day be “on their own” in matters of faith and religion.

In some faith traditions, a rite of passage marks the point when a child becomes a self-governing adult in a spiritual sense. It may be called confirmation or bar mitzvah or a return from rumspringa. Other parents may see the child’s 18th birthday as the point when he or she can make all his own decisions about church attendance, etc. Other parents make a prayerful case-by-case decision as to when to give their child full religious independence.

But in every case, the right to make the decision belongs to the parent, not the government.

This is why the Virginia religious exemption statute grants a right to an exemption based on “training or belief.” If a child has reached the point of religious autonomy, the board should consider the child’s own beliefs. But if the parents are still training the child, the child’s own beliefs are irrelevant. All that matters is that the parents are training the child in faith.

The error of the Goochland policy is that it arbitrarily decrees, in effect, that every 14-year-old is no longer being trained and is “on his own” spiritually. We know that is simply not true. The policy must be changed to reflect the fact that state law permits an exemption based on training alone.

The laws of our state don’t treat the decisions of 14-year-olds like adult decisions. They can’t sign contracts. They can’t get married. They can’t vote. They can’t decide to just stop going to school. They can’t choose whether to go to public, private or homeschool. We don’t even let courts emancipate children until age 16, and then only under very narrow circumstances.

Indeed, it would have been freakishly odd if—in the highly important area of faith and religion—the legislature had decided to treat 14-17-year-olds as if they were adults! It is simply unjustifiable for Goochland to decree that 14-year-olds must be treated as adults in the area of religion.

Thank you for standing with us for freedom!


Scott A. Woodruff, Esq.,
Senior Counsel,
Home School Legal Defense Association

P.S. We greatly value you and your support—it is a privilege to serve you! If you or someone you know is not a member of HSLDA, will you consider taking a moment today to join or recommend us? Your support enables us to defend individual families threatened by government officials and protect homeschooling freedom for all. Join now >>

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