7. RESEARCH ON VIEWS IN DIFFERENT DENOMINATIONS ON HOMESCHOOLING
by Wayne S. Walker
As stated earlier, my interest in the introduction and subsequent defeat of the pro-homeschooling resolution among the Southern Baptists, and our own experiences, as well as those of other homeschooling families, among Churches of Christ, made me curious as to how various religious organizations view homeschooling, so I sent letters to 51 major religious bodies in the United States as listed in the 2001 World Almanac and received fifteen replies. Basically, I asked each one if there was any “official position” in their creeds, constitutions, by-laws,or whatever, regarding homeschooling, and then asked for any other information available about homeschool in that group. Since I am not a member of any of these churches, I will endeavor to relay to you just what they told me without a great deal of comment or attempted explanation on my part.
Major Dorothy Hitzka, National Consultant for Christian Education of the Salvation Army, 615 Slaters Lane, Alexandria, VA 22313, responded, “The Salvation Army has no official position on the issue of home schooling for its lay membership. Thank you for your inquiry.”
Church of God (Anderson, IN)
Jeanette Flynn, Director of Congregational Ministries Team with the Church of God Ministries, 1201 E. 5th St., Anderson, IN 46018, replied, “Thank you for your request for information regarding Home schooling in relation to what the Church of God believes. I know that there are many viewpoints within various congregations. We do not have any written resolution or document that states specific beliefs of the Church of God relating to Home schooling. Unfortunately we are not able to assist with information for your newsletter. We appreciate your inquiry.”
Church of the Brethren
Cheryl Brumbaugh Cayford, of the Church of the Brethren General Council, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120, sent me a study guide entitled “Education of the Public: Statement of the Church of the Brethren 1989 Annual Conference” with an attached note, “I hope this is what you need. Let me know if I can help further.” The 22 page document does not mention homeschooling specifically, but does contain several statements that might lead one to conclude how the Education of the Public Committee would view it. “The role of the church in relationship to the public schools has undergone constant review and evaluation, affected by needs of youth, societal influences, and court interpretations of the First Amendment requiring separation of church from the state. The Church of the Brethren has responded and adjusted to these influences to maintain its support of public education” (p. 2). “Strengthening public schools must be high on the agenda of Christian churches, including the Church of the Brethren….[T]he Church of the Brethren, as a denomination, its congregations, and individual members can and should support public education” (p. 3). “In light of the current crisis of credibility and performance of the public schools, this is not a good time for withdrawal of support or even a laissez faire attitude” (p. 13). “The Church of the Brethren continues its long-standing support for public schools, while working for increased commitment to excellence” (p. 14). Cheryl wrote in an e-mail to me, “In brief, the Church of the Brethren's position has been to support public schools and equal access to quality education for all, rather than to focus on home schooling as a solution to the problems with education.”
American Baptist Churches
Curtis Ramsey-Lucas, National Coordinator–Public and Social Advocacy with the National Ministries of the American Baptist Churches USA, e-mailed me to say, “I am writing in response to your letter of June 7, 2004, requesting information on the position of the American Baptist Churches USA with respect to homeschooling. Our General Board has not taken a position on homeschooling. For those policy statements and resolutions adopted by our General Board, please see our website at www.abc-usa.org and follow the link to 'Policy Statements and Resolutions.' Please know that while these policy statements and resolutions recommend action to the churches that are associated with ABCUSA, they are non-binding in so far as these congregations are concerned. Moreover, they speak only to the position of the denomination on these matters, and not to that of individual congregations or regions of the ABCUSA. In this respect individual American Baptist churches and/or regions may have a position with respect to homeschooling.” I checked the website mentioned and found nothing related to homeschooling.
Erika Nonken, Public Information Assistant with the Unitarian Universalist Association, 25 Beacon St., Boston, MA 02108, e-mailed me to inform me, “There is no official Unitarian Universalist stance on homeschooling. However, there has been a lively discussion about homeschooling in our congregations and association for many years. Here are some links with essays, articles, etc. about homeschooling and Unitarian Universalism: [four links were given]. The most helpful to you would probably be an article in this month's church magazine, the UU World, entitled 'No Classroom Walls: More Unitarian Universalists than ever are choosing homeschooling alternatives to public schools' by Donald E. Skinner. For a copy of the World article, please write to email@example.com. If you need more information, please let me know.”
Before I had a chance to check any of this information out, Erika e-mailed me again to say, “The UU World has informed me that they have a policy that does not allow them to send you a copy of the Homeschooling article. Because the article includes children's pictures, names, and quotes, our web staff and the World magazine staff think it is best not to have that article accessible to the public. I suggest you ask for a copy of the magazine through your local library, who, even though they probably don't get a subscription themselves, could get the magazine through interlibrary loan. Best of luck!” I thought it rather strange that they had a policy that “it is best not to have that article accessible to the public” yet it could still be obtained through interlibrary loan! In doing further research, I did find a website and discussion board devoted to homeschooling among the Unitarian Universalists. It is located at http://www.uuhomeschool.org.
Christian Reformed Church
David H. Engelhard, General Secretary of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA), e-mailed to tell me, “Today I received your letter re HEADSUP. I am writing to inform you that the Christian Reformed Church in North America has a long history of establishing and promoting Christian Day Schools throughout the USA and Canada. Home schooling is new among our members and we have not officially encouraged or discouraged it. Our latest study regarding Christian Day School education (2003) recognized Home schooling as a reality and as an option for our parents, but we didn't promote [it] over the established Christian schools among our churches. I can imagine that in some communities pastors may be critical of those who choose Home schooling because the absence of such children from the Christian school weaken it and its purposes and programs. Such critical attitudes, however, are not fueled by denominational pronouncements.”
Evangelical Free Church
William J. Hamel, Evangelical Free Church of America President, e-mailed a response saying, “The EFCA does not have an official position on home schools or Christian schools. Certainly most of our churches have home schoolers and some have Christian schools. Overall we would be supportive.”
Free Methodist Church
Cathy Fortner, Director with the Marston Memorial Historical Center of the Free Methodist Church of North America, e-mailed a reply telling me, “In response to your inquiry dated June 7, 2004, I have been looking into the Home schooling subject within Free Methodism. After some research into our Book of Discipline Paragraph 3450 states, 'The Free Methodist Church views the education of its children as a parental responsibility (Deuteronomy 6:5-9; Ephesians 6:4). Part of that responsibility may be delegated but not relinquished to either public or Christian institutions of education.' It goes on to state that the church wishes to support public schools and recognizes the challenge to Christian teachers, parents and students to be as lights in the world. When parents choose to use Christian schools or home schooling, we also support them in their decision. We request that our children be excused from assignments and activities which conflict with the values held by the denomination.”
Bernie Lucas, Info Desk Manager with the Episcopal Church, sent an e-mail to inform me, “Your letter regarding home schooling was referred to the Info Desk for response. To obtain the Episcopal Church's official position on a particular issue, please visit the Website for the Archives of the Episcopal Church at http://www.episcopalarchives.org….” I went to the website, and typed “homeschooling” and “home education” in their search engine but found nothing; I then typed in “public education” and found these recent items. “The 68th General Convention encourages Episcopalians to become involved in improving and supporting public education” (1985). “The 69th General Convention supports improving public school education and urges dioceses and congregations to consider programs with public schools” (1988). “The 73rd General Convention commends and supports the public school system and opposes private school vouchers” (2000).
Christian Science Church
A lady, whose name I failed to jot down, from the Mother Church of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, MA, called me on the telephone to say that Christian Science has no official position on homeschooling. Each individual member is encouraged to have his own ideas based on his own experiences. She also said that she knows many Christian Scientists who homeschool and love it.
United Church of Christ
Jan Resseger, Minister for Public Education and Witness with the Justice and Witness Ministries, A Covenanted Ministry of the United Church of Christ, 700 Prospect Ave., Cleveland, OH 44115, responded, “Thank you for your inquiry to the United Church of Christ about any policies we may have about home schooling. Our policies do not speak to the issue of home schooling directly. We are a denomination with a strong policy base in support of public education, and I have enclosed the relevant General Synod pronouncements and resolution….I would add that the United Church of Christ is congregational in its polity. This means that the national setting and the General Synod, our governing body, speak to and guide local congregations, but that local congregations are neither governed nor controlled by the denomination. You will find a range of beliefs and opinions among members of our 6,000 congregations.”
Reading through the relevant pronouncements and resolutions that were included, I found that there was indeed strong support of public education. A General Synod XXIII Resolution of 2001-2002 stated, “The Twenty-third General Synod of the United Church of Christ calls upon the United Church of Christ in all its settings to proclaim public school support and advocacy for the same as one of the foremost civil rights issues in the twenty-first century.” That is pretty strong! The only thing that I found that may relate to homeschooling in some way is a General Synod 15 Pronouncement on Public Education of 1985, which says, “We defend the right of parents to choose alternative, private, religious, or independent schools, but continue to declare that those schools should be funded by private sources of income.” One could conclude that “alternative…schools” might include homeschooling.
F. Michael Watson, Secretary to the First Presidency with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 47 East South Temple St., Salt Lake City, UT 84150, replies, “Thank you for your letter of June 7, 2004, to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have been asked to respond.
“Church leaders recognize the challenges facing parents and the concern they feel for their children. They also recognize that there are circumstances wherein children may benefit from home schooling. The Brethren have taken no official position on this question, but they encourage members to carefully assess the implications of withdrawing their children from public systems and of what the loss of Church members could mean for those same public institutions.
“Members of the Church are counseled to do all they can to provide spirituality in their homes to offset the satanic influences in the world; to do all they can to improve the quality of Church programs; and to encourage the youth to receive religious instruction in our seminary and institute programs.
“Parents and individuals may wish to prayerfully consider becoming more involved in the public school systems in their communities and the education of their youth. An important guide for us today is the Savior's prayer in behalf of His disciples when He said, 'I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil' (John 17:15).
“It is the hope of the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that strong homes and families will contribute to the strength of the youth and the communities in which they live.” That is interesting in view of the fact that A to Z Home's Cool Homeschooling website (http://homeschooling.gomilpitas.com/religion/mormon.htm) lists a couple of Mormon homeschooling organizations–the LDS Home Educators Association, which says, “Nothing in the doctrine of the Church is in opposition to home education. When there is criticism, it is often the result of misunderstanding and is culturally based rather than doctrinally based,” and the LDS Homeschooling Organization, which says, “Our vision is to connect LDS homeschoolers worldwide, thus providing friendship, practical help and support.” There are also a LDS Homeschool Conventions List of upcoming conventions provided by LDS Homeschooling.org and several e-mail groups for LDS homeschoolers mentioned.
Bible Baptist Fellowship
Loran McAlister, Associate Mission Director with the World Mission Service Center of the Bible Baptist Fellowship International, 720 E. Kearney, Springfield, MO, wrote, “Thank you for your letter concerning home schooling. The Baptist Bible Fellowship International is a Fellowship of about 4500 Independent Baptist Churches. Since we do not function as a denomination, we do not have written policies on subjects like home schooling. However, I would state that the vast majority of the pastors in our churches would support home schooling. In my travels to the churches, I have met a large number of home schooling families. I must also say that while on the mission field, we home schooled our daughter for a period of time. I really appreciate the effort most home schooling parents make to get the best possible education for their children. I am sorry I cannot help you any more than I have.”
Assemblies of God
Judi Farrington, Office of Public Relations with The General Council of the Assemblies of God, 1445 Boonville Ave., Springfield, MO 65802, told me in a letter, “Thank you for your letter concerning home schooling. The Assemblies of God does not have an official position on home schooling, but I have enclosed an article from the August 25, 2002, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel which discusses this topic. I hope this is helpful to you.” The article, “Where Should Your Child Go To School?” by Billie Davis, discusses homeschooling, Christian schools, and public school as three options, gives both the advantages and disadvantages of each, and does not promote one above another. The author does say that homeschooling requires “Qualified parents who enjoy reading and are enthusiastic about teaching.” The article itself does not explain what “qualified” means, but a sign board accompanying the article says, “Homeschooling is a good choice if you are qualified academically.”
The “Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses,” 2821 Route 22, Patterson, NY 12563, sent me a letter that said, “We are pleased to respond to your letter of June 7, 2004, wherein you inquire about the position of Jehovah's Witnesses toward home schooling. In this regard, we are enclosing a photocopy of the article 'Home Schooling–Is It for You?” from Awake! of April 8, 1993, pages 9 to 12. We trust that this information will be of help to you, and we send you our best wishes.” As you may know, articles in Awake! never have an author's name attached. The article explains why people homeschool, presents the evidence that answers the question “Does It Work?”, does feel the need to mention the objections of critics but provides good responses by homeschooling advocates, and then asks, “Is It For You?” The last paragraph reads, “Parents, who are ultimately responsible for the proper education and training of their children, need to decide for themselves the type of schooling they feel will most benefit their family. So weigh all the factors carefully before deciding if you are ready to take on the challenge of teaching your children at home.”
Well, there you have it. Of course, there are many more very well-known and large religious organizations which did not respond. But of the fifteen who did, you can see that it is somewhat of a mixed bag. None of them seem to have any “official” position on homeschooling. Some of them tend to favor it, whereas others appear to discourage it, at least officially. However, I have an idea that even among the membership of those churches who appear to discourage it there is probably a growing number of homeschooling families. Again, I do not approve of the existence of denominations, their organizational hierarchies, and their credal statements, but I thought that it would be interesting to find out what the leadership of various religious bodies thinks about homeschooling.