By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
A judge in a New Hampshire court has determined that a 10 year-old homeschooled girl has become too religious and has ordered her mother to enroll the child in a public school.
According to the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a public interest law firm associated with the case, Marital Master Michael Garner, who recommended the move, admitted the child was well-liked, academically promising and intellectually at or superior to others in her grade level. However, he was concerned about how her Christian beliefs were impacting her relationships with others and recommended that she be enrolled in a public school in order to develop “other points of view.”
The court approved his recommendation.
“Parents have a fundamental right to make educational choices for their children. In this case specifically, the court is illegitimately altering a method of education that the court itself admits is working,” said ADF-allied attorney John Anthony Simmons of Hampton, who is representing the child’s mother.
“The court is essentially saying that the evidence shows that, socially and academically, this girl is doing great, but her religious beliefs are a bit too sincerely held and must be sifted, tested by, and mixed among other worldviews. This is a step too far for any court to take.”
The parents of the child divorced in 1999 and the mother has been home-schooling their daughter since first grade with curriculum that meets all state review standards. In addition to home schooling, the girl attends supplemental public school classes and has also been involved in a variety of extra-curricular sports activities.
In the process of renegotiating the terms of a parenting plan for the girl, the guardian ad litem involved in the case concluded, according to the court order, that the girl “appeared to reflect her mother’s rigidity on questions of faith” and that the girl’s interests “would be best served by exposure to a public school setting” and “different points of view at a time when she must begin to critically evaluate multiple systems of belief…in order to select, as a young adult, which of those systems will best suit her own needs.”
The Marital Master agreed, saying that the girl’s “vigorous defense of her religious beliefs to [her] counselor suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view” and then recommended that the girl be enrolled in a government school instead of being home-schooled.
“The New Hampshire Supreme Court itself has specifically declared, ‘Home education is an enduring American tradition and right,’” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Mike Johnson. “There is clearly and without question no legitimate legal basis for the court’s decision, and we trust it will reconsider its conclusions.”
Simmons filed motions on Monday asking the court to reconsider and stay its decision.
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