December 5, 2017

Grateful for Freedom

We just celebrated the national holiday of Thanksgiving and our family followed a tradition that we have observed for many years. This tradition is going around the table and sharing some of the things for which we are most grateful. As always, it was a blessed time of reflecting on the many ways that God has poured out His blessings upon our family.

For me personally, at the top of that list is the blessing of being able to “train up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” which for us was very closely tied to teaching our children at home. While we support and strongly defend the right of families to direct the care, control and upbringing of their children in whatever manner they choose, for us, homeschooling our children was a key element in passing on our faith to them.

Those thoughts came rushing back to me as I read about the effort in the U.K. to pass a national law that “would grant local authorities… the duty to monitor the educational, physical and emotional development of children receiving elective home education in their area.”

This was another stark reminder that there are those who believe that families cannot be trusted to raise their children without the direct oversight and intervention of the government. In fact, last spring we fought to kill a bill introduced by Rep. Cindy Burkett in the Texas Legislature that would have resulted in similar legislation in Texas.

These events are startling reminders that the freedom that Texas families enjoy to make decisions regarding their children is not free. It does not happen by chance. We live in a day when many in our culture agree with Representative Burkett that the government should be allowed to monitor innocent families. Of course, we hold the view that families should be free to direct the care, control and upbringing of their children unless there is evidence of abuse.

Fortunately for the families of Texas, the majority of the Texas Legislature agreed with us and not Representative Burkett, but not all of them did.

It is critical to our freedom that we remain vigilant. The THSC Association is busy interviewing candidates in preparation for the next election. We will highlight those like Representative Burkett who do not stand for freedom for Texas families.

We will also call on you, our friends, to help us by voting for candidates that support freedom for Texas families. If you are not registered to vote, now is the time to get registered so that you can help us protect the families of Texas at the ballot box next spring. That is how we join together Keeping Texas Families Free.

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December 12, 2017

Time to Hold Texas Representatives Accountable

Recently, I wrote about legislation that THSC pushed during the 2017 legislative session to protect families from lawsuit abuse in the family courts. Unfortunately, those bills stalled in the Calendars Committee of the Texas House during the last session. We know why. Speaker Joe Straus is well known for appointing liberal legislators to his committees to stall conservative legislation.

Also, THSC’s legislation to allow homeschool students access to public school extracurricular activities — just like 34 other states — suffered a similar fate in the House Public Education Committee.

The Speaker of the House is one of the most powerful positions in Texas Government precisely because he appoints the committee chairmen and has the ability to kill legislation by fiat. In fact, Straus seemed to take pride this last session in thwarting the conservative agenda presented by Governor Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Professor Mark Jones of Rice University in Houston recently said, “With Speaker Straus’ departure, the next speaker of the Texas House who assumes office in January of 2019 will be much more conservative, and much more in line politically with Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.”

As many are aware, Straus was elected by all the Democratic members of the Texas House and 11 Republicans, which is why Texas Democrats have done so well and conservative Republicans have not over the last ten years.

Conservatives know that in order to have a Speaker of the Texas House who supports the agenda of Governor Abbott and Lt. Governor Patrick, the speaker must be chosen by the Republican majority not the minority Democrats. Indeed, that was the goal of the recent Republican Caucus meeting of the Texas House Republicans. Now, the by-laws change that was adopted unanimously by the 83 members who were present requires a 60 percent vote for the group to nominate a member for the vote on the House floor. That is indeed a step in the right direction but it is not the final victory we are pushing for.

The moderate element of the Republican House members much prefer to work with Democrats and elect a Speaker along the lines of Straus than to work with their fellow Republicans. Why? They know that doing so will result in a more conservative Speaker, as Dr. Jones predicted.

The key is for Republican primary voters to demand a commitment from their candidate to vote for the winner of the Republican Caucus vote. A failure to make that commitment means that supporting the Democrat’s choice of Republican Speaker over the Republican’s choice. It is time that Republicans who have a near super-majority in the Texas House choose the Speaker rather than the minority Democrats.

Check the Republican Party of Texas website for a list of candidates who have made the commitment to have Republicans choose the next speaker and refuse to support those who will not make this pledge. This is how we join together continuing our mission Keeping Texas Families Free.

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December 19, 2017

Judicial Elections: Why They Should Matter to You

I recently read an article on that reminded me how important judges and the courts have become in our society. The article was about about one of my friends from the Texas Supreme Court, Justice Don Willett, who was confirmed as a federal judge to the Federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Unfortunately, not every judicial story has a happy ending. The reality is that we have become such a litigious society and those on the political left have used the courts to accomplish a political agenda they could not accomplish through legislative process. Too many judges are willing to make the law say what they want in order to accomplish an agenda rather than simply apply the law as written.

THSC decided to do something about this. THSC now vets judicial candidates at the local level as well as at the appellate and state levels because Texas families are often attacked by non-parents in family law cases, tearing families apart. Sometimes the issues are directly related to homeschooling.

How is THSC Vetting Judicial Candidates?

To help with this vetting and educational process, THSC developed a questionnaire for judicial candidates. To ensure the completeness of the questionnaire, THSC gathered input from appellate judges and other Texas organizations such as Texas Right to Life and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility.

Unfortunately, some judicial candidates decline to complete these questionnaires, claiming that doing so would violate the Texas Judicial Code of Conduct by:

  • “…mak[ing] pledges or promises of conduct in office regarding pending or impending cases…” and
  • violating the following rule: “a judge shall abstain from public comment about a pending or impending proceeding which may come before the judge’s court in a manner which suggests to a reasonable person the judge’s probable decision on any particular case. This prohibition applies to any candidate for judicial office, with respect to judicial proceedings pending or impending in the court on which the candidate would serve if elected.”

However, judicial candidates from virtually all levels in Texas have responded to these questionnaires. The U.S. Supreme Court even ruled in Minnesota v. White that judicial candidate may do so. When candidates decline to complete these questionnaires, we take this as a sign that they are unwilling to clearly state their political and/or judicial philosophy. That is concerning to us. Therefore, THSC will not interview or endorse such candidates.

What Action Should You Take?

It is entirely reasonable for candidates for judgeships to be open and honest about their philosophy. This provides the voting public with a reasonable basis to determine whether or not they are worthy of support at the ballot box.

When talking to a candidate for judgeship, you should ask them if they have completed a questionnaire from THSC and/or other groups. If they have not, urge them to do so. If they still refuse, then decline to support them.

This is how we can look out for each other to ensure that our family and homeschool interests are protected in the courts. Together, this is how we we continue Keeping Texas Families Free.

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December 26, 2017

Will We Enjoy Homeschooling Freedom in The Future?

THSC was established during the Texas homeschooling battle of the 1980s when our organization banded together to stop the prosecution of families who taught their children at home.

One such critic of homeschooling freedom was then-Democrat Attorney General of Texas, Jim Maddox, who I often credit as the reason that I became active in the political and public policy arena. At that time, he said that he did not believe parents were qualified to raise their children, much less teach them at home. Thus began a decades-long battle to empower and defend Texas families.

Through the Texas Supreme Court’s decision in the Leeper case, the law was clear that homeschooling was legal. Additionally, with the Texas Education Agency’s policy clarifying that families do not have to get permission from school officials to teach their children at home, the freedom to homeschool was clearly established.

On behalf of Texas families, we spent the next 30 years holding school districts accountable to follow the law and the TEA policy with regard to homeschooling.

Expansion Was Necessary to Continue Protecting Homeschooling Freedom

In 2010, THSC expanded our mission to defend freedom for families. This was important to us because the right of families to make decisions for their children is the foundation of our right to teach our children. This was highlighted by what we saw playing out across Texas: attacks against families in the Family Courts through Child Protective Services (CPS) and other legal actions.

Our expanded mission often leads to questions from legislators and other elected officials about how THSC advocating for the rights of Texas families relates to homeschooling. Summarily, if the right of families to make decisions regarding the care, control, and upbringing of their children is attacked or ignored, it undermines the right of families to homeschool.

Freedom is worth fighting for, and a review of our successes in the 2017 Texas legislative session shows that we worked on issues that impacted all Texas families.

In fact, as the premier state organization focused on freedom for families in Texas, Governor Abbott’s office noted that they very much appreciated our work because it was critically important to families. Additionally, the governor’s office likely would have been unaware of many of the issues that we fought for had we not brought them to their attention.

The Battle for Homeschool Freedom Will Continue Next Year

How much respect has our organization earned defending freedom? Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick recently reached out to us to help in the primary elections next year. This is important because — as I’ve recently shared — there is an unprecedented push by the anti-homeschooling unions and advocacy groups to undermine conservatives in the Republican Primary.

Lt. Governor Patrick’s comment that the homeschool community in Texas is better organized and led than other private education groups makes us a key element in defending individuals who support families in the Texas Legislature.

Our movement is not powered by one individual, though. All of our work for Texas families — litigation, campaigns, interventions and information — requires resources and manpower. We need your help. A donor has committed to match gifts to THSC till the end of the year so your gift is doubled!

Would you consider giving a donation of $25, $50, $100 or more?  With our current matching gift, your donation and its impact on helping Texas families will be doubled!

A good portion of support for our work protecting homeschooling freedom comes through year-end contributions. Will you consider helping us continue the critical work of Keeping Texas Families Free? Thank you for giving your most generous gift for this important cause! God bless you!

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