Heritage Defense: An HSLDA for the Family

I just today found out about something called Heritage Defense. Do you remember what I wrote before about the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA)? Basically, HSLDA is a form of legal insurance – you pay an annual premium and in return have any legal fees covered – for homeschool families. While HSLDA only defends families who wind up in legal trouble over homeschooling, this new organization offers families legal insurance for a whole range of parental rights issues.

Vision Forum is currently offering a discount on Vision Forum products for all families who join Heritage Defense. In making this promotional, Doug Phillips describes Heritage Defense as follows:

For years I was in the business of defending families as an attorney. Today, I believe that every family must take seriously their duty to seek assistance in protecting their little ones from the abuse that comes from an increasingly humanist government system of social workers that often do not respect the Christian household or parental rights. If you are a home educator, you need to be a member of Home School Legal Defense Association, but as a parent, you also need the unique protection that Heritage Defense can offer. You need to know that the government will not harass you for loving and legal discipline you administer to your children, for your nutritional philosophy, for properly using midwifery services, or any of a host of important parental rights issues for which families are under attack. Consider this — just one hour of attorney consultation would typically cost you more than an entire year’s membership with Heritage Defense. You can’ afford to not join!

Reading about Heritage Defense really saddens me. You can see again the “us versus them” mentality it forwards, and the fear of social workers. There is this idea embedded in these groups that parents in some sense own their children. Interestingly, they will insist that their children are simply “on loan” from God, or that they are God’s appointed stewards of their children. They would never use the word “ownership.” Yet in practice, that is what this sort of all encompassing endorsement of parents’ rights and denial of children’s rights – which are what social workers, etc., strive to defend – amounts to the same.

Interconnections

It quickly becomes clear that Heritage Defense is purely a product of the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements (much as it seems CollegePlus is). First is the fact that Vision Forum is going so far to promote and support it. Second, there is this description on Heritage Defense’s main webpage:

Heritage Defense is a nonprofit legal advocacy organization established to protect Christian families across the country against illegitimate and unconstitutional attacks on their parental rights by government agencies. Heritage Defense works diligently to defend the rights of parents and to shield the arrows that God has entrusted to us.

“Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.” ~ Psalm 127:3-4

For all intents and purposes, Heritage Defense hops right out in front proclaiming itself Quiverfull. It uses all the right key words and, of course, the foundational verse. The audience Heritage Defense is targeting is clear.

Third is the fact that Heritage Defense only lets homeschool families be members, and turns away all others. From its Frequently Asked Questions page:

Heritage Defense membership is currently limited to home educating families. We strongly encourage all families to home educate their children.

And then there is also this promotional quote from Voddie Baucham, who is one of the leading voices in the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements and closely associated with Vision Forum, on Heritage Defense’s main page:

“Christian families need protection in these vital areas and it is quite encouraging to know that Heritage Defense is there to provide the help we need.” – Dr. Voddie Baucham, Jr.

You can also glimpse the importance of HSLDA in this whole network in Doug Phillips’ insistence that every homeschooler should belong to HSLDA – and in current HSLDA president Mike Smith’s endorsement of Heritage Defense and Heritage Defense’s endorsement of HSLDA.

Family Over All

What does all this mean? Nothing new, really. It simply highlights once again the huge importance the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, and the Christian homeschool movement in general, place on the authority of the family. The family is held up as the be-all end-all, and any intrusion on the family to protect the rights of the individuals within it is deemed illegitimate. Organizations like Heritage Defense are set up to protect the family from such intrusion, and to set the family up as supreme and, in some sense, completely unaccountable to outside authorities.

When you remember the importance of patriarchy to this whole collection of movements, this is completely unsurprising. After all, they value the family over the individual and uphold parents as absolute authorities over children. And of course, the father as the head of the family is supreme over the rest, and is also a sort of mediator between God and the members of the family he leads (i.e. Gothard’s umbrella of authority, etc.). Authority. Obedience. Submission.

Remember that these same groups vigorously oppose the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and support the passage of a federal Parents’ Rights Amendment. Parental rights are held up as supreme and essentially absolute. Children are seen not as individuals with rights but as possessions to be trained and raised as their parents see fit. These groups see the “Christian household” and “parental rights” as what is important. Children’s rights? Not so much.

The creation of Heritage Defense also indicates that many families in the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements feel that they are under threat from social services and lawsuits, and want to head that threat off. It’s not surprising to me that they feel that they are under threat – this sort of mentality is central to the movements, really – but what’s new here is that, with the formation of Heritage Defense, concrete steps are being taken to stave off that threat.

Conclusion

In the end, then, the creation of Heritage Defense is a boon to the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements and a setback and roadblock for children being raised within them. I may not find its foundation surprising, but I do find it profoundly disturbing.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.


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