Christian Homeschoolers Promote Child Marriage

In the dark and sometimes dangerous world of Christian homeschoolers, children are treated as property, often with tragic consequence.

A recent Facebook discussion illuminates some of the dangers the daughters of Christian homeschoolers face, dangers like arranged marriages, often at a very young age.

In a post to his Facebook page, Michael Farris, Chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, issued a statement expressing concern about “a very serious problem” that he sees “surfacing in Christian and conservative circles.”

The problem: the “minimum age for marriage” and the prospect of parental sanctioned child marriage.

In his statement, Farris expressed concern about what he called “a growing tendency in the Christian and conservative movement to be seduced by a spirit of anarchy” as it relates to laws prohibiting child marriage and protecting children. Farris writes:

The way we test the propriety of a proposed legal rule is to take the rule to its extreme and see how we like the results. So I asked whether a parent should be permitted to give their permission to allow a 7 year old to be married to a 30 year old pedophile. The legal issue is the same whether or not there is a “dowry” (cash payment) offered by the “bridegroom.”

Though they are exceedingly rare, there are parents who would permit this kind of outrageous transaction. Such a plan is inherently evil and should be punished.

Farris, a leading proponent and defender of Christian homeschoolers, is right to be concerned, and should be commended for speaking out on this one point.

There can be no doubt that the Christian homeschool movement is built, in part, on the notion that parental rights trump the rights of children, and that parental rights should trump the right of the state to protect children from abusive parents. Sometimes that extreme view of parental rights translates into the attempted normalization of child marriage.

Writing at Love, Joy, Feminism, Libby Anne has done a great job exposing many of the problems associated with Christian homeschoolers, including child marriage. Writing about Michael Farris warning Christian homeschoolers about the dangers of promoting child marriage, Libby Anne briefly describes a popular stance in Christian homeschooling circles as embodied by a couple of popular conservative Christian homeschool advocates:

Maranatha Chapman married a much-older man at age 15, and the story of her courtship and wedding was told and retold as a model and aspiration in Christian homeschooling circles in the 1990s. In 2008, Maranatha’s daughter, Lauren, also married a much-older man. She had just turned 16.

The Chapmans don’t just practice child marriage, they also preach it, encouraging other homeschooling parents to follow their lead, even arguing that “a difference in age—even a significant one—with the man being older, helps make for a better fit.”

In another post, Libby Anne quotes from an article written by Matthew Chapman, a Christian homeschooling advocate who was 26 when he first expressed interest in his then 13 year-old-bride to be Maranatha Chapman. At 27, Matthew, asked Maranatha’s father for his permission to marry his 14-year-old daughter.  The father agreed, and the couple was married when Maranatha was 15 and Matthew was 28.

Arguing in support of child marriage in an article titled “Thoughts on Betrothal (15 Years Later),” Chapman writes:

Parents, I would also charge you to consider this. The way many Christian homeschooling parents raise their daughters, they mature rather quickly and develop significant capacities by a relatively young age. By their middle-teens, many daughters (but by no means all) possess the maturity and skills to run their own home. My point is to encourage you to be open to the Lord and take to heart that some of your daughters may be ready to marry sooner than your preconceived ideas have allowed for. And why not, if they are truly ready? What is the purpose of holding out for a predetermined numeric age if they are legitimately prepared and the Lord has brought His choice of a young man along for her? Don’t be surprised if this is some of the fruit of your good parenting in bringing forth mature, well-equipped, Godly young daughters. However, I seldom think this will be the case for most young men—it takes them (us) a lot longer to get to where they need to be. I have also seen that, oftentimes, a difference in age—even a significant one—with the man being older, helps make for a better fit.

Note: Child marriage is always about a young woman (girl) marrying a much older man. The transaction is facilitated by the parents of the bride, and sometimes monetary payments figure into the the transaction.

Earlier this year, in yet another tale of horror from the Christian homeschool movement, a young woman explained how she narrowly escaped child marriage after being sold by her family for $25,000 into an arranged marriage to a man twice her age.

It is important to note, however, that not all parents engaged in the dubious task of Christian homeschooling favor child marriage, and in fact many of those parents engaged in Christian homeschooling are well-meaning if otherwise seriously deluded individuals.

Yet the threat of child marriage is not the only hazard faced by children forced into the dark and sometimes dangerous world of Christian homeschooling. One need only recall the tragic life and death of Leelah Alcorn, or the tragic circumstances of the Duggar family, to recognize the dangers inherent in the Christian homeschool.

(H/T Love, Joy, Feminism)

The Chapmans: Maranatha (15) and Matthew (28) (Image via Patheos)
The Chapmans: Maranatha (15) and Matthew (28) (Image via Patheos)
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