Telling half truths was easier before the internet—as was covering up past missteps.
Back in September, a ThinkProgress article noted the following:
One common attack on HSLDA has been that its work often extends to topics that are not directly connected to the rights of homeschoolers … In the 2006 [sic], the group even lobbied for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. A statement on the group’s website explained that because “Same-sex marriage attacks the traditions of the family in western civilization,” it thus constitutes an “attack on parental rights.” Estrada said that the group no longer lobbies on this issue and that he did not know why it had done so then.
But today, Ryan Stollar of HARO showed that at the very least, Estrada was being very misleading in his statements:
Estrada claims that HSLDA “no longer lobbies on this issue.” He even claims that he “did not know why it had done so then.” Estrada would know: he is HSLDA’s Director of Federal Relations. HSLDA says that his job is “to serve as HSLDA’s federal lobbyist.” Surely HSLDA’s federal lobbyist would know what HSLDA is lobbying for and why.
But either Will Estrada is strangely ignorant of his own organization’s agenda against same-sex marriage or he blatantly lied to Josh Israel.
Note that Israel said that, “In the 2006, the group even lobbied for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.” The link that Israel provided takes the viewer to a lobbying report filed by HSLDA in 2006 regarding the amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Look who signed it:
Will Estrada himself filed the report.
Yet he “did not know why it had done so”?
Furthermore, if Estrada was not sure why he himself did so (and his organization continues to do so), HSLDA has conveniently made public since 2004 an official page on their website. It’s entitled, “Why HSLDA is Fighting Against Same-Sex Marriage.” It continues to exist to this day. It does not say HSLDA “no longer” fights same-sex marriage. Rather, it declares HSLDA continues to fight it. And the reasons are quite clear:
“HSLDA will continue to fight against same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage attacks the traditions of the family in western civilization. This is an attack on parental rights. This is a battle the homeschooling movement cannot afford to lose.”
What of Estrada’s other claim, that “the group no longer lobbies on this issue”?
This, too, is blatantly false.
Stollar goes on to list examples of HSLDA’s continuing opposition to same-sex marriage—something I will get to in my “Things HSDLA Opposes” series.
So let’s get this straight. When asked about HSLDA’s opposition to marriage equality, Estrada said that the organization “no longer lobbies on this issue” and that “he did not know why it had done so [in the case of a 2006 constitutional amendment].” This despite the fact that Estrada himself was the one to do the lobbying in the case of the 2006 constitutional amendment—and he probably knows exactly why he did so—and the fact that HSLDA continues to take a strong position against marriage equality, describing it as “an attack on parental rights” and “a battle the homeschooling movement cannot afford to lose.”
Saying one thing to reporters and doing another thing in practice would all be much easier for Estrada without the internet, where people can fact check his words for themselves.
Why is this coming up now? After all, the ThinkProgress article was published this past September. I suspect this is coming up now because of a comment Estrada made on facebook in regards to a recent New York Times article on homeschooling and regulation. Estrada was responding to alumni calls for oversight of homeschooling (including those made by the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE) and the suggestion that HSLDA does not look out for the interests of homeschooled children.
We’re fighting for homeschool freedom for ALL kids so they can escape bad public schools. For the gay teen being bullied and his mom wants to homeschool him. For the Christian teen who is told she can’t read her Bible. For the kids in public school who are being sexually abused (see this story: http://www.slate.com/…/is_sexual_abuse_in_schools_very…)
That catchy little slogan “all kids matter” rings hollow because HA and CRHE do nothing to help the kids in the situations above. We do. By fighting for homeschool freedom so parents, not faceless government bureaucrats, can protect their kids.
Which brings us to the major difference between HA/CRHE and HSLDA: HA/CRHE turn to the tired old liberal position: find something wrong, and add more government regulation and laws. Whereas homeschoolers find something wrong and turn to freedom. That’s why homeschool parents continue to win. Sure, HA/CRHE will continue to get little quotes in the NYT, but it’s why homeschool parents, not HA/CRHE are winning in states like VA, PA, IL, MA, and others.
With this statement, Estrada suggests that CRHE and HARO (Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out) are working to prevent gay teens or children who face discrimination or abuse in the public schools from homeschooling. But this is not the case at all. Neither organization is anti-homeschooling. Check out HARO’s FAQs and CRHE’s Mission and Vision. Peruse their websites and materials. Both organizations oppose irresponsible and abusive homeschooling and support responsible and healthy homeschooling.
This idea that CRHE and HARO “do nothing to help kids” who are abused or bullied in public schools is nonsense. Both organizations support homeschooling as a way to help children in situations like this. They simply also believe that homeschooled children, too, have needs and interests, and they understand that bullying and abuse are not limited to the public school—and that they can happen in homeschool settings too.
Again, all of this is easier to double check in the age of the internet. It’s harder for Estrada to make false claims about alumni organizations when people can use google to locate those organization’s websites and double check his claims.
And of course, what seems to have drawn Ryan Stollar’s eye is the reference to gay teens. It seems like a bit of a contradiction for HSLDA to both boast about supporting gay teens’ freedom to be homeschooled and actively oppose marriage equality as a huge threat to homeschooling at the same time. And do you know what else HSLDA actively opposes? Extending the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to LGBTQ individuals. It’s as though HSLDA would say to gay teens, “We’ll make sure you can be homeschooled if you’re being bullied, but we’re also going to do our best to make sure that employers can discriminate against you and that you can’t get married.
And then there’s also this: HSLDA founder Michael Farris has argued passionately that parents should have the right to subject gay teens to reparative therapy. Leelah Alcorn was homeschooled, and subjected to reparative counseling. Where was HSLDA for her? And then there’s this from sometime back on HSLDA’s website:
The National Education Association dropped a resolution last week, which would have encouraged schools to develop a curriculum that supports the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender lifestyles. . . .
. . .
Our public schools have become a battleground where various interest groups and political entities war for our children’s hearts and minds. The NEA’s attempt to promote objectionable behaviors through school curriculum reminds us of why home schooling is such a valuable alternative for our children.
Yes, you read that right. Isn’t the internet great?
Will Estrada can paint CRHE and HARO as anti-homeschooling and HSLDA as the champion of bullied gay teens, but painting it that way doesn’t make it so—especially when a quick internet search shows otherwise.