Is Home Schooling a Form of Child Abuse?

When does freedom of religion turn into child abuse? When do parents' rights to raise a child according to their religious beliefs become a violation of the child's civil rights? When does the state's need to have an educated electorate override religious parents' belief in ignorance?

Atheists love to blog about child abuse when it's in the form of medical neglect that becomes manslaughter and Jesus-inspired whippings that kill children. These are horrible and deserve our condemnation.

But there's a much more insidious, widespread and far-reaching form of abuse going on across America: religion-fueled, anti-science, anti-homosexual, anti-truth home schooling. It's far more important than any one whipping or medical-abuse case, however horrifying, because the ignorance fostered by these home-school programs is the very foundation that allows whippings and faith-based medical neglect to continue.

Home schooling is an old tradition in America. In some cases home schooling is a good alternative to public schools. Kids with unusual talents can benefit from accelerated lessons. Child performers who have to travel can keep up with their public-school peers. Kids with exceptionally well-educated parents with a knack for teaching can get a better education than public schools can provide. And so on.

And while the word "abuse" is a very strong claim, I believe it's appropriate. Abuse in the broadest sense is an action that damages the child physically or emotionally and causes them ongoing suffering. Ultra-conservative Christians are doing exactly that. If they were merely teaching their Christian beliefs as an adjunct to a well-rounded education, I would have no objection. But they are deliberately and knowingly keeping their children ignorant. They are blocking their children's access to biology, chemistry, evolution, political science, American and world history, philosophy and critical thinking skills.

And on top of that, they are fostering paranoia. They're teaching their kids that the world is a giant conspiracy and everyone is out to get them.

The organization that inspired today's blog is the perfect example. Their web site has so much over-the-top rhetoric that it's easy to think it's just a ludicrous joke. But it's not ... they believe this stuff, and they have a lot of followers. They start with a deceptive name: It sounds wonderful, doesn't it? But what they're actually advocating is for parents to "rescue" their children from a modern education.

Their web site's SHOUTED HEADLINES sound like a joke:
"FACT: There are now at least 8 sexual indoctrination laws impacting children ... See these bad laws, then rescue your child."

"Homosexual 'education' in classrooms ... Don't believe it's happening? CLICK TO WATCH."

"There's a BATTLE for your child. Whoever fights harder will win."

"Shocking dads and moms into REALITY ... Watch the IndoctriNation movie trailer."

"Parental rights, decency out the window." is a perfect example of how these ultra-conservative Christians are abusing the home-schooling system and twisting our laws. They claim that parents have an absolute right to teach their children anything they want, regardless of their children's needs and rights. And they carry it out: they teach their religious dogma in place of real facts.

Parents should have enormous latitude in raising their children. The last thing we want is the state peering over our parental shoulders and imposing some idealistic politically inspired child-raising theory on families. But children have rights too. Every child has the right to a basic education that includes accurate history, science and social studies. And the state has a right to demand that children are literate and knowledgeable so that they can be responsible voters.

Parents have an absolute right to teach their children their own religion (or no religion). But they do not have a right to block all other education. Every child has a right to a good education. Ignorant children are economically, socially and politically handicapped for life. In my book, that's abusive.