Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Homeschool Movement: Michael Farris, Patrick Henry College and His Response to a LGBT Group

You all might feel like a yo-yo today because I'm going to go down an entirely different path today.  This post has to do with Michael Farris, but not about Reconstructionism or Patriarchy.   I did, however, think it was important to understand his background and also the vision of Patrick Henry College leading into today's article.  Today, we will be discussing the recent behavior of this Christian leader.  

If you were not able to read the previous two posts, we discussed about Michael Harris who founded Patrick Henry College, a conservative Christian college geared primarily for homeschooled students with a vision of impacting the world for Christ.  Presently he serves as Chancellor of Patrick Henry College (PHC).  For the record, I know a student who attended PHC.  This student had life-long goals of becoming an attorney and the school seemed to do well for him, as he recently passed his bar exam.  I'm sure there are fine professors there. 

Apparently there is an underground group that has formed and has connections with Patrick Henry College (PHC).   The LGBT group began a Facebook page and also a blog (QueerPHC) and Michael Farris found out about it.  The group used the name "Patrick Henry" in the title and that did not go over too well, to say the least.   

PHC has very clear policies regarding homosexuality in their student handbook:

We choose to limit our student body, board, and staff to those who are committed to our statement of faith. PHC is committed to a non-discriminatory policy in so far as it is consistent with our statement of faith. The practice of homosexual conduct or other extra-marital sexual relations is inconsistent with our faith position.

While we seek to avoid rules that suggest legalistic righteousness, for the good of institutional order and to convey a message that is consistent with the community we represent, we will always have student rules of conduct that will set us apart from the amoral, secular world. 

Here is a pledge students must adhere to:

We, the students of Patrick Henry College, fully aware of our daily dependence on the grace of God, commit to set ourselves apart in thought, word, and deed, to honor Jesus Christ, and to love our neighbor. We passionately aspire to live our best for the Lord by conducting ourselves in the spirit of Titus 2:11-12: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.” 
Therefore, I pledge, by the grace of God, to submit to proper authorities, to be honest, to respect the property of others, and to speak edifying words. I will refrain from using any substances, such as alcohol, tobacco, and drugs, in any way prohibited by proper authority such as the government, church, family, or school. I will reserve sexual activity for marriage, shun sexually explicit material, and seek parental counsel when pursuing a romantic relationship. Finally, I will seek biblical resolution and reconciliation in my conflicts. I pledge to hold my fellow students accountable to these principles and ask that they do the same for me, in order that Jesus Christ might be honored and glorified.

And here are more specific guidelines referring to sexuality:

Students will not advocate non-Biblical sexual practices, such as extra-marital sex, homosexuality or homosexual “marriage” (e.g., Is 5:20, Romans 1:26-27). (Supporting a candidate for public office who advocates such practices does not in itself constitute the advocacy of such practices.) 
Jurisdiction: These Biblically-based standards apply to all PHC students at all times, both on and off campus, without exception; they are binding from enrollment until Commencement, even during the summer and College breaks.
Students will dress modestly out of consideration for one another.  Also, students will not dress in a way that will cause others to mistake them for a member of the other sex (e.g., 1 Tim 2:9; Deut 22:5).

So, evidently, this new LGBC blog began last summer and recently added a Facebook page.  This screenshot comes from the group's Facebook page:

Now, I don't want to get confused on issues here, but want to focus solely on the behavior we see by this homeschool and Christian leader.  It is perfectly within a private institution's right to enforce a code of conduct for their students.  If students sign some sort of commitment, the institution has every right to take appropriate measures to resolve the issue.  Patrick Henry College has very clear guidelines in their student handbook.  They make it very clear that the homosexual lifestyle is against the Biblical standards they adhere to.  I have no problem with that.  If I had my own college, I would also have a code of conduct and it might look similar to PHC's.

Image is very important to people.  That is understandable.   It makes sense that Farris would have an issue with a group using the name "Patrick Henry" in connection with "LGBT" because the LGBT lifestyle is contrary to the moral code of PHC and its core biblical beliefs.  But . . . . . how did Harris handle this conflict?  Because he demonstrated his behavior publicly, I am addressing it publicly.  

Part of the agenda on this blog is to point out patterns of behavior in church leaders or Christian authority figures that I find troubling, heavy-handed or even abusive.     

Let's take a look at the actions and behavior as a result of the LGBT blog and Facebook page.

Patrick Henry College is an institution which teaches students critical thinking skills.  Students are taught how to debate and argue with the finest, how to lobby and engage lawmakers.  They learn about First Amendment rights.  They are taught how to use the law for religious freedoms and homeschool freedoms, but apparently only when it lines up with their morality.  PHC does not like the freedom some of their students have exercised in forming their own online groups outside the school campus.  In fact, the powers that be at PHC  blocked the LGBT group's blog from the school servers.  Take a look at what happens when you try to access the site:


Did PHC not realize that by censoring, they were actually promoting the site?  This is titillating news for students.  Most likely the news of this banned site was spread far more than if they had ignored it.  A school that teaches students how to debate is afraid of a little conflict and censors?  Rather than banning the site, they could have used it as a discussion tool.  Let's not forget that most of these students are adults.  Oy!  Moving right along.  

So, not only was the site censored, Chancellor Michael Farris publicly posted a comment on their Facebook wall threatening legal action:

Ok, this comment touched a big nerve with me.  As most of my readers are aware, my former pastor bullied me, trying to force me to take down my blog by not only threatening to sue me, but by actually filing a defamation lawsuit against me and four others who commented on my blog or elsewhere.   I want to be clear that I'm talking about behavior of this key leader.  What does God's word have to say to do if you have a problem with someone?  How are you to handle this kind of situation?  

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
(Matthew 18:15-17 ESV)

In light of this passage that any seasoned Christian would know, I wondered if Farris had made any attempt to contact this group privately either on their blog or Facebook page before publicly posting his comment above, so I sent a private message via Facebook to "Kate" from the group.  Here is my quick note and the response from Kate:

The bloggers had this public response to Farris' legal threat:

There’s not much to add, except that our message is intrinsically tied to the name Patrick Henry College. We are students of Patrick Henry College. We share about our experiences at Patrick Henry College. We reach out to other students at Patrick Henry College. The demand that we stop using the school’s name is really a thinly disguised demand that we shut up.

Snark meter is in full throttle now:  You don't imagine I'd have personal Freedom of Speech issues, would I?  Yes, it appears that Mr. Farris doesn't like people exercising their rights to Free Speech.  So, let me get this straight, when First Amendment rights benefits Mr. Farris and his agenda, he uses it, but when it conflicts with his agenda or morals, he gets to act like a bully and threaten someone with a lawsuit.   Where's the love, Mr. Farris?

These students are not dumb.  They sought legal assistance with Public Citizen who also reported this story:

The students reached out to Public Citizen for assistance, and before drafting a letter in response to his threat, I called Farris to inquire whether he was represented by counsel. Within a few minutes, Farris had posted on his Facebook page a retraction of this threats, saying in tortured English that “while we believe in the inappropriate nature of the use of our trademarked name, litigation is not appropriate.” (The retraction may also have been the result of an inquiry from New York Magazine).

Farris must have had a big reality check with that response and issued this retraction on the group's Facebook page:

Well, yes, Mr. Farris, litigation is not appropriate.  But the most inappropriate part of this whole ordeal was your behavior.  The issue of lawsuits is discussed plainly in Romans.  Christians should not be suing one another.  Why were you so quick to take this situation public in the civil courts when you failed to address the conflict appropriately or in a biblical fashion?  

This really brought back flashbacks of my lawsuit.  Can you imagine being a young student and then the top leader from your school threatening you with a lawsuit - without ever having spoken to you to work it out?  This is bully behavior.  I feel very bad for those current and former students who were threatened like that.  This should not have happened.  

My pastor did not like me exercising my right to free speech.   My speaking out and naming his name and church's name tarnished the image.  He used all sorts of methods to shut me down, removed Google reviews, and eventually filing a lawsuit.  He was concerned about his image and reputation and used inappropriate methods of dealing with the conflict.  He refused to try to work out our grievances one on one, with an arbitrator, but instead took it to the public arena, going against scripture in filing a lawsuit against Believers.  

I have one question for Mr. Farris:  how would Christ have handled this situation?  Would he have gone public or threatened a lawsuit?  I don't think so.

Telling a group of people that you are going to sue them is not kind and loving, especially if you have not made any effort to connect.   In an attempt to keep the image of PHC untarnished, he behaved like a bully. I'm glad he has retracted his statement; however, the appropriate response would have been a public apology.  

After I hit "publish", I will tweet this article and tag HSLDA and Patrick Henry College.  Please do the right thing, Mr. Farris, it's never too late to apologize.   

Here are more links on this situation:


  1. Yes, he first should've talked to them privately. And this group should at least have a published disclaimer that they are not sanctioned by the college. Do they?

    1. There is on their Facebook page. (The screenshot is included on this post.). And I just found this n their blog: We are not officially affiliated with Patrick Henry College, and Patrick Henry College does not endorse QueerPHC.

    2. Thanks, Julie Anne. That would make it difficult to stop them then, I'd think.

  2. I am willing to be the bully will not apologize, they rarely do. Religious people sure can be hypocritical in their behavior.

    1. Headless Unicorn GuyDecember 11, 2012 at 2:25 PM

      Why apologize when you KNOW God is on your side?

      (I'm sure that's the rationale.)

  3. Blah, blah,blah, blah

    1. Headless Unicorn GuyDecember 11, 2012 at 5:22 PM

      Now THAT was informative, Anon.

    2. HUG - That is the 2nd comment posted - same exact words, same "Anonymous". I wonder if Anonymous goes to other blogs and leaves blah, blah, blah residue?

    3. Anonymous must have a case of the blahs.

  4. Yes, we Christians are hypocrites. That's why we need Jesus.


  5. Check this out!!!


    1. looking real quickly through bgbcsurvivors.org i see a YouTube title by Chuck O'Neal shouting out at me about A MOTHER'S PAIN! ... MY WIFE AND CHILDREN ARE TRUE BGBC SURVIVORS

      my first impulse was to assume that Pastor Chuck in confessing his wife and children to be survivors was under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and finally able to discern how BGBC's brand of Spiritual Abuse affects most especially the Pastor's home.

      I view the video. His wife is crying, she's tired of being sick, they've been destroyed and are now suffering terribly by the effects of all the Hate and Lies coming from Julie Anne and company.

      So is bgbcsurvivors.org about surviving spiritual abuse or about surviving from the sword of a shepherdess who knows how to protect her own and WARN others away from WOLVES and a "Church" passing themselves off as Christian and biblical and grace based?

    2. David - I was just alerted about this site early this morning by a reader. I've been busy with my church's Christmas program and came home late last night and saw the anonymous comment, wondering why the anonymous poster had posted my blog's web address incorrectly - lol. It never occurred to me that it was a blog by my former pastor. I must be a pretty powerful person that a whole church needs to say they survived me. haha

      I've got a lot going on today, but will definitely be responding about this new BGBC development soon. I knew it was too good to be true for him to lose the lawsuit and then remain quiet.

    3. http://www.bgbcsurvivors.org/i-dont-need-anymore-of-the-varelas-love/

      fwiw, since my "comment is awaiting moderation" at Chuck's new website, let me drop it here for safekeeping.

      monax says:
      December 12, 2012 at 11:12 am


      Let’s then examine these “dangerous, vindictive lies” leveled against you from Tim and Meaghan Varela. First, the fact that Meaghan’s emails go from love and thankfulness for her pastor to anger and rebuke demonstrates that—Yes, there was a line drawn in the sand, a line of the heart, a line you ungraciously crossed. This line was crossed when you refused to heed Don’s loving reproof and fired him (your “right hand man” of all people) for speaking against you. “That’s called sanity!” Chuck’s wife say, “Of course he was removed.”

      As an observer looking into Beaverton Grace Bible I can clearly see the abject insanity that runs the place. I’m certain Meaghan’s love was genuine. In fact the proof of this is her anger. But I also expect that much of Meaghan’s good will was a result of being under the influence of bgbc’s environment of insanity. When you fired Don maybe the spell of insanity was broken for many. I don’t think Meaghan’s a “monster” for appealing to her former pastor to be a faithful, humble, submissive man of God, to remember the Authority Pastor Chuck has been called to submit to. Meaghan finally (and, still, in love) reflects and characterized you as a Spiritual Rapist. And so do I. As an observer you have proven all by yourself that her reflection is truth. Remember, it is in no way slander if it is true.

      If Beaverton Grace Bible was my home church when this “line in the sand” was crossed it would have been my spiritual obligation to the LORD, to His Church and to His Word, to stand with Don, Tim and others against a False Pastor like Y-O-U. It would have been a necessary act of protecting my church family from a “minister of righteousness” and a blind and dangerous W-O-L-F.

      Yes, Chuck. Of course you preach the Word of God! I’m assuming what Don and others are getting at is the way you wield your Sword, and to what end? From where I am observing, it seems you have perverted and leveraged the Word of God to serve your own ungodly ends. See, it’s not just what you do or do not preach—it’s ultimately how you live your life before God and His people. Again, you may profess to preach the Word of God, but the real measure of your authority rest in whether you OBEY the Word of God or not.

      So, then, Chuck—if firing Don has been the crux of the matter. Maybe we should investigate the dynamics behind you firing Don. That should be telling!

    4. Once a bully always a bully.

  6. JA,

    I can see how this would trigger you because of your lawsuit. It appears that he has made a right decision (after the fact) to drop any legal action.

    I think we need to put ourselves in his shoes. Perhaps when he read the Facebook post, HE was triggered. I suppose "public image" is everything in the college business. Just some random thoughts. Maybe I missed something.

    He is probably freaking out just thinking that maybe there is a closet Gay in his college. oh no! they broke the rules, they said they wouldn't do that.

    1. JA,

      I'm all for free speech, always. Sorry if I missed the point of your post. I was just trying to think how I would feel if I was in charge of a college and something like that happened. You make a good point about them debating issues in the classroom etc.

    2. Hi Sheep-Dog:

      You are right, it did trigger something within me. It got me worked up for a number of reasons. I'm glad that he dropped it, but it goes beyond that to me and that is because of his highly public position. What message does this send in how Christians handle conflicts? What message does his behavior send to the LGBT community? Do you think anyone in the LGBT community would feel comfortable discussing spiritual matters with him?

      Primarily the thing that bugged me the most is that he should know his legal stuff - he's an attorney and to use the law to bully someone to do something is just wrong on so many levels.

  7. Thanks for this series of posts, Julie Anne. Ferris does seem to have a lot to learn -- about the law, about the Bible, and about just plain decency.

    Threatening to sue folks with "copyright infringement", just for mentioning your organization, reeks of desperation to silence them. It reminds me far too much of That Other "Church" (the one That Must Not Be Named ; ) ).

    Slightly beside the point, but: In the student handbook, why is "secular" equated with "amoral"? Is this really what they contend? That anyone (or anything) not explicitly Christian or religious, has no moral standards, or knows nothing about right or wrong? That's quite at odds with my experience...

    1. Headless Unicorn GuyDecember 12, 2012 at 10:35 AM

      Thanks for this series of posts, Julie Anne. Ferris does seem to have a lot to learn -- about the law, about the Bible, and about just plain decency.

      I wonder if this started as an extreme over-reaction. After all, Homosexuality IS the Pet Super-Sin and the Bright Red Murder Flag.

      Is this really what they contend? That anyone (or anything) not explicitly Christian or religious, has no moral standards, or knows nothing about right or wrong?


    2. Serving - - - You didn't see me or hear me, but I yelled out: YES when I got to your 2nd paragraph :)

      And wow, your 3rd paragraph - I hate to say it, but I run into unbelievers who "behave" far more Christians than many Christians I know. Why is that?

  8. I originally linked to your blog from the Wartburg Watch mostly out of curiosity because I lived in Beaverton for many years. I commend you for fighting the good fight against spiritial abuse.

    I started looking at your homeschooling series because I too homeschool my child. I am a grandmother homeschooling my grandson who is on the autism spectrum. I am a Christian but I homeschool mostly because I feel the public school system was not doing a good job meeting my grandson's special needs. My personal leaning is toward unschooling but I do what needs to be done to meet his needs.

    When we lived in the Northwest the group I was in warned me that HSLD had their own agenda and that it might not be to benefit the average homeschooler. I can see from what you have written that they were correct. We moved to Florida a couple of years ago and I joined a HS support group here. At first I was fairly happy with them. This year I noticed that things had changed and am not nearly as involved as last year. I couldn't place my finger on what had changed. Based on what you have written I think that they may be leaning toward a more conservative bent than I am comfortable with. I will continue to keep my eyes open and decide whether I wish to continue to be involved with them.

    1. Thanks, wisdomchaser, for sharing your experience. In Oregon, there are quite a lot of unschoolers and also people who are not Christian. When we lived in GA and VA, I definitely noticed the more conservative homeschooling movement and it makes sense that you would find it in FL as well. I think the key is if your homeschool group is affiliated with the state Christian group, then it is likely to be connected with people who are part of the "homeschool movement".

  9. I have always felt that PHC was too right wing for my tastes. My personal view is we Christians need to quit trying to force our Christian worldview on people who believe differently and live as loving, gracious examples of Christ. I doubt that PHC could offer my grandson anything that would make it worth putting with their unChristlike behavior.

    1. I don't want to paint all of PHC with a wide brush. I've been reading posts from PHC students around the blogosphere and some of these students feel badly about their leader's behavior. I suspect most of the students and even most of the professors would model Christ-like behavior.


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