History of the “Farris” Wheel

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Charlotte Thomson IserbytGoing Round the Leg­isla­tive Loop
cir­ca 1990s

Ferris Wheel3The fol­low­ing extreme­ly well-doc­u­ment­ed arti­cle from the 1990s sheds con­sid­er­able light on the pre­vi­ous two posts that inves­ti­gat­ed Michael Far­ris of HSLDA: Far­ris’s Fer­ris Wheel… and Going Round the Far­ris Wheel. It was authored by Mary McCarthy and is repub­lished with her permission.

…but one thing I had learned over the years is that if you sound as if you are moral­ly cer­tain, peo­ple will tend to believe you. So whether or not I know what I’m talk­ing about, I always try to sound moral­ly certain.”
– Paul Weyrich[1]

The Reli­gious Free­dom Restora­tion Act (RFRA) is “an act that restores the pro­tec­tion of free exer­cise of reli­gion which was severe­ly restrict­ed by the Supreme Court in Employ­ment Divi­sion v. Smith (1990).” The issue in this case was “whether the sacra­men­tal use of pey­ote by mem­bers of the Native Amer­i­can Church was pro­tect­ed under the free exer­cise clause of the first Amendment.”[2] In 1991, Home School Court Report indi­cat­ed that “ Michael Far­ris is an active par­tic­i­pant in the steer­ing com­mit­tee for this legislation.”[3] The leg­is­la­tion received wide sup­port from both Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans in the Con­gress. “A coali­tion” of the var­i­ous groups sup­port­ing the RFRA, “appoint­ed a draft­ing com­mit­tee chaired by Michael Far­ris, pres­i­dent of the Home School Legal Defense Asso­ci­a­tion and for­mer long-time gen­er­al coun­sel for Con­cerned Women For Amer­i­ca. The co-chair was Marc Stern, gen­er­al coun­sel for the Amer­i­can Jew­ish Congress.[4]

The Reli­gious Free­dom Restora­tion Act of 1993 became Pub­lic Law 103–141 in Novem­ber of 1993. A case involv­ing St. Peter’s Church in Boerne, TX was decid­ed by the U.S. Supreme Court, which test­ed the Con­sti­tu­tion­al­i­ty of the RFRA. The case con­cerned whether the Arch­dio­cese of San Anto­nio could demol­ish part of the his­toric 1923 church so as to make it larg­er or whether the Boerne His­toric Preser­va­tion Com­mis­sion could block those plans in order to pre­serve the church’s pic­turesque façade.

At issue was “whether the Con­gress went too far in pass­ing the law, which seemed to over­ride the Court’s own pre­vi­ous inter­pre­ta­tion of the Constitution.”[5] By a 6 to 3 vote, the jus­tices said Con­gress had usurped the court’s pow­er to define con­sti­tu­tion­al pro­tec­tion of reli­gion and intrud­ed on the busi­ness of the states.[6]

In response to the neg­a­tive Supreme Court deci­sion Michael Far­ris wrote,

Even though some mem­bers of Con­gress imme­di­ate­ly spoke of a leg­isla­tive rem­e­dy to the Court’s find­ing, there now seems to be no ques­tion that an amend­ment to the Con­sti­tu­tion is going to be nec­es­sary to guar­an­tee the right of reli­gious peo­ple and insti­tu­tions to run their lives and their insti­tu­tions free from gov­ern­ment intru­sion unless that intru­sion can be jus­ti­fied by the most rig­or­ous form of legal scruti­ny. But even more appar­ent is the glar­ing need to free our­selves from the tyran­ny of nine elit­ists in robes who have com­man­deered both our free­doms and our government.”[7]

St. Peter’s Church and the city of Boerne have reached an agree­ment. The church will be able to demol­ish a sec­tion of the rear of the sanc­tu­ary and add a new one.[8]

The Reli­gious Free­dom Amend­ment (RFA) was intro­duced by Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ernest J. Istook (R‑OK) on May 8, 1997 as H. J. Res. 78. When the U. S. Supreme Court declared the Reli­gious Free­dom Restora­tion Act (RFRA) uncon­sti­tu­tion­al Michael Far­ris called for intro­duc­tion of a Con­sti­tu­tion­al Amend­ment to replace it.[9]

It’s very impor­tant to under­stand the dif­fer­ence between the Reli­gious Free­dom Restora­tion Act (RFRA) and the Reli­gious Free­dom Amend­ment, which are two very dif­fer­ent pro­pos­als. The Reli­gious Free­dom Restora­tion Act (RFRA) was a law which guar­an­teed peo­ple would be free to express their reli­gion with­out undue inter­fer­ence from gov­ern­ment which had wide sup­port from a vari­ety of polit­i­cal and reli­gious lead­ers. The Reli­gious Free­dom Amend­ment (RFA) is a pro­posed amend­ment to the U. S. Con­sti­tu­tion, which would have far reach­ing effects. The pro­posed amend­ment states:

To secure the peo­ple’s right to acknowl­edge God accord­ing to the dic­tates of con­science: The peo­ple’s right to pray and to rec­og­nize their reli­gious beliefs, her­itage or tra­di­tions on pub­lic prop­er­ty, includ­ing schools, shall not be infringed. The gov­ern­ment shall not require any per­son to join in prayer or oth­er reli­gious activ­i­ty, ini­ti­ate or des­ig­nate school prayers, dis­crim­i­nate against reli­gion, or deny equal access to a ben­e­fit on account of religion.

Pro­po­nents claim the Amend­ment is nec­es­sary to reverse the trend of sup­press­ing reli­gious expres­sion, includ­ing prayer in pub­lic school, dis­play of reli­gious sym­bols in schools, work­places and pub­lic build­ings and dis­play of reli­gious sym­bols dur­ing hol­i­days. They cite as exam­ples removal of a cross from a San Fran­cis­co park, a stu­dent giv­en a fail­ing grade because she chose the life of Jesus Christ as her top­ic, and removal of cross­es from city seals. The Reli­gious Free­dom Amend­ment (RFA) pro­vides that stu­dents may ini­ti­ate prayers in schools but pro­hibits gov­ern­ment from com­pos­ing them or com­pelling any­one to join. It would per­mit par­ents to choose a reli­gious edu­ca­tion for their chil­dren in gov­ern­ment vouch­er pro­grams and pro­hib­it employ­ers from dis­cour­ag­ing reli­gious dis­cus­sions in the workplace.[10]

Oppo­nents claim it would remove the First Amend­ment pro­tec­tion guar­an­tee­ing sep­a­ra­tion of church and state per­mit­ting any group or indi­vid­ual to make reli­gious demands of pub­lic ser­vices such as schools or gov­ern­ment offices. They fear the phrase, “deny equal access to a ben­e­fit on account of reli­gion”, and estab­lish­es tax sup­port for all reli­gious groups giv­ing any sect a Con­sti­tu­tion­al right to pub­lic fund­ing. They also fear the Reli­gious Free­dom Amend­ment (RFA) would allow gov­ern­ments to endorse a spe­cif­ic reli­gion, for exam­ple, Mor­monism could be declared the offi­cial­ly rec­og­nized reli­gion in Utah or Catholi­cism in Boston. Oppo­nents claim the Reli­gious Free­dom Amend­ment is a step towards Theoc­ra­cy. [11]

The Parental Rights and Respon­si­bil­i­ty Act (PRRA) is the sec­ond reli­gious rights leg­isla­tive pro­pos­als HSLDA has been involved with. “Pri­mar­i­ly draft­ed by Michael Far­ris and Home School Legal Defense Asso­ci­a­tion attor­neys, the Parental Rights and Respon­si­bil­i­ties Act (PRRA) was intro­duced on June 28, 1995, in the House and Sen­ate as H.R. 1946 and S. 984.”[12] HSLDA through their Court Report con­tin­ues to lob­by exten­sive­ly for this con­tro­ver­sial parental rights legislation.

Pre­vi­ous­ly Michael Far­ris had worked with Sen­a­tor Grassley’s (R‑IA) to draft the Parental Rights Restora­tion Act.[13]

Besides HSLDA, many oth­er con­ser­v­a­tive groups are work­ing for pas­sage of parental rights leg­is­la­tion includ­ing Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange, Chris­t­ian Coali­tion, Con­cerned Women For Amer­i­ca, Fam­i­ly Research Coun­cil, Focus on the Fam­i­ly, and Of The Peo­ple. [14],[15]

Accord­ing to Of The Peo­ple, the PRRA was a bal­lot ini­tia­tive in Col­orado in 1996. It was passed by com­mit­tees in the leg­is­la­tures of NE, ND, VA and WA either in 1995 or 1996. It has been intro­duced or has spon­sor com­mit­ments in AK, AL, AZ, CA, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, IL, KS, KY, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, NY, OH, OR, PA, SC, TX, and WI.

The con­tro­ver­sy cen­ters on sup­port­ers who believe pas­sage would ensure that par­ents, rather than gov­ern­ment, would have author­i­ty in many areas of child rear­ing. Con­cerns include inter­fer­ence with cor­po­ral dis­ci­pline, access to their children’s school, inter­fer­ence with health care deci­sions and parental access to their school, health and social ser­vice records. Crit­ics fear the reli­gious right is attempt­ing to gain con­trol of pub­lic school cur­ricu­lums, pre­vent author­i­ties from inves­ti­gat­ing child abuse charges and would inter­fere with respond­ing to out­breaks of disease.

Accord­ing to Alan Carl­son of the Rock­ford Institute:

Fed­er­al par­ents’ rights leg­is­la­tion sounds like a good idea, but it makes for dan­ger­ous pol­i­cy. Fam­i­ly pol­i­cy has his­tor­i­cal­ly been regard­ed as a Tenth Amend­ment issue, one that’s with­in the purview of the states… How­ev­er, the prob­lem will not be solved by hav­ing the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment get into the busi­ness of defin­ing par­ents’ rights.

That the fed­er­al parental rights leg­is­la­tion would redesign Amer­i­can fam­i­ly pol­i­cy is illus­trat­ed in an analy­sis offered by Sen­a­tor John Warn­er (R‑VA), a co-spon­sor of the Sen­ate ver­sion: “Under this act, before the US gov­ern­ment could inter­fere in the par­ent-child rela­tion­ship, the gov­ern­ment would have to show that the action is nec­es­sary to pro­tect a com­pelling inter­est and that the means that the gov­ern­ment uses to pro­tect this inter­est is the least restric­tive avail­able.’ Sen­a­tor Warn­er is acknowl­edg­ing that the mea­sure would, for the first time in Amer­i­can his­to­ry, autho­rize direct fed­er­al involve­ment in the home if that involve­ment can be swad­dled in the ratio­nale of a gov­ern­ment-defined ‘com­pelling interest’.”[16]

It should be not­ed that Sen­a­tor John Warn­er and Michael Far­ris have sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences and are not polit­i­cal allies. In 1996, Michael Far­ris attempt­ed to replace Sen­a­tor Warn­er at Virginia’s Repub­li­can State Cen­tral Com­mit­tee meet­ing with James C. Miller III as the sen­a­to­r­i­al can­di­date in retal­i­a­tion for Sen­a­tor Warner’s refusal to sup­port Michael Far­ris’ 1993 bid for Lt. Governor.[17] Pre­vi­ous­ly, Michael Far­ris had been sug­gest­ed as “a like­ly Repub­li­can can­di­date for Sen­a­tor from Vir­ginia in 1996.”[18]

In Novem­ber 1996, vot­ers in Col­orado defeat­ed the parental rights bal­lot mea­sure, which would have required an amend­ment to the State con­sti­tu­tion, by 44% to 56%.[19] “A pro­posed parental rights amend­ment to the Vir­ginia Con­sti­tu­tion has been nar­row­ly defeat­ed in the state’s Sen­ate. Chris­t­ian con­ser­v­a­tives had pushed for the amend­ment, which was defeat­ed 21–19 on Jan­u­ary 28.”[20] HSLDA pro­vid­ed $70,000 to Of The Peo­ple to “to pro­vide sup­port for edu­ca­tion and media relat­ed to parental rights amend­ment to Col­orado Constitution.”[21]

In March of 1997, Sen­a­tor Ger­ald Car­di­nale of New Jer­sey intro­duced Sen­ate Con­cur­rent Res­o­lu­tion (SCR) 114 propos­ing a parental rights amend­ment to the New Jer­sey Con­sti­tu­tion. It reads:

Amend Arti­cle I by adding a new para­graph 23, as follows:
23. (a) The right of par­ents to direct the upbring­ing and edu­ca­tion of their chil­dren shall not be infringed.
(b) The Leg­is­la­ture shall have the pow­er to define and enforce, by appro­pri­ate leg­is­la­tion, the pro­vi­sions of the paragraph.”

That there can be no doubt as to the source of parental rights pro­pos­als, the last para­graph of New Jersey’s pro­pos­al states:

The ‘Parental Rights Amend­ment’ has been intro­duced by leg­is­la­tors in at least 29 states to date…Major pro-fam­i­ly orga­ni­za­tions are work­ing for he adop­tion of the amend­ment across the nation, includ­ing the Fam­i­ly Research Coun­cil, Focus on the Fam­i­ly, the Chris­t­ian Coali­tion, Con­cerned Women for Amer­i­ca, Of the Peo­ple, and the Home School Legal Defense Asso­ci­a­tion. This amend­ment com­ple­ments fed­er­al parental rights leg­is­la­tion which has been intro­duced by Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Steve Largent of Okla­homa and Sen­a­tor Charles Grass­ley of Iowa.”[22]

In July of 1997, the San Diego Coun­ty school board con­sid­ered a Parental Involve­ment Ini­tia­tive sub­mit­ted by San­tee res­i­dent, Bob Ward, seek­ing to allow par­ents to exempt their chil­dren from activ­i­ties or teach­ing mate­ri­als they deem objec­tion­able. It also would give par­ents the right to exempt their chil­dren from hav­ing to read text­books con­sid­ered to be a vio­la­tion of con­science or reli­gious beliefs. “I think this could be very impor­tant,” said Bob Heck­man of Of The Peo­ple, a parental-rights group head­quar­tered in Arling­ton, Va. “Par­ents are very frus­trat­ed. We see that in all the polling. This could very well be an approach that par­ents around the coun­try uti­lize.” Michael Far­ris, pres­i­dent of the Vir­ginia-based Home School Legal Defense Asso­ci­a­tion, agreed. “San Diego is on the cut­ting edge of a new trend,” he said. “This is the kind of thing that is going to be nec­es­sary to stop the exo­dus from pub­lic schools.”

The school board decid­ed to table the mea­sure and con­sid­er it again in six months. It is inter­est­ing to note that one of the pri­ma­ry argu­ments, that of cur­ricu­lum selec­tion, caused Julie McIn­tosh, vice pres­i­dent of the Ninth Dis­trict Par­ent-Teacher Asso­ci­a­tion to com­ment, “Par­ents have choice now… Par­ents have the legal right to edu­cate their chil­dren at home and that is giv­ing them entire con­trol.” El Cajon par­ent David Kid­der said while home-school­ing is an option, he and oth­er par­ents who may want to teach their chil­dren don’t always have the resources to do it. “The biggest prob­lem is that a home school takes mon­ey” Kid­der said. Con­ser­v­a­tive orga­ni­za­tions that are fol­low­ing the parental-rights issue nation­al­ly said that the San Diego ini­tia­tive was an impor­tant mod­el for advanc­ing their agen­da elsewhere.[23], [24]

Of the Peo­ple is the pri­ma­ry advo­cate of the Parental Rights pro­pos­als. It is locat­ed in Arling­ton, Vir­ginia and oper­at­ed by Jef­frey Bell, who serves as Pres­i­dent and a direc­tor. Oth­er offi­cers of the cor­po­ra­tion are Sec­re­tary and direc­tor Ralph Benko of MD, Trea­sur­er and direc­tor Fran­cis P. Can­non of VA, and direc­tors Lewis Lehrman of PA and John Mueller of Wash­ing­ton D.C.

The Restor­ing Local Schools Act is the third of the series. Cur­rent­ly, it has no spon­sor in Con­gress. The pur­pose of the Act is to elim­i­nate the U.S. Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion, some­thing Michael Far­ris addressed in his 1995 arti­cle, “End Fed­er­al Med­dling in Education”.[25]

In 1995, HSLDA’s Court Report pub­li­ca­tion explained that “The Nation­al Cen­ter for Home Edu­ca­tion has pre­pared leg­is­la­tion to deci­sive­ly end the fed­er­al role in edu­ca­tion. At this stage, Christo­pher Klic­ka, Michael Far­ris, and Doug Phillips have been work­ing to secure spon­sors for the bill.”[26] In 1996, HSLDA revised their plan into a “three-step process: 1) first, work to abol­ish Goals 2000 and School-to-Work; 2) In sub­se­quent years, push to abol­ish the Fed­er­al Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion and 3) long-term, work to abol­ish the whole fed­er­al role in edu­ca­tion (about $60 billion).”[27]

Crit­ics con­tend that elim­i­na­tion of the Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion would just throw it’s cur­rent duties to oth­er agen­cies. Two pro­posed bills (H.R. 1883 and The Restor­ing Local Schools Act) would have placed the func­tions of the Depart­ment Of Edu­ca­tion into the Sec­re­tary of Health and Human Ser­vices depart­ment. “Under both bills, ‘Local Edu­ca­tion Enti­ty’ is defined as mean­ing ‘a local edu­ca­tion­al agency or a pub­lic or pri­vate ele­men­tary or sec­ondary school.”[28] It appears the Restor­ing Local Schools Act would put pri­vate schools under gov­ern­ment con­trol for pur­pos­es of the block grant fund­ing pro­posed to replace Depart­ment Of Edu­ca­tion funding.

The Home School Legal Defense Asso­ci­a­tion and it’s sub­sidiary, the Nation­al Cen­ter for Home Edu­ca­tion, has active­ly lob­bied for all three of these leg­isla­tive pro­pos­als, enlist­ing home­school­ers in their efforts to influ­ence Con­gress on behalf of these spe­cif­ic con­ser­v­a­tive polit­i­cal issues. Whether or not par­ents rec­og­nize what the pos­si­ble con­se­quences of these pro­pos­als are is questionable.

That Reli­gion, or the duty which we owe to our Cre­ator, and the man­ner of dis­charg­ing it, can be direct­ed only by rea­son and con­vic­tion, not by force or vio­lence; and, there­fore, all men are equal­ly enti­tled to the free exer­cise of reli­gion, accord­ing to the dic­tates of con­science; and that it is the mutu­al duty of all to prac­tice Chris­t­ian for­bear­ance, love, and char­i­ty, towards each other.”[29]

[1] William Mar­tin, “With God On Our Side” op. cit., page 171–2.
[2] “Ques­tions And Answers” FAQ sheet from Coali­tion for the Free Exer­cise of Religion.
[3] “Reli­gious Free­dom Restora­tion Act to be Refiled in 102nd Con­gress”, Home School Court Report, Vol. 7, No. 2, March/April 1991, page 15.
[4] “The Reli­gious Free­dom Restora­tion Act – A His­to­ry”, Home School Court Report, Vol. 7, No. 4, July/August 1992, page 3.
[5] San Howe Ver­hovek, “Friend­ly Lit­tle City Split on Big Issue”, The New York Times, April 20, 1997, page 18.
[6] Joan Biskupic, “Supreme Court Over­turns Reli­gious Prac­tice Statute,” The Wash­ing­ton Post, June 26, 1997, page A01.
[7] Michael Far­ris, “Jus­tices Usurp Final Word on Church-State Mat­ters,” Human Events, July 4, 1997, page 4.
[8] “Church and Town Set­tle a His­toric Dis­pute, Newark Star-Ledger, 8/17/97, Sec­tion 10, page 8.
[9] Michael Far­ris, “Jus­tices Usurp Final Word on Church-State Mat­ters,” op.cit..
[10] Con­cerned Women For America.
[11] Amer­i­cans Unit­ed for Sep­a­ra­tion of Church and State.
[12] “Parental Rights Dra­ma Unfolds”, Home School Court Report, Vol. 11, No. 6, Decem­ber 1995/January 1996, page 16.
435 Michael Far­ris, “Con­ser­v­a­tive Cam­paign Cel­e­bra­tions Cre­ate Cheer­ful­ness” The Teach­ing Home, January/ Feb­rua ry 1995 page 61.
[14] Kim A. Law­ton, “The Right to Par­ent: Should It Be Fun­da­men­tal?”, Chris­tian­i­ty Today. April 29, 1996, page 57.
[15] John R. Cole, “The New ‘Parental Rights’ Cru­sade, The Human­ist, March/April 96, page 41.
[16] William Nor­man Grigg, “Does the State Own Your Child?”, The New Amer­i­can (Mag­a­zine), July 8, 1996, page 7.
[17] “Sen­a­tor Wins Par­ty Tus­sle in Vir­ginia”, New York Times, Decem­ber 10, 1995, Sec. 1, page 35.
[18] Leslie Kauf­man, “Life Beyond God”, New York Times Mag­a­zine, Octo­ber 14, 1994, page 49.
[19] “Ref­er­en­dums and Oth­er Elec­tions”, Asso­ci­at­ed Press, USA Today, Novem­ber 6, 199 6. Page 22A.
[20] “Parental Rights’ los­es in Vir­ginia”, Chris­t­ian Cen­tu­ry, Feb­ru­ary 19, 1997, page 185.
[21] Inter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice, HSLDA Form 990, Return of Orga­ni­za­tion Exempt from Income Tax­es, Inter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice., 1996.
[22] Sen­ate Con­cur­rent Res­o­lu­tion No. 114, State of New Jer­sey, Intro­duced March 10, 1997 by Sen­a­tor Car­di­nale. http://www.njleg.state.nj.us
[23] Emmet Pierce and Susan Gem­brows­ki, “Nation eyes parental-rights vote | Coun­ty school board gets grass-roots issue tonight “, San Diego Union Tri­bune, July 9, 1997, page A1.
[24] Susan Gem­brows­ki, “Parental ‘veto’ is tabled in coun­ty | Board won’t dic­tate to 43 school dis­tricts”, San Diego Union Tri­bune, July 10, 1997, page B‑1.
[25] Michael Far­ris, “End Fed­er­al Med­dling in Edu­ca­tion”, Human Events, Vol. 51, Issue 15, April 21, 1995, page 14.
[26] “Bill in the Works to Abol­ish Fed­er­al Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion”, Home School Court Report, Vol. 11, No. 5, Sep/Oct/Nov 1995, page 23.
[27] “Abol­ish­ing Fed­er­al Role in Edu­ca­tion”, Home School Court Report, Vol. 13, N o. 1, Jan/Feb 1997, page 3.
[28] Cyn­thia Weath­er­ly, “Is Free­dom Burn­ing? Or Has the Tis­sue Paper Just Caught Fire?”, Chris­t­ian Con­science Mag­a­zine, Decem­ber 1995. [Ed Note: This arti­cle is cur­rent­ly avail­able online, at page 7 here: http://www.deliberatedumbingdown.com/OtherPDFs/Conference%20Speakers.pdf] [29] Vir­ginia Dec­la­ra­tion of Rights, June 12, 1776, Arti­cle 16.