It is not uncommon for parents contemplating home education to ask, “Is home education legal in my state?” or perhaps, “How can I be sure that the state will grant me the freedom to educate my own children?” In light of these familiar questions, one more question needs to be asked: “How many parents in America today still believe that they have been endowed by their Creator with the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?”
The sad reality is that a significant number of parents in the United States have lost the meaning of liberty as expressed in the Declaration of Independence. Nowhere is this more plain than in the area of parental rights in education.
The U.S. Supreme Court, as far back as 1925, confirmed that parents, not the state, have the right to choose by what means children will be educated. In the case of Pierce v. Society of Sisters, the Supreme Court affirmed that:
The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general powers of the state to standardize children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.
Too many parents today assume that they do not have the inherent or natural right to educate their children because they have never been taught the true source and scope of their inalienable rights. Only one or two generations ago most U.S. citizens understood that they had the right as sovereign citizens to do virtually any activity unless it endangered the safety of another citizen or violated the public peace. In modern American society, just the opposite is true. Thanks in large measure to the mis-education that most Americans received in government schools, they now commonly believe that the only activities that can be legitimately pursued are those that are specifically enumerated in state or federal law. In other words, the mindset of parents and most people is, “The state giveth, the state taketh away, blessed be the name of the state.”
People today, including many Christian parents, unconsciously believe that it is illegal to exercise any conviction (no matter how basic or natural) unless government officials first enact a law that specifically sanctions a particular activity, e.g., home education. It is frightening to think how many Americans fail to recognize that they do not need to request special permission from the state before they exercise a fundamental right already granted by God and secured under the U.S. Constitution.
It is easy for U. S. citizens to forget that their Founding Fathers fought and died to give them a government whose primary purpose was to defend and secure the rights of the people—not the rights of government bureaucrats. The original intent of the framers of the Constitution was to limit the size, scope, and jurisdiction of the state and federal governments. For this reason, the only just powers that government officials were supposed to possess were those that the people themselves decided to grant them. The American system succeeded in empowering its citizens with an unprecedented degree of liberty precisely because it was built on the premise that government was to be of the people, by the people, and for the people.
In order to prevent anarchy, the constitutional/republican form of American government did provide through the legislative process a means whereby laws could be enacted at the state and federal levels limiting certain specific privileges of American citizens. However, it was never the framers’ intention to grant legislators unbridled power over the rights of the people. Legislators are, after all, nothing more than representatives of the people, elected to protect and uphold the constitutional rights of the citizens they serve. Perhaps President Ronald Reagan stated it best when he reminded the American people during his first inaugural address, “We are a nation that has a government—not the other way around.”
Indeed, as one reads the Declaration of Independence, it is plain to see that the Founding Fathers believed that if any form of government in America became destructive to the cause of individual liberty by engaging in consistent efforts to undermine the rights of the people, it was “the right and the duty of the people to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.” The right of U.S. citizens to rebel against tyrants informs and precedes all of the rights enumerated in the Constitution. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts—not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.”
The right of parents to teach their own children does not come from men, but from God. That is why it is rightly classified as an inalienable right, for it was not established by man’s law, but God’s—from the beginning of human history. The men who wrote the Declaration of Independence genuinely believed that men were “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” To them, fundamental rights were not to be subject to the whims and fancy of fickle politicians, so the framers placed these rights above and beyond the reach of civil government officials.
If the right to home school is to remain secure for future generations, parents living in the early part of the twenty-first century must be willing to boldly stand up for the sacred liberties that God has ordained for man. Parents who are unwilling to stand up for their God-given liberties do not deserve them. As the faithful minister the Reverend Levi Whisner once stated, “He who will not use his freedom to preserve his freedom, does not deserve his freedom.” May Almighty God, the only wise Lawgiver, grant His people the courage to stand fast as those who have been set free to serve King Jesus.