February 27, 2012 --
Georgene Rice interviews Joseph Infranco with the Alliance Defense Fund to discuss greater implications of a recent New Hampshire Supreme Court Ruling that forced a home school student into a government run school against her mother’s wishes. The court made clear it was not addressing larger religious liberty or home school issues, but rather on the narrow facts of the case.
Georgene: First, please briefly refresh us on the details of the case.
Joseph: The case arose from a dispute of a divorced mother and father who did not agree on how their 10-yr-old daughter should be taught. The mother was the main, custodial parent. She is a Christian and was homeschooling the girl and raising her in a strong Christian atmosphere. The daughter was excelling academically and socially. The father wanted her to be exposed to more socialization in the public school; however, the courts went way past socialization and into religious freedom. Here’s one quote to give you a flavor for it. The trial judge said that “Amanda’s vigorous defense of her religious beliefs to the counselor would strongly suggest that since she spends the majority of her time with her mother she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider adopting any other religious point of view”.
Georgene: By the Supreme Court sidestepping this part of the lower court’s ruling does that affirm the lower court’s ruling and suggest that this is an appropriate or legal way to approach the subject? Where does the Supreme Court’s ruling leave that most thorny part of the trial court’s decision?
Joseph: In its ruling, the trial court judge said this had nothing to do with religion or homeschooling and the Supreme Court gave him the benefit of the doubt. It was good that we were in the case. Our attorney raised the right questions, putting the lower court decision on a different footing. The Supreme Court could say it had nothing to do with those religious issues. Subsequently, the good news is that the Supreme Court decision strongly established that parents’ have a fundamental right to make educational choices, such as homeschooling, for their children. The court emphasized that courts can settle disputes, but they cannot order a child into a government run school on the basis of religious considerations. The Supreme Court at least got these important issues right. But, the underlying case is still very disturbing.
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