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This is What Cruelty and Intolerance Look Like: Patrick Henry College Locked Down, 50 Police Called in to “Guard” Campus Against 40 Nonviolent Lesbian, Gay and Transgender Christian Activists; Two Arrested

 [Note:  I apologize for the length of this post, but I deeply and sincerely believe this is worth everyone’s time to read.  — Heart]

At this point, if I think about it in too much depth, I will melt in my tears… I came here to promote love. I came all the way from California to introduce myself so you could see with your own eyes what a gay Christian looks like. I left my young son to do this. I wish to be recognized as a sister in Christ. I have been a Christian all my life.”  Jillian Nye, 29, Soulforce Equality Rider

If you would like to gain insights and understanding as to the shape of things to come should the Religious Right/Patriarchy Movement/Quiverfull/Christian Reconstruction movement achieve its ends,  if you care about the future of this nation and of the entire world, please, please educate yourself by watching the video I’ve posted above and by reading what I have to say here and clicking on the links.

The Work of Soulforce

As part of its ongoing practice of nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience to lesbophobia, homophobia and transphobia, and its work to end oppression of lesbian, gay and transpersons, Soulforce, an organization of devout lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians has just completed its 2007 “Equality Rides” across the United States, carried out in the nonviolent tradition of the Freedom Riders of the Civil Rights era, and inspired by the teachings of Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, and Jesus of  Nazareth.  In the course of the “Equality Rides,” 50 young adults on two routes, traveling in buses, visited 32  Christian colleges and universities whose policies were discriminatory.  Typically, the Equality Riders spent two days at each university engaging campus communities in panel discussions, campus-wide forums, and informal interactions as well as in times of worship, potlucks, and fundraisers.    Sometimes the 2007 Equality Riders were graciously welcomed and discussions went reasonably well.  Sometimes the Riders’ buses were defaced with graffiti,  they were told they were not allowed to set foot on campus at all, and if they walked onto campus anyway, peacefully, they were arrested.  During last year’s Equality Ride, Riders were arrested at Brigham Young University, Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, at West Point, at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, at Oral Roberts University and Pat Robertson’s Regent University.   Over the course of this year’s Equality Rides there were 40 arrests.


Soulforce focuses on Christian universities in the belief that  at this time in history, religion is the primary source of false and inflammatory misinformation about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people.   Their belief, consistent with the teachings of Gandhi, is that they have a moral obligation to refuse to cooperate with evil and to confront the lies of religion with the truth.

Patrick Henry College

Of particular interest to me is the  Equality Riders’ visit to Patrick Henry College, the college established by Michael Farris, the attorney who worked with the defendants in the lawsuit I brought against the Religious Right.(1)

Michael Farris was a leader in the homeschooling community during the same years I was a leader, in the early ’90s.  Sometimes we shared speakers’ tables at conferences where we were both speaking.  Although I had been introduced to Farris, and he certainly knew who I was — I spoke throughout the country and published a national magazine which was widely read by homeschooling parents, and we were both Washingtonians — he never spoke to me, greeted me, or acknowledged my existence or my now-ex-husband’s existence, even when we were seated at the same dinner table, as we were at a conference in Colorado in 1993.  I didn’t know what to make of this, but Farris seemed rude and arrogant to me.   His reputation for losing his temper and acting out when he didn’t get his way was well-known, a reputation which has turned out to be well-deserved, given, for example, the recent walk-out of one-third of the faculty of the college he heads  and Farris’s treatment of the resigned professors,

In particular I recall Farris’s presentation in Dallas, Texas in April of 1994.   I am, in general, an energetic and engaging speaker, and by the time I am done speaking, my audiences are encouraged and inspired.   My presentation in Dallas was no different, so the effect of Farris’s presentation, which followed mine, on the audience was striking.  Farris spent his alotted time telling conference participants how afraid they should be of their many enemies,  invoking God’s judgments and commands, and eventually telling his by-then intimidated (and vulnerable-feeling) listeners that they were under such heavy attack, they needed protection,  —  his, of course, which they could buy for a hefty sum, renewable annually.

In fact, by 1990, homeschooling was legal in all 50 states, and homeschoolers did not need Farris’s or anyone’s protection in order to homeschool in peace and safety.  But protection was not what Farris’s HSLDA was actually about; in reality, it was  about lobbying legislators and amassing Congressional and public support for conservative, right-wing legislation and causes by using, manipulating and bragging about its by now sizable membership base of fearful and psychologically dependent homeschooling parents, most of them committed ideologically to the importance of submitting to “leaders” and “authorities.”  Under Farris’s watch, as I wrote in an article in a recent issue of Off Our Backs, Farris opened Patrick Henry College in 2000.

Eighty-five percent of its students had been homeschooled; the available majors were political science and liberal arts.  Between 2000 and 2004, 22 Republican legislators employed Patrick Henry College students as interns.  One of those interns eventually worked as a paid staff member for Karl Rove.   When Bush signed legislation banning late-term abortions, Farris was one of five prominent conservative Christians invited to be present at the White House.   Though Patrick Henry is a tiny college, averaging 240 students, during some years it has supplied nearly 10 percent of the 100 total White House intern positions.   Farris has used his access to the President and to the Republican legislature and his commitment to ending the separation of church and state, along with the support of his homeschool constituency, to push for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage , to oppose the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child  and the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women , to work for the elimination of the tax penalty on marriage , and to support John Ashcroft (whose wife sits on the board of Patrick Henry college) in his appointment to Attorney General. (2)

 Soulforce at Patrick Henry College

Soulforce at PHC

Soulforce Equality Riders at Patrick Henry College facing 50 or more law enforcement officers called in to guard PHC and to arrest any member of Soulforce who set foot on campus.  The yellow sign reads, “Call for Open Dialogue.”

It makes sense that Patrick Henry College would be on Soulforce’s 2007 Equality Ride list.  PHC’s response to Soulforce’s request for dialog, while not particularly surprising to me, is disturbing, sobering and instructive and deserves to be widely disseminated and analyzed.  Having received Soulforce’s invitation to discussion and dialogue on the PHC campus, PHC’s first and immediate response was a hardy and resounding, “No.”  Its next response was to contact law enforcement — lots and lots of law enforcement.  The number of police officers surrounding Patrick Henry’s campus on the day Soulforce arrived was equal to or greater than the total number of Equality Riders.  PHC locked down its campus the day of the scheduled Equality Riders action; nobody but staff and students and invited guests were allowed on campus property.  The only communication to which PHC would agree was a debate, off campus, on the “Marriage Protection Amendment” to the Constitution, which, true to form, Farris and other HSLDA attorneys and staff have, via tortuous and disingenuous reasoning and logic attempted to make a homeschooling issue.

But  Soulforce wasn’t there at PHC to debate the Marriage Protection Amendment, so called.  As one Equality Rider in the video above said, simply and eloquently, “Human rights are not a debate.”

Equality Riders went to Patrick Henry College on the day appointed despite the threats and hostility, a band of human beings of the kind near and dear to my heart– infidels, rebels,  smart, courageous, eloquent, with integrity, and passion, and above all a commitment to dignity and full  human rights for themselves, for all people.  They carried placards inviting PHC students to “dialogue,” inviting them to dinner off campus at the White Palace.  They sang Christian songs.  They were kind, gracious, honest and loving.  Watching them on video, I was so touched, I broke down and wept and have been weeping off and on writing this blog post.  The Equality Riders were completely nonviolent and peaceable.  When they were not allowed onto the grounds of PHC, consistent with their conviction, as nonviolent resisters, that to cooperate with evil is immoral, two Equality Riders walked onto the campus of Patrick Henry College, carrying invitations to dinner.  They were arrested and taken to jail.


The press release issued about these events by Patrick Henry College would be hilarious if it were not issued in all sincerity, if it were not real.  Farris is the man who drafted the Religious Freedoms Restoration Act which  was passed unanimously by both houses of Congress when it was written in 1993, and which, had it not ultimately been declared unconstitutional by the courts, would have tiered human and civil rights in favor of religious citizens.   He was the Republican candidate, at one time, for Lt. Governor of Virginia.  Farris has been a frequent invitee to the Bush White House and was one of the invited guests for the Bush signing, together with much pomp and circumstance, of the 2003 Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act.  And yet to read PHC’s press release, Farris, his rich, and powerful, and multiple institutions and organizations,  his thousands and millions of primarily white, Republican supporters with their thousands and millions of white, Republican dollars are somehow persecuted victims, oppressed and marginalized by these 50 young Christian Equality Riders intent on… dinner at the White Palace in town?  Conversation with students and faculty?  The press release is a textbook example of lesbophobia and homophobia which again, would be hilarious if this were Saturday Night Live or the Onion, but these guys are for real, dangerously, dangerously for real:

This is nothing less than a systematic effort by the homosexual movement to shut down that dissenting voice, to silence those who would reserve the right to call homosexuality what it is – immoral. Neutralizing Christian colleges’ freedom of speech to uphold biblical convictions on sexual morality is a fundamental battlefront in the culture war, with Soulforce’s ultimate aim to achieve blanket cultural and governmental sanction for homosexuality. Patrick Henry College is resolved to hold the line against their invasive coercion.

Uninvited, often trespassing illegally, the group imposes itself on to Christian campuses in hopes of engaging students in suggestive discussions about sex. By their own admission, organizers hope to indoctrinate young Christians to notions that God’s Word is supportive of the “gay” lifestyle, or that it remains morally mute on a subject about which the Bible actually has much to say, on behaviors it explicitly labels sin.

In its third year, the Soulforce Equality Ride has generated ample coverage of tactics it uses to infiltrate colleges like Notre Dame, Liberty University, Regent University, Oklahoma Baptist University, and many others. They can involve trespassing on to campuses, staging protests and waving signs (such as “We support the gay and lesbian students at Liberty University,”) and holding impromptu “worship services,” with activists quoting Scripture and singing Christian songs. If allowed, they have disrupted classes, libraries, and lunchrooms, and, in a growing number of cases, provoke police intervention and arrests. Soulforce as an organization presents itself as religiously motivated and ecumenical in character. The organization’s founders, its key leaders and many of its activist members present themselves as being emphatically Christian. In their literature and throughout their website, they portray themselves as being more deeply committed to the Bible than others. By claiming the authority of Christ and the Scriptures in their advocacy, speaking in the name of Christ and the Bible what is directly contrary to Christ and the Bible, they fall into the category of false teachers. Providing a platform for false teaching on the PHC campus is unacceptable.

Who, after all, can stand against this “silencing” and “coercive” onslaught of 50 Christian young people!  Notre Dame trembles against their … commitment to the Bible!   Men, stand your ground!  Hold that line!  If we have a discussion or go to dinner, what might be next!   And what can lurk behind a request to “disrupt classes” with dialog!

Notice the egregious and relentless twisting and distortion of facts in a way that results in what can only be described as propaganda, something which is very familiar to those of us who have watched, and been victimized by, Farris over the years.  The Equality Riders become “trespassers,” rather than the guests they could have been had PHC actually behaved in an ethical Christian way.  Hospitality is required of Christians whether it is to the stranger or to the sister and brother.  The Equality Riders were not “false teachers,” they weren’t teachers at all, they were young people, asking for some time, asking to be heard.  The request to meet and discuss issues, their standing in a line outside police barricades singing Christian songs, the press release characterizes these as “invasive coercion” in what can only be described as a willful blindness to the power disparities obvious to any thinking person:  these are 50 young people,  most of them poor, all of whom have signed on to rejecting the amassing of wealth, all of them disenfranchised, marginalized and oppressed because they are lesbians, gay or transgender persons, addressing a university backed by all of the money and influence and power of the Religious Right, and yet they are described as “invasive and coercive.”

Josh Polycarpe, arrested at Patrick Henry CollegeMichael Farris

 Which, of the above men, has power, the man being arrested, Josh Polycarpe, left, or Michael Farris, on the right?  Who has influence?  Who is  being “coercive”?  Whose ideas and behaviors are “invasive”?  Who is the “false teacher”?

The distortions-cum-propaganda are important because they pass for the truth and are understood by millions on the Religious Right, by conservatives, by too many reporters to be truth.  They are important because they are published by Farris and men like him– people who have political influence and power, “power” defined as possessing the capacity to make what you want to happen, happen in the real world.  This is something that clearly the Soulforce young people did not have.  They went straight to jail for daring to say what Michael Farris and others at his college did not want to hear.   In the meantime, Michael Farris and his associates pretend they have been victimized.

Most discouraging to me is that in the publicity over the Equality Riders and the arrests, the Religious Right and lesbophobes, homophobes and transphobes everywhere unite once again around their favorite scapegoats.  It doesn’t seem to occur to them that in all likelihood, 10 percent of the students and staff at PHC, at least, experience attractions to, have had or are having romantic relationships with people of their own sex.  It doesn’t apparently occur to them that 10 percent, at least, of the children in their own, often gigantic, families are going to have same-sex attractions and may have or may have had same sex relationships.  To this, they make themselves blind.

Soulforce is Engaged in Activism Consistent with Historic Feminism

One reason I object to the dismissive and derogatory term “godbags” used for religious people is, the Soulforce Equality Riders are, in fact, conservative Christians on the risky, scary, fraught-with-danger front lines, engaged in a fight that is central to the destruction of male supremacy, and they are deserving of the support of feminist and progressive people everywhere, therefore, whose goal this is.  Dismissing these freedom fighters as “godbags” hurts us all and deprives us all of the opportunity to support them in the work they are uniquely suited to do.   They are confronting male supremacy at its root, at the heart of it, in a way outsiders cannot.   People should not have to leave their faith communities in order for feminists  and progressive people to take seriously the work they do which benefits all people.

Where male dominance and female submission are ordained by God, as the Religious Right believes they are, and all other institutions  and relationships are governed by these same notions of male power and female submission, what will happen if males reject traditional masculine roles, as gay men do?  If females reject traditional feminine roles, as lesbians do? And if transgender persons blur the boundaries of gender such that transgressions of stereotypical roles cannot be punished?  If these columns crumble, the building falls.

In order to survive and maintain its influence in society and culture, the Religious Right must forbid and teach against same sex relationships, it must make these relationships illegal, must punish them, must even view them as punishable by death, as the Christian Reconstructionists do,  because if same sex relationships become acceptable and common, then male supremacy  — in the home, the church, the world — is threatened.   Women who do not need, want or depend on men in any way for intimate relationships or for anything at all,  men who reject traditional sex roles and masculinity in favor of loving relationships with other men, threaten male heterosupremacist power, which requires traditional male and female roles and essentialist and binary notions of gender in order to continue.  Where male dominance and female submission are ordained by God, as the Religious Right believes they are, and all other institutions  and relationships are governed by these same notions of male power and female submission, what will happen if males reject traditional masculine roles, as gay men do?  If females reject traditional feminine roles, as lesbians do? And if transgender persons blur the boundaries of gender such that transgressions of stereotypical roles cannot be punished?  If these columns crumble, the building falls.

Underneath the rhetoric, the propaganda, the sermonizing and theology, this is the fear.  It is a legitimate fear for those who find their safety in the rigid and dogmatic binaries of patriarchal religion.   For those of us dedicated to human and civil rights for all people, it is a legitimate goal and hope, and those on the front lines, as Soulforce is, deserve our encouragement and support.


(1)  In 1994 I sued eight organizations on the Religious Right in Federal Court for  conspiracy to restrain trade in violation of the Lanham Act, for violations of the Washington Consumer Protection Act, and for several other causes of action.  The defendants publicly, nationally excommunicated me, then via a conspiracy, destroyed my publication in ways from which they profited financially.  I won my case in 1998 and was awarded a large judgment.  Michael Farris was not a defendant because I did not become aware of the extent of his involvement with the defendants until discovery in my case was almost completed and adding him as a defendant would have been too costly.  He was a columnist and legal advisor to one of the defendants in my lawsuit, and provided counsel as to how the defendants should proceed in my national excommunication.

(2)  Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff (me), Confronting the Religious Right,  Off Our Backs, Women and Fundamentalism issue, available for purchase as a back issue.



26 thoughts on “This is What Cruelty and Intolerance Look Like: Patrick Henry College Locked Down, 50 Police Called in to “Guard” Campus Against 40 Nonviolent Lesbian, Gay and Transgender Christian Activists; Two Arrested

  1. Why do I feel as if I ought to apologise for the actions of my religious leaders?

    Thanks for this Heart. This topic is very *central* to the lives of goodness knows how many – the ones who must remain closeted for their safety; the ones who feel they have no choice but suicide because their sexuality is unacceptable.

    I think I’ll repost my old blog on this; it’s a bit rambly, but it outlines the options – or lack of options – that people have in some fundamentalist religions.

    Posted by Sophie | April 30, 2007, 3:47 am
  2. ” They are confronting male supremacy at its root, at the heart of it, in a way outsiders cannot. ”

    I don’t believe this. Not entirely.

    I wish them well. I wish them safety. I wish them happiness.

    But if they get what they want, accepted as mainstream, run of the mill Christians, well, they’ll still be Christians in a Christian Nation in a Christian World and the rest of us, well, won’t.

    And yeah, they can change things, having that sort of “fellowship” with their Bretheren, but that makes me uncomfortable:

    I’m sure “Hippy Jesus” of infinite tolerance and understanding is all kinds of wonderful to some people; OTOH, it’s kind of like having your cake and eating it too: being part of the progressive community but never having to come out, again, as something even worse than gay or transgendered: the unimaginable atheist.

    Do you have any idea how many parents have 3 John 1:4 plaques on the mantle? Mine sure do.

    Also, I haven’t checked out their materials, but I’m uncomfortable with all the Gandhi stuff, stuff that you deliberately tried to stress to make them sound all, well, “universal”; I’m not a fan of Hippy Jesus’ colonialism.

    Posted by Rich | April 30, 2007, 4:27 am
  3. Oh for shame. For shame. My heart hurts.

    Posted by Pippa | April 30, 2007, 9:12 am
  4. I agree with some of what you say there Rich, but I disagree with most and think you are making the mistakes most progressives/liberals/feminists make in analyzing this kind of work/phenomenon, mistakes it’s really important to look at and talk about, which is why I posted this, or one reason.

    First, I don’t think the Soulforce people want acceptance as “mainstream run of the mill Christians” so much as the end of their own oppression. I don’t, as a feminist, want acceptance from men. I want men to stop oppressing me. Black people don’t want acceptance from white people. They want white people to stop oppressing them. And gay/lesbian/transgender Christians aren’t after acceptance from just random masses of members of conservative religious fundamentalist. They want the oppression — and the evil of it — to end.

    I also don’t think these folks want to be Christians as this world currently understands or defines being “Christians”, neither do they want a “Christian world,” by those definitions, because that is a world and a people group which is actively oppressing and subordinating them and which is responsible for all the evils they talk about and you mention. I also don’t know that they want fellowship with their brethren– unless the brethren really are serious about change. Real change which will result in the end of their very real oppression.

    As to stressing the Gandhi stuff to make them sound universal, that’s not what I was doing at all. Their commitment to nonviolent practices is something they learned from Gandhi and Martin Luther King, whom they look to for leadership. While the teachings are tried and true so far as techniques of nonviolent resistance to racism/colonialism, they haven’t yet been specifically used to confront gender and sexism in the way confrontation of male heteronormativity/heterosupremacy confronts gender and sexism. Lesbians/gay persons/transgender persons confronting lesbo/homo/transphobia are people mounting a serious challenge to sexism, when we are talking about patriarchal religion. So far as I know, these are the first people to use these teachings in this particular way, against sexism.

    When I say they are going to the root, I am talking about male dominance and female submission, male supremacy and female subordination as they are embodied in gender and gender stereotypes and in heteronormativity/compulsory heterosexuality. If these are removed from Christianity, if these central tenets of Christianity were to become history, it would be the beginning of the end, I believe, for all of the accomanying subordinations, including what would remain of sexism, including a male God/male deliverer/raped-woman-for-the-sake-of-male/son-deliverer, including, ultimately, racism, colonialism, class hatred, ableism, ageism, and so on.

    One reason I do believe this is, this is what I see in the very small number of Christian churches and Christians who have rejected gender and who have embraced gay/lesbian/transsexual people completely, the “open and affirming churches” so called. These churches, in general, also participate in revisioning God as female (the “Sophia” movement), they embrace the Goddess/women’s spirituality movement, they reject racism, imperialism, classism and colonialism outright, they become involved in anti-racism work, they get involved in anti-domestic violence work. The church nearby which I have occasionally attended has lesbian woman priests, gay men and lesbian women on the vestry, removes male language from church materials, is actively involved in anti-colonialism work, sponsors and participates in community anti-racism workshops, and publishes the best anti domestic violence information/literature I’ve ever seen. But confronting/challenging sex roles/gender was what came first. If you get at those, as a radical feminist, I do believe the rest will follow. I think what we are seeing in these churches demonstrates the validity of radical feminist theory.

    I don’t know if the people in that video up there have John 3:16 on their walls, but I doubt it. There are gigantic numbers of Christians of color, especially, in the United States, whose religion is nothing like the white evangelical Christianity/fundamentalism I think you are talking about and most people think about when they think about American “Christianity”. Christians who embrace liberation theology are more likely to have “Let justice roll down like water,” on their walls, and “Go to ye rich men, weep and howl, for your calamity will come on you in a moment,” and the Sermon on the Mount, that kind of thing. Nevertheless, wherever there is Christianity, until gender ends, sexism is going to be an issue and dominance hierarchies of all kinds are going to be an issue, but I think what these people are doing begins to be a challenge to that.

    As to the reference to “hippy Jesus,” I don’t know where it came from, but it isn’t relevant to the discussion, that I can see. Nobody’s talking about a hippy Jesus. I make jokes about hippies at times, or having been one, but that doesn’t change my view or experience that the hippies were sexist and male supremacist as all get out. While some of the Soulforce people are undoubtedly sexist as well, well, as you know, lots of feminists are totally sexist, too, without realizing it, in their practices and theorizing, lots of progressive people are, as well. Liberals are endlessly and terminally sexist. So instead of focusing on the errors of hippie Jesuses so as to mock whomever it is easy and popular to mock — because I think that’s too easy and anybody can do it and we don’t get anywhere doing that — I would rather look at the potential for real change that exists, or doesn’t, in the specific and actual activist work people are doing. I think if you end heteronormativity, compulsory heterosexuality, and gender, that is the beginning of the end for, ultimately, all dominance hierarchies. That is, in fact what I see happening with people/groups like this. I don’t say it is the end, I say it is the beginning of the end, and I want to emphasize that. But I think it is an effective beginning point.

    As to atheism, I think the progressive community is totally accepting of atheism, so I ‘m not sure what you’re getting at with the “coming out as an atheist” in progressive communities? Atheist is what the cool kids are, so far as progressives, just in general. If you are a spiritual person, though, then you are going to be a spiritual person, and atheism is not going to work for you no matter how many atheists clobber you over the head with the importance of eradicating spirituality and mock your practice of teh woo. I am not of the belief that it is necessary to eradicate all spirituality of every kind in order to build a new, nonhierarchical, nonsubordinating world, because I don’t believe spirituality is inherently or essentially subordinating. Male supremacists turning spirituality into religion is what is subordinating. I think it is patriarchal religion, therefore, which has to fall and which will begin to fall if gender and all that is subordinating about gender and gender stereotypes are eliminated.

    Anyway, on a little different track, if you go to this link, click on “Music” on the top, and then click on “Anyway You Need Her,” it will lift your spirits, Sophie and Pippa! (Not sure about yours, Rich, but you can give it a shot.)


    Posted by womensspace | April 30, 2007, 11:52 am
  5. Hi Heart (and R!ch),

    I consider myself a spiritual atheist.

    After what I’ve seen what the majority of people do with goddess religions, I’ve backed way the hell out of it.

    I’m not looking for any kind of deity, or any kind of saviour.

    I experience and feel Love as an energy (or, stretching it a bit, a “force”) in the Universe, but I also feel a lot of other forces in the Universe. I can neither feel nor see any reason to believe that Love is any more “powerful” or likely to prevail than any of these other energies.

    I can feel “devas” or spirit energies connected to different species of plants. These are “psychic” energies, if you will. I guess I could be called a pagan animist: pixies, sprites, voices from trees and rocks. 🙂

    If I light a candle for someone, it is to summon energies for the support, protection, or memory of a person(s), event, or principle.

    I *don’t* light a candle to “attract” a new car or a lover or to win the lottery. I don’t get into black magic, voodoo spells, etc (I used to … ) although I often wish that they would work! 😛 Wouldn’t life be simple then?

    This spirituality arises form my experiences in very early childhood, including pre-verbal, when I spent a lot of time outdoors. I heard and felt the spirits of all the species of life that I encountered, including the earth (“dirt”) under my feet, which I loved to scoop up and hold in my hands as I walked around.

    Oh, there’s more. So much more … but I will close off now. But there were definitely no “divine” figures or energies, and no divinities.


    Posted by Mary Sunshine | April 30, 2007, 2:13 pm
  6. Hey, Mary. 🙂 A lot of what you say there rings for me, too. I definitely avoid the organized and especially the hierarchical forms of goddess religion, with all the different levels and rules and regulations. I understand why women (and some men!) get into that– most of us have only known spirituality expressed as religion, rigid, etc.

    I really liked what One Jewish Dyke said in a recent post. I’m going to go find that. 🙂


    Posted by womensspace | April 30, 2007, 3:58 pm
  7. This is what One Jewish Dyke said that I liked:

    I consider myself both Jewish and agnostic. I am culturally Jewish and the religious traditions are important to me. When I light Shabbat candles it is significant to me that my mother, my grandmothers, and all of their mothers and grandmothers for millennia have lit candles on Friday nights. When I am in synagogue I often feel the Shekinah, which is God’s presence among us. I especially feel her at the Shabbat service at Michfest, when I am sitting in a circle in the woods, holding hands with an intergenerational group of Jewish women. On the other hand, I think we create that presence, that together we are greater than the sum of our parts.


    Posted by womensspace | April 30, 2007, 5:26 pm
  8. Heart,

    Thanks for that.


    Posted by Mary Sunshine | April 30, 2007, 10:22 pm
  9. I left Wicca on the whole because of a tendency to transplant standard religious hierarchy into it by many practitioners: male ‘high priests’ throwing their weight around and what I call ‘aspect-binding’– divide-and-conquer tactics aimed at Goddess-Energy, reducing Sacred Femaleness to stereotypical ‘archetypes’, such as ‘Aphrodite the Lu-u-uv Goddess [nudge, nudge, wink, wink]’.

    My Inner Experience has shown me that Spirit-Beings (a.k.a. ‘deities’) are real, but I also understand that current human conceptualizing based on religious orthodoxy completely misunderstands what Spirit-Beings actually are, and what they do. They have told me point-blank that they are my Elder Sisters and Brothers, and I am just like them: I have the same powers and energies at my disposal, but I am just younger and less developed. I have no problems with this Deeper Reality because I see holograms of it everywhere I look– there are flower-buds, full-blown flowers and ripening fruit in every forest, orchard and garden on this planet.

    I also have to say that I have deep respect for Voudoun (a.k.a. Voodoo), and the Lwa (Spirit-Beings) Who Work through Mambos (Priestesses) and Houngans (Priests), for the healing and betterment of their communities. OYA (the Yoruban Goddess of Lightning, Whirlwinds and Fire, ‘She Who Grows A Beard In Time Of War’, She Who is The Owner of the Marketplace– in much of Africa, the markets are run by Women– as well as a Knowledge-Woman Who is also a Patroness of Libraries) is especially dear to my heart, and I honor Her: HEKUA OYA!

    With regard to the black/white Magick ‘controversy’ (another reason I left Wicca: it’s more of that old white=good, black=bad stereotyping), I agree with Z. Budapest: a Witch who cannot Hex cannot Heal. When one is called on to tend a wound, one cleans out the dirt (usually causing more pain) and does not let introduced bacteria go infection-crazy (usually by committing ‘bacteria-genocide’ with some sort of disinfectant/wound dressing).

    Likewise, when I am called on to do Energy-retrieval, it is sometimes necessary to give an interfering entity a sharp poke or a smack with a stick in order to free the stuck energy I am after. This is why I have a Wand. I Hex rapists and batterers for the same reason I get rid of fleas on my dog: to promote health and to prevent suffering.

    I applaud the Brave People of Soulforce and their efforts to tackle the problem of intentional, institutionalized battery and marginalization of anyone who does not follow hierarchically-approved sexual stereotypes. And while I happily send them all the Rainbow Light I can muster, I also see the necessity of Magickally draining the resources of their oppressors, as well as binding the ability of their oppressors to do harm.

    I also see the necessity of Women being trained and able to cause effective grievous bodily harm if attacked. There has to be a ‘down-side’ to rape/sexual battery in order to get the brain-dead types who do it to stop, and right now, I don’t see much of a down-side. Reasoning with some of the types that Soulforce is confronting is like me trying to politely ask the fleas on my dog not to suck her blood. Even in the Realm of Energy, they have already made their choice apparent and aren’t listening, and whether I go after them Magickally by manipulating their Energy-template or physically with some flea-dip, I still need to go after them.

    Posted by akkarri | April 30, 2007, 11:05 pm
  10. Everyone approaches the world in her or his own way. If these incredibly brave young people wish to see the world through a Christian lens, I, even as an atheist, don’t think that should automatically exclude them from progressive circles.

    Some people will be swayed by reason and some by emotion. Some can take big steps and some have to take small steps. Soulforce will be *heard* by an often deaf group of people, which can only be of benefit to social justice.

    (Um, hi, my first time posting here.)

    Posted by graylor | May 1, 2007, 4:27 am
  11. Akkarri,

    I always learn something from you. Thanks for your post. Your words are spell-binding, and work magic in my mind.


    Posted by Mary Sunshine | May 1, 2007, 5:44 am
  12. Oh yes, I’m smiling now! Brilliant!

    Posted by Pippa | May 1, 2007, 9:36 am
  13. Found you via COD’s trackback. Farris is a Reconstructionist, through and through. That whole “philosophy” is just plain anti-American. And yet, somehow, PHC is thought to represent the best of home education. Ain’t so. Farris is just damn good at scaring the sheeple and at promoting Farris.

    On a separate note, I’d seen bits and pieces of the story of your lawsuit in various places, but had never put a voice to the name. Glad to find your blog. I’m adding it to my RSS feeds.

    Posted by Daryl Cobranchi | May 5, 2007, 9:52 am
  14. Welcome, you trackers-backers and hey, Daryl. You’re the unschooling guy, right? Who made the video? Which I think I have– good work! If I’m confusing you with someone else, I am sorry– I’ve been off fighting other kinds of battles these days and am not as up to speed on the world of homeschoolers as I once was. 😉

    Some of the congruences and intersections are interesting here. I find myself consistently discouraged not only by the way all religious people get dismissed under the category “godbags” by so many feminists/self-identified progressives, but by the way homeschoolers are similarly dismissed and also stereotyped in ways that are so wrong and unfortunate. Of all the people in the world, unschoolers, especially, are not stereotypable! And there are so many homeschoolers who are nothing like what Patrick Henry College type-parents would like us to believe homeschoolers are. I felt for the two PHC students who the Soul Force group did actually get a few moments to talk with at the White Palace. If you watch the video, they say they are embarrassed by PHC’s response to Soul Force, and I am sure that they are. There are plenty of smart and good young people who grow up in fundamentalist homes, who are homeschooled, and who are thoughtful, intelligent, not afraid of what is unfamiliar or different (or forbidden to even talk about in their homes/churches, other than in strictly condemning, judgmental ways). As we all know, there are plenty of people who grew up unschooled, in unschooling/homeschooling families, whose views are light years from the views of homeschoolers at PHC, and yet somehow everybody gets lumped into the “godbags/wierd, socially-impaired homeschoolers” category.

    I could just tear out my hair at times, arguing with feminists and progressives and liberal types about homeschooling and religion, arguing with homeschoolers and religious types about feminism and being progressive. One thing I do have that does my heart good, though, are adult children who get it so well, who see it, having been both homeschooled all of their lives and none-of-the-above, just really interesting, intelligent, highly-educated people, as so many homeschooled/unschooled people are. Which is why we have had to fight some of the battles we have had to fight.

    It’s so sad to me, on that video, where the caption reads, “85 percent of PHC students have been homeschooled.” Yes, they have, but their families sure are not representative of, nor do they speak, for homeschoolers. They are a very loud, in most cases highly offensive, obnoxious, and sometimes dangerous, minority.

    Well, anyway.


    Posted by womensspace | May 5, 2007, 2:19 pm
  15. ***people who have political influence and power, ”power” defined as possessing the capacity to make what you want to happen, happen in the real world.***

    They don’t possess the capacity to make what they want happen in the real world. They are dependent on other people in large numbers to do it for them, i.e. law enforcement, armies, navies, compliant women, etc. What they have is CONTROL over law enforcement etc., setting the agenda and determining who is allowed in. It is men who organized police depts, armies etc so *of course* these organizations have a male agenda, just as a conference organized by feminists has a feminist agenda.

    “Power” is still way too flattering for these personally unimpressive gnomes, implying that they have this capacity to make things happen their way through some great “power” of their very being.

    Posted by Branjor | May 7, 2007, 12:04 pm
  16. On the homeschooling movement – especially given how oppressive and useless so much public (and also private) education has become, I can certainly see why people would homeschool / unschool.

    On the education system, I personally would have liked to quit after sixth grade, work a few years, then do a GED/college prep at a community college and start at the university at the regular age. I thought this at the time because I am intellectually oriented, but school was just boring. I was ahead academically and not interested in cheerleading or the flag squad. I was more interested in, say, a “movement” job – UFW or something like that, thought it would be more educational for me and more useful for society.

    However, I was then and am now terrified of homeschooling, because it means the children never get out of their parents’ clutches. Being in my house was like being imprisoned with torturers. It did not look like it and nobody knew / probably would not have believed it. I knew it, but I could not articulate it in a comprehensible way.

    It was not easy to get permission to leave the house unless there was some official reason like school. Therefore, bored as I was by school, I was very grateful that it was compulsory and that my parents did believe that one should go to school for reasons of “socialization.” It got me out of the house!!!

    I figured out that if I walked to school in the morning, which took a long time, I would get extra time with myself or with any friends who walked with me. My mother still came in the car to pick me up, and make sure I was back in place ASAP after school was over, but that freedom in the morning, that time to meditate and come into myself, come back to myself, was wonderful. When it rained and I had to be driven to school, it was terrible because I was often still in tears from what went on at home. It was embarrassing because everyone thought my parents were so nice, wished they had my parents, etc.

    For these reasons I do not trust homeschooling and never will, no matter what the intentions – although I do understand individual cases and so on. I am horrified right now because at the university we have a family of home schooled kids whose mother waits in the parking lot to snatch them back as soon as their classes are over. They have one collective e-mail address because privacy is immoral. I shudder.

    I do not trust parents to know it if they are destructive and abusive. That is why I think they should all let their kids out of the house, and be around some different adults, at least part of the day. No matter how good the declared intentions, I just do not trust homeschooling. I would beg parents to *please* let their children out of their sight for at least part of the time, and not to try to control *both* their upbringing *and* their education. It is just too much power for one person to have over another, especially if one party is a child.

    Posted by profacero | June 14, 2007, 4:44 pm
  17. Yeah, I hear you, profacero. Sadly, and with no ability to reconcile or justify my conflicting positions on this issue (!) (so I won’t try), I don’t really believe most parents should homeschool their kids. At one time I thought otherwise; now, I’ve just seen too much that troubles me. (Having said that, I would not prevent parents from homeschooling their children, for reasons which hopefully will be explained below.)

    I view education differently from most people. I don’t think upbringing and education can be separated; I think they are all of a piece, they are part and parcel of one another. I don’t think upbringing happens over here, and education happens over there somewhere. I think education is always happening from the moment of a child’s birth until the day the adult dies. Just as we don’t teach a child to smile or respond to human faces or reach for objects or clap them together or rip them apart to see what’s inside, I think that far and away, most of what children (and adults) learn throughout their lives is not taught to them, by teachers, in institutions or schools. What a person learns, or not, depends on their surroundings, their environment, with whom they spend their time, their learning style, their health, and a host of other factors. I think a lot of what is taught never “lands,” and a lot of what “lands” has never been actually or actively taught to us by others. I think it is completely possibly to be extravagantly well-educated without ever darkening the door of a classroom. Some of my adult children are like this. They are amazingly well-educated — not just a mother talking, honestly — and it is education they have sought out, or obtained, or gathered on their own, because they wanted to.

    Continuing with my belief that “upbringing” cannot be bracketed off from “education,” I think that just as kids are being “educated” all of the time, wherever they are, they are also being “brought up” in schools all of the time, not only or even primarily by their teachers or staff people, but by their peers with whom they spend so much of their time. That particular “upbringing” can be positive, but usually, it is not, and it can be, and often is, really bad to catastrophic. It is a mistake, a huge mistake, in my opinion, to warehouse children-through-teenagers with their peers in institutionalized settings. Sometimes kids get into difficulties this way which, honestly, they never overcome. The same is true for homeschooled kids, of course. I am just saying, the proverbial sword cuts both ways. Sending a child to school is always, always, always a crap shoot, and every year, it’s a new crap shoot. 😦

    It’s a mistake to think that homeschooled kids are not exposed to other adults–they are, lots of them. The kinds of kids you’re talking about whose parents wisk them away, I’m sure expose their kids to other adults, so long as the other adults share their religious ideologies. But even there, not all of the devout are the same. There are some amazing, amazing people even inside of fundamentalism, hard as it might be for those on the outside to believe! And these days homeschoolers come together a lot, in homeschool support groups, co-op learning/teaching kinds of situations, conferences, fairs of various kidns and so on. The days of individual homeschooled families huddled in their homes with no contact with the outside are long past (although pre 1990s when homeschooling was illegal in various places, this sometimes did happen.) Homeschooled kids go on field trips with other homeschooled kids, go to social events, go to church events, and so on. Generally they have closer and more intimate interaction with the adults in their lives than they would have in schools where the teacher-student ratio is 1-20/30 and teachers don’t and can’t become really close to each student. This, again, is a two-edged sword. Everywhere, in school and out of school, there are adults who, for so many reasons, are dangerous to children and teenagers.

    So, do we allow for parents to keep their kids home to be homeschooled and run the risk the kinds of difficulties you have seen and I have seen? Or do we require that they send their kids to school and run the risk the kinds of difficulties you have seen and I have seen? I think, we leave it up to the parents. Which doesn’t mean I think all parents should homeschool, not by a long shot, which just means that I also don’t think children should be forced into institutionalized settings.

    Which gets me to my final thought. The way through the power imbalance you’re talking about, where parents have too much power over their child, is for the parent to make sure the child knows if the child wants to go to school, she can. This is what I do, what by far most unschooling (the kind of homeschooling I believe in) do. They unschool, but their kids know if they want to try school at any point, that is their choice, their decision and their right, and parents will be available for support and help. Only one of my adult kids has chosen never to go to school at all, ever. He’s a great kid, a great person, wildly intelligent and self-educated, an amazing musician and poet. Also an amazing car mechanic. 🙂 My two youngest have not gone to any school, but one probably will for sure, not sure about the other one. Others of my kids have gone to school on some basis, for one, two, three, four years, at some point.

    Of course, the parents you (and I) are most concerned about would never allow for this level of autonomy in their children. Nevertheless, I’ve watched kids grow up in really stifling situations for decades now, homeschooled, rigidly controlled. Lots of them, once they are adults, make their way into freedom and do well, just as well as kids who went to school, suffered in school, got into various kinds of trouble, who, as adults, find their way into freedom of a little different sort.


    Posted by womensspace | June 14, 2007, 5:52 pm
  18. Thanks for your response, Heart – and I know. I still say the bottom line is, kids have to be let out of the house. Waiting until I was eighteen would have been too late for me not to catch permanent mental illness or commit suicide. I am not talking just about stifling situations, I am talking about being shut up in a house with really crazy people!

    Just plain old conservatism is one thing – mental illness is very different. That is why boring teachers and stiflingly dull classes were such a *relief.* Regimentation, school spirit, patriotism, standing in straight lines, etc., etc., sure it was boring and limiting, but at least one could rest and think one’s own thoughts.

    Posted by profacero | June 14, 2007, 6:06 pm
  19. Well, but even though I was on the inside-inside of the part of the movement which, I think, concerns you for years, I never met a kid who was never let out of the house? They are let out of the house– the parents are just very selective about where, when and with whom.

    I agree with you as to kids stuck with parents who are really destructive for any reason (I’m a little worried about limiting that to mental illness!). Andrea Yates is certainly a primary example of that. 😦


    Posted by womensspace | June 14, 2007, 6:12 pm
  20. This discussion has flowed into the homeschooling movement and my purpose is to bring it back to the original blog post itself. Andrea you are to be commended for allowing Michael Farris’ own words in your blog space – not everyone would be so fair. However, that is about all the grace you can give the man. My point is not to defend him but to ask why you are on a mission to paint him as the devil incarnate? If he was rude to you, that makes sense. If it is easy to point out his personal flaws, obviously he has these. If on the other hand your purpose is to make the man look bad so that he serves as your straw man for everyone that doesn’t fit with your point of view – in other words evangelical and fundamentalist Christians (and by the way there is a big difference between evangelical and fundamentalist) and any other group that doesn’t agree with you then maybe we are missing the point.

    The point you are ignoring is: Does a private college have the freedom to hold views that are not part of the mainstream views of society? My comment is that Soulforce does not wish to allow this particular freedom. Patrick Henry College holds views that are not permitted in public schools or public universities. No one is forced to go to Patrick Henry College. No tax dollars support it. As I read it you are missing Farris’ key point – Soulforce does not permit freedom for others to organize according to a different set of beliefs? You mock him for his paranoia. Yet you fail to answer his point.

    Posted by Gordon Stewardson | June 21, 2007, 6:25 pm
  21. Sorry my mistake, I meant to address you directly Heart and I called you Andrea – careless on my part I had just read the quote at the beginning of your blog.

    Posted by Gordon Stewardson | June 21, 2007, 6:30 pm
  22. Hey, Gordon, you can call me Andrea, as in Dworkin, any time. 🙂

    Thanks but no thanks for taking charge of the comments thread on my blog so that women “return” to talking about what you think they should be talking about instead of what they want to talk about. Here, women talk about what we want to talk about. We do not appreciate, want, need or tolerate any sort of male intervention or “direction” or “help.”

    You do not need to point out to me the differences between “evangelical” and “fundamentalist.” I am, I am certain, much more an expert as to issues like this than you are. I am sure that those who are behaving in ways which mark them as rigidly fundamentalist but who fancy themselves to be “evangelical” would much rather be called “evangelical.” When someone pulls a stunt like Farris did here, however, he evidences that he is a fundamentalist in the style of the fundamentalisms which are particularly destructive to women and children worldwide.

    Every question you raise has already been answered in my post or in the comments thread. Soulforce has no power whatsoever to “permit” “freedom” for anybody! Michael Farris, his supporters, and Patrick Henry College have evidenced that they are the ones with the freedom here– to call in hordes of police and law enforcement, to close down the college, to keep marginalized and oppressed persons who are asking for dialog strictly off the premises, including brothers and sisters in Christ, in evangelical-speak. My freedom, sir, is to publicize these events and to give voice to the people Michael Farris would happily, happily silence.

    Farris wasn’t just “rude” to me. He participated in my very public, national excommunication, albeit behind the scenes via offering legal counsel to organizations on on the Religious Right whom I ultimately sued after they’d driven me out of business.

    This is a man who has built himself an empire using the money sent to him by homeschooling families whom he claims he is committed to protecting, yet behind the scenes, for example, he participated, without the knowledge of by far the majority of his constituents, in acts which destroyed my magazine, which was my family’s entire livelihood and had been for years. I was a homeschooling mother of nine children at the time, the youngest three years old. This theoretically prolife, pro-family, pro-homeschooling leader and protector, in other words, participated in acts which drove me and my children, homeschoolers since 1983, into poverty and which resulted in the loss of a publication homeschoolers wanted and had paid for.

    This, sir, is indeed what fundamentalism looks like. To women. To children. To those who get on the wrong side of patriarchs with money and power. They can call themselves “evangelicals, not fundamentalists” all day long, it doesn’t change a thing.

    I think a private organization has the right to hold any views it wants, but if its views hurt people, I have a right to say so, to blog about it, and to publicize why I think as I do. I think people harmed by the views private organizations hold likewise have a right to very publicly speak their mind. Soulforce showing up at Patrick Henry was Soulforce speaking truth to power.


    Posted by womensspace | June 22, 2007, 12:51 pm
  23. from Schmitz Blitz:

    God’s Next Soldiers is a documentary about Patrick Henry College, a Christian college that trains young evangelicals to push their vision for a Christian Nation into the arena of power politics.

    Patrick Henry’s mission is to:

    Aid in the transformation of American society by training Christian students to serve God and mankind with a passion for righteousness, justice and mercy, through careers of public service and cultural influence.

    [… and]

    to promote practical application of biblical principles and the original intent of the founding documents of the American republic, while preparing students for lives of public service, advocacy and citizen leadership.

    Patrick Henry College was opened in 2000. Most of the students at Patrick Henry come from conservative Christian homeschooled backgrounds. In spite of it’s questionable academic credentials, Patrick Henry graduates find themselves equally situated with graduates of Georgetown and Harvard in terms of job and internship placements in the Bush Administration.

    In the spring of 2004, seven of the 100 White House interns came from Patrick Henry (with a student body of 240). That’s the same number that Georgetown sent to the White House that year.

    The New Yorker has another good article here.

    Things like this scare me a lot more than the skinheads I wrote about in an earlier post. The graduates from Patrick Henry and many members of the Republican party share the skinheads’ worldview and ideology.

    The difference is, the evangelicals in the Republican party are pushing their vision of a Christian Nation through legitimate democratic channels, which is far more effective (and stealthy) than waving guns around and burning crosses at a trailer park compound.

    Posted by Elizabeth Schmitz | August 6, 2007, 9:39 pm


  1. Pingback: O’DonnellWeb - This is not a homeschooling blog » Blog Archive » links for 2007-05-04 - May 4, 2007

  2. Pingback: "This is What Fundamentalism Looks Like" « Whatever Works - May 5, 2007

  3. Pingback: Patrickhenryville – Loudoun Progress - April 1, 2011

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