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Potential Threat to Religious Freedom

January 13, 2014

 

On the very first day of the General Assembly, HEAV’s legislative team found legislation that could begin to change homeschooling as we know it in Virginia.

 

Delegate Tom Rust (R-Fairfax, Loudoun) has proposed House Joint Resolution (HJ) 92, requesting that the Department of Education study the religious exemption statute.

 

As much as we don’t want to alarm you, we found this resolution to be a serious, potential threat to religious freedom.

HJ 92 would open the door to altering the religious exemption statute, 22.1-254 (B)(1), and change the way local school boards recognize a parent’s religious convictions.

 

Please contact Delegate Tom Rust’s office immediately and very respectfully ask him to withdraw his unnecessary resolution, which threatens homeschool and religious freedoms in Virginia. Mention any of the points below in your own words. His Richmond office number is 804-698-1086.

 

Thank you for helping protect homeschooling freedom in Virginia!

 

Regards,

 

Yvonne Bunn

HEAV Director of Legislative Affairs

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Why Study Religious Exemption?

According to the resolution, the study is being initiated because Virginia is the only state that allows a religious exemption and does not require parents to provide an alternate educational program. Therefore, because there is no state “oversight” of an alternate educational program, the resolution questions if education is taking place.

 

After the study is presented to the House and Senate, any number of changes could be proposed as the discussion moves from subcommittee to full committee and to the floor of each chamber for final debate.

 

The resolution refers to the constitutional responsibility of the state to provide an education for every eligible child. It questions whether or not school boards are fulfilling this obligation.

 

It also questions the vagueness of the religious exemption statute and expresses concern that there may not be uniform procedures among school boards in how they determine religious convictions.

 

What Will Be Studied?

Unless this study is stopped, the Department of Education will gather information regarding

  1. how each school board determines religious convictions,
  2. whether the student’s convictions are also evaluated,
  3. if convictions are ever reviewed again and how often, and
  4. whether educational progress is monitored.

After gathering this information, the Department of Education will then be required to make a recommendation to the General Assembly by November 30, 2015, on how, if at all, the religious exemption statute should be amended.

 

The Facts

  • Virginia was founded on religious freedom. Virginia’s religious exemption statute has protected the First Amendment rights of homeschoolers of all faiths for 37 years with few questions.  
  • Religiously exempt homeschoolers do well academically and socially–with or without state oversight.
  • Empirical evidence shows that students homeschooled under religious exemption scored an average of 33 percentile points higher than other students on standardized achievement tests. (Dr. Brian Ray)
  • Homeschool students do well academically, regardless of the level of regulation–whether with very strict laws or no laws at all! The average eighth-grade homeschooler scores at the twelfth-grade level on standardized achievement tests. (Rudner Study)
  • End-of-year evaluation is required in fewer than half the states. Homeschool students score equally well in all states. Higher regulation does not mean higher standardized test scores.

 

Reasons to Oppose HJ 92:

  • This is an attempt to reduce religious freedom.
  • The religious exemption statute has protected First Amendment rights of homeschoolers of all faiths for 37 years.
  • The data shows that homeschoolers are doing well academically.
  • Religiously exempt homeschoolers score 33 percentile points higher than other students.
  • The statute, as written, gives school boards the freedom to evaluate religious convictions in a way they feel appropriate.

 

Action

First, contact Delegate Tom Rust’s office and ask him to withdraw his resolution–HJ 92. You may restate the points above in your own words. Call his Richmond office at 804-698-1086.

 

Then send a courteous e-mail to the chairman of the House Rules Committee, Delegate William Howell, asking him to oppose the measure for the same reasons. His e-mail is delwhowell@house.virginia.gov.

 

HEAV lobbyist, Bob Shanks, is at the General Assembly scheduling meetings with Delegate Rust, the resolution patron; Delegate Howell, the Rules Committee chairman; and other key committee members. He will be attending committee hearings and will be ready to testify if this resolution is brought quickly before the Rules Committee for a vote.

 

HEAV and HSLDA are working together to protect homeschool freedoms. As we continue to monitor the progress of this resolution, we will keep you informed. This is only the first step in our response to this threat to our religious freedoms. Watch for HEAV Legislative Updates as further action is needed.

 

Thank you for standing for homeschool freedom!

PS: Please forward this message to your support group and to other homeschoolers who may not be aware of this threat to homeschool freedoms.

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3 responses to Potential Threat to Religious Freedom

  1. Thank you for being on top of things and alerting us to this matter. Will be sharing.

  2. I just called Del. Rust’s office to request he withdraw HJ-92. The only question they asked in return was what county did I live in Virginia. ALL homeschoolers in Virginia need to make this call!

  3. I called spoke to Cheryl as well,requesting for Mr. Rust to withdraw this HJ- 92 study.

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