Too Religious to Home-School?January 27, 2011 - 7:41 AM | by: Douglas Kennedy
Brenda Voydatch leafs through her daughter’s school books inside her single-story home in Meredith, New Hampshire.
“These are her math and science books,” she says.
Like many parents who home-school, Voydatch believes in the importance of teaching the basics of reading and writing. But she also believes in the importance of a religious education.
“I believe it’s a parents fundamental right to teach a child the beliefs within their home,” she says as she looks up at the painting of Jesus holding a child. “I believe that’s every parent’s right.”
It was that religious education that led to her ex-husband’s objections. It also led to a New Hampshire judge to order Brenda’s 11 year-old daughter Amanda to attend public school.
It’s an order her attorney, John Anthony Simmons, calls a clear Constitutional violation.
“The judge,” explained Simmons, “said that Amanda reflected her mother’s rigidity in matters of Faith, and that because of that rigidity she needed to be ordered into government run schools. “
Voydatch had home-schooled Amanda between 1st and 4th grades. Then came the judge’s order in 2009 which sent the then-9 year-old to public school. Voydatch has been fighting the ruling and Simmons argued the case in front of the New Hampshire Supreme court in early January.
But not everyone sees it as a Constitutional case, including the attorney for Brenda’s ex-husband.
“It’s not really about religion,” says Joshua Gordon. It’s simply about two parents who differ about child-rearing philosophy. He says the two parents disagree about what’s best for Amanda:
“One wants the child very isolated and cloistered and the other wants the child to be worldly and be exposed to all the experiences one ought to have as an adolescent.”
He says it’s a “marital case…a divorce case” not a “religious case.”
Simmons disagrees. He says Voydatch and her ex-husband had already agreed to home-school Amanda. He says the disagreement emerged over Brenda’s religious beliefs.
“This case is clearly about religion,” he said. “And if this case isn’t about religion I don’t know what case is.”
The New Hampshire Supreme Court is expected to release an opinion in the next few weeks.