Head of the Home School Legal Defense Association Blasts Doug Phillips' Biblical Patriarchy Practices

Michael Farris, the chairman and cofounder of the Home School Legal Defense Association, has criticized the biblical patriarchy beliefs of his former HSLDA colleague and Vision Forum founder, Doug Phillips, and said he regrets not speaking out against him sooner.

Michael Farris, who heads the Home School Legal Defense Association, speaks at the American Legislative Exchange Council in 2013.
Michael Farris, who heads the Home School Legal Defense Association, speaks at the American Legislative Exchange Council in 2013. | (Photo: YouTube / Citizens for Self-Governance: Convention of States Project)

Michael Farris, an attorney who also founded Patrick Henry College, has expressed remorse for not making it clear sooner that he did not condone Phillips' views.

"There was no way that I could have known that Doug was involved in sexual misconduct, but I knew that he was involved in unscriptural views about women in his teaching," Farris wrote on his Facebook page Tuesday, referring to Phillips' admission last year that he had cheated on his wife.

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"He was teaching that girls should never go to college," Farris continued. "I started a college where half the student body is female and PHC just elected a woman student as the president of the student body. He was teaching that girls should basically stay in their father's home until marriage. I sent my oldest daughter off to Cedarville University and my second daughter off to Romania as a missionary. I thought my actions would speak louder than his words. I wish I had used words too."

Farris also posted the link to a World Net Daily story where he is quoted as saying that Phillips left the HSLDA as he became increasingly radicalized in his beliefs about gender and family.

"[President] Mike Smith and I, who were his bosses, were growing more and more uncomfortable as he started developing his patriarchy theory," said Farris. "We started limiting his ability to speak on those things while traveling on our behalf. We basically made it clear that he could not pursue those things with his HSLDA hat on. So he eventually chose to leave us so he could do those things because we were not comfortable with where he was headed."

Farris said that despite the fact that values espoused by the nonprofit Vision Forum Ministries (which brought in $3.3 million in revenue in 2011) and Vision Forum Inc., the for-profit wing, are only representative of a "minority" of homeschoolers, "until very recently, they were getting a lot of visibility in certain places."

Beyond Vision Forum's catalogue and online store that sold toys, games, books, and DVDs marketed to both children and parents, the organization also organized an annual film festival, conferences, and last fall offered a family trip to ancient Greece.

Farris said that he had intentionally sought to keep his movement distinct from Phillips, though had never publicly denounced his teachings.

"We have sought to avoid inviting any patriarchy speakers to speak at our national conference," he continued, adding that since Phillips' departure from HSLDA, he had never been invited back to speak at the national conference and the organization had done its best to "keep this stuff outside the mainstream of the homeschooling movement."

"Frankly, we think it's time for us to stand up and publicly say this is just wrong," he added.

Farris also warned that Phillips' would likely try to swiftly rebound from his fall from grace.

"Knowing Doug for 20 years, I'm confident he's going to try to come back quickly. I'm also confident that would be an absolutely horrible outcome if he does," he said.

"I think it would be one of the greatest tragedies for the homeschooling movement if Doug Phillips was allowed to be rehabilitated and go right back into leadership," he said. "This kind of behavior is so bizarre – no matter which version of the story you believe, even if you take Doug's own version of the story – it's so bizarre and inappropriate that he needs to get his life in order and not be thinking about how quickly he can come back into leadership," he added.

Phillips' attorney David Gibbs, told WND that Phillips' "original plan [prior to a lawsuit filed by Lourdes Torres, the woman with whom Phillips had an affair] was to let Doug take a little time off and then go back into being the leader of (the Vision Forum Ministries') movement and continue moving forward in public ministry."

In his initial resignation statement, before the nonprofit announced its closure, Phillips said that he would not be "giving speeches or running conferences at this time of my life under the banner of VFI or VFM," but instead leading "a quiet life focusing on my family and serving as a foot soldier."

Phillips' resigned from Vision Forum Ministries in October 2013 after disclosing that he had been "inappropriately romantic and affectionate" with woman that was later revealed as close friend of his family.

The nonprofit announced its closure in November and the for-profit advertised a series of discounts and extreme mark-ups on products in December, suggesting that it, too, would be closing. However, in a lawsuit filed on Tuesday by Torres against Phillips, "both corporate entities are believed to be in active existence today."

According to Guidestar's most recent financial information, the HSLDA brought in nearly $9.5 million between April 2011 and May 2012.

Patrick Henry College was recently profiled in the The New Republic, where a former student accused the school of partially blaming her for the actions of a fellow student after he allegedly groped her against her wishes.

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