The Texas state Supreme Court takes up a case today on homeschooling and religious liberties, and asks if parents who homeschool under Texas law are required to actually teach their children anything practical at all if they claim there's no point, as the Rapture is coming.
Laura McIntyre began educating her nine children more than a decade ago inside a vacant office at an El Paso motorcycle dealership she ran with her husband and other relatives.
Now the family is embroiled in a legal battle the Texas Supreme Court hears next week that could have broad implications on the nation's booming home-school ranks. The McIntyres are accused of failing to teach their children educational basics because they were waiting to be transported to heaven with the second coming of Jesus Christ.
At issue: Where do religious liberty and parental rights to educate one's own children stop and obligations to ensure home-schooled students ever actually learn something begin?
"Parents should be allowed to decide how to educate their children, not whether to educate their children," said Rachel Coleman, executive director of the Massachusetts-based Coalition for Responsible Home Education.
Like other Texas home-school families, Laura and her husband Michael McIntyre weren't required to register with state or local educational officials. They also didn't have to teach state-approved curriculums or give standardized tests.
But problems began when the dealership's co-owner and Michael's twin brother, Tracy, reported never seeing the children reading, working on math, using computers or doing much of anything educational except singing and playing instruments. He said he heard one of them say learning was unnecessary since "they were going to be raptured."
Then, the family's eldest daughter, 17-year-old Tori, ran away from home saying she wanted to return to school. She was placed in ninth grade, since officials weren't sure she could handle higher-level work.
The El Paso school district eventually asked the McIntyres to provide proof that their children were being properly educated and even filed truancy charges that were later dropped. The family sued and had an appeals court rule against them, but now the case goes Monday to the all-Republican state Supreme Court.
In court filings, the McIntyres say the district is biased against Christians and accuse its officials of mounting a "startling assertion of sweeping governmental power."
This is a pretty big case if only for the fact that one in six homeschooled children in the US live in Texas, mainly because Texas's homeschooling regulations are extraordinarily lenient. Given where Texas is on homeschooling and where SCOTUS is on religious liberties in a post-Hobby Lobby decision America, I'm not only betting this case goes to SCOTUS, but becomes a major precedent in a few years.
Keep an eye on this one, folks.