Hypothetical question: If you home-schooled your kids, and they were about to be raptured, would you bother to teach them reading, writing and arithmetic?
I ask because of this real Texas Supreme Court case making headlines this week:
AUSTIN, Texas — 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 (this) 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?
A little deeper in that Associated Press story (published in many newspapers throughout Texas, including the front page of The Dallas Morning News), the writer notes:
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.”
What do we mean by "rapture?"
Here's how the Religion Newswriters Association's "Religion Stylebook" defines it:
In Christian eschatology, a term used to describe the sudden transportation of true Christians into heaven before other events associated with the end of the world take place. See premillennial dispensationalism.
Did the McIntyres really scrimp on their children's education while awaiting the Second Coming?
In a story covering Monday's court arguments, the mother denies it:
She declined to comment to The Associated Press but told a group of supporters afterward that the reference to the rapture was "a lie told by my brother-in-law."
What exactly is the family's religious background? And what is the specific religious liberty issue before the court?
AP's coverage is rather sketchy on such questions, providing little real insight while giving a lopsided amount of ink to the Massachusetts-based Coalition for Responsible Home Coalition's executive director, who accuses the "political right" of eschewing needed home-schooling oversight to "score points with their base."
Interestingly, the Austin American-Statesman wrote its own advance story on the Texas Supreme Court case — and didn't mention the Rapture.
Rather, the Austin newspaper boils down the case this way:
Among the issues the court will resolve is how far local school districts can go to verify that a home-schooling parent is meeting the child’s needs.
However, religion does figure in the American-Statesman report:
In 2007, Michael and Laura McIntyre were charged with truancy after they refused to sign the El Paso school district’s verification form. The parents, who had started home schooling their five children in 2004, said the form appeared to require the couple to adhere to a curriculum that “must comply with the Texas Education Agency.” The couple was afraid that agreeing to those terms would violate their religious convictions.
The McIntyres accused relatives of making the truancy report to the school district because of a dispute involving the ownership of the family’s motorcycle dealership.
A "Morning Mix" report by The Washington Post adds this note:
Laura McIntyre has since said that she was teaching her kids using “A Beka,” a curriculum published by Pensacola Christian College that teaches “from a Christian perspective.”
How much will the Rapture actually figure in the Texas decision?
Just guessing here, but I'd say probably very little. That disputed element of the story seems more ready-made for headlines than precedent-setting court rulings.
Rapture image via Shutterstock.com