An Open Letter to HSLDA

June 21, 2008

Open Letter to Mike Farris, Mike Smith, and the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA)

Dear Sirs:

It is with great regret that I find ourselves needing to write this letter. For the past two-years we have done everything we can to correct unchristian behavior by the leadership of HSLDA. Using your organization, you have caused such harm to me and my family that we are now at a place where we are homeless and struggling to maintain the lowest level of living. We are not able to minister as we have in the past. We are unable to raise the money necessary to fulfill our critical ministry in Germany and Europe.

While we would rather move on to our ministry, we cannot until we resolve the issues with the leadership of HSLDA. It is our intention here to tell everyone involved in the homeschool movement the truth about what the leadership of HSLDA has done to us. As we have talked with some friends who used to work with HSLDA we have been surprised to learn that we are not the first family to be treated in such an unchristian manner by the leaders of HSLDA.

My wife and children have lived now for too long under the burden of stress that you have caused our family.

Let us state at the beginning what we have suffered. All of these facts are known to the leadership of HSLDA. Three months after this slander was made known to Joseph, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He has been so distracted by the loss of his reputation and the loss of his livelihood that he has not been able to concentrate on treatment.

Our family home in Hinterzarten, Germany has been lost to foreclosure. This home was all we had; now it is gone. Even though it was foreclosed, if we were to buy another home in Germany we would have to pay off the balance of the foreclosed loan before we could get a loan to purchase a home. We lost our furniture, our retirement, our car, our life insurance, our personal keepsakes.

My children have been placed in harms way. They have been emotionally harmed. They are devastated. The leadership of HSLDA has stayed in our home in Germany. They were treated with great respect. Yet, for reasons unknown, the leadership of HSLDA has chosen to target us for destruction.

We have been living with different families around the US as we do not have the funds to even rent a home.

In 2003, we reached an arrangement between our German organization and HSLDA to provide funding for our work in Germany regarding homeschooling. At the time the arrangement was made both Chris Klicka and Mike Smith were aware of everything that was agreed. Based on this agreement, Joseph dissolved his company and began working fulltime to protect homeschool families in Germany. We were very successful and homeschooling families were better protected and our numbers were slowly growing.

At some point in 2004, HSLDA decided they could no longer make the grant to Schuzh that was raised to support Joseph and Zelda and their work. We understood the ability of HSLDA to determine the work they funded. So, while we were disappointed that HSLDA would no longer fund us we accepted it. We began looking for alternative sources of funding.

Unable to find sufficient independent funding to remain in Germany, Joseph took a job at Homeschooling Today Magazine in Katy, Texas. Joseph had negotiated a job in the management of the magazine and we were excited about the move, though we hated to leave our work in Germany.

Unfortunately for us, we trusted the leadership of HSLDA and notified them of the new position in Texas. While we were traveling from Germany to Texas the leadership of HSLDA called Joseph’s new boss and told him that Joseph could not be trusted. They went further and unsolicited told the owner and publisher of HST that Joseph had embezzled money from HSLDA. We did not learn for several months about this telephone call. Due to the lies of the leadership of HSLDA Joseph lost his job and the opportunity to own HST.

You can imagine that we were stunned to learn that the leadership of HSLDA, claiming to be Christian, claiming to represent the best interests of homeschooling families around the world, would so blatantly lie. Without cause or warning, and for no reason we understand to this point, HSLDA decided to destroy our family and its ministry.

At the same time these lies were being told the leadership of HSLDA began talking to others within the HSLDA family defaming our name. They surgically cut us off from those we have served with for many years. This move by the leadership of HSLDA effectively cut us off from many people who had supported our ministry for years.

One of the reasons this was an effective plan is that HSLDA told others that “Mr. Smith had used funds for private living expenses that HSLDA had raised to be used exclusively for attorney fees associated with defending German homeschool families.” Thus “Mr. Smith is not trustworthy and unstable of character”. HSLDA said to others that if Joseph knew what they were being told, “Mr. Smith might make the issue public to the great detriment of HSLDA’s mission and the greater homeschooling movement.”

Why would HSLDA do this. We do not know for sure. We suspect that they broke the tax law and have covered up by destroying our family. We thought we had a good relationship with the leadership of HSLDA. The German homeschool movement we worked so hard to see succeed is on the verge of a complete collapse.

At the HSLDA Philadelphia State Leadership Conference in Sept/Oct 2005 we were told that HSLDA could only give money to attorneys. In HSLDA’s June 2005 Court Report, a publication that goes out to HSLDA members and donors, Joseph and Zelda were actually identified as attorneys. Even though HSLDA’s leadership knew that we were not attorneys. We certainly have never held ourselves out as attorneys.

We do not know if HSLDA has violated any tax laws in the US, but we think it is certain that the federal government should look into the finances of the HSLDA.

For the past two plus years we have begged the leadership of HSLDA to work with us and restore our name and ministry, which they had destroyed. We have asked them to help fund our return to Germany. We have asked them to stop speaking badly about us to others behind our back. We have asked them to release documents refuting the negative comments they have made in the past.

Their response has been covered in legalese with no consideration for the well-being of me or my family. We did not believe that men who claim to be Christian could behave in such unchristian ways. They have, however!

While we had the right to sue HSLDA for defamation and tortuous interference with the right to work we tried to resolve this matter privately without litigation. We continue to hold to the decision not to sue the ministry. Nonetheless we can no longer remain silent.

What the leadership of HSLDA has done to us, we believe they have done to others. From time to time they devastate families for their own gain. They do not permit leaders within their state structures to disagree with them.

We would like to see the leadership of HSLDA repent of their behavior. We have given up hope that they will treat us with Christian charity.

We hereby request that HSLDA live up to true Christian standards rather than merely mouthing Christian slogans while destroying your brothers and sisters for your own selfish gain or power.

We have proof of the claims we have made in this letter should anyone like to see it. We have letters and emails from the leadership of HSLDA refusing to take responsibility for your own behavior. We have letters from key leaders in Germany that show the truth of the relationship, in spite of the words of the leadership of HSLDA.

There is a credibility gap in Christian ministry in America. For some reason many leaders think they are beyond accountability. The leadership of HSLDA has responded to us as if they are above accountability. This is audacious and unacceptable.

When we informed the state leaders that we were having a dispute with HSLDA, Mike Smith responded that “HSLDA must act to protect their corporation, their members, and their colaborer.” Protect them from what? From acting against the law by making slanderous remarks to save themselves that brought my family to ruin.

It is time for Christian men to be Christian men! Judge Kenneth Johnson, sir, you especially should be ashamed to have been a partner in the actions taken to see our good family destroyed.

Mr. Smith

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