Meeting with Mike Farris

April 7, 2006 – My wife and I, along with a witness we had brought along to this meeting, a former Texas judge, met with Mike Farris in Mike’s office in Purcellville, Virginia. I presented Mike with the letter of recommendation he had written for us in 2004 and asked Mike if he still stood behind it. Mike immediately responded that he stood behind it 100%.

This was important because the elder in James church had told me that Chris had said that HSLDA no longer stands behind their letters of recommendation. This threw me because I knew that I only had one such letter from HSLDA and that was the one from Mike Farris. I then presented Mike with the elder’s affidavit, which Mike quickly read over. I then proceeded to present Mike with the minutes of the 2003, 2004, 2005 Schuzh board meetings that proved what Chris was telling others was not true.

I asked Mike if he was aware that we had been declared attorneys in HSLDA’s May/June 2005 Court Report that went out to HSLDA members. He said that none of the HSLDA leaders ever believed that the Smiths were lawyers. Sometime into the meeting, Mike retreated to another room and had a telephone conference call with Mike Smith and Chris Klicka.

Upon his return, he adamantly stated that the monies HSLDA sent to Germany were from the beginning only for attorneys. Both Chris Klicka and Mike Smith confirmed this to Mike during this phone conference and Chris told Mike that he had written documentation to prove it.

It appeared clear to us that Mike was not aware of what was going on between us and HSLDA at this time. He promised that he would ask Mike Smith to investigate the matter. Near the end of our meeting, Mike asked me what I wanted. I responded that I wanted the Smith name cleared.

The judge interrupted and told Mike that he believed the Smiths should be given some sort of compensation that would allow them to get back on their feet because now the relationship between Joseph and James McDonald was understandably beyond repair and so the Smiths would now need a job.

The judge had seen enough of the evidence to recognize that the Smiths were innocent of the charges being leveled against them by Chris Klicka to others behind their back.

Mike told us during the meeting and after his telephone conference with Chris Klicka and Mike Smith that HSLDA had given the Smiths over $100,000 and now they want more?

(Now remember, HSLDA was telling others that the money was given for attorneys and not for the Smith’s! Mike said that Chris had evidence to prove this!)

At any rate, the truth is that this money did not belong to HSLDA but rather to the people who had so generously donated it for Germany and our work. We had every right to spend the money solely for our family’s living but instead used the bulk of it to pay for travel, conferences, meetings with government officials, etc.

When we left this meeting, the judge told us that these were bad guys. We simply could not believe this. Over the years we had become in our minds very good friends with Chris Klicka and Mike Farris. Mike invited us several times to sit at his table during the HSLDA national leadership conferences held annually. This was regarded a privilege that was not offered to just anybody but his very close friends and associates.

On May 23, we asked an attorney friend to call Mike Smith about our situation. We asked him to ask Mike where the report was that Mike Farris had promised us during our meeting in April. Mike emailed us his report the following day. In this report he admitted that the Smith’s were authorized to receive monies sent to Germany by HSLDA. The report stated that it was only “toward the end of HSLDA’s providing funds to HSLDA of Germany for the homeschool cases, Chris found out that you had been using funds raised by HSLDA for personal support.” This was clearly a not true.

Chris knew all along that this money was raised for the Smith’s support. He was the vice president of the Schuzh board and he knew everything that was happening with Schuzh. In November 2003, when we were considering going full time into our ministry to help German homeschool families, we knew that we needed to raise funds to support our work. We told Chris that we would like to reach out for funds and if the Lord provided we would go full time into the homeschooling movement in Germany. He agreed that we could give it a try.

We asked him how we should go about raising the needed funds. We had never raised funds to support our ministries (Ministries included an outreach to missionaries and a Christian high school in Basel, Switzerland, and our work for Schuzh). We had always paid for our ministries out of our own pocket. Chris offered that HSLDA would raise the funds because then the donors could write off their donations. He said that he would talk this over with Mike Smith. An hour later, Chris called to say that Mike agreed that HSLDA could do this. We were astonished!

Relationship with James draws to an end

The relationship between me and James McDonald was by now highly disturbed. I couldn’t get him to look at my evidence to show my innocence. He distrusted me and I distrusted him. I tried to keep things civil and I believe he did as well. This is reflected in our emails back and forth. However, the whole ordeal caused me the greatest stress I have ever experienced in my life. My health began to tumble. I began to cough uncontrollably. I had to relieve the coughing with Codeine because nothing over the counter helped.

In early June, I was administered a blood test at the VA hospital in Houston. It was discovered that my PSA count was higher than normal. After an examination which showed distressing results, it was decided that I should undergo a biopsy of my prostate gland.

On June 6, the results proved what the doctor had suspected: that I had prostate cancer. The doctor prescribed that I should immediately undergo surgery to have my prostate removed. This caused me and family to be greatly alarmed.

Three of my brothers had already passed away with cancer. The traditional treatments they received to fight their cancers only seemed to exacerbate their problems. They each died shortly after their cancers were diagnosed. Their chemo treatments had horrendous results. I therefore decided that I would seek alternative treatment for my cancer. Because I had no private health insurance due to HSLDA’s interference between me and my employer, I could not afford this.

I therefore decided that since HSLDA had interfered with my employment, which caused me to lose my job and a very lucrative business opportunity, I appealed to Mike Farris to reimburse me with $500,000, a figure the judge who accompanied us to meet with Mike in Virginia had mentioned was a sum we could reasonably ask for, which would give me and my family a knew start and would pay for an alternative cancer treatment.

My relationship with James McDonald grew increasingly worse. He was repeatedly delinquent in getting out his magazine and thus cheating his advertisers. Of course, when the magazine did not go out I did not get paid. The advertisers do not pay until the magazine is actually printed and in the hands of the readers. In May, I received a check for a little more than $200. The publication dates were normally Jan/Feb, Mar/Apr, May/June, July/August, Sept/Oct, Nov/Dec.

Because James couldn’t meet the print deadline, he began to label the editions according to the season, e.g., Winter Edition or Spring Edition. I noticed this and told him that this was dishonest. When I found out that he wanted to use another print company to print his magazine because he still owed too much money to his regular print company, I told him that this was not ethical.

He wrote back that it was ok because he had the intention to eventually pay his regular print company. I was asked to sell anyway, which with a good conscience I could no longer do. When James terminated our work relationship I could only say that I had completed all tasks he had asked me to do that I believe I with a good conscience could do.

Call to Mike Farris

Early on the morning of June 9, I tried to reach Mike Farris by telephone and email to tell him of our precarious situation. We had one more day to come up with the money to satisfy the next months lease agreement. Failing to come up with this money, we would find ourselves in the street and without money.

Mike finally called me at 11:15 a.m. and was angry that I should want to talk to him because he was presently judging an important debate contest. He asked me what I wanted and I told him that I needed $10,000 to cover the next two-months living costs now that I was without a job (I felt it was HSLDA’s obligation to pay this because it was them who destroyed my employment and business opportunity. I believed that it would take 2-months to come to the bottom of our situation and to make things right with HSLDA). Mike said that he would immediately call Mike Smith with my request.

At 11:25 a.m. Mike called me back. This was not the same Mike I had only minutes before had talked to. He was very angry. He warned me to quite harassing his secretaries (I had only asked them to put me in touch with Mike). He said that I shouldn’t have called him because he was judging a very important debate – as if our family was not important. He didn’t care about us.

When I mentioned that I now have cancer he told me to be quiet because it was his turn to talk. I couldn’t believe how cold he was. He had always been so warm to me and my family before. He was now showing us that he was our enemy. If anyone had the right to be mad surely it was me. He said that HSLDA had given us over $100,000 when we lived in Germany and now we are asking for more? (Ok, Mike. What is it? Before you said that the money was sent for attorneys only and here you said that it was sent for us.)

And now, he goes on, the recipients want to charge HSLDA with criminal charges? Mike went on to tell me that if I filed a law suit, HSLDA would see to it that the court proceedings would be dragged on for many years and in the end, the Smiths will not get anything. He said that if we sued “this would be despicable!”

He forbid me to step foot onto HSLDA property and that I should leave his secretaries alone. He said that it was wrong of me to email HSLDA officials that I was going to take over Homeschooling Today magazine. He said that HSLDA was not to blame for the Smith family demise. Yet he offered $10,000 to satisfy all claims, which I politely refused.

It must be understood that it was not HSLDA who had given us money out of their own pocket to support our work in Germany. It was money from honest families who donated to HSLDA specifically for Germany.

Before we began our full time work for Schuzh, HSLDA had offered to raise money to support our work. Mike was not right to claim that HSLDA had given us over $100,000. It was HSLDA donors who gave. It was not from out of their own pocket.

Michigan Homeschool Mission Group

September 2006, found us staying with friends on the East Coast. We eventually ended up in Michigan, where a homeschool group took us in. We had now only a few hundred dollars left to our name. (When we left Houston friends there gave us two thousand dollars). This missionary group was unaware of our plight. I only offered that I had cancer and needed six-months to a year of natural dietary care to hopefully get it under control. My wife had read everything she could get her hands on about the subject of prostate cancer. She felt she could help me with a very strict diet.

The group was more than friendly toward us. They were one of the groups who had contacted us in Germany when we were looking for homes for homeschoolers who felt they needed to leave Germany in order to protect their families from the German government.

One thing I heard from one person of the group was that they were in daily contact with HSLDA because the nature of their business required this (They published two small homeschool related magazines). This concerned me but I did not say anything. Because of who we were, they wanted to introduce us to every one they knew in the vicinity. I thanked them but asked them to keep our presence strictly confidential so that I could recuperate and rest.

Several days passed and then several weeks without us seeing them. We called to invite their children to play volleyball with our children. They always had excuses why they would not come. In the beginning, they had promised to supply us with food. Becoming suspicious due to their distancing themselves from us, my wife and I drove to their home for a talk.

The air did seem heavy to me so I believed I should lay open the dispute we were having with HSLDA and prove our innocence. Our relationship declined when we would not promise that we would not sue HSLDA. Nothing we could do or say could ease the tension between us unless we would make that promise.

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