A lot could be written about the credentials of this Hall of Famer. He has been involved in North Dakota issues since 1987. His commitment to homeschool freedom in North Dakota is legendary. He ended up on a first-name basis with the N.D. Supreme Court because of his frequent visits. He was actively involved in many of the early court cases in North Dakota. His bio reads like a Who’s Who of Homeschool Luminaries.
It’s true: Mike is the founding president of Home School Legal Defense Association and Patrick Henry College, where he teaches constitutional law, public international law, and coaches the seven-national-championship PHC Moot Court. And he is certainly renowned as a constitutional appellate litigator who has served as lead counsel in the United States Supreme Court, eight federal circuit courts, and the appellate courts of 13 states.
Without doubt, he has been a leader on Capitol Hill for more than 30 years and is widely known for his leadership on homeschooling, religious freedom, and the preservation of American sovereignty.
And he is certainly a prolific author, having been recognized with a number of awards including the Salvatori Prize for American Citizenship by the Heritage Foundation and as one of the “Top 100 Faces in Education for the 20th Century” by Education Week magazine.
So, after a rundown like that, one might think Mike a bit unapproachable. Not so. If asked what his greatest love and accomplishments in life are, he would surely declare his love for Christ, his devotion to his wife, and his unwavering commitment to parent educators around the world. He never wavered in the N.D. trials, was present at the N.D. “Tea Party” and continues to zealously pursue the rights of parents to fully oversee the education of their children.
And the real champion might be Vickie Farris who recently completed 30 years of homeschooling their ten children. So, a special “kudos” to Vickie for sharing Mike for more than three decades with homeschooling parents around the world. Their lives have certainly mattered in North Dakota!
Pastor Tom and Peggy Patzer
Pastor Tom and Peggy Patzer were ordinary parents with an extraordinary sensitivity to God’s leading. And homeschooling was exactly what God was leading them to do, regardless of the consequences in a state in which it was considered an aberration, in fact, it was illegal.
So in 1985, in Stutsman County Court, the Patzer’s had their resolve tested. Having been charged with violating the compulsory attendance law, the Patzers pled “not guilty” challenging the constitutionality of the law. Defense attorney Greg Lange stated that “this law prevents this couple from exercising their sincerely-held religious beliefs.”
Primary testimony was presented by Dr. Raymond Moore, Hewitt Research, theologian Dr. Rousas Rushdoony, and professor of education Dr. Ronald Erickson. Mrs. Patzer stated, “Homeschooling allows us to give our children the religious education we want for them. They can progress at their own rate and avoid the negative effects of peer pressure.”
The Patzer’s along with Dr. Ray and Rita Larsen were found guilty of violating the state’s compulsory attendance law. The North Dakota Supreme Court later upheld the ruling stating “The state’s compulsory school attendance law did not violate the constitutional rights of the parents.” Michael Farris appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court without positive results.
Pastor Patzer recently wrote: “I never testified. They only had the wives testify. The trial was a political circus. The judge was somnolent throughout the hearings! The state was upset because they were trying to paint homeschoolers as unprofessional and incapable of teaching their own children. Then along comes a professional ophthalmologist (Dr. Ray Larsen; Rita had a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing) and Pastor (Master’s Degree in Divinity), who were more than qualified. They didn't know what to do with us. In fact, the judge admitted at the end of the trial that our children, more than likely, were getting a better education than if they were in the public school, but "the law was the law" and on that basis, we lost and were fined!
Pastor and Mrs. Patzer helped lay the foundation for many other families who believed as they did, that mom and dad were capable of teaching their little ones and that no one could love and care for their physical, spiritual, and academic needs like Dad and Mom. Sadly, Patzers left North Dakota in the mid ‘80’s.