What do the Waffle House shooting, the Austin bombings and a deadly explosion in Wisconsin have in common? The suspects in each case was a young, white Christian man who was homeschooled.
For decades, homeschooling has been the refuge of conservative Christians who are convinced that the public school system only teaches secularism and sex. But a series of high-profile violent incidents shows that homeschooling isn’t exactly the panacea it’s been made out to be.
The most recent episode was the shooting deaths of four black people at a Waffle House outside Nashville April 22. The suspect in that case, Travis Reinking, was homeschooled in the small town of Morton, IL. Reinking briefly attended the local high school and a Christian academy, but most of his education was at home.
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“They’re born-again Christian people,” family acquaintance Tammy Lake told The Tennessean. “Super nice people. They’re very soft-spoken, quiet people.”
Similarly, Mark Anthony Condit, who authorities identified as the man behind a series of racially motivated bombings in Austin, was the product of homeschooling as well.
Cassia Schultz, who attended the same conservative survivalist groups as Condit growing up, described the Condit family to Buzzfeed as “more conservative, strictly religious.” Condit blew himself up as he was being pursued by police last month.
Then there’s the case of Benjamin Morrow of Beaver Dam, WI.
Morrow also blew himself up (although accidentally) last month. Police found white supremacist literature in Morrow’s apartment, which was so filled with hazardous materials for bomb making that they had to destroy the entire apartment complex.
Morrow was homeschooled through high school. His obituary noted that he “accepted Jesus as his personal Saviour at the age of four-and-a-half.”
None of this is to say that homeschooling leads to domestic terrorism. For example, Reinking has exhibited bizarre behavior in the past and had his guns taken away from him, only to have his father return them.
However, Christian homeschooling is a closed universe, with its own historical revisionism. Blogger Libby Anne, herself the product of conservative Christian homeschooling, has noted that many popular homeschool books are racist and that you “actively have to work to avoid white supremacist materials.”
Of course, opposing LBGTQ rights is part and parcel of that line of thinking. Homeschool advocates regularly cite the LGBTQ “agenda” as reason for condemning public schools. So you can only imagine what is being taught in those home classrooms.
It would be a mistake to argue that homeschooling causes violence. The Parkland shooter wasn’t homeschooled.
But it’s a handy outlet for parents with some extreme views. And there’s little doubt that it is being used to reinforce homophobia.
The more kids are exposed to the world, the more comfortable they are with the differences within it. That’s the very thing that many homeschooling parents are trying to prevent.