Fundamental Christian families often choose to home school their children rather than risk exposing them to the secular world. That’s nothing new, but several sensational cases have recently put the practice under an unwanted spotlight. Withholding sexual education is a parent’s prerogative, but holding a child hostage by refusing them birth certificates and social security cards is an entirely different matter.
Ask Jennyfer Austin, whose parents raised her in such an environment after adopting her as a child. No exposed flesh or physical contact with boys was allowed. Dating was out of the question, until at age 20, she was sold into an arranged marriage with a man twice her age. What’s unusual is that this didn’t happen in India or Saudi Arabia, it happened right here in America.
Knowing Jennyfer had been molested as a young girl, she was considered “damaged goods” by both the adoptive family and their church. For this reason, her parents’ strict moral code precluded asking the full price of 50,000 dollars and she was sold at a steep discount of 50 percent.
Sensing she was worth considerably more, Jennyfer chose to run away rather than accept the terms. Sadly, her story isn’t unique. Because of the illegality of the practice, it’s hard to pin down an exact number, but a New York women’s rights organization, the AHA Foundation estimates the number at more than 1,000 cases per year in the U.S. alone.
Jennyfer is lucky. She escaped and is now married by choice. How many of these girls and young women aren’t as lucky and forced into matrimonial slavery? Obviously this morally repugnant practice isn’t representative of all Christians, but when someone’s religious beliefs allow them to treat their children as chattel, there’s something very, very wrong with that religion.