Michael "Mike" P. Farris (born August 27, 1951) is a United States constitutional lawyer. He is a founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and Patrick Henry College, both in Purcellville in Loudoun County in northern Virginia.
Personal life and education:
Farris graduated magna cum laude with a degree in political science from Western Washington University (formerly Western Washington State College). He received a law degree and graduated with honors from Gonzaga University School of Law in his native Kennewick, Washington. Farris received an LLM in public international law (with merit) from the University of London in 2011.
He married in 1971 and has ten children and eighteen grandchildren. He and his wife Vickie began home schooling in 1982, an activity which led him to establish the Home School Legal Defense Association in 1983.
He was ordained in 1983 as a Baptist minister.
In 1983, Farris founded the HSLDA, of which he serves as chairman and general counsel. His efforts resulted in a number of court rulings and policy changes favoring home schooling. In 1993, Farris hired Timmy Teepell, then a homeschooled 18-year-old to run the Madison Project, a political action committee that raised campaign funds for Christian conservatives. Teepell later became a Republican political consultant in both his native Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Alexandria, Virginia.
He also founded Patrick Henry College, which opened its doors in 2000. According to HSLDA, the college was founded as
"...a Christian institution with the mission of training students through a classical liberal arts curriculum and apprenticeship methodology to impact the world 'for Christ and for Liberty.'"
He held the positions of president and professor of Government from 2000 to 2006. Farris resigned his position as president of HSLDA to take on these new roles. In March 2006, Farris stepped down from the position of president to become chancellor of the college.
He has been appointed by the Governor of Virginia to serve on the Board of Visitors for Mount Vernon (the home of George Washington).
Farris is the author of several books on homeschooling and family as well as the book From Tyndale to Madison, published in 2007. He has also written a few novels, including Guilt by Association (ISBN 978-0805401516), and Forbid Them Not (ISBN 978-0805424331). All of Farris' novels deal with Christian themes.
Education Week named Farris one of the most significant 100 "Faces of the Century."
Legal and political career:
As a lawyer, Farris's cases include over 40 reported decisions as lead counsel. These decisions were given by the United States Supreme Court, five U.S. circuit courts of Appeal, seven state Supreme Courts, and five state Courts of Appeal. Farris successfully argued for the petitioner in a religious freedom case, the Supreme Court case Witters v. Washington Department of Services For the Blind in 1985-1986.
In 1993, Farris ran unsuccessfully for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia and was defeated by Democrat Don Beyer 54-46 percent. However, fellow Republicans George Allen and James Gilmore were elected on the same ballot as Governor and Attorney General, respectively. Farris' close connection to conservative leaders like Jerry Falwell of the former Moral Majority, Pat Robertson of the Christian Coalition and Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum stirred deep-seated feelings about religion and politics. These concerns inflamed by negative ads by Beyer to portray him even more radically, likely caused alienation of enough moderate voters to cause his defeat. Prominent Virginia Republicans like U.S. Senator John Warner supported Beyer.
Farris was the founder and chairman of the Madison Project, a political action committee. He is also the founder of Generation Joshua, an organization for the mobilization of Christian youth to participate in politics and get out the vote. In 2007, he founded ParentalRights.org, a parental rights advocacy group.
Farris was featured on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360° on December 7, 2012 as a leading opponent of U.S. ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act. The treaty, already ratified by 126 countries, calls on participating countries to work to attain equality in access to education, healthcare and more, and was based largely on the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Despite strong support from groups such as Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Vietnam Veterans of America, the treaty failed on December 4 to garner the two-thirds vote in Congress necessary for ratification, largely because of opposition from HSLDA and Heritage Action for America. Host Anderson Cooper noted that during the campaign against the treaty, Farris stirred opposition by making the claim that U.S. ratification could give the UN control over American children who wore eyeglasses.
During the CNN broadcast, Cooper played a segment of a radio interview in which Farris said: "The definition of disability is not defined in the treaty, and so my kid wears glasses; now they're disabled; now the UN gets control over them." Farris had made the statement during an interview on Today's Issues, a radio program of the American Family Association.