Update on Alecia Pennington, the homeschool alumna who has no legal identification.
The Washington Post has an update on the story of Alecia Faith Pennington, who was raised in a large conservative homeschool family without legal documentation to prove she is a US citizen:
Alecia Faith Pennington describes herself as a Texan, born and raised. But in a video that went viral after she posted it on YouTube last month, Pennington said her parents never obtained a birth certificate or other basic documentation of her life, leaving her with “nothing to prove my identity” — or her U.S. citizenship. Because she was home-schooled, she also has no school records. That means, the 19-year-old said, that she’s unable to get a job, go to college or obtain a driver’s licence. (Source)
This is the original YouTube video Alecia posted trying to raise awareness about her situation and get help. Alecia’s story went viral and was covered in the UK.
Alecia gave an update on February 12:
Later, we read that she was receiving legal counsel for her case, in the State of Texas, in an attempt to obtain identification documentation.
An article in The Washington Post today mentions that as a result of Alecia Pennington’s plight, a new bill in Texas has been written to address this issue:
The bill, inspired by Pennington’s campaign, would address some of the problems she says she encountered when she set out to prove her own citizenship. It would allow individuals to petition for a delayed birth certificate in the county where they live, rather than in the county in which they were born. It would also make it a misdemeanor for a parent to refuse to sign an affidavit to help their child obtain a delayed birth certificate.
“This bill is designed to make it easier for people like Faith to get a delayed birth certificate,” David Glenn, legislative director for Texas Rep. Marsha Farney (R), said in an e-mail. “If this measure had been in place today, it would have been easier for Faith to have her case heard in the county court and find representation during those court proceedings. It also would have required her parents to sign the affidavit or face jail time.”
This new bill is really important. I hope it passes and other states follow suit. A few years ago at a homeschool family camp, I met a woman who also had to go through hoops to get her own identification. She needed it to get married. All of her siblings (also a large family) had to go through a difficult process of getting their documentation so they could get their driver’s licenses, go to school, be employed. Thankfully, their mother cooperated, but there are cases where parents do not want to cooperate. It goes against what they believe spiritually. However, this puts the adult child at great risk.
It’s important to note that this situation is not isolated, especially in Homeschool Movement circles and in some families whose parents are strongly anti-government. R.L. Stollar of Homeschoolers Anonymous wrote, When Your Very Identity is Held Hostage: Alecia Pennington and Identification Abuse, on the Pennington story and has labeled this as abuse. The term, identification abuse, coined by Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out defines the term:
Identification abuse is destroying, holding hostage, or denying a child their identification documents: birth certificate, driver’s license, Social Security card, and so forth. While such abuse can happen anywhere and everywhere regardless of one’s educational environment, homeschool kids (and alumni) are particularly vulnerable to this form of abuse because of certain anti-government and pro-parental rights attitudes in totalistic homeschool subcultures. Some people see identification documents as ungodly or even a “mark of the Beast,” a reference to the number 666 associated with the Antichrist in the Christian Book of Revelations.
By denying their children documentation of their existence and citizenship, such parents set up their children for future exploitation and abuse, even trafficking. They are forcing their children into jobs that are unsafe and/or lacking basic rights and protections. For example, I have heard from a number of homeschool alumni who were forced into sex work because they had no other ways to stay afloat.
This is a movement that is anti-government. The government is viewed as evil. This is the same movement that labels public schools as “government schools,” and it is not uncommon to hear from leaders in this group that anyone who sends their children to public schools is sending their children to Satan.
These anti-government Homeschool Movement families often connect with other homeschool familes who have similar beliefs, so for teens or young adults raised in this environment, they may be isolated and not know that the way they are living is not the norm, and that they have no rights as US citizens. With no documentation, they really aren’t considered US citizens. In this “culture,” parents are hoping that their young adults marry others who hold to the similar ideologies. Now do you see how important courtship (where the father gets to decide who daughter marries) comes into play in the Homeschool Movement? Some adult children will not realize the full ramifications of the choices their parents made for them – on their marriage partner, the choice to not file birth certificate, Social Security card – until they are well into adulthood.
We really should not be surprised when some of these adult children get divorced, abandon their faith, or even sever ties with their families once they realize what their parents have done to them based on their spiritual ideologies.