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Honor student sues parents for school fees

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Rachel Canning is sworn in during a hearing at the Morris County Courthouse, Tuesday, March 4, 2014, in Morristown, N.J. Canning, an honor student who says her parents kicked her out of the house when she turned 18, is now suing them, asking a court to make them support her and pay for her college. (Credit: The Star-Ledger/John O'Boyle)

Rachel Canning is an honor student, cheerleader, and lacrosse player in New Jersey.  She moved out of her parents’ home last November, on her 18th birthday.  Now she’s suing them, demanding that they continue to pay her private school tuition as well as the legal fees she has incurred in her lawsuit.  She claims to be a victim of domestic abuse.  They claim that she is “spoiled” and is lying about their family.  Her father says, “This is terrible.  It’s killing me and my wife.  We have a child we want home.”

David Schorr refused to take his four-year-old son to McDonald’s.  The boy had been eating “too much junk food,” he explains.  He gave the boy two options: another restaurant or no dinner at all.  He chose not to eat dinner, so Schorr returned the hungry boy to his mother.  The two are separated and are involved in a bitter custody battle over their son.

Now Schorr has filed a defamation lawsuit against a court-appointed psychologist, claiming she branded him “wholly” incapable of handling his son since he wouldn’t take him to McDonald’s.  He claims that she reported the “incident” to the judge handling their case and recommended that Schorr’s visitation time be reduced.

Here’s what these bizarre stories have in common: there’s more we don’t know.  We don’t know if Rachel Canning had a pattern of rebellion at home that forced her parents to exhibit “tough love,” or if they had a pattern of oppression that forced her to leave her home.  We don’t know if Schorr has a history of withholding food as punishment, or if this was a single incident.  We don’t know if the reporters got either story right.  We don’t know what we don’t know.

Russia claims it is protecting Russians by occupying Crimea.  The U.S. claims that Russia is violating international law.  Crimea’s parliament voted last week to secede from the Ukraine.  The Ukrainian government says the Crimean parliament’s vote was illegal.  The Dalai Lama led the Senate in prayer last Thursday.  Is this an example of our non-sectarian democracy at work?  Is it further evidence of Christianity’s demise in our culture?  Both?  Neither?

Jesus’ instructions were clear: “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1).  I seldom know all the facts or understand fully their context.  A counselor friend once told me that there is always “one thing more” we don’t know about a person’s actions—one additional fact that would help us understand the motives behind the behavior, whether we agree with these motives or not.  Compassion is vital to our witness.  Our culture must know how much we care before it cares how much we know.

Are Christians today known more for judging or for loving?