CONTACT: David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
Snodgrass (second from right) and the Texas Watchmen
On a Tuesday evening in May of 2013, as he worked on a college paper and skimmed his emails, PHC junior Ben Snodgrass took a short break to distract himself with what might only interest a PHC government major: he started reading Texas legislative bills – for fun. A Texas native, Snodgrass was a member of the Texas Home School Coalition (THSC) "Watchmen," a team of six homeschooled graduates who committed five months during the Texas legislative session toward protecting Texas homeschoolers from laws that could undermine families and parental rights.
The Watchmen had meticulously tracked, reviewed – and often feverishly worked to kill – over 9,000 bills with potential to impact homeschooling or parental rights. One particularly egregious bill, Senate Bill 768 – which would’ve levied exorbitant legal costs on families defending themselves from Texas Child Protective Services (CPS), and allowed family-hostile international laws to influence Texas courts – had thankfully died in committee a few days earlier. Yet when Snodgrass casually pulled up SB 768 on his computer, it had inexplicably leapt “back to life.” What’s worse, it was up for a vote the next morning.
Almost instantly, the Watchmen went on red alert to kill the bill, cleverly concealed on the Legislature’s Local and Consent calendar, where supposedly “non-controversial” bills are sent for quick approval. In heated prior discussions with SB 768’s sponsor, however, the Watchmen learned why a deeply flawed bill that would’ve harmed thousands of families was being pushed stealthily along. Warts and all, it was worth $2 million in federal money to Texas’ CPS.
The Watchmen quickly targeted lawmakers they hoped might have courage to challenge Texas protocol, spent the morning canvassing the Texas Capitol, and found a willing champion in Representative Jonathan Stickland. The freshman legislator spoke forcefully against the bill on the House floor and was instrumental, not only in postponing a vote but in rallying other representatives to the cause and killing the bill for good.
In its newsletter, the Texas Homeschool Coalition attributed the bill’s death to “an act of God,” crediting Snodgrass for going “above and beyond the call of duty, checking dead bills in the middle of the night when he wasn’t expected to be working. If he hadn’t, we wouldn’t have discovered that SB 768 was still alive until it was too late to take any action.”
Snodgrass has always been fascinated by politics and driven by the idea of defending families and protecting those who are unable to speak for themselves.
“I see God’s desire to protect the weak and the innocent,” he said, “and that heart for justice is something I’ve developed over the years.”
Before the Watchmen had even chosen a name, he recalls how his homeschooled colleagues were inspired by Isaiah 62:6: “On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent. You who put the Lord in remembrance, take no rest.”
Snodgrass was on the first team of Texas Watchmen, but their success prompted an annual internship. The THSC recently received so many applications that it put in place a rigorous screening process to select the best and brightest.
“We learned that God uses the little guys to take down the giants,” Snodgrass said. “It’s neat to see how an organization that’s faithful to the Lord and to doing what is right can make such a difference.”