Archives for category: Civil Rights

Mimi Swartz writes in Texas Monthly that the Dobbs decision banning abortion has unleashed a broad assault on freedom in Texas. And it will get much, much worse as long as Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, and Ken Paxton remain in office.

I guess you could say that Texas giveth and Texas taketh away. For those too young to recall, the abortion-rights case Roe v. Wade was won in 1973 by two attorneys from the state, Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee. But from virtually the moment abortion became legal in all fifty states, some lawmakers here, and their supporters who opposed abortion rights, started chipping away at it. Half a century later, our Legislature had passed some of the most restrictive laws in the nation—and that was before Roe fell. Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has taken Roeaway, with a 6–3 majority in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, some Texas leaders seem eager to exploit the opportunities that the ruling offers for further rollbacks of reproductive and sexual freedoms. Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office released employees from work early on the day of the decision to celebrate, declaring June 24 a new, annual agency holiday “to commemorate the sanctity of life.”

What could come next? Just about everything is on the table. Criminal penalties? They’ll be much stiffer, not just for those who aid Texans in getting abortions, but possibly for abortion-seekers themselves. Abortion pills? They were banned from sale for those more than seven weeks pregnant during last year’s legislative session. Enforcement mechanisms, however, are unclear. Most such medications arrive by mail from other states and countries, and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has said that states “may not ban mifepristone based on disagreement with the FDA’s expert judgment about its safety and efficacy,” suggesting that court battles lie ahead. Limits on contraception? You betcha. The same privacy rights that the Supreme Court overturned in the Dobbscase underlie what we have for decades considered the right to contraception and private sex acts between consenting adults—and, more recently, same-sex marriage. Indeed, just as the 2022 Texas GOP platform embraces “the humanity of the preborn child,” it also calls homosexuality “an abnormal lifestyle choice.” Paxton told an interviewer he was “willing and able” to defend a Texas law—which was overturned by the Supreme Court’s Lawrence v. Texas decision—that bans gay sex.

Texas statutes that predate Roe but were never overturned by the Legislature are now in effect, prohibiting all abortions except “for the purpose of saving the life of the mother.” A miscarriage could now be a death sentence for those whose doctors are averse to litigation or, worse—under the “trigger law” that takes effect thirty days after the Court’s ruling—to arrest on felony charges and a possible prison sentence, along with fines starting at $100,000. “It is kind of astounding that we are at a point where Roe will be overturned, but that won’t be enough,” said Democratic state representative Donna Howard, chair of the Texas Women’s Health Caucus. “The concern is that there will be those who will not only want to criminalize those who are seeking abortion but will use this as an opportunity to roll back access to contraceptives and other advancements that were made that the underlying privacy protection of Roe also supports.” While the law does not prohibit someone from ending their own pregnancy, a South Texas woman, Lizelle Herrera, was arrested and jailed earlier this year for ending hers, and the charges were dropped only after the case became a national controversy.

Unless you subscribe to The Texas Monthly as I do, you can’t read any more. Sadly, the rightwing fascists now running state government are flexing their muscles to stamp out the freedom of anyone they don’t like. Maybe everyone should subscribe to the Texas Monthly to see how low our nation can fall when mean-spirited bigots take control. It’s hard to believe that the same state elected the great Ann Richards as its governor. She was a strong, full-bore Texas liberal, who hated racism, sexism, and everything else that Greg Abbott represents.

Valerie Strauss posted an article by Darcie Cimarusti about the spread of charter schools affiliated with Hillsdale College. Cimarusti is the communications director of the Network for Public Education. The Hillsdale charters, called Barney Schools, promise schools where students get a patriotic education untouched by “critical race theory” and safe from the dangers of sex education, with more than a touch of fundamentalist Christian theology.

She writes:

Hillsdale College is a small, nondenominational Christian school in Michigan with a satellite campus on Capitol Hill. Hillsdale President Larry Arnn headed former president Trump’s 1776 Commission, and last year Hillsdale College released a “1776 Curriculum” as a counter to the New York Times’ 1619 Project and its corresponding K-12 curriculum.

Hillsdale spreads the gospel of the right-wing through their K-12 curriculum and the Barney Charter School Initiative, which currently claims member schools in nine states across the country and “curriculum schools” in 19 states. The college’s mission to maintain “by precept and example the immemorial teachings and practices of the Christian faith” morphs into a call for “moral virtue” in their K-12 charter schools.


The school’s expanding K-12 footprint aligns with former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s admission that “greater Kingdom gain” is the ultimate outcome of the religious right’s school choice agenda. Hillsdale has made gains in this aim via charter schools, which are publicly funded but operated by entities outside traditional school districts.


Hillsdale does not “own, govern, manage, or profit from” the charter schools they work with, and they do not charge for their curriculum. But Florida-based Academica, the largest for-profit education management organization (EMO) in the nation, stands to make money on Hillsdale’s crusade.


Hillsdale’s classical charter school initiative was designed to turn the tide on what the college sees as “a hundred years of progressivism” in public education. Charter schools that contract with Hillsdale agree to center Western tradition in their K-12 curriculum, and to focus on the “four core disciplines of math, science, literature, and history.” Students must learn Latin and receive explicit instruction in phonics and grammar. The core disciplines are taught through the reading of primary source material and the “great books” which are also chosen to guide students’ moral development. Hillsdale’s curriculum not only narrows the course of study available to students, it rewrites American history, particularly when it comes to civil rights.

The American Legacy Academy (ALA) was recently approved to open in the Weld RE-4 School District in Colorado. According to ALA’s website, the charter school will offer a back-to-basics, classical education as a Hillsdale College curriculum school. The approval of the charter school is a victory for local culture warriors who have stormed board meetings with grievances over masks and critical race theory.

New, large housing developments are leading to significant population growth and a severe public school capacity problem in the Weld RE-4 district. Nevertheless, in November 2021 voters rejected a bond initiative to build new public schools, leaving district officials to lament that they “have a problem without a clear solution.”

Since the bond’s defeat, district employees and community members have been working together to educate the community and put together another bond proposal. A district survey showed that 70 percent of residents favored a “district-built, traditional or non-charter school” in RainDance, one of the new neighborhoods.

But the supporters of ALA and the for-profit charter chain Academica have different plans. Academica is working closely with ALA’s founding board to open the charter through its related organization, Academica Colorado. According to ALA’s application, Academica Colorado will provide comprehensive services to the charter school.

Working hand-in-hand with Academica, ALA tried to purchase the RainDance property from the district for $2.1 million to build a charter school. Craig Horton, executive director of Academica Colorado, was the first member of the public to speak in favor of the purchase at a recent board meeting, just before board members voted down the proposal. Horton stated: “We’re providing a tax-free solution for two elementary schools. You’re walking away from the ability to relieve overcrowding and save taxpayers up to $80 million by building two charter schools in place of two elementary schools.”

At the meeting, ALA supporters said they would only support the district’s bond effort if the charter is approved, essentially holding the education of the district’s students hostage.

However, there are parents in the district who want to see a neighborhood public school on the property, not a Hillsdale charter school affiliated with Academica. They, too, spoke out. Autumn Leopold and Kimberly Kee, who administer a private Facebook group called RE4 Families Want Schools For All, told a local reporter: “We really just want a compromise that works for everyone and serves the entire community.”

Conservative culture wars

What is playing out in the Weld RE-4 district is part of a greater conflict in the state. A recent poll of Colorado voters showed a growing split in support for charter schools. Only 36 percent of Democrats polled expressed support, compared to 79 percent of Republicans. Perhaps most telling are the reasons. Among the reasons Republicans say in the poll that they favor charter schools is because they don’t teach a left-wing agenda while some Democrats and Independents oppose charter schools because they see them as religious.

The entrance of ALA follows raucous school board meetings over mask mandates, critical race theory, and other hot-button cultural issues that have been playing out in Weld RE-4 for some time. Tensions ultimately boiled over, leading to an unsuccessful campaign led by local resident Luke Alles to oust two board members. Alles is the executive chair of Guardians of RE-4, a local group “founded by three patriot families” that is pushing for the ALA charter school to open.

The first link on the Guardians website resources page is to the Colorado Department of Education’s “Charter School FAQ.” Another leads to a recently released film titled “Whose Children Are They?” The documentary-style film was produced by Deborah Flora, a syndicated conservative Christian talk radio host and failed Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. When the film was released in March, Flora simultaneously announced that she was founding a new nonprofit, Parents United America, which she created to defend “parental rights” against “ideological state guardianship.”

The film is a veritable who’s who of the culture wars. Parents and teachers active in CRT battles are given voice, as are dozens more who claim public schools are grooming children through LGBTQ-infused curriculum and disadvantaging female athletes by allowing trans girls to compete in sports.

Representatives from organizations identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as hate or extremist groups make appearances, as do spokespeople for conservative Koch-funded groups, including the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit American Enterprise Institute.

The overarching narrative is that the ultimate villains are the teachers’ unions and the U.S. Department of Education. Conservative political activist and writer David Horowitz, [whose group is] considered an extremist group by SPLC, claims teacher unions have been infiltrated and are controlled by Communists. Public School Exit founder Alex Newman suggests that the Education Department was formed not only to teach Communist propaganda but to “de-Christianize” and “make the schools less patriotic.” The film claims this campaign began 100 years ago when progressives like John Dewey “intentionally undermined our education system.”

In early 2022, Fox News host Pete Hegseth launched a five-part series, “The MisEducation of America” on Fox Nation. The series shares the same themes, a similar format, and many of the same interview subjects as “Whose Children Are They?” “MisEducation,” which Hegseth claims is the most watched content on Fox Nation, supposedly “uncovers the secrets of the left’s educational agenda.”

In the fifth and final episode, titled “Our COVID- (16) 19 Moment,” the “experts” agree on this: the only path forward is for parents to remove children from the public school system and place them in Classical Christian Schools. If that’s not an option for families, they suggest a classical charter school.


Colorado

ALA will not be the first classical charter in Colorado. According to the 2019 Colorado Department of Education State of Charter Schools Triennial Report, 24 of the state’s 255 charter schools followed a classical curriculum in the 2018-19 school year.

Academica’s Craig Horton, a retired police officer, was a founding board member of a prominent classical charter, Liberty Common Charter School. Liberty’s headmaster Bob Shaffer is prominently featured in “Whose Children Are They?” — as is Kim Gilmartin, director of New School Development for Ascent Classical Academies.

Ascent, which is a Hillsdale College-affiliated CMO in Colorado, has two classical charter schools in the state, with ambitious plans to open several more.

Horton was also heavily involved in the formation of CIVICA Colorado, part of a national CMO CIVICA, which contracts with Academica. While CIVICA does not formally claim to be a classical charter, CIVICA principal Sheena McOuat stated: “I make sure a lot of politics that are in other schools, sex ed or critical race, they don’t come into my building and it aligns with a lot of people.” McOuat’s husband, Corey McOuat, is one of the founding board members of the American Legacy Academy.

The Colorado Department of Education, which recently revealed that it is struggling to spend down a $55 million dollar federal Charter School Program (CSP) award the state received in 2018, still went ahead and awarded CIVICA a $990,000 start-up grant. ALA hasn’t applied for CSP funds yet, but when representatives appeared before the Weld RE-4 board, they spoke confidently about access to a million-dollar grant.

Wyoming

The new Academica classical brand CIVICA is moving into Wyoming as well. Its Republican governor and legislature recently cleared the way for charter schools by passing legislation to take the decision out of the hands of local school districts and give it to a political body. The State Loan and Investment Board now has the ability to approve charters and is currently composed of Gov. Mark Gordon, Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, Auditor Kristi Racines, Treasurer Curt Meier, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Brian Schroeder. All of them are Republicans.

Horton, with the assistance of high-ranking state Republicans and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, is now attempting to open two new classical charters in Wyoming. The two schools — Wyoming Classical Academy and Cheyenne Classical Academy — which propose to open in the fall of 2023, will be Hillsdale College Member School Candidates.

Schroeder, the head of a private Christian school recently appointed state superintendent, attended a parent information meeting hosted by the Cheyenne Classical Academy at the Cheyenne Evangelical Free Church. He told the gathering of prospective charter school parents that “the evangelists of secularism saw two institutions, government and education, as the perfect twin vehicles through which they would remake society in their image.”

Conservative Christian Republicans are now positioning themselves, with the help of Academica and the charter lobby, to use taxpayer funds to challenge “the evangelists of secularism” with a national push for classical charter schools.

Meanwhile, the Weld RE-4 school board’s approval of American Legacy Academy’s application paves the way for two Hillsdale classical charter schools in the district. The schools will ultimately serve approximately 1,300 students, feeding them directly into the Hillsdale pipeline of conservative thinkers trying to “save the country.”

At scale, the approval could also add, at minimum, $580,000 a year to Academica’s bottom line. In the charter application, enrollment figures show that the two charters will serve 1,296 kids in total. In the draft contract between ALA and Academica, the base compensation is $450 per student. If 1,296 students are indeed enrolled, Academica would earn $583,200, not including earnings for facilities and other services

Maureen Downey of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution posted a guest column by two university scholars in Georgia, warning about the dangerous legislation now under consideration.

T. Jameson Brewer is an assistant professor of social foundations of education at the University of North Georgia. Brandon Haas is an associate professor of social foundations and leadership education at the University of North Georgia.

Brewer and Haas write:

At present, several bills in the state Legislature — including House Bill 1084 and Senate Bill 377 — weaponize grievance politics in the culture wars during a Georgia election year. These bills are our state’s iteration of “anti-critical race theory” proposals across the nation.

In Florida, lawmakers are seeking to make it illegal for white students to feel discomfort. In Oklahoma, a recent proposed bill would allow parents to sue teachers for $10,000 per day if they discuss any topic that does not perfectly align with a student’s closely held religious belief.

The House and Senate bills here in Georgia do not mention critical race theory by name. But they are part of this growing ideological trendto manufacture and capitalize on outrage as it relates to what students are taught or not taught in schools — the front line, as it were, of the nation’s culture war.

While there have long been efforts from the political right to censor curriculum and ban books in U.S. schools, these efforts have reached a fever pitch over the past two years. First, parents shouted at local school boards to ignore medical science and reopen schools as well as remove mask mandates during the height of the pandemic. Then, concerns over the teaching of CRT began to spring up across the country.

The simmering perception that K-12 schools and universities are engaged in teaching students to hate the United States or themselves was captured in the Trump administration’s 1776 Report. That report, not penned by historians, is full of inaccuracies in its attempt to promote fascist-like indoctrination that the United States is without historical or contemporary issues. Among many concerns, the 1776 Report attempts to suggest that George Washington freed his slaves and, thus, the United States does not have a legacy of racial oppression. Those with an accurate understanding of history know Martha Washington freed one of approximately 123 slaves.

Recently, the Heritage Action group tweeted about “uncovering” the teaching of CRT in Gwinnett County Public Schools despite K-12 districts suggesting that they do not teach CRT. Yet, this tweet was not the “gotcha” that Heritage may think it was for a few reasons: (1) The course in question was an Advanced Placement language and research course (that is, a college-level course), (2) students learn myriad frameworks for examining and critiquing issues, and (3) this type of critical thinking is precisely what we should want education to teach our students. All of that said, Superintendent Calvin Watts, noted that the syllabus in question was never used in classes. A district spokeswoman said it was a sample syllabus submitted to the organization that provides AP curriculum.

Georgia’s proposed bills seek to establish that racial injustice is an artifact of the past that no longer exists. They state that educators cannot suggest that the United States or Georgia is fundamentally biased based on race. Yet, any examination will clearly show that racial bias was a fundamental component of our legal, social, and educational system — from slavery to Jim Crow to mass incarcerations. The question, then, is whether or not these inequalities still persist. For this, students need to develop the ability to examine, evaluate and critique myriad forms of data and generate their own fact-based conclusion.

While part of any learning process is extending beyond our comfort zones, that discomfort is not what is at stake with these bills in Georgia, Florida and a dozen other states. It is uncomfortable to admit that white schools receive so much more in funding than nonwhite schools. Admitting this reality begs action. If we claim that the U.S. affords all children with a level playing field, the receipts showing that the field is structurally uneven suggests that we either forfeit the claim of equality or seek to remedy the inequality…

The larger problem created by SB 226 is that it creates a slippery slope of giving power to those who lack training in curriculum, instruction, and library media. This trend should alarm anyone who does not fancy a Nazi Germany-style authoritarian government over a democratic republic. In fact, one of the initial steps taken in Nazi Germany was banning of books, control of school curriculum and requirements of “loyalty oaths” and coerced patriotism as we are seeing in a variety of proposed laws across the country.

The United States has a checkered past that is troubling for all citizens. This is known as difficult history and provides students with an opportunity to understand how the past shapes the present so that they can be thoughtful and effective citizens. As novelist and essayist James Baldwin said, “I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

Will Georgia codify lying to students? Will we ban or burn books? While the next political outrage may find another arena to target and destroy for political gain, there are real harmful implications of the one currently targeting schools and books in an effort to satiate the public’s broad ignorance about buzzwords such as critical race theory. These bills are not anti-CRT, whatever that may mean. They are explicitly anti-education.

Mercedes Schneider writes here about the decision by Willie Carver, Kentucky’s 2022 Teacher of the Year, to resign.

Carver testified before Congress and described the indignities he endured because he is gay. Carver is a highly qualified, highly experienced teacher. He loves teaching. But he is afraid to return to the classroom because of the state-sponsored bigotry that threatens teachers and students like him.

Carver told members of Congress (in part, open the link):

Identity is rarely discussed by direct means. No teachers come out as straight. They are married to opposite sex spouses whose pictures sit on their desks or whose names come up in stories about vacations or weekend trips to the grocery store.

LGBTQ teachers and students will not be afforded this freedom. They will be required to deny their existence and edit the most basic aspects of their stories, unlike their classmates and colleagues.
Few LGBTQ teachers will survive this current storm. Politicizing our existence has already darkened our schools.

I’m made invisible. When we lost our textbooks during lockdown, I co-wrote two free textbooks
with a university professor, made them free to anyone who wanted them, and found sponsors to print them. I wasn’t allowed to share them at my school. Other schools in Kentucky celebrate similar work by teachers, but my name is a liability.

I’m from the small town of Mt. Sterling, KY and I was invited to meet the President of the United States. It was not advertised to my students and colleagues. My school didn’t even mention it in an email or morning announcement.

This invisibility extends to all newly politicized identities. Our administrators’ new directive about books and lessons is “nothing racial.”

We all know how to interpret this.

Works by white people living lives as white people are never called racial.

Works by Black and brown people living lives as Black and brown people are always called racial.

The politicization of identity erases their identities.

Parents now demand alternative assignments when authors of texts or materials are Black or LGBTQ; we teachers are told to accommodate them, but I cannot ethically erase Black or queer voices.

We ban materials by marginalized authors, ignoring official processes. One parent complaint removes all students’ books overnight.

Endangered educators

My Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), a campus group dedicated to discussing and helping make schools safe for LGBTQ students, couldn’t share an optional campus climate survey with classmates. I was told it might make straight students uncomfortable.

Students now use anti-LGBTQ or racist slurs without consequence. Hatred is politically protected now.

When my GSA’s posters were torn from walls, my principal’s response was that people think LGBTQ advocacy is “being shoved down their throats.”

Inclusive teachers are thrown under the bus by the people driving it.

During a national teacher shortage crisis, I know gay educators with perfect records dismissed this year.

A Kentucky teacher’s whiteboard message of “You are free to be yourself with me. You matter” with pride flags resulted in wild accusations and violent threats. During this madness, his superintendent wrote to a parent, “This incident … is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.” The situation became unimaginably unsafe. He resigned.

Last month, a parent’s dangerous, false allegations that my GSA was “grooming” students were shared 65 times on Facebook. I felt my students and I were unsafe. Multiple parents and I asked the school to defend us. One father wrote simply, “Please do something!” The school refused to support us.

There are 10,000 people in my town; one fringe parent doesn’t represent most parents, who trust us.

Student suicides

School is traumatic; LGBTQ students are trying to survive it. They often don’t. Year after year, I receive suicidal goodbye texts from students at night. We’ve always saved them, but now I panic when my phone goes off after 10:00.

Meryl, a gentle trans girl from Owen County High, took her life in 2020. She always wanted a GSA. Her friends tried to establish one, but the teachers who wanted to help were afraid to sponsor it. Meryl’s mother Rachelle runs an unofficial GSA, PRISM, from the local library.

45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered suicide this year. We chip away at their dignity and spaces to exist. The systems meant to protect them won’t even acknowledge them.

I recently attended Becky Oglesby’s TED Talk. She described surviving a tornado with first graders, how they huddled, her arms around them, as their school walls lifted into the darkness.

I sobbed uncontrollably. I realized that for fifteen years, I have huddled around students, protecting them from the winds, and now the tornado’s here. As the walls rip away, I feel I’m abandoning them.

But I’m tired. I’ve been fighting since my first day in a classroom. Fighting for kids to feel human. Fighting for kids to be safe. Fighting to stop the fear by changing hearts and minds.

I’m tired. I don’t know how much longer I can do it.

It is not safe to be gay in Kentucky or Florida or most states in the South and Midwest. Nor is it safe to be Black or Brown in the many states that have banned teaching about the history of racism.

Willie Carver has accepted a position at the University of Kentucky where he will work in student services.

Censorship and harassment does eliminate homosexuality. Nor does it turn all students white.

Lying about history doesn’t change history. It just spreads ignorance.

Lloyd Lofthouse, author, former Marine, and former teacher, explains what it means to be woke. Some Republican politicians—notably Ron DeSantis— are trying to suppress “wokeness.”

Lloyd writes:

Anyone that attacks what’s known as “woke ideology” is supporting zombie thinking and belongs to a fascist cult of ignorance.

Wokeness means someone that is highly literate, well educated, well read, is a life long learner, questions claims and uses critical thinking, problem solving and rational logic to find out if there is any truth to what these fascist zombies are shouting.

Question: Are you woke?

Bob Shepherd, polymath and educator, predicts the truly extraordinary goal of the far-right extremist Supreme Court. It mainly consists of dismantling the federal government’s powers. This was proclaimed by Steve Bannon in 2016 before the Trump election. In this rightwing dream, all federal laws protecting civil rights, women’s rights, climate change, etc. would disappear.

Shepherd writes:

Let me be as clear about this as I can be. My reading of what the Extreme Court has been up to is NOT that it means to do away with the doctrine of stare decisis. No. It means to establish, with Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health and West Virginia v. EPA, in this term, and with Moore v. Harper in the next term a new set of precedents designed to fulfil the conservative goals of a) shrinking the federal government down to a size at which it can be drowned in a bathtub and b) turning over power to state governments, many of which will be de facto theocracies under the new legal order. Dobbs provides a template or boilerplate for eliminating whole bodies of federal law and regulation related to unenumerated rights and with these these agencies and departments that do that regulation and enforcement. WV v. EPA is a template or boilerplate for eliminating government agencies or departments (or parts of these) that promulgate regulations pursuant to Congressional legislation on the basis of an argument that Congress can’t turn such decision-making over to Executive Branch agencies or departments because the Constitution insists that these are legislative matters. The idea, again, is to shrink the power and authority of the federal administrative state in full knowledge the fact that Congress,being divided, will not step into these various roles (will not, for example, agree on real climate change). And again, the effect of that will be, with the federal executive and legislature and courts all out of the picture, to turn all this power back to the states. And, finally, Moore will enable the court to rule that the feds cannot pass legislation to protect voting rights because determination of how voting is to be conducted is entirely up to state legislatures under this extremist reading of the Constitution. Again, the effect will be to eliminate federal power and agencies/departments and turn this all over to the states.

All this is revolutionary and is meant to be. It’s the fulfillment of a dream that conservatives in America have had for a long, long time. They have long believed in state’s rights, in the federal government being a monster not envisioned by the founders. This Extreme Court is simply making good on that.

And, btw, as with the various coup methods undertaken by Trump and his team, this has all been discussed on Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast (or whatever he wants to call it). He recently devoted much of a program to this very topic: the ways in which work is underway to completely “dismantle the administrative state.”

Dr. Charles Foster Johnson is hosting a conversation with Beto O’Rourke in Lubbock, Texas, on Zoom this Thursday.

4:30-6:00 pm CDT (central time).

They will discuss the future of public education in Texas.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-conversation-about-public-education-with-beto-orourke-tickets-384095880117

The event is free.

A reader who calls him/herself Quickwrit explains why the Supreme Court’s recent decision on abortion is wrong.

The Bible is silent on abortion:

The 9th Amendment gives Clarence Thomas the constitutional right to live in an interracial marriage and gives women the constitutional right to abortion: The 9th Amendment says that rights do not have to be stated in the Constitution in order to be rights: “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

Americans have long claimed to right to and the practice of abortion. Benjamin Franklin, key Founding Father of America, shaper and signer of our Constitution, published a handbook titled “The American Instructor” that featured a long, detailed section on do-it-yourself abortion and conception prevention. The book was very popular throughout America and the prevention of and termination of pregnancies was widely practiced throughout America, especially in rural areas where an unwanted pregnancy could mean financial ruin in those days.

The current Supreme Court ruling on abortion not only violates the 9th Amendment, it violates the religious rights of many citizens: The Bible gives commandments on a very, very long list of more than 600 laws on everything from divorce to gluttony — yet the Bible says nothing about abortion. Why is that? If abortion was even as important as gluttony, it would have been mentioned in the Bible.

But,the Bible is silent on abortion: Out of more than 600 laws of Moses, which includes the 10 Commandments, NONE — not one — comments on abortion. In fact, the Mosaic law in Exodus 21:22-25 clearly shows that causing the abortion of a fetus is NOT MURDER. Exodus 21:22-25 says that if a woman has a miscarriage as the result of an altercation with a man, the man who caused miscarriage should only pay a fine that is to be determined by the woman’s husband, but if the woman dies, the man is to be executed: “If a man strives with a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet there is no harm to the woman, he shall be punished according to what the woman’s husband determines and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if the woman dies, then it shall be life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.” Ex. 21:22-25. So, the Bible orders the death penalty for murder of a human being — the mother — but not for the death of a fetus, indicating that the fetus is not yet a human being.

There are Christian denominations that allow abortion in most instances; these denominations include the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church USA. The United Methodist Church and Episcopal churches allow abortion in cases of medical necessity, and the United Universalist Association also allows abortion.

Most of the opposition to abortion comes from fundamentalist and evangelical Christians who believe that a full-fledged human being is created at the instant of conception. In short — it is a religious BELIEF and religious beliefs cannot be recognized by the government under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of our Constitution. Moreover, the belief that a fetus is a human person, complete with a soul, is a Christian interpretation of the Jewish Bible — the Old Testament. But, Jewish scholars whose ancestors wrote the Old Testament and who know best what the words mean say that is a wrong interpretation of their writings.

Christians largely base their view that a fetus is a complete human being and that abortion is murder on the Jewish Bible’s Psalm 139: “You knit me together in my mother’s womb…You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born.”

Who better to translate the meaning of Psalm 139 than the Jews who wrote it? And Jewish scholars point out that Psalm 139 merely describes the development of a fetus and does not mean that the fetus has a soul and is a person. In fact, the Jewish Talmud explains that for the first 40 days of a woman’s pregnancy, the fetus is considered “mere fluid” and is just part of the mother’s body, like an appendix or liver. Only after the fetus’s head emerges from the womb at birth is the baby considered a “nefesh” – Hebrew for “soul” or “spirit” – a human person.

I am not pro-abortion — I am PRO-CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS, and until a fetus is in its 24th week of development the mother has the unquestionable constitutional right to decide what happens to the fetus. After the 24th week, society may have a legitimate legal interest in the fetus. What that interest is, to what extent it reaches, and how to encode that interest into law isn’t easy and will require a great deal of debate in society in general and in Congress, not the states, because it is a national constitutional right that is being dealt with.

THE COURT BENDS THE FACTS: The University of London scientist whose research is cited by the Supreme Court in its ruling to take away abortion rights says that his research has been misinterpreted by Justice Alito and the Supreme Court’s activist conservative majority. Neuroscientist Dr. Giandomenico Iannetti says that the Court is ABSOLUTELY WRONG to say that his research shows that a fetus can feel pain when it is less than 24 weeks of development. “My results by no means imply that,” Dr. Iannetti declares. “I feel they were used in a clever way to make a point.” And Dr. John Wood, molecular neurobiologist at the University, points out that all serious scientists agree that a fetus can NOT feel pain until at least 24 weeks “and perhaps not even then.” Dr. Vania Apkarian, head of the Center for Transitional Pain Research at Chicago’s Feinberg School of Medicine, says that the medical evidence on a fetus not feeling pain before 24 weeks or longer has not changed in 50 years and remains “irrefutable”.

LIFE OF WOE: In its 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling upholding abortion rights, the Supreme Court set “viability” — the point at which a fetus can survive outside of the womb — as the dividing line after which some restrictions can be imposed on abortion rights. The pending ruling by current activist conservative majority on the Court will do away with the concept of viability, yet even with all of today’s medical miracles to keep a prematurely born or aborted fetus alive, of all the tens of thousands of cases, 90% OF FETUSES BORN AT 22 WEEKS DO NOT SURVIVE, and data shows that the majority of those that manage to be kept alive live the rest of their lives with a combination of BIRTH DEFECTS that include mental impairment, cerebral palsy, breathing problems, blindness, deafness, and other disorders that often require frequent hospitalizations during their lifetimes.

Dana Milbank is a wonderful columnist for the Washington Post. He writes here about the death of state decisis, the legal principal of respecting precedent. The six-person majority on the Supreme Court have thrown away precedent. They are drunk with power. They are free to do whatever they want with no restraint, and they are rolling back decades of social progress. They are not conservatives. They are radicals.

Milbank writes:

Now begins the era of stare indecisis.
Respect for precedent — known by the Latin stare decisis, “to stand by things decided” — had been a centuries-old cornerstone of the rule of law, necessary so “the scale of justice” doesn’t “waver with every new judge’s opinion,” as the 18th-century legal philosopher William Blackstone wrote.


But — et tu, Alito? — the Supreme Court’s radical right put the knife in stare decisis in its decision overturning Roe v. Wade and destroying 50 years of precedent upon precedent.

The dissenting justices wrote that “the majority abandons stare decisis,” an act that “threatens to upend bedrock legal doctrines,” “creates profound legal instability” and “calls into question this Court’s commitment to legal principle.”


The majority protested that it didn’t abandon stare decisis — then explained why it did: “Stare decisis is not an inexorable command. … Stare decisis is not a straitjacket.”


The burial of stare decisis leaves us, ipso facto, with a void: Which Latin phrase best describes the legal doctrine of this new era, in which judges rule by whim, not precedent? Well, thank your lucky stares, because my classics consultant, Vanessa (she asked that her surname not be used in order to speak Latin frankly), has many options.


Labels such as “judicial modesty,” “judicial restraint” and “originalism” were trashed along with stare decisis. For this radical majority to claim “restraint” now would be the very definition of stare mendaciis — to stand by lies. Other better labels for the court majority’s new philosophy are stare deviis (to stand by inconsistent things), or perhaps stare fetore (to stand by a foul odor), in honor of the question Justice Sonia Sotomayor posed during oral arguments: “Will this institution survive the stench that this creates?”

But maybe most accurate is stare sodalitate — to stand by your political party. To the Romans, this meant either “electioneering gang” or “religious fraternity,” apt descriptions both of this court’s right wing.


There are other potential principles being thrown about. This week’s Jan. 6 committee hearing revealed that President Donald Trump, upon receiving displeasing information (such as his attorney general’s refusal to bless his election lies), would hurl his meal at the wall. This would be stare cibo iacto — to stand by thrown food (although other scholars use stare vasis fractis — to stand by broken dishes).


The Republican Party, even now, remains steadfastly loyal to Trump, adhering to something called the Wynette Doctrine, stare homine tuo — stand by your man.


Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is claiming she was deceived by Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch into thinking they wouldn’t overturn Roe — an instance of stare credulitate, to stand by gullibility.


At a Trump rally, Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.) practiced stare hominibus albis — to stand by White people — when she called the abortion decision a “victory for White life.” (She said she misspoke, although the crowd cheered.)


Congressional candidate Yesli Vega, the GOP nominee to replace Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) said “it wouldn’t surprise me” if it were difficult for a woman to get pregnant from rape, “because it’s not something that’s happening organically,” according to an Axios recording. That’s called stare rapina legitima — to stand by legitimate rape — affirming the precedent set by Senate candidate Todd Akin (R-Mo.), who said in 2012: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is reviving the doctrine of stare contra pedicandum (to stand against sodomy) by saying he would defend a 1973 anti-sodomy law struck down two decades ago. Justice Clarence Thomas has invited challenges to that decision, as well as others protecting same-sex marriage and contraception.


Texts show that Thomas’s wife, Ginni, meanwhile, urged the Trump White House to “release the Kraken” of false election-fraud allegations — a philosophy known as stare monstris, to stand by sea monsters.


The court’s right-wing majority might also share the belief of Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) who said she’s “tired of this separation of church and state junk,” which she said came from a “stinking letter” by Thomas Jefferson, not the Constitution. Demonstrating stare templo — to stand by the church — Boebert decreed that “the church is supposed to direct the government.”


Another creed comes from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) who attacked Elmo because Sesame Street encouraged coronavirus vaccination. That’s stare contra pupas — stand against Muppets.


The court’s recent rulings invite many other Latin descriptors: stare atrocitate (to stand by cruelty), stare decuriatione (to stand by intimidation), stare deminutione capitis (to stand by the loss of liberties). But ultimately a court that has abandoned precedent stands for nothing (stare nullis) except for the raw exercise of power — stare imperio. And that leads to one place: stare ruina, to stand by destruction.

The New York Times brings news that is not new to anyone who reads this blog. A movement is rising to revive Christian domination of public and private life, and it is a movement fueled by racists. It is specifically opposed to the separation of church and state, and it seeks to destroy public education, ban abortion, censor teaching about race and racism, as well as gender and sexuality.

This movement was behind Trump’s election and used this irreligious man as their instrument to gain power and control of the Supreme Court.

The article begins:

Three weeks before he won the Republican nomination for Pennsylvania governor, Doug Mastriano stood beside a three-foot-tall painted eagle statue and declared the power of God.

“Any free people in the house here? Did Jesus set you free?” he asked, revving up the dozens before him on a Saturday afternoon at a Gettysburg roadside hotel.

Mr. Mastriano, a state senator, retired Army colonel and prominent figure in former President Donald J. Trump’s futile efforts to overturn the state’s 2020 election results, was addressing a far-right conference that mixed Christian beliefs with conspiracy theories, called Patriots Arise. Instead of focusing on issues like taxes, gas prices or abortion policy, he wove a story about what he saw as the true Christian identity of the nation, and how it was time, together, for Christians to reclaim political power.

The separation of church and state was a “myth,” he said. “In November we are going to take our state back, my God will make it so.”

Mastriano, the Republican candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania, participated in the January 6 Insurrection.

Mr. Mastriano’s ascension in Pennsylvania is perhaps the most prominent example of right-wing candidates for public office who explicitly aim to promote Christian power in America. The religious right has long supported conservative causes, but this current wave seeks more: a nation that actively prioritizes their particular set of Christian beliefs and far-right views and that more openly embraces Christianity as a bedrock identity.

Many dismiss the historic American principle of the separation of church and state. They say they do not advocate a theocracy, but argue for a foundational role for their faith in government. Their rise coincides with significant backing among like-minded grass-roots supporters, especially as some voters and politicians blend their Christian faith with election fraud conspiracy theories, QAnon ideology, gun rights and lingering anger over Covid-related restrictions.

Their presence reveals a fringe pushing into the mainstream.

“The church is supposed to direct the government, the government is not supposed to direct the church,” Representative Lauren Boebert, a Republican representing the western part of Colorado, said recently at Cornerstone Christian Center, a church near Aspen. “I’m tired of this separation of church and state junk.” Congregants rose to their feet in applause.

Some states may become inhospitable for non-Christians and for Christians who don’t believe in compelling everyone else to worship their way.

The Founding Fathers most certainly believed in separating church and state. They most certainly wanted a secular, non-religious state. They were well aware of the carnage in Europe that resulted from religious wars and persecution. This new nation was meant to be free of state-sponsored religion.

Those who now seek to obliterate the separation of church and state and to impose their religion on others are rejecting the inheritance and wisdom of the Founding Fathers.