Archives for category: Religion

Tom Ultican, retired teacher of physics and advanced mathematics in California, writes frequently about school “reform,” aka school choice, as a substitute for adequate funding.

In this post, he explains the fraud of school choice and why billionaires and rightwing zealots promote it. To read it in full,as well as his kinks, open the full post.

He begins:

Birthed in the bowels of the 1950’s segregationist south, school choice has never been about improving education. It is about white supremacy, profiting off taxpayers, cutting taxes, selling market based solutions and financing religion. School choice ideology has a long dark history of dealing significant harm to public education.

Market Based Ideology

Milton Friedman first recommended school vouchers in a 1955 essay. In 2006, he was asked by a conservative group of legislators what he envisioned back then. PRWatch reports that he said, “It had nothing whatsoever to do with helping ‘indigent’ children; no, he explained to thunderous applause, vouchers were all about ‘abolishing the public school system.”’ [Emphasis added]

Market based ideologues are convinced that business is the superior model for school management. Starting with the infamous Regan era polemic, “A Nation at Risk,” the claim that “private business management is superior” has been a consistent theory of education reform promoted by corporate leaders like IBM’s Louis Gerstner, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Wal-Mart’s Walton family, Bloomberg LP’s founder, Michael Bloomberg and SunAmerica’s Eli Broad. It is a central tenet of both neoliberal and libertarian philosophy.

Charles Koch and his late brother David have spent lavishly promoting their libertarian beliefs. Inspired by Friedman’s doyen, Austrian Economist Friedrich Hayek, the brothers agreed that public education must be abolished.

To this and other ends like defeating climate change legislation, the Kochs created the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). This lobbying organization has contributing members from throughout corporate America. ALEC writes model legislation and financially supports state politicians who promote their libertarian principles.

Like the Walton family and Betsy DeVos, Charles Koch promotes private school vouchers.

Nancy Bailey writes that the best way to fire Betsy DeVos is to vote for Biden and Harris.

She writes:

If you’re Democrat or Republican, and you care about public education, vote for V.P. Joe Biden to remove Education Secretary Betsy DeVos from the U.S. Department of Education! Four more years of Betsy DeVos means the end of public education.

With a President Biden, public schools have a chance of surviving. With a President Trump, they don’t. It’s as simple as that.

You may be thinking, Democratic leadership has failed public education in the past. Many were disappointed in the Obama administration’s Race to the Top.

Once there’s a President Biden, the country can remind him of this. But the odds of losing our schools with a President Biden is less of a worry now than leaving DeVos in her perch at the U.S. Department of Education.

There are dozens of reasons to check the Biden/Harris ticket. Public schools affect every other issue on the ballot, every issue we face as a nation. Democratic public schools are the backbone of the nation.

She goes on to explain why we all should be worried about the damage Trump and DeVos can do if given four more years to transfer public funds to non-public schools.

This article in Reuters reports that a young man says he had an affair for several years with the wife of Jerry Falwell, Jr., president-on-leave of Liberty University, which was founded by his famous father. He told Reuters that Falwell often watched as he had relations with Falwell’s wife.

Ah, the hypocrisy of those who claim to be morally superior. The strict honor code of Liberty University forbids the relationship that is alleged: “Sexual relations outside of a biblically ordained marriage between a natural-born man and a natural-born woman are not permissible at Liberty University,” the code reads.

The article credits Falwell Jr. for persuading evangelicals to embrace the twice-divorced, licentious Donald Trump.

People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.


Katherine Stewart, a scholar of rightwing evangelicals, writes in The New Republic about Betsy DeVos’s brazen transfer of public funds to private schools during the pandemic. Stewart is the author of The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism. Stewart surveys the generous distribution of federal funds to private and religious schools, far more generous than the federal money for public schools. As you have read in numerous posts and in a study by the Network for Public Education, charter schools, which enroll about 6% of American students collected $1 billion to $2 billion from the Paycheck Protection Program. Stewart shows that private and religious schools collected even more. This was no accident. It is part of DeVos’s long-term goal of destroying public education.

She writes:

How much more does the Trump administration value the children of elite private and religious schools than the children who attend public schools? We can answer the question with some hard numbers. Public school students merit something like $266 apiece in extra pandemic-related funding. Kids attending the right private schools are worth $5,000 each or possibly much more.

That $266, by the way, is an overestimate. It’s what you get when you take the $13.5 billion allocated for K-12 education in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of this past March and divide it up among the nation’s 50.8 million public school students. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos made sure to siphon some of that money for private and religious schools, which she has long favored, although she did receive pushback: On July 22, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), joined by school districts in California, Connecticut, and Colorado, sued DeVos and her department over the policy, calling it “as immoral as it is illegal…”

The $5,000 per student figure for some private schools cited above comes out of the Paycheck Protection Program, which was established by the CARES Act and implemented by the Small Business Administration. Public schools aren’t eligible for PPP money, which is technically a loan but will be forgiven if the funds are used for expenses that meet certain criteria. Although the SBA does not disclose exact loan amounts, it does make public the recipients receiving more than $150,000 and identifies amounts within broad ranges.

With this information, we know that Buckingham Browne & Nichols School, a private pre-K–12 school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with a $75 million endowment and a student body of around 1,013, where annual tuition runs up to $52,300, collected a loan of between $5 and $10 million—or roughly $5,000 to $10,000 per student. (The school did not respond to multiple requests to confirm the exact amount.)…

Georgetown Preparatory School, which serves about 500 students on 93 acres in North Bethesda, Maryland, and whose notable alumni include Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, collected a $2.7 million PPP loan, which works out to $5,440 per student. According to an analysis by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the total amount of large PPP loans given to private and religious schools was at least $2.67 billion and as much as $6.47 billion—or about half as much as the total for all schools under the CARES Act, even though private and religious schools educate only 10 percent of the nation’s schoolchildren.

And these schools could potentially receive even more. DeVos stuffed a provision in the CARES Act for “equitable services” that may send another $1.35 billion, which might otherwise have gone to public schools, to private schools. She’s also giving them a cut of the $3 billion Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund…

The religious school beneficiaries remain free, as they always have been, of the anti-discrimination laws that apply to public schools. For example, Cathedral High School in Indiana took in a PPP loan of between $2 and $5 million ($1,700 to $4,200 per student), but it fired a teacher for having a same-sex spouse. The Foundation Academy in Winter Garden, Florida, whose 2016-17 handbook informs school families that the husband “has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family” while “a wife is to submit herself graciously” and which groups “homosexuality, lesbianism bisexuality” along with “bestiality” as grounds for expulsion, took in between $1 and $2 million in PPP money. Americans United estimates that at least 4,006 religious schools, or about 70 percent of private school recipients, received large PPP loans.

There is no indication, however, that the private schools receiving PPP money are under anything like the pressure the Trump administration is applying to public schools to fully reopen in the coming school year. When Fairfax County public schools offered parents a choice between in-person and remote learning, DeVos denounced the move in vehement terms. (The district has since announced that the 2020-21 school year will be fully remote.) But the Fairmont Preparatory Academy of Anaheim, California, which took in a minimum of $5 million, or $7,700 per student in PPP money, is offering families the same choice, so far with no criticism from the Department of Education…

Betsy DeVos did not take over the Department of Education in order to improve public education as we know it but to degrade it. She came to office with an ideology as simple as it is destructive: Government should get out of the business of education, she has consistently maintained. DeVos brought with her two powerful interest groups. On the one hand are the privatizers, on the other are the proselytizers, and both paws are reaching for the same pot of taxpayer money.

In a May radio interview, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Catholic archbishop of New York, asked DeVos whether she was trying to “utilize this particular crisis to ensure that justice is finally done.” “Yes, absolutely,” she replied. Alluding to her longstanding efforts to divert taxpayer money to sectarian schools, DeVos said, “For more than three decades that has been something that I’m passionate about.”

The public has consistently underestimated the extremity of the agenda against public schooling. Listen more carefully to what DeVos and her backers are actually saying. For decades, Christian nationalist leaders have denounced public schools as hotbeds of secularism. For just as long, reactionary economic ideologues have condemned them as breeding grounds for socialism. DeVos’s boss simply repeats the message at a louder volume: During his Fourth of July speech at Mount Rushmore, Donald Trump said public schools are teaching kids to “hate our country” with a “far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance.” They all understand at some level that a robust public school system is one of the pillars of a modern, progressive, pluralistic, and democratic society. That’s why they want to destroy it. reported this important piece of information. Private schools have scored billions from the Paycheck Protection Program. This represents a massive transfer of public funding to private and religious schools. Of course, this fulfills a major policy goal of the Trump administration.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State reviewed federal records and calculated that private schools collected billions of dollars from the Paycheck Protection Program, which was enacted to save small businesses at risk of going bankrupt.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has long considered public funding for religious schools, which comprise 67% of all American private schools, to be both bad policy and contrary to Constitutional intent. Americans United’s analysis of the data released by the Small Business Administration on PPP loans of $150,000 or greater reveals that Congress has already given private religious and secular schools funding totaling between $2.67 billion and $6.47 billion. PPP funding comes in the form of forgivable loans, which were intended to provide financial assistance to small businesses and nonprofits to recover from the pandemic. As long as the private schools meet certain criteria, like using the loan for payroll and operational expenses, the loans will be forgiven by the government in their entirety, essentially turning the loans into grants.

Two of the nation’s leading education experts ponder the implications of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Espinoza decision. Bruce D. Baker of Rutgers University is a school finance expert. Preston C. Green III of the University of Connecticut specializes in education law.

I confess that I was relieved that the Espinoza decision was limited in scope. I was afraid that the religious zealots on the Court might sweep away all barriers to public funding of religious schools. It did not. But Baker and Green persuade me that I was wrong, that Espinoza was another step towards breaking down the Wall of Separation between church and state and should be viewed with alarm.

I urge you to read their analysis of where we are going, how it involves not only vouchers but charter schools, and what states must do to protect public schools.

Parents in North Carolina filed a lawsuit against the state’s voucher program on grounds that it discriminates against them because of their religious beliefs. Through the voucher program, the state sends public funds to religious schools that do not accept the children of these plaintiffs because of their religious beliefs. Therefore the plaintiffs argue that the voucher program encourages religious discrimination.

The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the private school voucher known as the “Opportunity Scholarship Program” established in 2013 by the North Carolina General Assembly.

Major tenets of the lawsuit are:

“The Program sends millions of taxpayer dollars to private schools without imposing any meaningful educational requirements. As implemented, many of the Program’s funds are directed to schools that divide communities on religious lines, disparage many North Carolinians’ faiths and identities, and coerce families into living under religious dictates and The Program as implemented funds discrimination on the basis of religion. Families’ ability to participate in the Program is limited by their religious beliefs and their willingness to cede control of their faith to a religious school,” The Program as implemented funds discrimination on the basis of religion. Families’ ability to participate in the Program is limited by their religious beliefs and their willingness to cede control of their faith to a religious school.

This is an interesting approach. Typically, litigants claim that they are denied access to public funds because of their religious beliefs. In this lawsuit, the litigants say they are denied access to publicly funded religious schools because of their religious faith and that the voucher program should be held unconstitutional because it discriminates against them and their children on religious grounds.

The BBC airs a comedy show where nothing is off limits.

This one made me laugh out loud.

I hope you are not offended. It turns popular prejudices inside out.

Want to know why Florida, Texas, and Arizona are the new hot spots for the coronavirus?

Watch this video and you will see and hear why some people refuse to protect themselves and others.

What would Dr.Fauci say?


The US Supreme Court ruled today that teachers in religious schools are not protected by federal anti-discrimination law. Please note that Justice Alita says that the central mission of religious schools is to teach the faith, which is why so many object to public funding of religious schools. If religious schools take public money, are they still exempt from public laws that cover public schools?

David Savage wrote for the Los Angeles Times:

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Wednesday restricted teachers who work at church-run schools from filing discrimination claims against their employers, ruling that the Constitution’s protection for religious liberty exempts church schools from state and federal anti-discrimination laws.

The justices, by a 7-2 vote, ruled that because two elementary school teachers at Catholic schools in Los Angeles County helped carry out the mission of teaching faith as part of their jobs, the schools are free to hire and fire them without concern for antidiscrimination laws.

The decision effectively closes the courthouse door to tens of thousands of teachers nationwide in religious and parochial schools who encounter workplace discrimination based on their gender, age, disability or sexual orientation that would otherwise be impermissible. It is also written broadly enough that it could include many other types of workers at the schools, such as counselors, nurses, coaches and office workers.

In the past, the Supreme Court has recognized an implied “ministerial exemption” that shields churches, synagogues or other religious bodies from being sued by priests, pastors and other ministers. The issue in the pair of cases from Southern California was whether that exemption extended more broadly to teachers in a church-run school whose primary duty was not necessarily religious instruction.

“The 1st Amendment protects the right of religious institutions to decide for themselves, free from state interference, matters of church government as well as those of faith and doctrine,” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote for the majority.

“The religious education and formation of students is the very reason for the existence of most private religious schools, and therefore the selection and supervision of the teachers upon whom the schools rely to do this work lie at the core of their mission,” he continued. “Judicial review of the way in which religious schools discharge those responsibilities would undermine the independence of religious institutions in a way that the 1st Amendment does not tolerate.”

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

Kristen Biel was a fifth-grade teacher at St. James School in Torrance whose teaching contract was canceled shortly after she told the principal she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She later sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which protects employees from discrimination based solely on a disease like cancer. She died last year, but her husband, Darryl Biel, has maintained the suit.

Agnes Morrissey-Berru had taught fifth grade at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Hermosa Beach for decades when the principal suggested she may want to retire. She refused, and her teaching contract was not renewed. She then sued, alleging age discrimination.

Lawyers for the Catholic Archdiocese said the suits should be dismissed, citing the ministerial exception recognized by the high court. Two federal district judges agreed, but the 9th Circuit Court cleared both suits to proceed, ruling that neither teacher was a religious leader at school.

In dissent, Sotomayor called the court’s ruling “simplistic” because it allows a church to decide which of its employees are central to its religious mission and therefore not covered by antidiscrimination laws.

“That stretches the law and logic past their breaking points,” she said. “The court’s conclusion portends grave consequences.
Thousands of Catholic teachers may lose employment-law protections because of today’s outcome. Other sources tally over a hundred thousand secular teachers whose rights are at risk. And that says nothing of the rights of countless coaches, camp counselors, nurses, social-service workers, in-house lawyers, media-relations personnel, and many others who work for religious institutions. All these employees could be subject to discrimination for reasons completely irrelevant to their employers’ religious tenets.”