Archives for category: Separation of church and state

Congresswoman Lauren Boebert of Colorado is known for her love of guns and God. The Denver Post spoke to several experts on Christian nationalism, and they agreed that she is an extreme voice for her religious beliefs. She won the Republican primary in her district and is near certain to win re-election for her extremist views. No matter what the Founding Fathers wrote, no matter what the Constitution says, Boebert foresees the reign of Christ in the days ahead. She is a proud religious zealot.

U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert’s pattern of pushing for a religious takeover of America, spreading falsehoods about the 2020 presidential election and warning of an impending judgment day amounts to Christian nationalism, religious, political and social experts say.

Those ideals threaten the rights of non-Christian — and typically non-white — Americans but also endanger the foundation of the country’s democratic process, those experts say. The far-right Western Slope congresswoman represents a high-profile and incendiary voice in the movement, which is infiltrating virtually every level of American government and its judiciary.

Boebert leaned on those talking points Friday — in her official capacity as a member of Congress — at the Truth & Liberty Coalition’s From Vision to Victory Conference in Woodland Park.

“It’s time for us to position ourselves and rise up and take our place in Christ and influence this nation as we were called to do,” Boebert, of Silt, told the crowd, which responded with applause…

“We know that we are in the last of the last days,” Boebert later added. “This is a time to know that you were called to be part of these last days. You get to have a role in ushering in the second coming of Jesus.”

Boebert and her contemporaries, whether in Congress, state or local governments, can be expected to increase the volume and frequency of their Christian nationalist rhetoric as the November midterm elections approach and even beyond, Philip Gorski, a sociologist and co-director of Yale’s Center for Comparative Research, said.

“This is new and worrisome,” Gorski said. “There’s an increasing number of people saying ‘We’re in this battle for the soul of America. We’re on the side of good and maybe democracy is getting in the way. Maybe we need to take power and if that means minority rule in order to impose our vision on everybody else then that’s what we’re going to do.’”

Boebert’s comments Friday in Woodland Park serve as a dog whistle for violence, said Anthea Butler, chief of the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Religious Studies. Especially in the context of the congresswoman’s penchant for firearms and her framing the issue around the November elections….

“I believe that there have been two nations that have been created to glorify God. Israel, whom we bless, and the United States of America,” Boebert said in June. “And this nation will glorify God.”

In the same address Boebert said she was “tired of this separation of church and state junk” and claimed that God “anointed” Donald Trump to the presidency….

She doesn’t explain why her God anointed a man to the Presidency who has no religious beliefs and is known for adultery, lying, and cheating his fellow citizens.

Boebert is perhaps best known for her gun-rights advocacy and said this summer that Jesus had been killed by Romans because he didn’t have enough assault rifles “to keep his government from killing him.

She blamed a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which left 19 students and two teachers dead, on “godlessness that is here overtaking America” and she frequently says drug use and violent crime are on the rise because of the Latin American people illegally immigrating through the southern border.

“It’s the idea that government power should be in the hands of ‘real Americans’ and those ‘real Americans’ are defined by an ethnoreligious category that usually entails white conservative Christians,” Kristin Kobes DuMez, a professor of history and gender studies at Calvin University, said. “This is not compatible with democracy.”

The end goal for certain sects of Christian nationalism, which subscribe to so-called Dominion theory, is to conquer what are called the “seven mountains” or seven areas of influence, Gorski said. They are family, religion, education, media, entertainment, business and government.

“Once they do, that will trigger the second coming of Christ,” Gorski said, citing their prophecy.

Boebert is moving in those circles, which also have ties to militia groups, Gorski added.

I wonder if there will be room in Boebert’s new world for people who don’t share her beliefs?

In a stunning turn of events, the charter schools affiliated with ultra-conservative Hillsdale College withdrew their applications in three counties. The counties rejected them, but the state charter commission had the power to override the local school boards. The charters stirred controversy in the rural counties, and the president of Hillsdale College made matters worse by insulting teachers.

American Classical Education — a group set up to create a network of charter schools affiliated with Hillsdale College across Tennessee — has withdrawn its applications to open schools in Madison, Montgomery and Rutherford counties.

This follows months of controversy since Gov. Bill Lee announced a “partnership” with the ultraconservative Michigan college during his State of the State Address in January.

ACE’s application had been rejected in all three counties, and they faced a contentious appeal next week before the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission, which could have overruled the local school boards.

“We made this decision because of the limited time to resolve the concerns raised by the commission staff and our concerns that the meeting structure and timing on Oct. 5 will not allow commissioners to hear directly from the community members whose interests lie at the heart of the commission’s work,” board chair Dolores Gresham wrote in a letter delivered Thursday to the commission….

Lee had praised Hillsdale’s “patriotic” approach to education and asked Hillsdale president Larry Arnn to open as many as 100 of the taxpayer-funded schools across the state.

But a NewsChannel 5 investigation had highlighted issues with Hillsdale’s curriculum, including a rewriting of the history of the civil rights movement.

Hidden-camera video also revealed Arnn making derogatory comments about public school teachers coming from “the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges.”

More recently, NewsChannel 5 Investigateshad uncovered video of a Hillsdale College professor, who teaches part of an online course about the civil rights movement, questioning the achievements of famous Black Americans.

Early on, Governor Lee asked Hillsdale to open 100 charters in Tennessee, and Hillsdale College scaled the number back to 50. At the moment, Hillsdale has none. Governor Lee underestimated the close ties between rural communities and their public schools. The people of Tennessee were unwilling to toss aside the teachers they know and the schools that are the hub of their communities.

Please open the link to read the rest of the story. Hillsdale might try again.

C

Remember how voucher advocates claim that vouchers will “save” poor kids from “failing public schools”? T’aint so.

Stephen Dyer compared the progress of Ohio students in voucher schools to those in public schools. Guess what? The longer students are enrolled in voucher schools, the farther behind they fall.

He writes:

One thing you’d expect to hear a lot from voucher proponents is that students taking private school tuition subsidies do better the longer they’re in the private schools taxpayers are paying.

I mean, assuming these “choices” are so vastly superior to “failing” public schools, right?

Yet you never hear that argument. Now I know why: according to state test data, the longer students take vouchers, the worse they do on state tests — in some cases a lotworse. Especially in high school.

Here is how students perform on state High School proficiency rates, depending on how long they’ve been taking vouchers. You can see pretty clearly that especially in English and Math, students do markedly worse if they’ve been taking vouchers for 3 plus years than they do if they’ve only been taking it for a year.

This provides some pretty compelling evidence that students taking vouchers are better prepared by public schools, but once they enter the private system, that success wanes. Only in Social Studies is there an increase, but it’s only a 0.9% increase. Math drops by nearly 1/4. Overall, there’s, on average, a 12.1% drop in proficiency rates the longer a high school student takes a voucher….

Let me put it simply:

  • Generally, Voucher students do worse on state tests the longer they take vouchers.
  • The Black-White achievement gap is much greater among voucher students than public school students.
  • Private Schools that accept Vouchers take a Whiter population of students than the districts from whence the students come.

I just have one simple question: How is it again that Vouchers provide “better” opportunities for students of color who are being “failed” by public schools, as voucher proponents continuously claim?

Because Ohio data sure suggest that students of color are best served by their local public schools, not the private schools who are more reluctant to take them, even with significant taxpayer-funded tuition subsidies.

Jerry Zahorchak, a former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, explains why the Republicans’ voucher bill would harm students and public schools and deepen inequity.

He writes:

Imagine a school district with $4,000 less to spend per student than its wealthier neighbors with many students who lack supports to reach grade-level. How would you help?

Most people would guarantee that this school district had funds to hire enough teachers and aides to give students who are behind supports. Indeed, nearly two-thirds of Pennsylvania parents in a recent PSBA (Pennsylvania School Boards Association) poll agreed that struggling schools need more resources.

Legislative leaders are instead considering taking taxpayer money away from some of the state’s lowest funded schools and sending it private schools, no strings attached.

The bill, HB 2169, passed the State House in May and could be considered by the state Senate at any time this session. Under the bill, students who live in the attendance zone of public schools with test scores in the bottom 15% statewide would be eligible to receive the average per-student state funding for public schools – around $7,000 per year – as a voucher that can be used for any qualified educational expense, including private school tuition. Funding would come directly from their local school district, and would cost struggling school districts around $140 million annually (PSBA).

Rather than giving students in underfunded schools resources, they would use taxpayer money to fuel the private market. Families would be on their own, forgetting that we all have a stake in making sure that each child learns to cooperate with neighbors of every stripe and become self-supporting, knowledgeable citizens.

Proponents claim these “lifeline scholarships” will help families access quality education they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. The real story is not so simple.

Supporters never mention that districts with high academic performance are able to spend around $4,600 more per student on average than low-performing districts. These resource gaps – which will be worse with HB 2169 – closely track local wealth. When we adjust for the fact that poor school districts serve more students in poverty and other students who need more support, the gap between wealthy and poor school districts is more than $7,000 per student.

The fantasy that the private market will provide a better deal for students at a cheaper price falls apart under scrutiny.

Private schools often reject students that public schools rightfully must educate: students who are behind grade-level, have behavioral challenges, are learning English and more. There’s no guarantee to make private schools accommodate students with disabilities, unlike public schools where federal laws guarantee students with disabilities the right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Private schools can reject students simply because they don’t “fit the culture” or can’t pay the entire cost of tuition. Because many of these students need services that cost more, there is an incentive to say no.

Please open the link and read the rest of his article.

The voucher bill was narrowly passed by the Republican-led House and also the State Semate Education committee.

For some inexplicable reason, it was endorsed by Josh Shapiro, the Democratic candidate for Governor.

Peter Greene is a retired teacher in Pennsylvania; he stepped down after nearly 40 years in the classroom and has been a prolific writer ever since, stepped in the wisdom of practie.

He is disgusted with Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro’s decision to support school vouchers.

Shapiro has joined forces with the GOP. How curious that Shapiro has thrown himself in the same boat with Greg Abbot, Ron DeSantis, Doug Ducy, and every other anti-public school governor.

Greene writes that Shapiro’s website touts his support for vouchers:

Josh favors adding choices for parents and educational opportunity for students and funding lifeline scholarships like those approved in other states and introduced in Pennsylvania.

The Lifeline Scholarship bill is a GOP education savings account bill–a super-voucher bill– currently sitting in the appropriations committee in the House; the Senate has passed their version. Not just charters. Not just traditional vouchers. But nice shiny, super vouchers. Take a bunch of money from public schools (based on state average cost-per-pupil, not local numbers, so that many districts will lose more money than they would have spent on the students). Handed as a pile of money/debit card which can be spent on any number of education-adjacent expenses.

The state will audit the families at least once every two years. The bill contains the usual non-interference clause, meaning that the money can be spent at a private discriminatory school, and no one will be checking to see if the school is actually educating the student. The bill is only old-school in that it uses the old foot-in-the-door technique of saying that this is just to rescue students from “failing” public schools (but includes no provisions to determine if the child has been moved to a failing private school).

Choicers are ecstatic…

You know a great way to make sure that zip code, ethnicity, and class don’t determine a child’s educational quality? It’s not to give some of them voucher money that may or may not get a few students to a better education.

It’s to fully fund and support all the schools in all the zip codes.

Boy, would I love to vote for a governor who supported that for a plan.

But no–we now have a choice of two guys who are barely different on education. Mastriano would gut spending completely while implementing vouchers, while Shapiro would just slice open a public education vein.

In fairness to Shapiro, his site says he’s going to fully fund education, too, which would be kind of like putting a hose in one side of your swimming pool while chopping a gaping hole in the base on the other side. It’s not a great plan. If he means it, which now, who’s to say.

Shapiro’s position is awful. It would align him with just about any GOP candidate in any other state, and the only reason it isn’t a disqualifier in this state is because insurrectionist Doug Mastriano is so spectacularly, so uniquely terrible, so ground-breakingly awful. Mastriano is still a terrible, terrible choice.

Voucher fans were sad because they could see their hopes and dreams going down in flames with Mastriano, but now they can rest assured that whoever wins, they will get a governor who supports an education program that any right wing Republican would love. For those of us who support public education, it is brutally disappointing.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott is determined to pass voucher legislation if he is re-elected. He has pushed for vouchers repeatedly and been defeated by a coalition of urban Democrats and rural Republicans. Our friends, the Pastors for Texas Children, have been champions of public schools, knowing that vouchers would undermine public schools in rural and suburban Texas. Governor Abbott, as usual, is pandering to the far-right extremists in his party who want to privatize everything.

The Texas Monthly describes Abbott’s sleazy tactics:

Undermining public schools has been a winning strategy for governors in several states. But for many rural, conservative communities in Texas, such schools are the only game in town.

By Bekah McNeel

At a July campaign event in Fort Stockton, Governor Greg Abbott played what has proven to be a winning card for Republicans across the country. “Parents,” he said, “should not be forced to send their child to a government-mandated school that teaches critical race theory, or is forcing their child to wear a face mask against their parents’ desire, or is forcing them to attend a school that isn’t safe.”

Actually, Abbott long ago outlawed mask mandates, and he and the Republican Legislature have heavily regulated what can be taught about race in Texas schools. But touting the progress of his agenda is less compelling than making a bogeyman of public schools altogether—telling parents that they deserve more control over what, where, and how their children learn. It’s a strategy that has well served Republican politicians such as Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin and Florida governor Ron DeSantis.

The buzz phrase “parental control” can cover a lot of ground, from oversight over classroom lessons and library books to school choice, and it’s a concept that most Republican voters support. But Abbott has lately taken parental control a giant step further by promoting school vouchers—government funds that would allow families to send their kids to public or private schools, including religious institutions and homeschooling arrangements. Supporters depict vouchers as the acme of parents’ control over their children’s education. But critics, including many conservative Texans, worry that they will inevitably drain resources from public schools, which in many small communities are the only schools available.

What most call “vouchers” can actually be several different things: tax credits for tuition or homeschooling supplies, access to a government savings account or scholarship that can be used for private school tuition, or a reimbursement for a set amount of educational expenses. Abbott has not committed to a specific kind of program, only to the idea that parents’ tax dollars should be able to pay for private school tuition.

These subsidies—often between $4,000 and $8,000 a year—don’t cover the full annual tuition rates of most private schools, which average between $9,000 and $11,000 in Texas, leading many critics to describe them as gifts to those who can already afford some level of tuition. The neediest students, they argue—those most likely to be in struggling schools—are still left with a considerable bill if they choose to participate.

“It looks like voucher programs in the past have always been about subsidizing affluent to wealthy folks who want private school for their kids,” said Charles Luke, codirector of Pastors for Texas Children. His group has always opposed vouchers, not only on the basis of the potential cost to public schools, but also on the grounds of separating church and state. Luke worries about government interference with religious or church-affiliated schools. “Government interference isn’t good for the church,” he said.

Where the money comes from and what strings are attached will be the devil in the details of bills soon to be filed for the 2023 Legislature, especially as Republicans vie to cut property taxes as well. Texas pays for public schools on a per-pupil basis, so every student lost represents a loss of revenue. School-voucher proponents say that state money should follow students to whatever public or private schools their parents choose. But superintendents argue that when a student leaves a public school for a private one, the district’s costs—for everything from classroom teachers to bus drivers—don’t decline proportionately.

Superintendents and elected representatives from rural areas—many of whom are Republicans—fear that the state would fund vouchers by reducing funding for public schools in places where such schools serve as community hubs, providing meeting spaces, sports competitions, and social services like school nutrition programs and health screenings. Places like Palestine, Texas.

The New York Times conducted an investigation of Hasidic religious schools and reported that they are failing schools but have received more than $1 Billion in government funds in public funds in the past four years.

The Hasidic Jewish community has long operated one of New York’s largest private schools on its own terms, resisting any outside scrutiny of how its students are faring.

But in 2019, the school, the Central United Talmudical Academy, agreed to give state standardized tests in reading and math to more than 1,000 students.

Every one of them failed.

Students at nearly a dozen other schools run by the Hasidic community recorded similarly dismal outcomes that year, a pattern that under ordinary circumstances would signal an education system in crisis. But where other schools might be struggling because of underfunding or mismanagement, these schools are different. They are failing by design.

The leaders of New York’s Hasidic community have built scores of private schools to educate children in Jewish law, prayer and tradition — and to wall them off from the secular world. Offering little English and math, and virtually no science or history, they drill students relentlessly, sometimes brutally, during hours of religious lessons conducted in Yiddish.

The result, a New York Times investigation has found, is that generations of children have been systematically denied a basic education, trapping many of them in a cycle of joblessness and dependency.

Segregated by gender, the Hasidic system fails most starkly in its more than 100 schools for boys. Spread across Brooklyn and the lower Hudson Valley, the schools turn out thousands of students each year who are unprepared to navigate the outside world, helping to push poverty rates in Hasidic neighborhoods to some of the highest in New York.

The schools appear to be operating in violation of state laws that guarantee children an adequate education. Even so, The Times found, the Hasidic boys’ schools have found ways of tapping into enormous sums of government money, collecting more than $1 billion in the past four years alone.

City and state offficials have failed to enforce laws requiring religious schools to offer a curriculum that is substantially equivalent to those in public schools. The politicians defer to Hasidim because they vote as a bloc.

Their graduates are ill-prepared to enter society. Their knowledge of math, science, history, and basic grammar is meager.

The students in the boys’ schools are not simply falling behind. They are suffering from levels of educational deprivation not seen anywhere else in New York, The Times found. Only nine schools in the state had less than 1 percent of students testing at grade level in 2019, the last year for which full data was available. All of them were Hasidic boys’ schools.

Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, once known as the Rush Limbaugh of Texas, has organized a group of pastors to push for school vouchers, in opposition to the dynamic Pastors for Texas Children, which has staunchly supported public schools.

Our friends, PTC, have helped to build a bipartisan coalition of urban Democrats and rural Republicans who don’t want their community schools defunded.

The Dallas Morning News reported:

Conservative Texas pastors and lawmakers have their eyes set on school vouchers to fight the “miseducation” of students ahead of the November elections and the upcoming legislative session.

“After COVID and after [critical race theory] and after pornographic books in libraries, parents deserve choices,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said during a call with about 50 Texas pastors Tuesday.

Patrick was joined by Rev. Dave Welch, founder and executive director of the Texas Pastor Council; Allan Parker, president of The Justice Foundation and former U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige on the call that lamented the “crisis” facing K-12 education.

“We are educationally in a crisis of change,” Paige said. “The pandemic has changed the area of education in the United States of America. My suggestion would be that [Gov. Greg Abbott] assemble a good group of good thinkers and think about where we go from here.”

Amid the ongoing education culture wars over what’s taught in schools and students falling behind academically after pandemic disruptions, many families want more options and some believe the landscape is ripe for a renewed fight for vouchers or similar efforts that funnel taxpayer money for use on private school education.

You may recall Rod Paige as President George W. Bush’s first Secretary of Education. He called the NEA “terrorists.”

I am grateful for PTC, who have fought for adequate funding for the five million students in Texas public schools and stood strong against vouchers.

This is a startling article about a strange alliance between a theocratic cult and Trump’s friends Michael Flynn and Roger Stone. Jennifer Cohn, an expert on election integrity, digs deep into the world of Christian Dominionism and explores its philosophy. Its ambitions are vast, and it poses a threat to our secular democracy.

It begins:

On July 1, 2022, inside a packed Georgia arena, four religious leaders stood on stage as they recited a blood chilling Prayer Declaration called the “Watchman Decree”:

Whereas, we have been given legal power from heaven and now exercise our authority, Whereas, we are God’s ambassadors and spokespeople over the earth. Whereas, through the power of God we are the world influencers. Whereas, because of our covenant with God, we are equipped and delegated by him to destroy every attempted advance of the enemy, we make our declarations: … 3. We decree that our judicial system will issue rulings that are biblical and constitutional. 4. We declare that we stand against wokeness, the occult, and every evil attempt against our nation. 5. We declare that we now take back our God-given freedoms, according to our Constitution. 6. We decree that we take back and permanently control positions of influence and leadership in each of the “Seven Mountains.”

[Video]

A video of the recitation (shown above) was viewed more than 3 million times on Twitter. In the replies, many people expressed horror at what they had seen. Although few were aware, they had just witnessed the fruits of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). The NAR is a rapidly accelerating and dangerously under-reported worldwide Christian authoritarian movement. It practices faith healing and exorcism and promotes dominionism, a belief that Christians must take control of government, business and culture in order for Jesus to return to earth. The men on stage included NAR apostles Dutch Sheets (who wrote the decree) and Lance Wallhau, along with two close colleagues, pastors Mario Murillo and Hank Kunneman. The fifth man, pastor Gene Bailey, hosted the event for his showFlashpoint on Victory TV, a Christian network that platforms the NAR and pro-Trump Make America Great (MAGA) influencers.

Please open the link and learn about the religious extremists who want to control everything. Learn about their ties to MAGA world figures like Flynn and Stone.

Texas passed a law requiring schools to post signs saying “In God We Trust” in schools.

A prankster in Florida is raising money to donate these signs to Texas schools/-but in Arabic.

Will these signs be allowed?

As he rode his bike Sunday, longtime political prankster Chaz Stevens ruminated on a law that was irking him: A Texas statute requiring schools to post donated signs with the United States motto, “In God We Trust.”

Texas legislators, Stevens thought, were trolling people who don’t believe in a Judeo-Christian God.
Now, Stevens wants to troll them back.

The South Florida activist had raised more than $14,000 as of Thursday evening to distribute “In God We Trust” signs to public schools across Texas. The catch? The phrase is in Arabic.

“My focus,” Stevens said, “was how do I game the state of Texas with the rules?”

The Arabic text is meant to invoke Islam and some Christians’ discomfort with that faith, Stevens said. He’s hoping for even one school to hang up the poster — in his view, making a point about applying the controversial statute evenly to people of any religion or no religion.

But Stevens, a self-described “staunch atheist,” is also prepared to try to turn a loss into a win. If a school rejects his poster, he said, he plans to file a lawsuit and use the court case to challenge the statute itself.

Stevens’ stunt, previously reported in the Dallas Morning News, joins a history of challenges to the national motto that courts have consistently rejected. It also adds fuel to a political firestorm that in recent years has turned schools in Republican-led states into culture-war battlegrounds. Fights are erupting over book banning, how race and gender are taught, and religious practice on school grounds as politicians clash over what it means to be an American and who gets to decide.

Texas state Sen. Bryan Hughes (R), who sponsored the sign law, said Stevens’s Arabic posters do not meet the statute’s requirements and would not have to be posted in schools. He pointed to quotation marks around the phrase “In God We Trust” to suggest that a school only has to hang a donated sign with those words in English.

“That’s all they’re required to do,” Hughes said. “But they are free to post other signs in as many languages as they want to.”


The law, which took effect last year, mandates that public schools display “in a conspicuous place in each building of the school” a sign with the national motto if the poster was donated or purchased with private donations. The sign also must include the U.S. flag and the Texas flag, and it “may not depict” any other words or images. The law does not explicitly state that the national motto must be in English.

Given the Christian zealots who now control the U.S. Supreme Court, Sen. Hughes might prevail.