*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*
One of the downsides of investigating, observing, and opining on the state of American politics is the relatively rare case of uncontrollable rage; not at what’s happening, but that it is happening precisely as no small number of opinion columnists and commentators warned incessantly it would. This is particularly true in the case of Republicans and their close connection to the religious zealots intent on creating a theocracy.
On Wednesday this author had one of those horrid “uncontrollable rage” moments when it was reported in the Washington Post that exactly as this column and many others have predicted, the movement to dismantle the Department of Education to make room for installing the Christian god and bible in the classroom is underway; replete with a lengthy manifesto for transforming public schools into evangelical madrasas. This is as serious a breach of the United States Constitution as Trump’s violations of the Emoluments Clause, and it is a breach that Donald Trump and education secretary Betsy DeVos intend to see implemented in spite of swearing to support the Constitution.
The five-page “education reform policy” manifesto was created by the religiously conservative Council for National Policy. The group was created when Reagan began tearing down government and it has very close ties to the Trump administration; particularly his woefully unqualified Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. The manifesto demands a “restoration of education in America that promotes religious schools, homeschooling and enshrines historic Judeo-Christian principles” as the basis for public school instruction.
First, notice the demand to “restore” religion in schools implies it ever existed, or that it was ever deemed constitutional. It wasn’t because it is not constitutional and in never existed. But religious conservatives could not care less and the idea of dismantling the Department of Education is one the Koch brothers and Republicans lust to see to fruition.
The manifesto proposes drastically downsizing the Education Department to little more than “a presidential Advisory Council on Public Education Reform,” and would no longer be a cabinet-level agency. Also, all employees should subscribe to the religion-based educational worldview of the Trump administration; “from assistant secretaries to the mailroom.”
There is also a major plan to transform what public schools are allowed to remain into evangelical-based instruction including many actions, like posting the Ten Commandments to teaching Bible classes and recognizing holidays as religious events. The manifesto also demands public school curriculum and instruction come “from a Judeo-Christian perspective;” damn the Constitution and god-damn several Supreme Court rulings that religion has no place in public schools.
The powerful conservative group has no qualms stating unabashedly what its ultimate goal is:
“A gradual return at all levels to free-market private schools, church schools and home schools as the normative American practice.”
That particular goal is, to no-one’s surprise, precisely the same as the Koch brothers’ including using taxpayer dollars to fund for-profit church and corporate schools and pay religious conspiracy-afflicted parents to run their own homeschool madrasa.
This news, and report, could not possibly be more disturbing because based on Betsy DeVos’ complete and utter ignorance of the public school system, and her single-minded drive to eliminate it, coupled with Trump’s lack of direction or awareness of anything other than his deification, the administration will likely do exactly as instructed. The instructions to the Trump and DeVos are, as Patheos cited from Right Wing Watch are based on some outrageous assumptions in a secular nation with a secular Constitution like America:
1 – All knowledge and facts have a source, a Creator; they are not self-existent.
2 – Religious neutrality is a myth perpetrated by secularists who
destroy their own claim the moment they attempt to enforce it.
3- Parents and guardians bear final responsibility for their children’s education, with the inherent right to teach, or to choose teachers and schools, whether institutional or not.
4 – No civil government possesses the right to overrule the educational choices of parents and guardians.
Obviously, there is no room for public schools or schools that fail to hew to the evangelical worldview and the list of the CNP’s “new rules” to be implemented by the new President’s Council on Education Reform include:
1 -Restore Ten Commandments posters to all K-12 public schools.
2 – Clearly post America’s Constitution and Declaration of Independence.
3 – Encourage K-12 schools to recognize traditional holidays as celebrations of our Judeo-Christian heritage.
4 – Implement select bible classes, such as Chuck Stetson’s Bible Literacy Project.
5 – Encourage instruction on U.S. and world history from the Judeo-Christian perspective for middle school and high school history and civics classes.
6 – Develop and recommend In-service training on philosophy of education for K-12 faculty based on historical Judeo-Christian philosophy of education.
7 – Strongly push states to remove secular-based sex education materials from school facilities, and emphasize parental instruction.
These instructions inform any typical evangelical religious school anyplace in America and should in no way be implemented in public schools; they are the grossest violations of the Establishment and Separation Clauses of the 1st Amendment. However, Trump’s administration has shown little knowledge of, and no fealty to, the Constitution and perusing the members of the “Council” advising the creation of federally-enforced religious education policy explains why. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) published a membership directory that is a who’s who of ultra-far-right evangelical conservatives.
The CNP’s education reform committee who are responsible for the report made a pledge to the Trump and DeVos to:
“…work toward achievable goals based on uncompromised principles, so that their very success will provoke a popular return to the Judeo-Christian principles of America’s Founders who believed that God belonged in the classroom.”
Setting aside that the statement is founded on a blatant fantasy, the “committee” has to present evidence in the U.S. Constitution proving that the Founders “believed that god belonged in the classroom;” the Separation and Establishment Clauses are very clear and they were, in a point of fact, exactly what the Founders really believed about inserting religion into any Americans’ life under aegis of the government, or by legislation, or under the advice of a cabal of fanatical Christians.
Some of the former and current members of the CNP are one of Trump’s puppet masters Steve Bannon, Trump product promotions specialist Kellyanne Conway, and a rash of Betsy DeVos’ family members. One of the CNP education committee’s members, E. Ray Moore Jr., is the founder of the Exodus Mandate Project and an enemy of public schools.
The “project” calls for Christian families to pull their children out of public schools because they aren’t Christian schools. Moore thinks that Trump’s election shifted the education debate toward the (religious) right and instead of strengthening public schools, Moore believes Trump and DeVos will stop trying to strengthen public education by eliminating it. He said,
“The system can’t be fixed. You don’t hear Republicans and free-market people talking about fixing Obamacare. They talk about repeal and replace. We think the same argument should apply to education.”
So there it is in a nutshell. Trump’s people, and the Trump himself, who have no experience in or idea about, educating America’s children have been handed an evangelical blueprint to implement Trump’s pledge to “largely eliminate” the Education Department. What that means for public schools is they will not only lose most of their funding to private, for-profit corporate and religious schools, the few public schools allowed to remain will be taxpayer-funded Christian madrasas. One of the committee members who served as an education appointee in Reagan’s administration said as much in defending the push for god in school. According to Donna Hearne:
“There’s a real need for a discussion in America today of what kind of education do we want, because what kind of country do we want down the road?”
Based on the CNP’s instructions to Trump and DeVos, the kind of education Republicans want taxpayers to pay for is evangelical Christianity and run by corporations to profit off of taxpayer-funded education. Because the kind of country they want down the road is a theocracy in the fashion of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the Islamic State In Iraq and Syria (ISIS) caliphate. It is an abomination of epic proportions and one this column warned was coming to no avail if Republicans ever got control of the government, and that is still infuriating.
**The above article includes reports with commentary by R Muse**
h/t Michael Stone/Patheos
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.