“Government Schools,” the movie

November 28, 2011  |  permalink

The anti-“government school” movement may be coming soon to a screening room near you. Exodus Mandate, a ministry seeking to “encourage and assist Christian families to leave government schools for the Promised Land of Christian schools or home schooling,” coproduced the film “IndoctriNation: Public Schools and the Decline of Christianity in America.”

The film follows Colin Gunn, a homeschooling father of seven, as he drives around the country “exposing” the dangers of public education. (I.e. “wonderful public school ‘teachers’ have [students] prattling and lisping about ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ and ‘marriage equality,’ etc.”)

Gunn’s production company is also responsible for the films: “Shaky Town,” which debunks San Francisco as a tolerant town (“real video footage of Christian churches in San Francisco being attacked by violent groups of homosexuals!”); and “The Monstrous Regiment of Women,” a “documentary” that blames feminism for destroying the church, state, and family (the film’s tagline is “Extolling Femininity, Blasting Feminism”).

IndoctriNation condemns the “educational elite who are pushing godlessness.” Public school classrooms are described as “gulag[s] where everything that the pastor teaches them in Sunday school is contradicted by their ‘teacher’ who bleats the mantra of the anti-Christ educational establishment,” according to one sympathetic reviewer.

“Mean Girls” Out Texas SBOE Member

November 19, 2011  |  permalink

Apparently, being a member of the Texas State Board of Education means facing down a junior high-style clique of Mean Girls. Earlier this month, the president of a Texas group called Golden Corridor Republican Women sent out an email to her members asking for an investigation into the personal life of George Clayton, a moderate Republican and one of the newest members of the infamous Texas State Board of Education.
“What are his living arrangements in Richardson?” was her fevered query.  “With whom does he live? It’s not appropriate to comment further - but this needs to be investigated.”
Clayton responded by emailing various news groups that he lives with his male partner, adding laconically, “I hope this frank announcement satisfies Tincy Miller and the ladies associated with the Golden Corridor organization. All of us can now move on with discussions concerning education instead of being overly preoccupied with my personal life.” Miller, a member of the Golden Corridor, was formerly a part of the SBOE’s ultraconservative faction. She was defeated by Clayton in 2010 but will challenge him again in the GOP primary next March.

Anti-Semitism in an Ohio School

November 14, 2011  |  permalink

A teenage girl in Uniontown, Ohio has allegedly been bullied for years because she is Jewish, and her family is now suing the local school district for never disciplining the bullies or responding to the attacks. According to a blog post from The Plain Dealer:

“Students regularly called her a ‘dirty Jew’ or ‘Hitler,’ according to the suit. They also said she would ‘rot in hell’ because she didn’t believe in Christ. She was tripped, shoved, kicked, spit on and had her books knocked out of her hands, the suit says. In September 2007, it says, she was stabbed in the leg by another student with a pencil during a class.

It is concerning when school officials fail to respond to verbal and physical attacks—as they should do with any instance of bullying and harassment. Unfortunately, as I show in my book The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children, cases such as these are frightening harbingers of the bullying behaviors that thrive when religion is injected in public schools.

When Muslims Do It, It’s “In-Your-Face”

November 10, 2011  |  permalink

All schools break to coincide with the Christmas holidays, and some districts schedule time off for Jewish holidays such as Yom Kippur. But yet, predictably, giving kids in the Cambridge school district a day off to celebrate a Muslim holiday precipitates a firestorm.

“The hypocrisy and the double standard against Christians and other religious believers [have] gone hand-in-hand with everything that [Schools Superintendant] Jeffrey Young and his cohorts have done,” laments Brian Canemaker of MassResistance, a “pro-family action center” that devotes a large portion of its attention to opposing “the homosexual agenda.” Canemaker adds, “So many of the things that they’ve done have offended Christians.”


Demons and Curses in our Public Schools

November 09, 2011  |  permalink

The Morning Star New York ministry that meets at my daughter’s public school every Sunday recommends its members undergo a program called “Cleansing Stream.”

Click around the websites for Cleansing Stream and their partnering organization, Restoring the Foundations, and you’re soon in the world of “spiritual warfare” with unseen demonic forces.

This is the land of Satanic battles, “purity” phobias, and “curses” passed down through generations. It’s a world view that literally demonizes many public school families.

Do we really want this kind of “education” taking place in our public school classrooms and auditoriums?

Michigan Law Protects Faith-Based Bullying

November 04, 2011  |  permalink

Bullying kids in Michigan public schools may soon be prohibited. Unless, of course, you’re with the God squad.  Tack “because my God said so” to any form of hate – bigotry, sexism, homophobia, what have you – and it’s all government-sanctioned, according to the Michigan Senate, which just passed new “anti-bullying” legislation with a special exception for bullies who have “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.” The bill was approved by a 26-11, party-line vote and now advances to the Republican-led House.

The law has come under fire from Michigan Senator Gretchen Whitmer (D) who, in a powerful floor speech, stated (watch the video here):

“You may be able to pat yourselves on the back today and say that you did something, but in actuality you are explicitly outlining how to get away with bullying….As passed today, bulling kids is okay if a student, parent, teacher, or school employee can come up with a moral or religious reason for doing it.”

Pushing the Boundaries on School/Religion Entanglement

November 01, 2011  |  permalink

On October 19, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter at the Sycamore High School in Pleasant View, Tennessee sponsored an event called “Fields of Faith,” a religious event that was held on the school’s athletic field. The organizers invited members of the community, including district teachers and staff, to attend and actively participate. Specifically, they invited Gwen White Owl, a teacher at Sycamore High School, to speak.

When the school district objected to Owl’s participation, citing a 2009 settlement with the ACLU, the Alliance Defense Fund, the right wing legal advocacy group, sent a letter defending teachers’ right to participate, saying that when they are not acting in their official capacity as teachers, their constitutional rights are protected.

I think we can all agree that teachers and others have the right to free exercise and free speech. However, when the exercise takes place on the public school campuses where they are employed during the week, and they are specifically invited to speak to children who they also serve in their professional capacity, someone –indeed, someone who understands symbolic authority and power – is pushing the church/school envelope. 

Of course, if religious services were held at privately funded religious institutions, rather than state-funded public school facilities, situations such as these would be far less predictable. This is yet another example of how injecting religion into the public school environment provides opportunities for entanglement between public education and religion. While such assemblies should not be illegal, this is yet another instance of the Religious Right pushing the boundaries, and possibly confusing our children.

The Religious Right Wants Safe Schools…for Bullies

September 14, 2011  |  permalink

In Minnesota’s Ankora-Hennepin school district, as writer Eirk Eckholm reports in today’s New York Times, eight students have committed suicide in the past two years. According to parents and students who have filed a lawsuit, at least some of the eight were victims of harassment and bullying because of sexual orientation.

Conservative Christian groups are taking a stand in defense of … nonaction. Such groups have demanded that the schools “avoid any descriptions of homosexuality or same-sex marriage as normal, warning against any surrender to what they say is the ‘homosexual agenda.’” The school, writes Eckholm, is suffering under a “gag order,” on discussions about sexual diversity as teachers must remain “neutral” on issues of sexual orientation. On the ground, this means that teachers do not reprimand or punish students who taunt other students on the basis of sexual orientation, whether real or perceived.

As the Times reports, the opposition to anti-bullying efforts comes from the Minnesota Family Council as well as a group of families in the school district that are closely associated with the organization. I would add that a large source of the opposition comes from the legal juggernaut of the Religious Right: the Alliance Defense Fund. The ADF lists the Minnesota Family Council on its website as one of their policy organizations. The Northstar Legal Center, which offers legal services to the MFC, is listed on the ADF website as one of the ADF’s legal organizations.

Until Americans are able to identify the big power brokers in this movement: The Alliance Defense Fund, Liberty Counsel, and other legal entities pushing a religious agenda in the schools, they will be unable to link local “anti-anti-bullying” movements with the Religious Right’s larger goals.

The Religious Right’s Same-Sex Problem

September 05, 2011  |  permalink

In my travels in the religious right, I have often found myself mystified by the focus on the “homosexual agenda.” A case in point is Mathew Staver’s 2004 book, Same-Sex Marriage: Putting Every Household at Risk (Broadman & Holman). Really? Every household? My husband and I have our share of challenges, but I can’t think of a single one that is due to the sexual orientation of our friends. I’d like to blame James and Doug, a pair who just celebrated their 29-year anniversary together, for our issues, but the worst thing they ever did to me was over-salt the risotto.

But Staver is insistent. “The traditional family has never faced as great a threat as it does today from same-sex marriage,” he writes. And it isn’t just about the marriage issue. Staver certainly agrees with his friend and legal ally Alan Sears, founder of the Alliance Defense Fund, whose book also plays all of it’s cards in the title: The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today (2003, Broadman & Holman).

When I asked my friend James about the “homosexual agenda,” he gave what is by now a standard line: His agenda is to leave work in time to make it to the farmers market, so he can buy all those horrifying vegetables that go into his over-salted risotto. Is this the enemy??

I begin to get a grip on the underlying logic when Staver stops talking about gay people and starts talking about heterosexuals. “To sanction same-sex marriage would be to say that there is no relevance to gender and thus result in the abolition of gender,” he writes. For Staver, the differences between men and women are fixed and immutable. But somehow, if they are not reinforced by a federal statute, they will magically dissolve.

Rick and the Apostles

July 15, 2011  |  permalink

Rick PerryToday at Talk to Action, Rachel Tabachnick has a post about the links between presidential candidate Rick Perry’s August 6 prayer event and the New Apostolic Reformation, a national religious movement that has an aggressive ideology that seeks to establish control over all aspects of society, including education and government.

While most Americans have never heard of this movement, it has a wider reach than people imagine. Many people may be contributing to the movement without realizing it. At the Morning Star New York church that appeared in our daughter’s public school in New York City, P.S. 6, for example, it was not clear to me that every congregation member is aware that it is part of the NAR movement, or what that implies. When I asked a pastor there if Morning Star is members of that movement, one of them reluctantly replied, “I guess so.” He sheepishly told me that the religious movement the church is a part of has “apostolic leaders,” but was quick to assure me that it is “nondenominational” and welcomes people of all religious traditions.

It’s worth pointing out that the NAR appears to be forging links with more broadly accepted evangelical groups. At the last NAR service I attended, the pastor announced that he had been invited to a meeting at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church. But the NAR is more extreme in its core ideology than people may realize, and its links with political figures like Rick Perry should be scrutinized carefully.

Tea Party: School’s Out For Ever

July 15, 2011  |  permalink

school closedA pro-voucher Tea Party group finally admits what it’s really after: to “shut down public schools and have private schools only.” reports that the Independence Hall Tea Party, an influential group running a PAC operating in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey, has come clean about its true aims in pushing school vouchers: to abolish public education.

According to reporter Zaid Jilani, President of the Independence Hall Tea Party Association Teri Adams, said, “We think public schools should go away” because they are “hurting our children.” Adams also claims that the current voucher programs discriminate against wealthier students’ and their families by offering public subsidies only to children in poor neighborhoods, whose schools are already failing. Responding via email to thinkprogress, she wrote, “Our ultimate goal is to shut down public schools and have private schools only, eventually returning responsibility for payment to parents and private charities. It’s going to happen piecemeal and not overnight, as it took years to get into this mess.”

The last time responsibility for education was left to parents and private charities, in the first decades of our nation’s republic, an inconsistent patchwork of educational schemes left many American children without any formal education at all.

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The Book
The Good News Club, by Katherine Stewart

The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children

About the Author
author Katherine Stewart Katherine Stewart has written for The New York Times, the Atlantic, and the Guardian. She lives in New York City. Contact her. More →


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