Nel's New Day

June 30, 2015

Last Week at SCOTUS: More Forward Than Backward

Two landmark cases came down from the Supreme Court last week—keeping health care for low-income people and granting marriage equality. Other lesser noticed cases, however, have influences on people across the United States. In seven other decisions last week, SCOTUS took at least five steps forward with two steps back, a better result than most progressive people expect from the current court.

The two steps backward were pollution and the death penalty:

pollution from power plantsPower plants can continue releasing unlimited mercury, arsenic, and other pollutants, in a step toward invalidating the first U.S. regulations to limit toxic heavy metal pollution from coal and oil-fired plants. The 5-4 conservative ruling, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, accused the EPA of not  considering costs to the power industry before creating its regulation. The EPA actually estimated costs, but Scalia didn’t believe the agency’s calculations. Fortunately, the case was remanded to the D.C. Circuit for further consideration. If the lower court eliminates the regulations, pro-coal states have no arguments against EPA’s proposed regulations on carbon emissions, perhaps leaving the EPA free to regulate carbon dioxide. The EPA estimated that the new regulations would prevent 11,000 premature deaths each year as well as increasing the IQ for children who survived.

Executions are still permitted to use cruel and unusual punishment because the conservative court didn’t stop the use of a drug that fails to sufficiently sedate the subject. Glossip v. Gross goes farther, however, because it makes the death penalty impervious to many constitutional challenges. In oral arguments for the court, the opinion’s author, Justice Samuel Alito, sneered at death penalty opponents and accused the drug companies refusal to sell products to kill people, a “guerrilla war against the death penalty.”

A key declaration in the opinion is that the United States is required to have methods to execute inmates despite the fact that there is “some risk of pain is inherent in any method of execution.” Another part of the opinion is that lawyers must help decide the method of execution for their clients: a lawyer challenging one method of execution must name another, alternative method to be used instead.

Alito’s opinion brought fiery dissents, two of them read from the bench. Supported by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Stephen Breyer protested the argument that the death penalty is constitution, writing, “I would ask for full briefing on a more basic question: whether the death penalty violates the Constitution.” Scalia went back to the bench to call Breyer’s opinion “gobbledygook.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor was far more scorching when she wrote:

“Petitioners contend that Oklahoma’s current protocol is a barbarous method of punishment—the chemical equivalent of being burned alive. But under the Court’s new rule, it would not matter whether the State intended to use midazolam, or instead to have petitioners drawn and quartered, slowly tortured to death, or actually burned at the stake: because petitioners failed to prove the availability of sodium thiopental or pentobarbital, the State could execute them using whatever means it designated.”

By refusing to hear a case preventing mandatory documentation for citizenship in federal elections, the Supreme Court blocked this requirement. Kansas and Arizona wanted a change in registration requirements to include proof of citizenship for these elections, but the 10th Circuit Court ruled that states cannot require this documentation.

 

Another step forward came from the Supreme Court decision to leave women’s clinics in Texas open until the court has heard the appeal about the state law to prevent abortions outside hospitals and “mini-hospitals,” ambulatory surgical centers. Justice Anthony Kennedy joined the progressive justices in the 5-4 vote. Texas restrictions had already closed about half the state’s 41 clinics within the past four years, and the newest law shut down all but nine, concentrated in four urban, higher-income areas of the state.

Progressive voters in Arizona may also be rejoicing after a 5-4 Supreme Court vote ruled that a voter-approved independent redistricting commission in Arizona is constitutional. Complaints of legislative partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts led to the law that a legislative-chosen independent commission of two Republicans and two Democrats with a chair who is not a member of either party make this decision. Although the ballot measure for a constitutional amendment to approve the commission went into effect 15 years ago, Arizona Republicans had no problem with the redistricting process until Democrats started winning more seats in 2012.

The U.S. Constitution states that the “times, places, and manner” of federal elections “shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof.” The minority argued that a ballot measure is not part of “the legislature” because it is determined by the people of the state although the court had earlier decided that “legislature” can refer to the process exercised by people through direct democracy. The losing lawyer, Paul Clement, failed to persuade the majority with his argument that those election laws didn’t take power away from the legislature but the creation of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission did.

In arguing for the majority, Justice Elena Kagan asked if all the voter ID laws created by ballot measures would then also be unconstitutional. Kennedy argued that a constitutional amendment had given power to the people by allowing them to select U.S. senators.

In his dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “What chumps!” in reference to the Congressional members who passed the 17th Amendment in 2012 that was then ratified by 41 states. The ruling was only for Arizona, but it may have far-reaching effects outside that state. Twelve other states also have commissions to assist in the redistrict process. The ruling also empowers voters in other states to reduce partisan control of the U.S. House. Studies show nonpartisan or bipartisan commissions leads to “districts both more competitive and more likely to survive legal challenge.” According to Ginsburg, 21 states have created initiative or direct lawmaking power, and 18 states can adopt amendments to the state constitution.

Arizona redistricting will return to the Supreme Court in the coming year when justices will hear another case accusing the independent commission of using race and partisanship for the congressional boundaries.

The Supreme Court struck a blow against the prison industrial complex in Johnson v. United States with the ruling that part of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) is unconstitutionally vague. Passed in 1984, the law requires judges to sentence people to 15 years life if they have three prior convictions for “serious drug offense” or “violent felonies.” The law, however, had no concrete definition for a “violent felony.” A clause in the ACCA sends felons to prison for any crime that “presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.” It could be drunk driving, fleeing police, failing to report to a parole officer, or even attempted burglary. Johnson’s prison sentence was extended because of a prior conviction of possession of a sawed off shotgun. Writing the opinion for the 8-1 decision, Scalia wrote that the clause in the law lacking a definition violates due process. Alito likes the law, and the ACCA was very popular with lawmakers because many states are required to fill up beds in private prisons.

prisoners

This room in the California Institution for Men four years shows how overcrowded that prisons have become. Photo by Ann Johansson for The New York Times.

A huge victory for civil rights came from the 5-4 decision in Texas Dept. of Housing v. Inclusive Communities. Kennedy again joined the four progressive judges to rule that a lawsuit under fair housing law doesn’t need to prove that a developer or the government knowingly discriminated—only that the policy had a disparate impact which can frequently be shown with statistics.

The case came from Texas’ distribution of tax credits for low-income housing almost exclusively in racially segregated low-income areas, denying minorities few opportunities to move to integrated or wealthier areas. The opinion in this case also requires that decision-makers consider race to comply with the Fair Housing Act and design remedial orders to eliminate racial disparities through race-neutral means.

The typical 5-4 vote had one almost-silent justice writing the dissent. Clarence Thomas used an unfortunate example for his belief that “disparate-impact doctrine defies not only the statutory text, but reality itself.”

“Racial imbalances do not always disfavor minorities.… And in our own country, for roughly a quarter-century now, over 70 percent of National Basketball Association players have been black.”

Taxpayer funds for religious schools may be on the docket next year after Colorado’s supreme court ruled that conservative families in affluent neighborhoods can not use public funds to send their children to religious charter schools.  A big player in this area is the Koch Brothers, whose Americans for Prosperity PAC works to expand voucher programs and buy school board elections throughout the country. In just one Colorado county, AFP spent $350,000 to dismantle teachers’ unions and public schools. GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush is also a big player in the school privatization program. Conservatives desperately need students in private religious schools to indoctrinate them.

March 24, 2014

Laws Force Taxpayers to Fund Religious Studies

creationismgraphicforsocial02_sidebar A short time ago, I wrote about how taxpayers are funding public benefits for workers because of the low wages that companies like Walmart provide to their employees. Another cost to taxpayers in at least 14 states is for religious instruction. (A state-by-state breakdown of schools is available here.)  Private school tuition through voucher programs are costing taxpayers almost $1 billion to provide misinformation in science, mathematics, history, and other areas of instruction—all in the name of religion.

Court cases across the nation and at the U.S. Supreme Court have upheld the constitutional separation of church and state in schools. Public schools cannot teach creationism or intelligent design. But private schools can—and do—provide these misinformation to their students while schools receive public subsidies. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld voucher programs, even when they subsidize religious education, as long as parents who accept vouchers can choose where to spend them.

In a review of hundreds of pages of school curriculum, course outlines, textbooks, and websites, Politico discovered a “disdain of the secular world, distrust of momentous discoveries and hostility toward mainstream scientists. They often distort basic facts about the scientific method–teaching, for instance, that theories such as evolution are by definition highly speculative because they haven’t been elevated to the status of “scientific law.”  Private schools have the advantage of ignoring all standards and set their own curriculum with almost no oversight.

Taxpayers are forced to pay for curriculum that includes the religious belief that the planet is only 6,000 years old. Taxpayers fund education falsely teaching that people lived at the same time as dinosaurs. Textbooks popular in Christian schools describe evolution as “a wicked and vain philosophy,” while students practice vocabulary lessons that claim “many scientists today are creationists.” Eric Meikle, project director at the National Center for Science Education, said, “I don’t think the function of public education is to prepare students for the turn of the 19th century.”

Textbooks deride “modern math theorists” who fail to view mathematics as absolute laws ordained by God and shun “modern” breakthroughs such as set theory which was developed in the 19th century. In the classroom, math teachers set aside time tech week, even in geometry and algebra, to explore numbers in the Bible. According to these schools, mathematics laws are ordained by God.

Because of recent articles on the Internet, people are somewhat aware of the horrifying science and math curriculum in private schools. Social studies, however, suffer from the same abuses of information. Christian publishers A Beka Beook and Bob Jones University Publishing have their products in 43 percent of religious voucher schools that responded to a 2003 survey. Here is a tiny sample of what they teach. Details are available here about the religious schools view of 20th century history:

  • The Great Depression was a myth, made up rumors to spread socialism.
  • Karl Marx and Charles Darwin were responsible for Hitler and the Nazis; Germans accepted Hitler’s ideas because they accepted evolution.
  • The culture of post-World War II brought strong families and kept crime to the “back alleys.” Because of the evangelists’ crusades during the 1950s, Billy Graham was “one of the best known and respected persons in America and the world.”
  • Problems in the 1960s and 1970s came from the suspension of the death penalty and the legalization of abortion. “Prosperity and new-wound enjoyments” caused people to ‘forget’ God” with an increase in crime, the legalization of gambling, and “the teachings of Sigmund Freud.”
  • “Pornographic films and books were legalized under the guise of ‘freedom of speech.’”

Instruction in these schools on guns: “The founding fathers… understood that unarmed citizens would not be able to stand against a tyrannical government.” Gun control is a “gateway to tyranny.” Hitler, Stalin, and Mao disarmed their citizens. “Armed citizens could also play a major role in thwarting Globalism, the idea to bring the world together under ‘one global government.’ making the constitution null and void.”

Biography curriculum in private schools:

  • Clarence Thomas is the greatest example of black American achievement. (No mention of Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court justice and champion of civil rights.)
  • Bill Clinton and Ross Perot joined forces during the 1990s to create another myth of economic crisis. “Bill Clinton had dodged military service and participated in anti-war demonstration in Great Britain.”
  • George W. Bush saved the country from Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. (No mention of George W. Bush’s draft-dodging.)
  • Barack Obama should be known for his tolerance of “people who choose to live an alternative lifestyle, a ‘lifestyle’ the Bible calls sin.” The subject of homosexuality is in the chapter on “Cultural Decay.”

Critical thinking is these private schools is almost nonexistent. According to one school, “Our understanding is not complete until we filter it through God’s Word.” This is the “DISCERN” system used in thinking: Determine your choices; Inquire of God through prayer; Search the scriptures; Consider godly counsel; Eliminate worldly thinking; Recognize God’s leading; Never compromise the truth. In addition to the “Discern” method, funded by public taxes, many schools are clear about their goal to arm students against using multiculturalism in looking at the world.

About 250,000 students currently use vouchers and tax-credit scholarships. Although that’s a fraction of the country’s 55 million public school students, it has increased 30 percent since 2010. States are also planning increases: for example, Florida plans to go from $286 million this year to $700 million in 2018. The state will be joined by 26 states that are considering new voucher programs or the expansion of current ones.

A popular plan is stocking individual bank accounts with state funds that parents can spend on religious and secular tutors as well as schools. The Arizona Supreme Court has already decided that this approach is constitutional. The state plans to make more than 70 percent of the state’s students eligible for vouchers.

Arizona’s state education superintendent, John Huppenthal, has made recorded calls to thousands of parents touting the Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account. Eligible families can receive an average of $13,000 a year in public funds for their children’s education, including the purchase of materials on creationism. Huppenthal liked this public education but helped pass a state law to prevent Mexican-American studies in high schools by threatening to shut off their public funding. Only a federal court order reinstated the popular class.

Voucher supporters spend heavily to elect lawmakers who believe in this system. The American Federation for Children, a major pro-voucher group, has spent $18 million on campaigns since 2007, and the Koch group Americans for Prosperity has campaigned for private school subsidies in ten states.

New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan is personally lobbying for $150 million a year on private school subsidies. The state Senate has passed the initiative, and the Assembly has 100 co-sponsors. Information about other states is available here.

On the federal level, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has introduced a bill to consolidate dozens of federal education programs into one $24 billion funding stream for state vouchers. He disagrees that vouchers would put students into religious schools that devalue education. He cites the achievements of students in Catholic schools. Yet those students typically come from well-educated families and are far less likely to be poor, have disabilities, or still be learning English. A study controlling for these variables found that private schools have no advantage.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) is pushing school choice. He said, “It is my personal goal that in 10 years, every child in America will have education opportunity through school choice no matter where they live.” Other GOP members of Congress are determined to restore Washington, D.C. vouchers in the budget.

School voucher programs are not only ineffective. These programs exacerbate the inequality within the nation’s schools and weaken the public school system as a whole. In addition, many parents receiving voucher payments already send their children to private religious schools. And taxpayers are forced to finance this abuse of the educational system.

Among the world’s most-developed countries, U.S. students are below average in math and close to average in science and reading. In 2009, 23 nations and other jurisdictions outperformed U.S. students; three years later, 29 locales do so. In science, 22 of those scored were above the U.S., up from 18 three in 2009. In 2012, U.S. students were down by 19, over double from the tenth position three years earlier. U.S. students are below Russia. The prevalence of the vouchers to religious schools will guarantee another drop when the next comparison is done next year.

March 24, 2013

Can We Keep the U.S. From Being a Total Theocracy?

Each week Steve Benen writes a segment called “The God Machine” on the Rachel Maddow blog. This week he addressed the “renewed tensions between the religious right movement and the political party that ostensibly fights for its interests.” The focus is on the autopsy that the Republican National Committee released this past week, the “Growth and Opportunity Project.”

“The Republican National Committee this week unveiled a lengthy report, providing an ‘autopsy’ of what went wrong in 2012, and offering a blueprint for how the party can get back on track. The RNC’s vision covers quite a bit of ground, detailing possible plans on procedure, tactics, strategy, outreach, and just a pinch of policy.

“But to an almost surprising degree, the Republican National Committee’s plan is entirely secular. The ‘Growth and Opportunity’ report uses the word ‘Reagan’ six times, but there are literally zero references to God, Christianity, and/or the Bible. For a party that has spent several decades claiming to be the arbiter of morality and “family values,” the RNC’s secularism was unexpected.

“And for the religious right, disappointing. McKay Coppins had an interesting report on this, asking, ‘When the great Republican resurrection comes to pass, will conservative Christians be left behind?’

“To many religious conservatives, the report was interpreted as a slight against their agenda and the hard work they have done for the party.

“’The report didn’t mention religion much, if at all,’ said Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association. ‘You cannot grow your party by distancing yourself from your base, and this report doesn’t reinforce the values that attracted me and many other people into the Republican Party in the first place. It just talks about reaching out to other groups.’

“Sandy Rios, an Evangelical radio host and Fox News contributor, said the RNC report’s proposals amount to a ‘namby-pamby’ abdication of religious values, and warned that the party could soon lose the grassroots engine that has powered its electoral victories for decades.

“’They should be deeply concerned they’re going to be alienating their base,’ Rios said, adding, ‘It seems to me that the leadership of the party is intent on that course. Most Christian conservatives are not going to be party loyalists over principle, and so the GOP has a lot more to lose than Christians.’

“The RNC’s Sean Spicer defended the report, arguing that the report ignored the religious right because the movement has ‘always done a fabulous job,’ so the party doesn’t see this as an area in need of attention.

“The truth is more complicated, and for the party, more politically perilous.

“Reince Priebus has spent a fair amount of time lately reflecting on 2012, and it seems clear that he sees the Republicans’ culture war as an electoral loser–the American mainstream, and especially younger voters, just don’t hate gay people, reproductive rights, and the separation of church and state the way the GOP base does. To grow the party, Republicans won’t just have to change the way they talk about issues, they’ll very likely to have to change which issues they’re talking about.

“It’s why the RNC’s report also makes no mention of ‘abortion,’ ‘marriage,’ ‘religion,’ or even ‘pro-life.’ These aren’t the issues that will help the party become more competitive on a national level.

“But this is where the Republicans’ identity crisis gets tricky. Reince Priebus wants to use religious right activists as the party’s grassroots base–there just aren’t enough oil company lobbyists to work phone banks and engage in door-to-door activism–but also wants to pretend the religious right agenda isn’t at the core of the party. For the movement, this isn’t good enough.

“Reince Priebus also wants to signal to the American mainstream that his party isn’t dominated by culture warriors, and the GOP’s support for a right-wing social agenda is purely superficial, but Republican policymakers–at the state and national level–continue to focus on reproductive rights and gay rights, either out of sincere beliefs or motivated by a desire to pander to the religious right movement the RNC is content to ignore.

“It’s an untenable, unsustainable dynamic. If Republicans continue to obsess over social conservatism, they’ll struggle as a national party. If they don’t, they’ll alienate the voters they need to compete. The RNC’s report hasn’t papered over this problem; it’s helped put a spotlight on it.”

Meanwhile, religious bills proliferate across the United States.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (R) has signed a bill that forces schools to give students an open forum to push their religious beliefs on others. Students must be permitted to express their beliefs at school events such as football games or morning announcements as well as organizing religious groups on campus. If a teacher assigns a paper on evolution, students can write about creationism with impunity. They can also refute any other science facts such as human anatomy or climate change.

Although Kentucky’s governor, Steve Beshear vetoed the “religious freedom” act, the bill goes back for an override vote next week and will probably pass. The bill reads:

“Government shall not substantially burden a person’s freedom of religion. The right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief may not be substantially burdened unless the government proves by clear and convincing evidence that it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest. A ‘burden’ shall include indirect burdens such as withholding benefits, assessing penalties, or an exclusion from programs or access to facilities.”

In the past, similar laws have allowed graduate students in social work to refuse services to gay people, schools to fire women for becoming pregnant out of wedlock, pharmacies to not fill prescriptions for birth control, and wedding service providers to shut out gay and lesbian couples.

Other religious takeovers:

Vouchers: Ten states and the District of Columbia allow and in some cases, require that creationism be taught in private voucher schools.

Creationism in public school science classes: This year alone, Colorado, Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma have attempted to pass bills requiring creationism be taught or allowing the questioning of evolution in the classroom. Montana State Rep. Clayton Fiscus (R-Billings) is trying very hard to get a creationism-in-class bill passed in that state.

Prayer/Proselytizing in public schools: Last year, Missouri passed their “right to pray” amendment which also permitted students to skip homework that they feel “offends their religious beliefs.”

Exemptions for “Conscience”: Leading the charge is the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a D.C. advocacy group that promotes policy that adheres to “Judeo-Christian tradition.” The EPPC is in the process of forming “religious freedom” caucuses in every state and has been successful thus far in nine states.

“Prayer” caucuses at the state level: Similar to “religious freedom” caucuses, “prayer” caucuses are the pet project of Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA). The Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation wants lawmakers to “use the legislative process–both through sponsorship of affirmative legislation and through opposition to detrimental legislation–assist the nation and its people in continuing to draw upon and benefit from this essential source of our strength and well-being.” Thus far eight states have a “prayer caucus”: Maine, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan, Virginia, Colorado, and Mississippi.

It’s time for people in the United States to decide whether we will allow the far-right evangelicals to turn this nation into a total theocracy.

August 18, 2012

Louisiana Uses Taxpayer Money to Promote Ignorance

Many states pay religious schools with tax-payer money, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legitimizes the practice, but nowhere is the practice so rampant as in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Louisiana since he signed the new law promoting this.

Now families in Louisiana earning up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level (currently $23,000 for a family of four) and whose children attend a “failing” public school can attend private schools using public dollars. A second bill gives tax-payers a 100-percent tax credit for money donated to groups providing vouchers for tuition at religious and other private schools. Jindal is a very religious man as shown by the fact that he exorcised a friend in college when she started acting “strange”—maybe because she was being treated for cancer.

What are the Louisiana youth learning from the tens of millions of dollars that the state gives these 119 private schools, all except one affiliated with Christianity? College sophomore Zack Kopplin did a little research and found that at least 19 of these schools, ones that are collecting almost $4 million in tax-payer money, teach or promote creationism. Many of the Christian schools use Pensacola-based A Beka Book curriculum or textbooks from Bob Jones University Press that include such “scientific” information as the existence of the Loch Ness Monster.

Researcher Rachel Tabachnick and writer Thomas Vinciguerra have examined the curriculum and textbooks and discovered some of these gems of “education”:

Dinosaurs and humans probably lived side-by-side at the same time—Life Science, Third ed., Bob Jones University Press, 2007

Dragons are real because dinosaur skulls had special chemical-producing glands that may have produced fire and smoke— Life Science, Third ed., Bob Jones University Press, 2007

The purpose of the Trail of Tears, during which over 4,000 Native Americans died on the forced trek to displace them from their homes, was for God “to bring many Indians to Christ.”—America: Land That I Love, Teacher ed., A Beka Books, 1994

Africa needs religion;only about ten percent of Africans can read and write. In some areas the mission schools have been shut down by Communists who have taken over the government.”—Old World History and Geography in Christian Perspective, Third ed., A Beka Book

“The majority of slave holders treated their slaves well.”—United States History for Christian Schools, Second ed., Bob Jones University Press, 1991

“[The Ku Klux] Klan in some areas of the country tried to be a means of reform, fighting the decline in morality and using the symbol of the cross. Klan targets were bootleggers, wife-beaters, and immoral movies. In some communities it achieved a certain respectability as it worked with politicians.”—United States History for Christian Schools, Second ed., Bob Jones University Press, 1991

The Great Depression of the 1930s was not as serious as people might think: “perhaps the best known work of propaganda to come from the Depression was John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath…. Other forms of propaganda included rumors of mortgage foreclosures, mass evictions, and hunger riots and exaggerated statistics representing the number of unemployed and homeless people in America.”—United States History: Heritage of Freedom, Second ed., A Beka Book, 1996

The U.S. Supreme Court made fetuses into slaves: “the Burger Court held that an unborn child was … the ‘property’ of the mother (much like slaves were considered property in the 1857 case of Dred Scott v. Sandford).”—American Government in Christian Perspective, Second ed., A Beka Book, 1997

Satan is the cause of Communism: “Satan hates the family and has hurled his venom against it in the form of Communism.”—American Government in Christian Perspective, Second ed., A Beka Book, 1997

Mark Twain and Emily Dickinson are not worth studying as literature: “[Mark] Twain’s outlook was both self-centered and ultimately hopeless…. Twain’s skepticism was clearly not the honest questioning of a seeker of truth but the deliberate defiance of a confessed rebel…. Several of [Emily Dickinson’s] poems show a presumptuous attitude concerning her eternal destiny and a veiled disrespect for authority in general. Throughout her life she viewed salvation as a gamble, not a certainty. Although she did view the Bible as a source of poetic inspiration, she never accepted it as an inerrant guide to life.”—Elements of Literature for Christian Schools, Bob Jones University, 2001

Students should not study abstract math: “unlike the ‘modern math’ theorists, who believe that mathematics is a creation of man and thus arbitrary and relative, A Beka Book teaches that the laws of mathematics are a creation of God and thus absolute…A Beka Book provides attractive, legible, and workable traditional mathematics texts that are not burdened with modern theories such as set theory.”—ABeka.com

Gay people “have no more claims to special rights than child molesters or rapists.”—Teacher’s Resource Guide to Current Events for Christian Schools, 1998-1999, Bob Jones University Press, 1998

“Global environmentalists have said and written enough to leave no doubt that their goal is to destroy the prosperous economies of the world’s richest nations.”—Economics: Work and Prosperity in Christian Perspective, Second ed., A Beka Books, 1999

Globalization is a precursor to rapture: “but instead of this world unification ushering in an age of prosperity and peace, as most globalists believe it will, it will be a time of unimaginable human suffering as recorded in God’s Word. The Anti-christ will tightly regulate who may buy and sell.”—Economics: Work and Prosperity in Christian Perspective, Second ed., A Beka Books, 1999

The Christian legislators of Louisiana, led by Gov. Jindal, may soon discover that tax-payer money providing the education promoting these myths may also pay for beliefs that they don’t like. One Muslim school has been rejected by the legislature, but this practice may not continue to be successful.

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education have oversight over the curricula in private parochial schools that accept state vouchers. In essence, they can tell private religious schools that they cannot teach creationism, a place where church and state conflict, something that the First Amendment attempted to avoid.

Valerie Hodges, a legislator who voted in favor of the law, is now horrified to discover that any religious school fits the law, especially because she believes that the state has 1,000 Muslim schools. If more legislators develop the same horror that Louisiana’s children might be taught in religious schools outside the Christian belief, the law may not last long. Meanwhile there is a hearing in October to determine the constitutionality of the state’s new law.

The problem of providing tax-payer money to religious schools is not new. A year ago a study showing that 200,000 young people in 12 states and the District of Columbia were receiving tax-payer tuition, many of them learning intolerance and lies. In addition to being virulently anti-abortion and anti-gay, the textbooks and curriculum teach that government safety nets, regulation, minimum wage, and progressive taxes are described as contrary to the Bible.

The textbooks in private schools demonstrate hostility not only toward other religions, including Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, and traditional African and Native American religions but also toward other Christians, including non-evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics. The A Beka civics text states, “God’s original purpose for government was to punish the evil and reward the good.” The same text describes the ideal form of government. “All governments are ordained by God, but none compare to government by God, theocracy.”

The tragedy of sending young people to private schools because of the assumed failure of public schools is that students do worse with the voucher system. In the oldest voucher system program, Milwaukee’s School Choice Program, students with vouchers perform below the level of public school students. Cleveland shows similar results to Milwaukee’s students. In fact, in some private voucher schools less than 20% of students reach basic proficiency levels in reading and math.

Even public schools in Louisiana trample on the rights of students. Delhi Charter School required all female students who are believed to be pregnant to take a pregnancy test. Those who are pregnant or refuse are forced to be home schooled. After the ACLU stepped in, the school said they would change their policy but did not specify what the new one would be. Expelling pregnant girls has been illegal since the passage of Title IX in the early 1970s, but school officials said they were not aware that they were breaking the law with this policy.

Many people in Louisiana suffer from ignorance. Hodges, who says she wants children to be taught the religion of the founding fathers, is ignorant of the fact that founding fathers were largely Deists, not Christians. Thomas Jefferson knew that democracy depends on a well-educated populace able to reason and publicly debate. Today’s conservatives consider education to be dangerous because it teaches critical thinking and could keep the conservatives from taking over the country. They benefit from intolerance and ignorance.

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