Falwell Has No Business Anywhere Near Public Education

Paired with DeVos, it's a nightmare.

From Reuters: Evangelical Christian leader Jerry Falwell Jr. will head an education reform task force under U.S. President Donald Trump and is keen to cut university regulations, including rules on dealing with campus sexual assault, the school he heads said. Falwell, the son of the late televangelist Jerry Falwell Sr., was described by Trump as “one of the most respected religious leaders in our nation” last year after Falwell endorsed him during the Republican party primary race.

Respected is not the word I would choose. Not by most of mainstream Christianity. Anyhow, I cannot stress enough how bad this would be if it were just him. Add to the mix Betsy DeVos, and you have a recipe for disaster for teachers, teachers unions, Federal funding from the Department of Education, and most of all, tens of millions of public school students. That’s another story. Falwell has no place at all anywhere near the public education system. He is a bigot and a racist, and also a bully. Falwell is notorious for his bigotry against Muslims, even to the point of telling students that,

“if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in.”

Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s comments about Muslims are part of a long line of truly disturbing points of view. The Falwell family is typical of the brand of toxic Christians that have been inhabiting the American political scheme for the past four decades, seeking to shove their bigoted views down the throats of the rest of the country (including most of main stream Christianity), and the world.

Regarding the choice of Falwell by Trump, from Wonkette,

“So far, the exact “size, scope, and mission” of Falwell’s task force hasn’t been announced. But an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education, Falwell explained he’s looking forward to the chance to free higher education from the shackles of “overreaching regulation” and accountability that have held back so much of the economy, probably a lot like Trump’s EPA will free toxic waste dumpers from the constraints that have kept them from living their dreams. Falwell specifically complained about all the Education Department’s “micromanagement” in areas like accreditation and the way colleges recruit students, suggesting he’d like to roll back those ridiculous Obama regulations aimed at preventing for-profit colleges from sucking up students’ federal benefits while not actually teaching anything. How can you really say we have a free market if scam artists like Corinthian Colleges are prevented from recruiting students with false promises, encouraging them to get all the student loans they can, and then sticking the students with the bill?”

Falwell has been an outspoken supporter for Trump for a long time, and one of the first in the Religious Right to throw his weight behind Trump. He was included in campaign ads, opened up Liberty University to Trump, and had even compared him to Jesus Christ, as well as stating he believed that God personally called him to be President.

He is equally discriminatory toward the LGBT community, and is, as expected, anti-science. His view of a good education system are school vouchers, which uses tax dollars to fund religious academies at the expense of public schools. The last thing we need is this person advising anyone about anything to do with any government office. It violates the separation of church and state.

Christian Politics…

“My reign is not of this present order. If my reign were of this present order, my supporters would have fought against my being turned over to the Jews. But my reign is not here” – John 18:36

What do these words mean? What is Jesus attempting to convey? To say that Jesus had contempt for politics is an understatement. In fact, “Christian politics” is an oxymoron. It’s the result of a literal interpretation of the bible that has infused with national exceptionalism. But Jesus’ message was a personal one, not one of politics. In fact, this particular segment of the bible makes it obvious that Jesus was not, nor had he ever, brought forth a political message.

But the infusion of national exceptionalism borne out of biblical literalism is one the reasons Religious Right often have the advantage within the voting bloc of Christians in general. It is because of this near universal melding of faith to politics, which is known as Christian Nationalism. This is the belief that somehow Jesus is on “their side,” when Jesus actually took no sides at all, save for the poor, sick and less fortunate.

Jesus went to great lengths to maintain significant distance from siding with any of the political factions present in first century Roman occupied Palestine. He was neither for nor against the presence and rule of the Roman Empire. I find our political climate of Christian Nationalism ironic, as it is often portrayed that Jesus, Himself, was carrying around signs and doing sound-bite interviews against taxes. The book of Matthew clears that right up in chapter 22, verse 21, which states,

“Let Caesar have what belongs to him, and God have what belongs to him”

Jesus advocated paying taxes, and was a fierce proponent of the separation of religion and government. In fact, the only thing he admonished the governments for was their horrific ignorance of the health and welfare of its citizens.

The Public Square…

Our Founding Fathers knew the ramifications of mixing religion and government, and thus drafted a purposefully secular Constitution. Jesus, as we understand from His own words, felt likewise. Thus the constitutional protections regarding religious tests for oaths and the holding of public offices, and, of course, the First Amendment Separation Clause. If there was ever an argument for our country being founded on any principle from the bible, it would be Jesus’ advocacy for the separation of church and state. How’s that for ironic?

The Republican party and its various offshoots have embraced a code of external holiness of sorts. Many GOP politicians are, by biblical definition, the new Pharisees, and have a correlation to the whitewashed tomb that Jesus speaks of:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.” – Matthew 23:7

Not a Christian Nation…

I’ve been involved in many debates over the years with the more zealous regarding the erroneous belief that the United States is a Christian nation. The most often repeated example I use is the Treaty of Tripoli, which states, in part:

‘The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.’

The Treaty of Tripoli was submitted to the Senate by President John Adams, receiving ratification unanimously from the U.S. Senate on June 7, 1797. It was then signed by Adams, taking effect as the law of the land on June 10, 1797. There are numerous historical documents that also pertain to the unique secularism of the United States, in spite of what that idiot David Barton and the rest of the history revisionists would have us believe.

Those in politics who would like to see the United States actually become a Christian nation have little or no idea what a theocracy is, or how dangerous one is. They also, apparently, have no understanding of the purpose of the American Revolutionary War. They do not understand why we endured those bloody battles or the reason we decided that we could no longer be part of the Monarchy of United Kingdom in its form at the time, due to its history of repeated violations to the basic human rights of those under its rule.

Perhaps these people need to be reminded that those under Crown rule at that time were the subjects of absolute tyranny, and entire legislative bodies were often relieved of their duties because they were not in agreement with the Monarch. Perhaps they do not realize what it meant to be under martial law, even in times of peace, and that the members of a standing army were held immune to prosecution no matter how heinous the crimes against the Subjects of the Crown were.

The American Revolution was not about taxes alone, and it had nothing at all to do with establishing a Christian nation. It was about being deprived of such things as trial by jury, the ability of the Monarchy to wage war on it’s own citizens and, without reservation, to plunder our seas, ravage our coasts, burn our towns, and destroy lives without any judicial or legislative regulation. The list of charges levied toward the Monarchy, and specifically King George III, in the body of the Declaration are numerous and largely unknown by our own citizenry. The crimes against humanity that were committed by the Crown were egregious and many.

But instead of recognizing the Declaration of Independence as an important document stating our insistence to individual freedom and a government of the people, by the people and for the people, it has been relegated by the religious right as a weapon they wield to promote their desire to bring the United States back to a form of government that would be almost identical to the one we originally fought so hard to be free of. The sole purpose of the Declaration was to “dissolve the political bands,” and not to set up a religious nation. Its authority is based on the idea that “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” which is contrary to the biblical concept of the Theocracy that the Conservative Religious Right would impose upon us.

Regardless of how much the Fundamentalist Christians work hard to convince everyone that the Founding Fathers established this country on “biblical principles.” History does not support this. A significant number of those who signed the Declaration of Independence were not bible-believing Christians. We are governed by the Constitution, which is a secular document and very purposely begins with “We the people” and of equal purpose does not contain any mention of God or Christianity, save for a reference of the word “Lord” in the date, which was a literary tool, not a spiritual one. The only reference to religion in the Constitution is one of exclusion, by virtue of the very first amendment, which states

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Our government has no right to promulgate religion. The Supreme and lower courts have used Jefferson’s “wall of separation” phrase repeatedly in major decisions upholding neutrality in matters of religion. In 1971, referencing the Lemon v. Kurtzman decision, the Supreme Court forged what is known as the “Three Part Lemon Test” to determine if a law is permissible under the First-Amendment religion clause.

1) A law must have a secular purpose.
2) It must have a primary effect which neither advances nor inhibits religion.
3) It must avoid excessive entanglement of church and state.

The fact that a majority of our citizens are Christian does not make us a Christian nation, and on constitutional matters there is no majority rule. The majority has no right to tyrannize the minority on matters such as race, gender, sexual orientation, creed, or religious belief or the lack of religious belief. The wisest policy is the constitutional one, and that is neutrality.

Finally…

Jesus was a rebellious character, and this is apparent throughout the New Testament. Every single institutional authority in his time, both religious and political, seemed to make him writhe with disdain. This included his disdain for religious leaders,

“Do not be called Rabbi, since you have only one teacher, and you are all brothers.” – Matthew 23:8

 And his disdain for religious political leaders,

“And do not be called leaders, since you have only one leader, the Messiah” – Matthew 23:8-10)

Conservative Christian politicians continue their efforts to institutionalize Jesus, and every time they do, they stray farther and farther from his message. Those who disagree with them are often chastised as being false believers at best, and immoral, irreverent, blasphemous and a hater of God, at worse.

I find it quite ironic that Jesus was also called these things, and those admonitions came from both politically ambitious religious leaders and religiously ambitious political leaders.

Pot, meet kettle…

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