DeVos Promotes Plan to Hand Over Billions in Federal Tax Credits for Private, Religious, and Home Schooling
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been touring the country to promote her plan to hand over billion of dollars in federal tax credits to dramatically expand the number of students attending private schools, religious schools, or even being homeschool. The program, part of a bill in Congress, would be funded through private donations in exchange for tax credits. In other words, tax dollars would effectively be paying for the program, as those dollars will have to be made up by taxpayers.
Secretary DeVos’ “Education Freedom Scholarships” program would continue the Trump administration’s blurring of the lines between church and state. Just last week Sec. DeVos announced the Dept. of Education will no longer ban religious organizations from being funded with taxpayer dollars for secular projects.
The Dept. of Education claims up to $5 billion annually could be allocated, but Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who spoke at an event with DeVos to roll out his bill to support the program (video below), said it would be $10 billion.
The reception in Sec. DeVos’ stop in Iowa appeared less than enthusiastic.
“Pitching her proposal to fund scholarships for private school and home-schooled students, federal education secretary Betsy DeVos met behind closed doors Friday with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and other state leaders and lobbyists,” Iowa’s Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports.
The paper notes that Waterloo Community Schools’ Superintendent Jane Lindaman was “the lone public education representative invited to participate,” and described her as being “concerned.”
“I was surprised by the imbalance of people at this meeting today,” Lindaman told The Courier. “Out of 14 people, I was the only public school advocate. I quickly realized the responsibility and, quite honestly, the burden of speaking for the hundreds of thousands of kids who are in public education in Iowa.”
Here’s a local news report from Alabama last month that features Sec. DeVos and Senator Ted Cruz, a big home schooling advocate, promoting his bill and the Secretary’s program. Cruz endorses the federal government effectively paying for private and religious education, calling it a “civil rights issue.”
In 2015 Sen. Cruz spoke with homeschooling parents, telling them LGBT people are waging “jihad” on Christianity.
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US Secretary of State Denounces Uganda’s New ‘Kill the Gays’ Bill
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is publicly denouncing Uganda’s latest Anti-Homosexuality legislation, which is being called a “Kill the Gays” bill for its capital punishment penalty for “aggravated homosexuality.”
The legislation passed in a nearly-unanimous vote and now heads to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni‘s desk.
“The Anti-Homosexuality Act passed by the Ugandan Parliament yesterday would undermine fundamental human rights of all Ugandans and could reverse gains in the fight against HIV/AIDS. We urge the Ugandan Government to strongly reconsider the implementation of this legislation,” Secretary Blinken said via Twitter Wednesday morning.
Uganda, a far-right religious country has a long history of targeting and marginalizing its LGBTQ citizens, including passing a modified “Kill the Gays” bill that was signed into law in 2014, only to be overturned in court on a technicality. That law was drafted and promoted with the aid of American far-right evangelicals.
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Ugandan lawmakers on Tuesday passed legislation that makes being LGBTQ illegal, proscribes the death penalty for certain same-sex acts, and decades or life in prison for identifying as LGBTQ. It also requires anyone with knowledge of another person being LGBTQ or engaging in same-sex acts to be reported to the government.
“All but two of the 389 legislators voted late on Tuesday for the hardline anti-homosexuality bill, which introduces capital and life imprisonment sentences for gay sex and ‘recruitment, promotion and funding’ of same-sex ‘activities’,” The Guardian reports.
“A person who commits the offence of aggravated homosexuality and is liable, on conviction to suffer death,” the bill states.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, in a statement warned: “If the bill is signed into law, it will render LGBTIQ+ people in Uganda criminals simply for existing, for being who they are. It could provide carte blanche for the systematic violation of nearly all of their human rights and serve to incite people against each other.”
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One of the two Ugandan Members of Parliament who voted against the bill, Fox Odoi-Oywelowo, calls it “ill-conceived,” and says parts are “unconstitutional.”
He says it “reverses the gains registered in the fight against gender-based violence and criminalises individuals instead of conduct that contravenes all known legal norms.”
President Museveni, who signed into law a modified version of the 2014 “Kill the Gays” bill, will now have to decide if he wants to sign this version as well.
Image: Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock
Christian Nationalist Former Lawmaker Wants Right-Wing Evangelicals to ‘Take Authority’ Over All Levels of Government
Jason Rapert, a former Arkansas state senator and founder of the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, appeared on the “Give Me Liberty” program late last year and laid out his vision for a nation in which every congressional seat is occupied by Christian conservatives.
“Give Me Liberty” is produced by Liberty University’s Standing for Freedom Center, which was originally named the Falkirk Center in honor of its founders, former Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr. and right-wing youth activist Charlie Kirk. The organization changed its name in 2021 after Falwell resigned in disgrace and Liberty decided to part ways with Kirk.
Despite the departure of Kirk and Falwell, the center’s “Give Me Liberty” podcast appears to have kept its Christian nationalist bent.
A longtime religious-right activist and ardent Christian nationalist, Rapert declared on the December 17, 2022 episode of the “Give Me Liberty” show that right-wing Christians must rise up and “take authority” over everything from their local school boards to the federal government.
“When people quote the Bible and say, ‘Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord’—Psalm 33:12—how in the world do you expect to ever have that if you are not electing somebody that would adhere to that worldview?” Rapert asked. “You can’t have a nation whose God is the Lord when you’re electing people that are holding up Sodom and Gomorrah as a goal to be achieved rather than a sin to be shunned.”
“What we need is a revival of spirit that will change individual hearts, and then once that happens, then we need to have men and women that say, ‘We need to take authority so that in our school boards, our city councils, our state legislatures, and in Congress, that we’ve got people that love God and want to do what is right in the sight of God and man,’” Rapert added. “I’ll tell you, there’s over 330 million people in this nation in the last census; I think we could find 535 more people to serve in the Senate and in the House. Are you telling me that the evangelical community can’t muster 535 men and women qualified to run for office that would stand up for God and country? Oh, yeah, we can.”
“There’s only 7,383 state legislators,” Rapert continued, “You’ve got more students at Liberty than serve in our state capitals. What if one crop of the Liberty classes all went home and ran for office? You’d make a difference, you’d change the community, and you just might save the nation.”
Christian nationalists like Rapert believe that the country was founded as an explicitly Christian nation and that right-wing Christians must keep it that way. Via the National Association for Christian Lawmakers, Rapert is putting this talk into action, advancing so-called “biblical” legislation in statehouses throughout the country that would roll back abortion rights and the rights of LGBTQ Americans. As Rolling Stone reported last month, the group’s advisory board includes politicians like Mike Huckabee and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick as well as influential religious-right activists like Tony Perkins of Family Research Council and Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel.
This article was originally published by Right Wing Watch and is republished here by permission.
‘Bait and Switch’: Minister Slams Hobby Lobby Founder’s ‘He Gets Us’ Ads
The mysterious “He Gets Us” ads airing around major sporting events have been traced back to groups tied to the billionaire conservative founder of the Hobby Lobby craft store chain, David Green, who is using the spot as an effort to “rebrand Jesus” and bring religion more prominently into the public square.
But his effort is just a “bait and switch,” argues Rev. Darrell Goodwin of the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ, in an opinion for the CT Mirror.
The Super Bowl ads, which highlighted Jesus as a “refugee” who “confronted racism with love,” first appeared to be “a breath of fresh air,” wrote Goodwin, a progressive, Black, and openly queer minister who preaches in Bloomfield, Connecticut. “However, the funders of this invitation are the same folks who promote anti-LGBT legislation, a denial of women’s rights to their own bodies, the campaigns of clear white supremacists, and the evangelical church.”
“This approach to sharing faith can lead folks to feel violated, abused, and most of all can cause irreparable harm and even death,” Goodwin warned. “Instead, I would rather these ads promote a gospel of radical inclusion, a path that says no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey you are welcome here.”
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This comes as all around the country, progressive Black ministers have sought to push a more inclusive and justice-focused Christianity, from Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, who preaches at the baptist church that was once home to Martin Luther King, to Everett Mitchell, an activist pastor turned reformer judge now running for the Supreme Court of Wisconsin.
In contrast to what he claims is the contradiction of the “He Gets Us” campaign, Goodwin promoted a site his own conference is launching, known as “Find Hope Now.”
“It may not be a flashy ad on the Super Bowl but it’s an invitation that isn’t funded by right-wing propaganda or a false attempt to love,” wrote Goodwin, saying that his effort is funded by small contributions throughout Southern New England “so that there will be hope centers all over New England awaiting you with open arms.”
Image: Romolo Tavani/Shutterstock
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