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RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM

Bills Requiring Public Schools to Teach the Bible Are Flooding State Legislatures – Some Are Becoming Law

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In 1963 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that teaching the Bible in public schools was unconstitutional.

56 years later right wing religious extremists are still trying to find ways to get the Bible taught in public schools.

And now they’re succeeding.

According to the civil rights organization Americans United, there is a “coordinated attempt by the Religious Right to enshrine Christian nationalism in our schools, in our communities and in our government,” and teaching the Bible is a part of that attempt.

Also part of that attempt: President Donald Trump.

Conservative lawmakers across the country are embracing this attempt, sponsoring bills that mandate the creation of required or elective courses in public schools to teach the Bible, or finding other means to inject religion – especially the Christian religion – into taxpayer-funded curriculums.

Since January of this year alone there have been bills mandating the creation of Bible study or instruction bills in at least 14 states, including Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, Florida, West Virginia, Mississippi, New York, North Dakota, West Virginia, Texas, Indiana, Washington, and Oklahoma.

Oklahoma’s bill is listed as “emergency” legislation.

Some of the bills, like Georgia’s, have passed and been signed in to law as recently as Monday. Some have failed or died in committee. There are still many Bible instruction bills active and awaiting hearings, votes, and governors’ signatures.

Some states have filed multiple bills with the same or similar intent: get the Bible – and religion – into as many classrooms as possible.

While some of the bills direct the creation of “elective” Bible study classes, other states, like Texas, make clear Bible instruction would be required. Some legislation is careful to mask the Bible classes as instruction in history, others are more overt in their direction and intention.

Alabama’s SB 14 allows “elective courses” of Bible study, but overtly opens the door to displaying the Bible and other “artifacts, monuments, symbols, and texts related to the study of the Bible and religious history if displaying these items is appropriate to the overall educational purpose of the course.”

That bill will be reviewed by the Alabama House Education Policy Committee Wednesday afternoon.

Also up for review on Wednesday is the Missouri Senate’s Concurrent Resolution 13, which, among other objectives, would, “Require that all world literature courses include a three-week session on wisdom literature from the Bible, as has been done for three thousand years.”

The resolution cleverly claims that “forty studies have documented a correlation between improved school grades for children and the teaching of the biblical character of love, integrity, compassion, and self-discipline.”

Hemant Mehta at Friendly Atheist documents how Republican state Senator Ed Emery, sponsor of Missouri’s resolution, is “full of it,” and the Senator’s similar claims about another Bible bill he sponsored were disproven. He also reports that Sen. Emery is the “head of the Missouri Prayer Caucus Network, which is affiliated with the group known for promoting the Christian Right’s Project Blitz. Their goal is to shove Christianity into our public institutions (including public schools).”

West Virginia’s SB 234 would “require all schools provide an elective course on Hebrew Scriptures, Old Testament of the Bible or New Testament of the Bible,” while HB 2742 would “make available elective courses of instruction in all schools located within this state on the history of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.”

New York Assembly Bill 6315 would “teach students knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture, including literature, art, music, mores, oratory, and public policy.”

The text is almost exactly the same Virginia’s SB 1502, which died in committee, and almost the same as Georgia’s SB 83, which GOP Gov. Brian Kemp signed in to law Monday.

Texas’ SB 2090 makes “Bible instruction” part of “the required English language arts curriculum for public school students.”

Mississippi’s HB 1403 died in committee but had it passed would “require school districts to offer a secular program of education to high school students which includes elective courses relating to religion, Hebrew scriptures and the Bible.”

North Dakota’s SB 2136 failed to pass, but would have offered elective Bible instruction and allowed portions of those classes to replace social studies requirements for graduation.

Image by Paul Keller via Flickr and a CC license

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RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM

Watch: Kevin McCarthy Leads Over a Dozen Republicans in Prayer at Event Co-Sponsored by Five Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups

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Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy joined hands with more than a dozen House Republicans, leading them in prayer at Wednesday’s National Gathering for Prayer and Repentance, an event co-sponsored by several far-right Christian organizations, at least five of which appear on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of anti-LGBTQ hate groups.

The California Republican specifically mentioned his upcoming meeting later Wednesday with President Joe Biden, when the two will discuss the debt ceiling, which Republicans want to leverage to massively cut federal spending on programs critical to keeping many Americans alive, including Social Security and Medicare – or shut down the federal government if Democrats do not agree to their terms.

“Father, I want to lift up those who are not here today. I want you to open their hearts,” McCarthy prayed. “Father, I want to lift up the president. Father, you know I will meet with him today. Father, I ask. I asked that you open both of our hearts that you put our meaning, our meaning that seeks your truth. And the help for this nation. Father, we know as we struggle, is we come up short and again but continue to seek your guidance. We ask that you give us the patience of Job. We ask that you give us the intellect the leadership that you gave David we ask that you give us the boldness.”

The event was held at the Museum of the Bible, a non-profit founded by right-wing evangelical activist David Green and the Green family. Green is the founder of Hobby Lobby, the privately-held chain store that won a Supreme Court case enshrining into U.S. jurisprudence the concept that for-profit corporations can and do have religious beliefs.

READ MORE: Principal Ordered Librarian to Take Down Holocaust Survivor’s Famous Quote Just Days Before Holocaust Remembrance Day

The five groups sponsoring the event which also appear on the SPLC’s list of anti-LGBTQ hate groups include the American Family Association (AFA), the Family Research Council (FRC), the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), Liberty Counsel, and the Pacific Justice Institute.

Other attendees included anti-LGBTQ activists, like “right-wing pastor Andrew Brunson, who blasted the United States as ‘the primary corrupter of the world’ because ‘our government and corporations increasingly march under the rainbow flag,'” he said, as Right Wing Watch reported.

Also, two “ex-gay” activists.

Later, the Republicans, including McCarthy, were prayed over by Tony Perkins, the longtime head of the anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council. Perkins has also served as chair and vice chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent federal government commission.

Far-right House Republican U.S. Rep. Randy Weber of Texas descended into an anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ tirade during which he invoked “the blood of the lamb” to telegraph to McCarthy his concerns about U.S. debt.

Weber is an original co-sponsor of the federal “Don’t Say Gay” bill. He once compared then-President Barack Obama to Hitler.

Right Wing Watch reports some of the Members of Congress who attended include Reps. Mary Miller, Diana Harshbarger, Steve Scalise, Rick Allen, Brian Babin, Michael Cloud, Robert Aderholt, Tracey Mann, Burgess Owens, Gary Palmer, Michelle Steel, Warren Davidson, Brandon Williams, Dan Bishop, Nathaniel Moran, and Mike Johnson.

Watch the videos above or at this link.

READ MORE: Trump Vows to Use DOJ and Congress to Make Being Transgender Illegal While Promoting the ‘Nuclear Family’

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RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM

Trump-Aligned Christian Nationalist Group ‘Taps Into Unholy Well’ That Threatens Democracy

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A well-funded and powerfully connected extremist group is raising alarms about its activities ahead of the 2024 election.

ReAwaken America, a project organized by Oklahoma businessman Clay Clark and funded by Donald Trump ally Patrick Byrne, has blended conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and the 2020 election to promote a Christian nationalist political message at rallies and other events, reported The Guardian.

“Christian nationalism has deep roots in American history and has gained traction at different points,” said Amanda Tyler, the executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. “The ReAwaken America Tour taps into the unholy well of Christian nationalism to sow doubt about the U.S. election system and the safety of COVID-19 vaccines while equating allegiance to Trumpism with allegiance to God.”

“Clay Clark and others who run this tour are using the name of Jesus, Holy Scripture, and worship music to promote a partisan political agenda and personal business interests,” she added.

READ MORE: Bill Barr’s ‘hollow and self-serving’ image rehabilitation tour shredded in scathing NYT editorial

Michael Flynn, the Trump-pardoned former national security adviser, and convicted Capitol rioter Dr. Simone Gold have each made multiple appearances at ReAwaken America events, and a recent gathering hosted at the Tennessee church of right-wing pastor Greg Locke drew My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell, Eric Trump, Roger Stone and Kash Patel.

“The religious nature of these events is a pretext for a rally by people who are united by feeling victimized and outraged,” said Samuel Perry, a sociologist at the University of Oklahoma. “This is incredibly corrosive for democracy because you have a group of political leaders and their followers who not only feel victimized by the culture, but they feel like the very political system is against them. That’s how you get populist coup attempts.”

Trump National Doral will host a ReAwaken America gathering in May, which could give the impression that Trump still has strong support from evangelical voters, but mainstream religious leaders are concerned about the convergence of conspiracy theories about Trump’s election loss and COVID-19 could have a corrosive effect on democracy.

“White evangelicals are among the least educated of Americans,” said David Hollinger, a history professor emeritus at Berkeley. “The Republican Party’s increasing reliance upon them marks an unprecedented stage in American history: for the first time, one of the major political parties displays contempt for learning. Not even the Democratic party of Andrew Jackson was so dependent for its success on anti-intellectual postures.”

 

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RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM

Christian Anti-LGBTQ Book Banning Activist Says Gay ‘Lifestyles’ Shouldn’t Be ‘Forced Down Throats of Families’

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Leigh Wambsganss, Patriot Mobile’s Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and Executive Director of Patriot Mobile Action, the far-right wing political action committee of the Christian conservative mobile phone service provider, has spent decades in the conservative media echo chamber, and now she’s getting even more attention, from The New York Times.

Wambsganss was included in a Times article Monday on anti-LGBTQ book banning. The paper, soft-pedaling the extremism presented by Wambsganss, notes “11 school board candidates backed by Patriot Mobile Action, the political action committee formed by the cellphone company, won in four districts this year.”

“The committee’s aim is to eliminate ‘critical race theory’ and ‘L.G.B.T.Q. indoctrination’ from schools, Leigh Wambsganss, its executive director, said on Steve Bannon’s show, ‘War Room.'”

READ MORE: ‘ChristoFascism in a Nutshell’: DeSantis Mocked for Banning Nearly Half of All Math Books Claiming CRT Indoctrination

The Times does report that for extremists like Wambsganss, “Even books without sexual content can be problematic if they include L.G.B.T.Q. characters, because they are ‘sexualizing children,’ she said: ‘It is normalizing a lifestyle that is a sexual choice.'”

“’Those kinds of lifestyles,’ she added, shouldn’t ‘be forced down the throats of families who don’t agree.’”

Being LGBTQ is not a “lifestyle” nor is it a “sexual choice,” nor is having an LGBTQ character in a book “sexualizing children,” nor did The Times push back against or fact-check Wambsganss’ statements.

Wambsganss’ employer, Patriot Mobile Action, has a list of 10 “We Believe” statements, including “In supporting candidates that stand for Christian conservative values,” “Our United States Constitution was founded on Judeo Christian principles” and “Critical Race Theory and Marxist policies have no place in schools or government.”

Not a word about LGBTQ issues, people, or equality or civil rights, despite that clearly being a major focus for Patriot Mobile Action.

READ MORE: GOP Lawmaker Pushes Bill to Ban Books ‘Normalizing’ LGBTQ ‘Lifestyles’ From Schools to Not Offend Christians

“Leigh has been featured on Fox News, John Solomons ‘Just the News’ talk radio, Mark Davis 660AM, The Christian Perspective podcast, in the National Review, the Texas Values Report, a speaker at Turning Point USA and the Center for National Policy and quoted in multiple news media stories,” her bio at Patriot Mobile Action reads. “Leigh is a speaker and trainer on how to identify and defeat socialist Marxism in schools and government.”

Patriot Mobile, NBC News reported in August, gave Patriot Mobil Action $600,000 to spend on school board races in Ft. Worth, Texas.

Some parents are not happy. One, Rachel Wall, told NBC News that Patriot Mobile Action “bought four school boards, and now they’re pulling the strings.”

Wall is “the mother of a Grapevine-Colleyville student and vice president of the Texas Bipartisan Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting school board candidates who do not have partisan agendas.”

“I’m a Christian by faith,” she said, “but if I wanted my son to be in a religious school, I would pay for him to go to a private school.”

Wambsganss and Patriot Mobile Action appear to have a different idea.

In June, at an event hosted by far right wing activist group Turning Point USA, she introduced herself to the audience by saying, “I’m Leigh Wambsganss and my pronouns are bible believer, Jesus lover, gun carrier, and Momma Bear.”

Watch the video below or at this link.

 

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