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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

‘Pray for the Christians’: Graham Urges School Boards to Fight the ‘Godless Socialist Agenda’ of CRT

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Evangelical and anti-LGBTQ activist Franklin Graham is urging Americans to “pray for the Christians” who are fighting what he calls a “godless socialist agenda,” an agenda he says now includes critical race theory and “concerning transgender policies.”

Pointing to an article about Loudon County, Virginia, currently a hotbed of controversy over transgender students’ rights and the teaching of critical race theory (which is not actually being taught in public schools, only in colleges and universities,) Graham patted himself on the back for traveling to all 50 states in 2016 to urge Christians to run for office, especially school boards.

He says those local boards’ decisions “impact our children and our grandchildren’s lives, and they impact the future of our country, so it is vitally important. I’m thankful for the parents in Loudoun County, Virginia, who are speaking up and working to keep things like critical race theory and concerning transgender policies out of their schools.”

“We have to stand up against the godless socialist agenda trying to divide us and take over this country,” he claimed.

“Pray for the Christians in Loudoun County, that they would stand strong and speak the truth in love. And pray about how you can get involved in your city and make a real difference. Will you?” Graham urged.

Conservatives have been infiltrating local school boards, where they have the opportunity to indoctrinate children at a young age into far right wing extremism, the pro-Trump MAGA movement, white nationalism and white supremacism, and an anti-science agenda.

In April TIME reported, “QAnon Candidates Are Winning Local Elections,” and asked, “Can They Be Stopped?”

And earlier this month the National Education Association (NEA) asked: “Is QAnon Radicalizing Your School Board?

“Proponents of QAnon allege that Satan-worshipping pedophiles are secretly running the country, and they also have spread false information about COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, the recent election and more,” the NEA article revealed. “When they get elected to local offices, they endanger citizens because their potential decisions—around budget, safety, school curriculum and more—aren’t grounded in reality.”

And in 2017 Media Matters reported on “How The Hate Group Alliance Defending Freedom Is Infiltrating Public Schools.”

Image via Facebook

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RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM

‘Final Straw’: Priest Warns Catholic Bishops Parishioners Are Furious Church Is Choosing Trump Over Faithful Biden

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Father Edward Beck spoke to CNN on Sunday to explain that the idea by Catholic bishops to punish pro-choice Democrats isn’t going over very well with people who are for or against a woman’s right to choose.

“I had mass this morning, a few of them actually, and unsolicited, I can’t tell you how many people came up to me and were really upset about this,” said Father Beck. “I mean, across the political spectrum. And basically what they were saying was, you had a former president who checked none of the ‘life issue’ boxes for the Catholic church except that he said he would appoint Supreme Court justices that could overturn Roe v. Wade. And that’s all that seemed to matter.”

He also recalled Trump’s photo-op he did with the Bible after peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters were tear-gassed in Lafayette Square. He also recalled the times in which Trump appeared to make fun of Pope Francis.

“And then you have Joe Biden, a practicing Catholic, who is pro-choice, although he says he’s personally opposed to abortion, and people are talking about denying him communion,” Father Beck continued. “The reception of communion — people see it as really based in hypocrisy. I can’t tell you, some said this is the final straw for them. If the bishops go ahead with that, that’s it for them.”

In an editorial, Father Beck characterized the blocking of communion as weaponizing something that is deeply personal and none of the business of the priest. At the same time, there’s an overall concern that the American bishops would support Trump, who was against all Christian beliefs except for the issue of choice.

“I think one of the questions is, are there then other litmus tests about communion?” Father Beck continued. “What about other life issues? What about capital punishment? What about immigration? What about the environment? So, are we supposed to stand in a commune line with a checklist, and are we supposed to decide who is qualified to receive or is it just going to be this one issue?”

He went on to say that the word “communion” itself means “unity,” and he said that the bishops have done nothing but divide people over politics, which the church shouldn’t have any role in.

“In fairness to them, there’s no document done yet,” the priest explained. “So, it’s going to be now drafted and we’ll see in November what it actually says. Maybe there will be nothing about the reception of communion of President Biden or anybody else. Maybe it will be kind of an exhortation on the Eucharist. We just don’t know. But remember, it has to pass two-thirds at that meeting to get approval of the bishops. And then Pope Francis has to approve it as well. And this is a pope who has said the Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect. It’s medicine and nourishment for the weak. So, I don’t know if I’m going to see Pope Francis approving a document that might exclude people from receiving communion based on these cultural hot-button issues.”

Biden has long talked openly about his faith and how important it has been through the many tragedies in his life. Most recently, Biden wore his late son’s rosary around his wrist. He also frequently flies home to attend services at his home church where his son, former wife and baby daughter are all buried.

See the discussion in the video below:

 

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RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM

US Catholic Bishops Move Toward Denying Biden Communion in Political Decision Violating Vatican Direction

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The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops overwhelmingly voted on Friday to move toward chastising President Joe Biden, a devout Catholic, for his policies supporting and defending a woman’s right to choose an abortion. It is the first official step toward denying the U.S. President communion. Biden personally opposes abortion but believes it should be a safe, protected, and legal right, which the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled.

The Bishops voted 168-55 to create a “teaching document,” as NBC News reports, to serve as a “rebuke” of Biden and other Catholic politicians who support abortion. The Roman Catholic Church opposes the move.

“The Vatican has warned conservative American bishops to hit the brakes on their push to deny communion to politicians supportive of abortion rights — including President Biden, a faithful churchgoer and the first Roman Catholic to occupy the Oval Office in 60 years,” The New York Times reported Monday, suggesting the U.S. Bishops’ move is just as much a political gesture as a religious rebuke.

“Some leading bishops, whose priorities clearly aligned with former President Donald J. Trump, now want to reassert the centrality of opposition to abortion in the Catholic faith and lay down a hard line — especially with a liberal Catholic in the Oval Office.”

The Times reports the push to go after President Biden is being led by Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles (photo), the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“The focus of this proposed teaching document,” Archbishop Gomez wrote in a memo, “is on how best to help people to understand the beauty and the mystery of the Eucharist as the center of their Christian lives.”

But the Times noted the Vatican does not want “to use access to the Eucharist as a political weapon,” Antonio Spadaro, a Jesuit priest and close ally of Francis, said.

Conservative American bishops were demanding “a strong rebuke of Biden,” NBC notes, “because of his recent actions protecting and expanding abortion access, while opponents warned that such action would portray the bishops as a partisan force during a time of bitter political divisions across the country.”

 

Image of USCCB President José Horacio Gómez by Prayitno via Wikimedia and a CC license

 

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