Trump’s Fundamentalist Administration
The religious worldview will define the next four years, and maybe more, even in public schools. BY TOM WADDELL
Vice President Mike Pence and most of Trump’s cabinet nominees are religious fundamentalists. Generally they believe that God created the Earth 6,000 years ago, that men and dinosaurs co-existed, that everything is part of God’s plan and that Armageddon is just around the corner. Collectively they oppose civil rights, LGBT rights, a woman’s right to choose, universal health care, public education, and are in favor of restrictions on voting rights. They deny climate change.
This administration’s world view will define what is possible not only for the next four years but, by nominating those with the same world view to the Supreme Court, for the foreseeable future.
Pence has said, “I’m a Christian, a conservative and a Republican in that order” — apparently being an American comes in no better than fourth, if at all. He denies evolution, is soft on global warming and voted to restrict LGBT rights based on his personal religious beliefs. He supports religious rights over civil rights, as evidenced by his Indiana religious freedom law that extends the constitutional right to practice religious beliefs in a place of worship or in the home to where one works and to businesses one may own.
Pence also said no one should be mistreated because of who they are or what they believe. But, according to Peter Hanscom of Indiana Competes, Pence made no mention that this position will result in people “being fired, removed from their home or denied public service because of who they are.” With him as VP, we can expect more of the same, but on a national scale.
The former director of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, Sheila Kennedy, said, “(Pence) has chosen his side, the religious extremists; people who really do not believe that gay and lesbian (people) should be entitled to equal rights.” Roll Call noted that then-Sen. Pence had a “reputation as a culture warrior” because of his opposition to abortion rights, voting to defund Planned Parenthood, opposing federal spending on embryonic stem cell research and advocating for a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage.
Reporter Craig Fehrman wrote that Pence’s religious beliefs “shape every choice he makes” yet, as he became more prominent, committed himself to saying absolutely nothing about his religious beliefs. It’s no wonder the public knows almost nothing about the religious beliefs of the man who is a heartbeat away from the presidency.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, whose religious beliefs also shape every decision she makes, has a long history of donating to anti-LGBT groups and working to destroy the public school system. Her goal is to create a publicly funded and unregulated fundamentalist Christian school system. Under her administration we are likely to see the Good News Club, which currently run fundamentalist, evangelical after-school programs in many of Maine’s public elementary schools, play a role in teaching your child, as part of the school’s curriculum, that creationism and intelligent design are true, that evolution is “just a theory,” that climate change is a hoax, and that everything — the good, the bad and the ugly — is part of God’s plan.
The club will also teach your child, as it does now in their after-school program, that if your child does not have a “personal relationship” with the Lord Jesus Christ they will be condemned to an eternal after-life of torture in Hell.
According to Politico, DeVos “compared her work in education reform to a biblical battleground where she wants to “advance God’s Kingdom” — at the expense of your child’s education. She has also given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, both conservative, fundamentalist, evangelical groups who oppose public education.
Voucher programs that favor private schools will be the main tool DeVos will use to destroy the public school system. Voucher programs are not about school choice for parents and children, as they will be touted. Patrick Elliott, an attorney for the Freedom from Religion Foundation said, “We know from state voucher programs that the overwhelming beneficiary of these programs are not students, but are instead the churches and parochial schools that take in public money,” and, “This is a significant threat to the separation of state and church.”
Voucher programs take public funds away from your child’s local public school, deprive the remaining students of a good education and are not supported by most public school teachers. Even mainstream religious people who support the separation of church and state don’t want to see their towns public schools closed because of a lack of funds.
Tom Waddell is the president of the Maine chapter of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org