26 Mar 2011

Christian dominionists target children between 4 and 14 as the most vulnerable to spiritual manipulation

God Discussion - March 23, 2011

Christian Dominionists Plan to Transform the World During "4/14 Window" by Focusing Prayers on Children

By God Discussion Reporter

A sect of Christian prayer warriors believe that there is a unique window to create a Christly kingdom on earth this coming April by focusing their efforts on children. According to the "4/14 Window Global Initiative" website, this "4-14 Window refers to the demographic group from age four to fourteen years old, which is the most open and receptive to every form of spiritual and developmental input."

Christian Domination of the Seven Mountains.

In its effort to raise up young followers of Christ, the 4/14 Window Global Initiative focuses on the "7 Mountains" ideology associated with what is loosely referred to as "Christian dominionism," a movement by New Apostolic Reformation, dominionist, reconstructionist and other forms of Christianity that believe that seven areas of world culture must be totally dominated and controlled by Christians so that Jesus Christ can return to earth and rule. While the ultimate focus is essentially the same, the exact verbiage of what constitutes the "7 Mountains" differs. The "7 Mountains" advocated by Shirley Dobson's National Day of Prayer Task Force are described as:

  1. Government,
  2. Military,
  3. Media,
  4. Business,
  5. Education,
  6. Church, and
  7. Family.

In a chilling video essay about the goals of Christian dominionists and their 7 Mountains agenda, journalist Bruce Wilson observed that Mary Glazier, who leads the Wasilla, Alaska prayer group that Sarah Palin joined, advocates "religious cleansing of entire lands" by believers in her movement. She preaches that people will be "displaced" and "toppled" from various institutions and that the Christians will take over. As to each individual's disposition, she claims their fate lies with God but that they will have an opportunity to "switch allegiances" and join the dominionists.

The 4/14 Window Global Initiative believes that today's cultural mountains are not providing children with godly values. In particular, it takes issue with the media complaining in its newsletter that:

Harry Potter is a major media icon that influences children and adolescents through references to sorcery, witchcraft, spiritualist invocations, and the lack of a Christ centered dimension of life.

In turning children to Christ, the 4/14 Window Global Initiative has an intense focus on organizational hierarchy in order to achieve global transformation, decreeing in its draft covenant that,

Each Christian organization shall include in its plans, programs and budget, provisions for capacity building of regional, national and local churches for the equipping and mobilization of children and their families in the 4/14 window for holistic transformation of their respective communities, nations and regions.

Luis Bush, founder of the 4/14 Window Global Initiative, believes that the focus on the young should be a priority, declaring,

It is a plea to open your heart and mind to the idea of reaching and raising up a new generation from within that vast group—a generation that can experience personal transformation and can be mobilized as agents for transformation throughout the world. Our vision and hope is to maximize their transformational impact while they are young, and to mobilize them for continuing impact for the rest of their lives.

Fasting and Intercessory Prayer.

Generals International, a dominionist group run by Cindy and Mike Jacobs, described in a March 22 email alert what their followers should do on the 4/14 Window:

The key demographic for missions in this century is the 4 to 14 Window in the view of a growing number of God’s people around the world because the four to fourteen year old's are known of their responsiveness to the gospel as compared to other ages and because of the formation of their character in during these years and the especially because of the highest priority given to them by Jesus when He walked on this earth.
This is the time to open the 4/14 Window. Participants came from almost 80 nations in September of last year called to catalyze and facilitate the rescuing, reaching, and raising up of a new generation from the 4/14 Window to transform their nations and beyond.
Join the growing global 4/14 Movement to mobilize focused, fervent, united intercessory prayer of God’s people in every region of the world on April 14th for the Raising up of a New Generation from the 4/14 Window to transform the world.
Steps to take:
1. Set the objective of the fast. There would be a two-fold purpose related to the 4/14ers in the church, city, nation, region and world: First, as The Esther Fast we are fasting for protection of the 4/14ers and deliverance from the Evil One (Esther 4:16). Second, we are praying for the Raising up of a New Generation from the 4/14 Window in the local church, city and nation to transform their nations, regions and the world.
2. Set aside the 14th of April for a day of fasting and prayer. If you need to go to work or serve use the open times to seek God on behalf of the 4/14ers of you church, town or city, country, region and world.

Generals also recommends a 3-day "Esther Fast," proclaiming that, "We are following the example of Esther to the challenge by her Uncle Mordecai to call a three-day fast as an essential part of the 4/14 Window Day to Change the World. The story concludes with a transformed world."

Prayer Focus.

The 4/14 Window Global Initiative prayer guide is a 64-page pdf document that describes objectives that all people having a humanitarian worldview can agree with — the elimination of poverty, abuse, neglect, war and violence for the sake of children. However, the prayer guide departs from humanitarian views when it takes issue with other faiths that are perceived to be evil. For instance, the guide states that:

Eastern religions have created a generation in Asia with a vastly different worldview that the traditional Christian one. With no ideas of Creator-God, Sin and Redemption, Asia’s children and youth represent a challenging mission field.

The prayer guide was issued before Japan's earthquake and tsunami. As to Japan, it stated:

They can’t shame their families by financial failure — suicide seems like an honorable way out — and the fatalism of eastern religion offers no hope. Japan’s next generation is in desperate need.

Prayer points:
Hope. Japan has one of the highest suicide rates of any industrialized nation.
Authentic priorities. Recent economic troubles have threatened Japan’s materialist mindset, and youth are pressured to succeed.
Absolute Truth. Most people in Japan claim to be Buddhists or Shintoists, or both. But in fact, their worldview is very secular.
True success. Failure is viewed as shameful to the family … Japan’s children need to know true success is found in relationship with Jesus Christ.
Innovative strategies. That’s what it will take to breach the barriers of social Shintoism and secularism.

Islam and Hinduism (and the belief in reincarnation) are also a focus of the faith-transforming prayers.

Secular values in American education are to be targeted by prayer:

Schools. Public schools have increasingly become platforms for a values-neutral message that impedes education and denigrates Christianity.
Truth … 65% of young people in the United States don’t know which religion is true. They desperately need the love of the Savior.

The prayer guide discusses "post-modernization and secularism:"

Around the world, the next generation has been secularized by globalization — a global youth culture emphasizes relativism, and even young people in rural areas and traditionally “Christian” areas don’t grasp ideas of absolute truth or the importance of a relationship with God.

The ultimate goal of the 4/14 Window Global Initiative is to create child activists:

Christian children who are grounded in a biblical worldview are, themselves, amazingly equipped to reach their own generation.
Prayer points:
Perception. Believers must recognize the power of children as agents of change.
Families. One believing child in a family can lead the entire family to Christ!

Indoctrinating Children.

More young people are turning away from religion. In America, 72% of the Millennials say that they are spiritual, but not religious. The exodus of young people from the churches has prompted groups such as Child Evangelism Fellowship to target children at public parks, apartment complex common grounds, and schools. This group, like many others, has a huge international outreach program that focuses on children.

While helping children who are the victims of war, poverty, sex trafficking and abuse is a goal of these Christian outreaches, not everyone appreciates the proselytizing and indoctrination that takes place. They believe that teaching science and practical, factual knowledge that will enable children to grow up to be self reliant is a more humane approach to children's education. Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins views religious indoctrination of children, with its threats of eternal damnation in hell, as a form of child abuse.

Speaking at Oxford University in 1997, Dr. Nicholas Humphrey asked his Amnesty International audience, "What shall we tell the children?" He noted,

Should we be campaigning for the rights of human beings to be protected from verbal oppression and manipulation? Do we need "word laws", just as all civilised societies have gun laws, licensing who should be allowed to use them in what circumstances? Should there be Geneva protocols establishing what kinds of speech act count as crimes against humanity?
No. The answer, I'm sure, ought in general to be "No, don't even think of it." Freedom of speech is too precious a freedom to be meddled with. And however painful some of its consequences may sometimes be for some people, we should still as a matter of principle resist putting curbs on it. By all means we should try to make up for the harm that other people's words do, but not by censoring the words as such.
And, since I am so sure of this in general, and since I'd expect most of you to be so too, I shall probably shock you when I say it is the purpose of my lecture today to argue in one particular area just the opposite. To argue, in short, in favour of censorship, against freedom of expression, and to do so moreover in an area of life that has traditionally been regarded as sacrosanct.
I am talking about moral and religious education. And especially the education a child receives at home, where parents are allowed — even expected — to determine for their children what counts as truth and falsehood, right and wrong.
Children, I'll argue, have a human right not to have their minds crippled by exposure to other people's bad ideas — no matter who these other people are. Parents, correspondingly, have no god-given licence to enculturate their children in whatever ways they personally choose: no right to limit the horizons of their children's knowledge, to bring them up in an atmosphere of dogma and superstition, or to insist they follow the straight and narrow paths of their own faith.
In short, children have a right not to have their minds addled by nonsense. And we as a society have a duty to protect them from it. So we should no more allow parents to teach their children to believe, for example, in the literal truth of the Bible, or that the planets rule their lives, than we should allow parents to knock their children's teeth out or lock them in a dungeon.
That's the negative side of what I want to say. But there will be a positive side as well. If children have a right to be protected from false ideas, they have too a right to be succoured by the truth. And we as a society have a duty to provide it. Therefore we should feel as much obliged to pass on to our children the best scientific and philosophical understanding of the natural world — to teach, for example, the truths of evolution and cosmology, or the methods of rational analysis — as we already feel obliged to feed and shelter them.

This article was found at:


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Wife of Christian moral crusader in UK says he is a hypocrite who beat her and spiritually terrorized their children

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Dublin Archbishop says Irish church not indoctrinating enough children, secular society advancing

Australian evangelical group aims to convert children through government funded school religious programs


  1. 'Bible Answer Man' Hank Hanegraaff Defends Teen Mania Ministries

    By Jeff Schapiro | Christian Post Reporter
    November 9, 2011

    A widely respected Christian researcher and radio host is defending Teen Mania Ministries after an MSNBC documentary portrayed the group as a cult. Hank Hanegraaff, president of the Christian Research Institute and host of the radio program “Bible Answer Man,” has released his critique of the documentary, which aired on Sunday night. In the critique, he describes the documentary as “a case study in sophistry, sloppy journalism, and sensationalism.”

    MSNBC's documentary “Mind Over Mania” is disturbing at first glance. Young people are shown at a Teen Mania Ministries event crawling through mud, eating worms and pushing themselves to their physical and emotional limits. The experts featured in the film suggest the ministry operates like a cult and uses mind control tactics on young people. TMM, however, says the film's claims against the ministry are “outrageous” and inaccurate.

    In support of Teen Mania, Hanegraaff first addresses the film's allegations that the ministry brainwashes interns who enroll at its Honor Academy. The film features mind control recovery experts Doug and Wendy Duncan, who use Robert Jay Lifton's Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of Brainwashing in China to try to show TMM as a cult. The problem, Hanegraaff says, is their evidence falls short of their accusations, and “many of the arguments proffered against TMM could just as easily be used to establish historic Christianity as a thought reform cult.” He says the model the Duncans used to attempt to prove their point has been “utterly discredited.”

    Kelly Schwalbert, a former Honor Academy attendee, wrote in a blog post that she never experienced abuse or mind-control tactics as an intern. “I would not classify myself, while at Teen Mania, as under mind-control,” she wrote. “I was not brainwashed. I knew enough about God and myself to read the Bible and follow the Bible. The leadership I was under did not make me 'conform' to anything.”

    Schwalbert later showed sympathy for those who had bad experiences with TMM, but emphasized that “it is not a cult.” Later, Hanegraaff's critique moves on to accuse MSNBC of showing images of interns “gagging” on worms in order to stir up an emotional response, but he says NBC's “Fear Factor” show was popular at the time the video footage was taken. He also said TMM no longer does that particular activity during its camp.

    “Mind Over Mania” also never acknowledges that ESOAL (Emotionally Stretching Opportunity of A Lifetime) campers knew how challenging the event would be going into it, and they could have stopped participating at any time. The ESOAL camp has been changed drastically since the shooting of those video clips, Teen Mania founder Ron Luce told The Christian Post, and its name has also been changed to PEARL, an acronym for Physical, Emotional, And Relational Learning.

    Kimberly Warne, another blogger who says she spent two years at the Honor Academy, is critical of both TMM's ministry and financial practices. “Over the last couple decades, Ron has grown this organization into a multimillion dollar machine by convincing thousands of young people to pay to work,” wrote Warne. “Sometimes he succeeds in molding these youth into his cookie cutter version of modern Christianity ... Sometimes he breaks them down into depression, faithlessness, and a lost sense of self.” ...
    MSNBC denies claims that the film inaccurately portrays the ministry and says it has spoken with TMM's founder and president, Luce, about the disagreement.

    read the full article at:


  2. MSNBC Responds to Accusations Over Teen Mania Documentary

    By Jeff Schapiro | Christian Post Reporter
    November 09, 2011

    After the president and founder of Teen Mania Ministries sharply criticized MSNBC for airing its "Mind Over Mania" documentary on Sunday, the network issued a response saying his accusations against the network are false, and they have told him so.

    TMM president Ron Luce says “Mind Over Mania” casts his ministry in a “very inaccurate and negative light” by not fully explaining video and audio clips of TMM events and by trying to make the ministry out to be a cult.

    He is also accusing filmmakers of lying in order to gain access to TMM's Honor Academy interns and ministry leaders for interviews. He says TMM was told by filmmakers his ministry would be just one component of a series on religion in America, but the “mockumentary” didn't at all turn out as he initially thought it would.

    In an email to The Christian Post on Tuesday, however, MSNBC disputed his claims, saying, “MSNBC strongly disagrees with Mr. Luce's characterization that what was broadcast in Mind Over Mania was inaccurate. MSNBC did not approach Mr. Luce and his group under false pretenses and we have shared those thoughts with Mr. Luce.”

    The Garden Valley, Texas-based TMM is a globally-recognized youth ministry and is the umbrella organization over well-known youth events like Acquire The Fire. The ministry's mission is “to provoke a young generation to passionately pursue Jesus Christ and to take his life-giving message to the ends of the earth.” But Luce says “Mind Over Mania” makes it seem like a cult that uses mind control tactics to manipulate young people.

    The documentary features former interns from Teen Mania Ministries who say the group did them more harm than good and may even be a cult.

    In response, Teen Mania stated that it “welcomes any question of our motives and our methods in communicating the gospel of Jesus Christ and are dedicated to using feedback to create a better experience for the young people we serve, but MSNBC’s Mind Over Mania segment ultimately takes issue with the fact that many of the Biblical tenets celebrated in Christianity are at odds with our current culture.”

    Since the documentary aired Sunday night, individuals have taken to Twitter to express their opinions about TMM and its Honor Academy.

    “Happy with the #mindovermania documentary,” Twitter user Shannon Kish posted on her account. “Though they only touched the surface of Teen Mania and its problems.”

    Another post by Cassie Hendon said, “Watching an 'expose' on Teen Mania on msnbc. Sorry, not buying that TM is a cult.”

    One blogger, who is identified only as “A Friend of Teen Mania” and claims to be an Honor Academy alumni, is trying to rally support for TMM by compiling the testimonies of current and former Honor Academy interns who say the ministry positively impacted their lives.

    Though TMM, like any organization, has its faults, the blog's author says, the ministry's leaders have always been willing to discuss any concerns and as such are much more supportive than the documentary portrays them to be.

    “I have seen firsthand the efforts made to correct any injustice and I have experienced nothing less than humility from the executive leadership when any alumnus has brought a situation to light,” the blogger wrote. “I, being an alumnus of the Honor Academy and a lifelong partner of the organization can say wholeheartedly that I endorse the motives and character of the staff and executive leadership team.”


  3. The Religious Right's Plot To Take Control Of Our Public Schools

    By Rachel Tabachnick, AlterNet March 6, 2012

    The Good News Club: The Stealth Assault on America’s Children by Katherine Stewart uncovers a right-wing conspiracy to infiltrate and destroy the nation’s public school system, using recent Supreme Court decisions as a lever. It’s a must-read for anyone who’s seen public school kids, perhaps their own, targeted for proselytizing by peers, teachers and adult volunteers. And for those who haven’t, it’s a wake-up call.

    Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas once wrote, “Religion is certainly a source of positive values, and we need as many positive values in the school as we can get.” It sounds benign. But what if the particular brand of religion is coercive, and in conflict with the teachings and values of the family of the students being targeted? It doesn’t matter. Because under the law as it stands now, evangelical churches have the right to gather, teach and proselytize in your neighborhood school.

    Spiritual Warfare in Your Neighborhood

    How did it come to this? If you haven’t personally observed today’s aggressive “spiritual warfare,” it may be difficult to imagine that young children are being taught that their school is a battlefield and they are the warriors who must save their classmates from themselves. With a remarkable amount of grace and restraint, Stewart describes the havoc in communities around the nation as initiatives to evangelize public school students have increased. The effect is always the same: the polarization that results when the Good News Club shows up inevitably disrupts the ability of parents and teachers to work cooperatively as a school community. And the resulting dissension and loss of trust in the schools, says Stewart, is exactly the result the right wing has in mind.

    The religious right's big break was a 2001 Supreme Court case, The Good News Club v. Milford Central School, which unleashed a new wave of school evangelization. This decision essentially told schools they could not say no to church groups that wanted to use their facilities for after-school gatherings. Stewart describes “the new legal juggernaut of the Christian Right” —an army of legal advocacy groups, including the Alliance Defense Fund, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), Liberty Counsel, and others — that raise hundred of millions of dollars each year for the common goal of injecting stealth evangelism into public schools. They’ve spent the last 10 years figuring out how to use this decision as a wedge to maximize church control over school curricula, personnel and even the physical campus.

    The spear point of this effort is the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), which was founded in 1937. For decades, CEF has run Good News Clubs — after-school Bible classes taught by church-trained mothers and pastors’ wives in suburban homes around the country. But the Supreme Court decision made it legal to bring these classes right into the schools; and the volunteers who teach them typically also volunteer as classroom aides, which gives them a mantle of school authority. To a primary-aged child, it looks as though this indoctrination is simply a part of the school curriculum.

    Stewart cites CEF figures that claim to have set up Good News Clubs “in 3,410 schools -- up 728 percent since the 2001 Supreme Court decision.” The clubs are sponsored by local churches, which are encouraged to “Adopt a Public School” by CEF and others. And they are aiming to take the program to every public elementary school in the country over the next decade or so.

    The court case is still celebrated on the CEF Web site with the words, “God has opened the doors of public schools to the Gospel! CEF is ready and eager to help churches enter the schools, fully equipped to share the Gospel and teach the Bible to school children and extend the biblical influence to families.”

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    Stewart explains how CEF has used this access to teach children to conduct “student-initiated” ideological warfare in school. Public schools are forced to distribute the club’s media and announcements to all students, and to allow tables with media at all kinds of school events. These tables are typically laden with balloons and sweets in order to draw kids in. The coercion extends from the playground to the classroom, so there’s nowhere non-evangelical kids can go to avoid classmates who are insisting — with support from adult aides — that they’re doomed to hell unless they join the club. According to Stewart, it’s hard to overstate the sense of confusion experienced by young Catholic, Mormon, mainstream Protestant, Jewish, and non-theist children when adult authority figures in their school promote a particular sectarian belief, often while actively denigrating and contradicting the worldview they’re being taught at home.

    The 4/14 Window

    CEF is just one of an array of organizations targeting children in an international evangelizing effort called the “4/14 Window," aimed at children from four to 14 years old. Stewart’s book points out that this infiltration is a well-orchestrated effort conducted by a “small number of influential actors.” With a few exceptions, noted by the author, the organizations involved teach a literal interpretation of the Bible, and “see their efforts in the schools as a part of a plan to bring the nation’s children back to its founding religion and thereby lay the basis for a Christian control of all the important parts of government and society.”

    The push to infiltrate social institutions is promoted by a theology called Dominionism, which originated in Christian Reconstructionism and the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), but is now spreading rapidly across the right wing of the evangelical world. The NAR has simplified the theology into a campaign to gain Christian control over the "seven mountains" of American culture: family, business, media, education, religion, goverment, and the arts. The Good News Club is a leading initiative to achieve domination on the education front.

    As a researcher and writer working to defend religious pluralism and secular democracy, I often stress the difference between those with conservative religious beliefs and those who are determined to force those beliefs on the state and everyone else. Stewart also makes the clear distinction between Christian conservatives, the Christian Right, and Christian Nationalists. “All conservatives who are also Christians are not members of the Christian Right,” she writes. “And many supporters of the Christian Right are not Christian Nationalist. However, to a degree that many social conservatives fail to appreciate, it is the Christian Nationalists who are driving the agenda in the public schools.” The people Stewart repeatedly encountered in her research often fell into the latter group, which is the most extreme and dangerous faction of the religious right.

    “To take over the world, focus on the youth”

    Stewart attended trainings and conferences to learn more about how these activities are being coordinated. She describes a CEF conference keynoted by attorney Matthew Staver, the founder of Liberty Counsel and one of the leading forces defending church access to public schools and other publicly funded venues in the name of “religious freedom.” Staver makes it clear that he’s on a war footing. Stewart quotes his keynote address: “If you want to ultimately take over the world, how are you going to do it when you have limited time and limited resources?...The best way to do it, and anyone who studies warfare [knows] you focus on the most strategic part of the human chain link...You focus on youth.”

    “Knock down all the doors, all of the barriers, to all of the 65,000-plus elementary schools in the country and take the gospel to this open mission field now! Not later, Now!”

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    The battle to evangelize other people’s children is justified by a dualist worldview that sees every aspect of life as part of a cosmic battle between the forces of Jesus and Satan. Staver describes young children as the “strategic link,” in winning the war. Throughout the book, Stewart highlights the single-minded focus of those leading these ministries to children, and their unwavering belief that what they are doing is holy — despite the deep and lasting damage it will do to the children, families, schools, and communities they target. If the upshot of this infiltration is that the community turns its back on the school, that’s considered a bonus.

    After all, many CEF teachers and supporters don’t send their kids to public schools anyway. They prefer to send their own kids to Christian academies, or homeschool them — even while they’re devoting many hours each week to infiltrating and undermining their local public schools.

    Targeting the Upper Grades

    While much of the book is dedicated to Stewart’s extensive tracking of CEF’s work in elementary schools, she also describes other tactics being used to reach middle and high school students as well. These include efforts to alter curriculum in public schools to reflect a Christian Nationalist worldivew, as seen in the recent battles over social studies guidelines in Texas schools. Other avenues include abstinence-only, substance abuse and anti-drunk driving educational programs.

    One of the movement's big cash cows is “character” or “moral” education programs, which can include church-written curriculum delivered by church-trained instructors, motivational assembly speakers with a Christianized message, or Christian rock bands -- which the schools pay a hefty sum for. These programs are a commonly used foothold into high schools, one that’s become so common it has been given a nickname: pizza evangelism.

    When the School House Becomes a Church

    And it’s not enough just to co-opt the social atmosphere and the curriculum. The new Supreme Court rulings have forced schools to hand over their buildings to churches as well. Thousands of churches across the country now take over public school facilities on weekends, usually without paying anything more than a custodial fee to the district for the use of their multi-million dollar campuses. This allows these churches to start new congregations in communities where they wouldn’t otherwise be viable or affordable. Liberal, urban schools are hardly exempt: Stewart describes school-based churches in Seattle and Santa Barbara, and estimates that one-fifth of all New York City schools now harbor churches as well — almost all of them conservative and evangelical.

    This trend has some unanticipated consequences that might not occur to the casual observer. The “ex-gay” Exodus International Church set up shop in one of Manhattan’s “most liberal and gay-friendly neighborhoods.“ Another church plant installed a complete communications network — including a satellite dish on the roof — in open defiance of the principal, who had repeatedly denied them permission to do this. And there’s no legal way the principal can throw them out for this.

    From Cult Leaders to Theocrats

    The church planted across the street from Stewart’s house in Manhattan — the school her daughter attends — was a part of the Every Nation network, formerly called Morning Star. Every Nation is a New Apostolic network of ministries founded by former leaders of Maranatha Campus Ministries, an international ministry disbanded after years of bad press about its authoritarian and cult-like practices. Maranatha's founder, Bob Weiner, later became one of the elite “apostles” in C. Peter Wagner’s International Coalition of Apostles.

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    Wagner was a key player in well-orchestrated efforts to evangelize as much of the world as possible prior to the year 2000. Many current sophisticated initiatives and coordinated efforts to access specific populations around the world are a continuation of that global effort, part of which survived as a movement dubbed by Wagner as the “New Apostolic Reformation.” (Sarah Palin is perhaps the movement’s most famous protege.)

    NAR’s mission is to break down denominational divides and unite all of the world’s evangelical churches under the dictatorial authority of their chosen “apostles” and “prophets.” The goal is to take full Christian “dominion” over society in order to bring about Jesus’ return. Although NAR is only a part of the American Christian Dominionist scene, it provides a large and important window into the dualistic and aggressive nature of today’s Christian Nationalism.

    A glimpse of NAR’s approach to the indoctrination of children could be seen in the 2006 documentary Jesus Camp, nominated for an Academy Award. The movie was widely criticized by evangelical leaders for using scare tactics and focusing on a “fringe” children’s camp. However, the featured leaders in the film, Becky Fischer and Lou Engle, are both part of the same apostolic network (Harvest International Ministries of Che Ahn), and Engle has since become one of the most powerful and politically well-connected leaders in today’s Religious Right. So it’s not an overstatement to say that the people who brought you Jesus Camp are now trying to take over your neighborhood school.

    In regards to NAR, there is one minor correction to the book that should be noted. Every Nation is indeed a New Apostolic network, but another church mentioned later in the book as part of NAR is not. Life Challenge Church in Odessa is a United Pentecostal Church and belongs to a Pentecostal denomination. I point this out because Stewart mentions that the women of the church favored long skirts and had very long hair. Typically, NAR leaders do not dress in a particularly conservative manner, and in fact defy common stereotypes of the Religious Right. They usually preach in casual attire, including worn blue jeans, and youth leaders are often heavily tattooed and pierced.

    But that quibble aside, Stewart has written a powerful and compelling book that should be read by anyone who doubts the current threat to separation of church and state. She leaves no doubt that the religious right is on a long-term crusade to undermine secular public education — and the cruel irony is that those ideologically opposed to public education are using the very openness and democratic nature of these public facilities to advance their own agendas.

    Stewart writes: “Back home, I glance out the window at the bright red door across the street. Henceforth, I realize, I will have to accept that on Sundays my daughter’s public school, the furniture that the PTA contributions helped buy, and my daughter’s smiling photograph will be turned over to a group that is dedicated at its core to destroying public education in America. I remind myself that the school will be ours again on Monday. But the truth is, I don’t really believe in that door anymore.”

    Rachel Tabachnick is an independent researcher who writes and speaks about the political and societal impact of the Religious Right. She can be reached at Protectpluralism[at]gmail.com.


  7. The New Legal Theory That Enables Homophobic Evangelizing in Public Schools

    By Katherine Stewart, The Guardian March 29, 2012

    Last month, 8,000 public high school students in Montgomery County, Maryland, went home with fliers informing them that no one is “born gay” and offering therapy if they experienced “unwanted same-sex attraction.”

    The group behind the flier, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), isn’t the kind one expects to find represented in student backpacks. Peter Sprigg, a board member of PFOX who doubles as a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, recently told Chris Matthews that he believes “gay behavior” should be “criminalized.” PFOX president Greg Quinlan told another talk show host that gays and lesbians practice “sexual cannibalism.”

    A number of Montgomery County parents, understandably concerned about the unusual flier, filed a letter of complaint with the school district. “Everything in this flier makes it sound like the goal is to be ex-gay,” said Ms. Yount-Merrell, mother of a high-schooler. “It reiterates a societal view that there’s something wrong with you … if you aren’t heterosexual. And teenagers have a hard enough time.”

    In response to student questions, Superintendent Joshua Starr agreed that the flyer was “reprehensible and deplorable.” But he then pointed out, correctly, that he had no choice in the matter. A 2006 decision by the fourth circuit court of appeals made it clear that if the district allowed any outside groups to distribute fliers through the school, it could not exclude groups like PFOX.

    The situation in Maryland may strike many readers as an anomalous event. One would think that it involves fringe characters, is unlikely to be repeated, and can be easily fixed with a new policy.

    But none of that is true. In fact, similar events are taking place with increasing frequency nationwide, and they represent the wave of the future in America’s public schools. Indeed, at this very moment, the New York state assembly is deliberating a bill – already passed by the senate – that will allow New York’s public schools to double as a taxpayer-subsidized marketing channel for extremist groups of every variety.

    How did this happen to our schools?

    Appropriately enough, it goes back to a lesson we all used to learn in school – but that many people seem to have forgotten. America’s founders understood very well that the freedom of religion and the separation of church and state are two sides of the same coin. Only by keeping government out of the religion business can we ensure that religion may go about its business freely. They also understood that, as a consequence, freedom of religion is different from freedom of speech. Indeed, they guaranteed those two freedoms in two separate and distinct clauses of the first amendment.

    Over the past 20 years, legal advocacy groups of the religious right – a collection of entities that now command budgets totaling over $100m per year – have been pushing a new legal theory, one that has taken hold of some parts of the popular imagination and that has even been enshrined in recent judicial rulings. The essence of the theory is that religion isn’t religion, after all; it’s really just speech from a religious viewpoint. Borrowing from the rhetoric of the civil rights movements, the advocates of the new theory cry “discrimination” in the face of every attempt to treat religion as something different from any other kind of speech.

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    One implication of this novel theory is firmly embedded in the US supreme court’s 2001 6-3 decision in Milford Central School v The Good News Club. Justice Thomas stated in his majority opinion that to exclude a group from school because it is religious in nature is to discriminate against its religious viewpoint, and therefore to violate its free speech rights. No one challenges the exclusion of partisan political groups using the same thinking – we all recognize that partisan political groups are partisan in nature. But because religion alone is a “viewpoint”, opines Thomas, it is apparently different.

    The other important implication is that the establishment clause of the first amendment – the part that is supposed to keep the government out of the religion business – has been diminished, especially in school-related cases.

    Until 2006, the Montgomery school district, like almost all school districts in the nation, had a degree of discretion in the materials it sent home with kids. Few people had previously questioned the school’s authority to set aside religious and partisan political material, for example. All of that changed when a group called the Child Evangelism Fellowship came to town. The Child Evangelism Fellowship is the sponsoring organization for Good News Clubs, which offer a program of sectarian indoctrination in over 3,400 public elementary schools nationwide.

    Backed by the legal advocacy groups of the religious right, the Child Evangelism Fellowship sued the school district and won the right to have its fliers distributed by the schools. The district’s policy on fliers, the majority of the fourth circuit court ruled, was not “viewpoint neutral.”

    The Child Evangelism Fellowship, in partnership with the religious advocacy groups, has litigated similar cases in numerous states, and is, at this moment, suing a school district in Arizona on the question of fliers. These efforts are all done in the name of “religious freedom,” and their advocates proudly announce their determination to fight “discrimination.” But, in fact, they undermine religious freedom and promote discrimination.

    The fundamental problem with the claim that religion is just another form of speech is that it just isn’t true. Religion is special; and notwithstanding the new legal theory, our legal and constitutional system rightfully continues to recognize it as such. Thanks to the free exercise clause, religious groups are allowed to hire and fire people and select their members without regard to the laws that constrain other employers and groups. They receive significant tax benefits.

    More to the point, religious groups are permitted to preach the kinds of doctrines – that homosexuality is an abomination, for example – for which non-religious groups would be excluded from schools and other government institutions. The cumulative effect of the court decisions based on the new legal theory is to force schools and other institutions to provide state-subsidized platforms for the dissemination of religious beliefs.

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    So, which religious groups may be expected to take advantage of this opportunity?

    Much can be learned from the experience over the past ten years in New York City, after the courts forced schools to become houses of worship on Sundays. Although the new churches represent a variety of faiths, the vast majority are conservative evangelical Christian; a substantial number of these are part of national church-planting movements that happen to preach that same-sex relationships are an abomination.

    The Child Evangelism Fellowship is represented at their national conventions by movement leaders who rail against the “homosexual agenda” and promote creationism. One keynote speaker has condemned interfaith marriage, which he referred to as “interracial marriage.” The leaders of the Alliance Defense Fund and the Liberty Counsel – the legal juggernauts that have made the new legal theory possible – have produced books whose titles say it all: The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today, and Same-Sex Marriage: Putting Every Household at Risk.

    They are perfectly entitled to their religion, of course. They are also, by virtue of recent court decisions, now entitled to promote this religion through America’s public schools.

    The lesson we may learn from our experiences over the past decade is that the founding fathers were right, all along, in acknowledging that religion is more than simply a form of speech. They knew what some of our law-makers and policy-makers may have failed to grasp: when government gets mixed up in the religion business, no outcome is pretty.

    Katherine Stewart is the author of "The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children" (PublicAffairs). Visit her Web site or follow her on Twitter @kathsstewart.


  10. Iowa high school assembly stirs protest

    Waterloo Courier March 9, 2012

    DUNKERTON, Iowa — Administrators, teachers and students did not get what they expected Thursday during an extended school program. Everyone anticipated the message from Junkyard Prophet, a traveling band based in Minnesota, to be about bullying and making good choices. Instead, junior and senior high students at Dunkerton High School and faculty members said they were assaulted by the group's extreme opinions on homosexuality and images of aborted fetuses.

    "They told my daughter, the girls, that they were going to have mud on their wedding dresses if they weren't virgins," said Jennifer Littlefield, a parent upset with the band's performance. Her daughter, Alivia Littlefield, 16, is a junior, and called Littlefield after the event.

    "I couldn't even understand her, she was crying so hard," Littlefield said. Littlefield also did not appreciate what she described as gay bashing. "They told these kids that anyone who was gay was going to die at the age of 42," she said. "It just blows me away that no one stopped this."

    The assembly began with music, which some students apparently liked well enough. Overall, Superintendent Jim Stanton said, the group offered "a very strong anti-violence, anti-drug, anti-alcohol" message. The band's lyrics offer evidence of some of their religious beliefs, though, like this passage from "Junkyard Rock."

    "People be freakin' when we speakin' cuz we burnin it up, The life you livin', when you sinnin' cuz we tearin it up, With the word that hot, From the School of Hard Knocks gonna break the rocks, We ain't stoppin', the convictions poppin' Junkyard in the house and the Holy Ghost droppin'."

    "The kids were rocking out," Stanton said. He noted Junkyard Prophet performed at the school years ago prior to his tenure. According to Stanton, staff members at the school at that time and officials from other districts had positive impressions of the group. However, Stanton said, the group apparently changed and misrepresented its total message going into Thursday's appearance.

    After performing, the group separated boys, girls and teachers in the building. During the breakout session, the young men learned the group's thoughts on the U.S. Constitution and what one Prophet referred to as its "10 commandments." The leader also showed images of musicians who died because of drug overdoses, including Elvis Presley. Members of the group blasted other performers, like Toby Keith, for their improper influence.

    The girls, meanwhile, were told to save themselves for their husbands and assume a submissive role in the household. According to witnesses, the leader in that effort also forced the young ladies to chant a manta of sorts about remaining pure.

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    Those who walked out or attempted to confront the speakers were shouted down or ridiculed as disrespectful, according to students. Heidi Manahl, Littlefield's sister, also had a student at the assembly. She, too, was appalled by Junkyard Prophet's message and tactics.

    "I've never had so many young women come up to me crying because of what was said to them. They were bullied by these people and forced to sit there and told to be quiet," Manahl said.

    Stanton spoke to the student body again at day's end, emphasizing the positive aspects of the group's message. But he also told students the presenters shared "an opinion about intolerance that's not in line with the beliefs of the Dunkerton Community Schools." "We promote tolerance for one another," Stanton said. "We will continue to celebrate diversity in our student body."

    Littlefield said she appreciates that the administration has accepted responsibility for the assembly, which clearly went awry. "But the damage has been done. You let these people stay in the school for three hours," she added. Manahl is concerned about what comes next. She hopes administrators and teachers reach out to "students who don't fit in." "There are students in that school who are homosexual and they need to be protected," she said.

    Littlefield isn't sure where officials go from here. But she is certain some repair work is in order. "Something definitely has to be done to make the situation better," she said. The district is trying to recover the fee paid to Junkyard Prophet, Stanton said. According to other sources, the band typically receives $1,500 per performance.


  12. Junkyard Prophet Profits Mightily

    by: Freedom From Religion Foundation April 3, 2012

    In the wake of publicity and complaints, Superintendent Jim Stanton of Dunkerton [Iowa] Community Schools has received a verbal lashing from parents at a school board meeting March 13 about an assembly for junior high and high school students presented by the Christian ministry group You Can Run But You Cannot Hide and its musical group Junkyard Prophet.

    Stanton apologized and agreed to make changes to the assembly procedures for the school in Dunkertown, a town of about 800 people. The assembly the week before included images of aborted fetuses and derisive comments about gay people.

    FFRF received a copy of the assembly contract in response to a request for records from the school. The contract required the school to pay $2,000 to You Can Run But You Cannot Hide.

    The contract says of the ministry, “We have an agenda for truth and not [sic] agenda for opinion.” It says, “We fully warrant our productions to be factual; connective with the students, encouraging to produce an atmosphere of thought and responsibility for the student and the world they live in.”

    The group posted two video clips of portions of the assembly. One is here. The other is here.

    The contract specifies that boys, girls, and teachers would be separated for a second portion of the program. The contract says, “The boys will be doing a huge exploration of music, dealing with different artists, what they stand for and don’t stand for, their lyrics and more.”

    The contract says, “The girls will deal with issues such as the beauty of being a bride, purity, your heart, knowing whom you follow and more.” KCRG reported that the girls' program included a statement that girls would have “mud on their wedding dresses” if they weren’t virgins and that they should assume a submissive role in the household.

    The boys were reportedly given the group’s theocratic view of the Constitution during a portion of their program.

    “This school assembly is shocking," said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "The anti-gay and religious propaganda was offensive to students, teachers and parents. The school is entitled to a full refund, and You Can Run But You Cannot Hide cannot be allowed into any public school again."

    FFRF previously warned other schools to take notice. see:


  13. Secret recordings reveal anti-abortion group spreading falsehoods in schools

    by: British Humanist Association April 3, 2012

    Recordings of talks given by the anti-abortion group, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) have revealed that the group seriously misinforms parents, pupils and staff about the effects of abortion, and the nature of Sex and Relationships Education (SRE). SPUC school speakers have falsely linked abortion to breast cancer and ‘post-abortion trauma’ (which is not a recognised medical condition). The British Humanist Association (BHA) and Education For Choice (EFC) have called on schools to stop inviting speakers in from organisations whose literature and presentations are riddled with misinformation, and on the government to take immediate steps to prevent such groups having access to children in schools.

    Members of local humanist groups attended talks given to parents in Milton Keynes, Wakefield and Bournemouth, and more recently, members of Feminist Action Cambridge (FAC) were able to attend a talk given to secondary pupils in a school. The meetings in Milton Keynes and Cambridge were recorded.

    SPUC’s talk to pupils focuses on the supposed harms of abortion. EFC has previously obtained SPUC’s 2008 PowerPoint presentation, which included graphic images of aborted foetuses and misinformation relating to pregnancy, contraception and abortion. The presentation FAC saw last month has been updated, although some of the fictions exposed then are still being repeated now, four years later. Claims presented include:

    • The morning after pill ‘can cause an early abortion’ and may be damaging to women’s health and future fertility – but legally and medically, emergency hormonal contraception does not end an established pregnancy and is therefore not the same as abortion. There are no serious or long-term health problems associated with taking emergency contraception.

    • Abortion increases a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer – but Cancer Research UK explain that ‘pregnancies that end in an abortion do not increase a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer later in life’.

    • Abortion can lead to ‘suicidal tendencies’ ‘depression’ ‘drug and alcohol abuse’ – all symptoms of ‘post abortion trauma’ – ‘Post Abortion Trauma’ is an invented condition and is not recognised by the medical profession. The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges’ report, ‘Induced Abortion and Mental Health’ explains that ‘The rates of mental health problems for women with an unwanted pregnancy were the same whether they had an abortion or gave birth’.

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    Young people witnessing such presentations are subjected not only to misinformation but a stigmatising and at times distressing portrayal of a safe, legal medical procedure which a third of women in the UK will experience.

    Paradoxically, SPUC’s own ‘Safe at School’ campaign opposes what it calls the ‘explicit nature of sex education in schools’, addressing parents across the country about the perceived harms of SRE. SPUC courted controversy last year when it held an event for parents in Tower Hamlets jointly with a number of other groups, including SREIslamic, under its ‘Safe at School’ banner. The meetings attended by local humanists focussed on generating fear amongst parents about the contents of their child’s SRE teaching, and informing them how to withdraw their children from SRE. Parents were also told that the government is considering introducing compulsory sex education (which it is not), and that they should write to their MP in opposition to this.

    BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson said: ‘It is deeply disturbing that anti-choice groups are so easily able to enter schools and present these damaging fictions, and that they are fear-mongering with parents, again through the spreading of stories which are untrue. Parents and teachers should be aware of the falsehood of the claims made by SPUC, and the government should be more pro-active in preventing groups that persistently make false claims of this nature from having access to vulnerable children, especially in schools.’

    EFC’s Laura Hurley said: ‘Exposing pupils to presentations that misinform them and cause them distress goes against all good educational practice and is an abdication of schools’ pastoral duty of care. It is time that schools took responsibility for providing good quality, evidence-based education about abortion themselves and stopped their reliance on a range of outside agencies whose educational provision does not meet the basic standards which would be required in delivery of any other subject.’

    For related articles see:


  15. Christian fundamentalist Good News Club promotes genocide of nonbelievers in public schools

    by Mike Daniels, Secular News Daily May 31, 2012

    As if fighting tooth and nail for the right to teach creation myths as scientific fact weren’t bad enough, evangelical Christians are now promoting the genocide of nonbelievers as their god’s will. And teaching it to elementary school kids. Christian jihad, anyone?

    The so-called “Good News Club” is a ministry of Child Evangelism Fellowship. They aren’t shy about their position of promoting evangelical Christianity. From CEF’s own website:

    Each week the teacher presents an exciting Bible lesson using colorful materials from CEF Press®. This action-packed time also includes songs, Scripture memory, a missions story and review games or other activities focused on the lesson’s theme. As with all CEF ministries, the purpose of Good News Club is to evangelize boys and girls with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and establish (disciple) them in the Word of God and in a local church for Christian living.

    These “clubs” meet in public schools all over the country–possibly even yours. In Salem, Oregon, the state capital, they meet in public schools in the Salem-Keizer school district. This particular district also graciously hosts the New Life Community Church, an aggressively evangelical organization, at its Bush Elementary School. What does the Good News Club teach? One of the stories is that of Saul and the Amalekites, and it comes early–the second week of the curriculum.

    It’s not a pretty story, and it is often used by people who don’t intend to do pretty things. In the book of 1 Samuel (15:3), God said to Saul: "Now go, attack the Amalekites, and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys." Saul dutifully exterminated the women, the children, the babies and all of the men – but then he spared the king. He also saved some of the tastier looking calves and lambs. God was furious with him for his failure to finish the job. The story of the Amalekites has been used to justify genocide throughout the ages. According to Pennsylvania State University Professor Philip Jenkins, a contributing editor for the American Conservative, the Puritans used this passage when they wanted to get rid of the Native American tribes. Catholics used it against Protestants, Protestants against Catholics. "In Rwanda in 1994, Hutu preachers invoked King Saul’s memory to justify the total slaughter of their Tutsi neighbors," writes Jenkins in his 2011 book, Laying Down the Sword: Why We Can’t Ignore the Bible’s Violent Verses. This fall, more than 100,000 American public school children, ranging in age from four to 12, are scheduled to receive instruction in the lessons of Saul and the Amalekites in the comfort of their own public school classrooms. The instruction, which features in the second week of a weekly "Bible study" course, will come from the Good News Club, an after-school program sponsored by a group called the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF). The aim of the CEF is to convert young children to a fundamentalist form of the Christian faith and recruit their peers to the club.

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    ‘Come now,’ you say, ‘They’re just teaching a Bible story. Nothing wrong with that. It’s not like they’re teaching Numbers 31, the slaughter of the Midianites for the same reason, where God told Moses to let the men “keep as wives” (that is, rape) all the virgin girls. This is a horrible story, sure, but they’re not teaching children that God wants all nonbelievers slaughtered!’ Sure about that, are you?

    In the most recent version of the curriculum, however, the group is quite eager to drive the message home to its elementary school students. The first thing the curriculum makes clear is that if God gives instructions to kill a group of people, you must kill every last one: "You are to go and completely destroy the Amalekites (AM-uh-leck-ites) – people, animals, every living thing. Nothing shall be left." “That was pretty clear, wasn’t it?” the manual tells the teachers to say to the kids. Even more important, the Good News Club wants the children to know, the Amalakites were targeted for destruction on account of their religion, or lack of it. The instruction manual reads: "The Amalekites had heard about Israel’s true and living God many years before, but they refused to believe in him. The Amalekites refused to believe in God and God had promised punishment.

    What lesson is this teaching children? Two things, actually. First, complete and unquestioning obedience to authority is a virtue. Specifically, obedience to their god who, of course, can only be “heard” through religious leaders who, naturally, would only say things their god told them . . . so they must be obeyed. Second, that anyone who doesn’t believe in their god is worthy of death, and that’s what their god wants. Lots of killing. I seem to recall all manner of outcry from folks about a religion that says exactly this. Which one was it? I can’t quite put my finger on it . . .

    Muhammad said, “If anyone changes his religion, kill him,” and the death penalty for apostasy is still part of Islamic law. Those who choose to leave Islam have to live with a death sentence over the heads for the rest of their lives — even if they live in the U.S. But Muslim “civil rights” organizations whine about “Islamophobia” and never say a word about the human rights of apostates from Islam. -Robert Spencer, Jihad Watch.org

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    If I may paraphrase Robert Spencer, plenty of folks are calling out the atrocities of Islam; why aren’t those same people shrieking about Christianity’s pro-genocide bent? And slaughter of those they don’t like is becoming increasingly popular a message among the Christian right. A couple of weeks ago, North Carolina Baptist pastor Charles Worley told his congregation that all gays and lesbians should be rounded up and kept behind an electrified fence until they die out . . . yes, he advocated for concentration camps. His congregation was not horrified. In fact, they were supportive. Just days later, another Baptist pastor shared his thoughts on the idea. Curtis Knapp of New Hope Baptist in Seneca, Kansas, instead promoted government execution of all homosexuals:

    They should be put to death … Oh, so you’re saying we should go out and start killing them, no?’ — I’m saying the government should. They won’t, but they should. You say, ‘Oh, I can’t believe you, you’re horrible. You’re a backwards neanderthal of a person’. Is that what you’re calling scripture? Is God a neanderthal, backwards in his morality? Is it His word or not? If it’s His word, he commanded it. It’s His idea, not mine. And I’m not ashamed of it. He continued: He said put them to death. Shall the church drag them in? No, I’m not say that. The church has not been given the power of the sort; the government has. But the government ought to [kill them]. You got a better idea? A better idea than God?

    Meanwhile, in a more typical stance of the Christian Right, Truth in Action Ministries is blaming all of America’s ills on the IRS and homosexuality, and demanding that homosexuality be made illegal. Faux historian David Barton, who shaped Texan’s social studies textbooks with his warped “christian nation” nonsense, is in agreement. This is what the Christian Right wants: The removal of anyone who doesn’t obey their leaders. And they’re after your children. Are they in your child’s school?

    Katherine Stewart has written a book about the Good News Club, The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children. She also has a website which features stories about the Religious Right in America.

    To see the links embedded in this article go to


  18. Charges filed against pastor in mock terrorism raid at Lower Swatara church

    The Patriot News, Pennsylvania July 27, 2012

    Dauphin County prosecutors today charged a church and its pastor after a mock "terrorism raid" in March.

    The fake raid occurred at Glad Tidings Assembly of God Church in Lower Swatara Township when four men -- one carrying an unloaded but real gun -- rushed into a room full of youth-group participants, put pillowcases over their heads and forced them into a van. The children didn't know the raid was fake. One was injured.

    The district attorney's office filed charges of false imprisonment, a felony, and simple assault against the church and youth pastor Andrew D. Jordan, 28.

    Lower Swatara Police Chief Richard Wiley said he didn't understand the rationale of the church leaders and that he's never witnessed a case like this.

    District Attorney Edward M. Marsico Jr. that while the intentions of the church were not necessarily harmful, “they in essence terrorized several children.”

    John Lanza, the pastor of the church, said after the incident that the raid is used as a learning experience to show what some missionaries deal with because of their faith.

    The mother of a 14-year-old girl who was taken during the incident called police.

    After bursting in on the youth group, the raiders prodded the hooded kids into a church van and drove across the parking lot to the pastor’s house. They led the teens through the garage, past the pastor’s motorcycle with crucifixes painted on its gas tank to an interrogation room in a dark corner of the musty basement.

    A single-bulb painter’s light was suspended from the ceiling. It illuminated a lone chair. The men questioned each teen for 30 seconds in the room, raising their voices to invoke fear, before releasing them, Lanza said in March.

    Lanza and Jordan are still listed as lead and youth pastors, respectively, on the church's website.


    see previous news reports at:



  19. The Littlest Missionaries: A New Christian Plot to Invade Public Schools

    Exploiting a legal loophole, evangelicals are using children to spread their message in schools.

    by By Katherine Stewart | AlterNet October 1, 2012

    When he was 15, Jim ran drugs for a cult group. When I first heard his story, I was shocked – not just that the group was running drugs, but that they had directed one of their youngest recruits to do the dirty work for them. Then I learned why it made sense in a technical sort of way: the cult leaders reasoned that the older members, if caught, would face serious sentences and lifetime records, whereas the kids could get away with an unpleasant but not life-altering juvenile detention. It was a matter of using kids to do what the grown-ups didn't want to risk doing themselves.

    In a tactical sense, religious fundamentalists in America appear to have taken a page from the same book. The constitution and the law prohibits adults from, say, establishing ministries within public schools [3] aimed at proselytizing to the children [4] during school hours. But a growing number of religious activists have come to realize that it's technically legal if they get the kids to do their work for them. OK, so religious proselytizing is not the same thing as running drugs – but manipulating kids to exploit legal loopholes isn't pretty wherever it happens.

    This tactic has been tested and deployed in a great number of situations already in schools across the country. Right now, a large group of fundamentalist organizations and church denominations is making a big bet that they will be able to pull it off on a national scale, starting in 2013.

    If you go to the Every Student Every School [5] website, you'll see that their dozens of promotional videos are first-rate. The music is great, the cameras are professionally handled, the sound bites are short and snappy. Their message is very clear.

    As ESES's name implies, their idea is to proselytize every student in every public school in America through an aggressive "Adopt-a-School" campaign. And the way to do it is to have the kids do what grownups are not allowed to do – establish full-fledged missionary operations inside the schools. A clever map [6] allows viewers to click on their state and type in their area code, revealing every school in the district and determine whether it has been "adopted" by churches or other religious organizations. Kids from those entities are instructed to conduct daily prayer groups during the school day, distribute religious literature and are given numerous other ideas for practicing or promoting their religion [7] at school.

    "We must help our teenagers get serious about sharing their faith with those God has place in their lives," an article on the ESES website advises. According to ESES's Campus Prayer Guide [8], evangelical Christian students are in a "strategic position" to proselytize "unchurched" peers, and advises these students to "consider every school a PRAYER ZONE."

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    Who is behind ESES and its sponsoring group, Campus Alliance [9]? It is backed by nearly 60 large-scale fundamentalist initiatives and church denominations, including the Fellowship for Christian Athletes, Young Life, Youth with a Mission, Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU) and the Life Book Movement, a project of the Gideons International.

    ESES is the fulfillment of a strategy that has been unfolding for the past few decades. It started with student groups rightfully claiming certain free speech rights in public schools. After all, kids can and should be allowed to talk about their religion with their friends at school. It led to a legal distinction [10] by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor that seems more simple on the surface than it is in practice – the distinction between private speech by students and speech that is linked to school authorities or the authority of the school.

    This distinction was perhaps too simplistic. After all, when students give class presentations, they don't have a right to express just any views on any subject they choose. Schools routinely restrict student speech – directing kids to speak politely, or speak in turn, for instance – when it makes sense for educational purposes, and even sometimes when it doesn't. This distinction ultimately led to what some fundamentalist activists took to calling a "God-given loophole [11]".

    September 26th, for instance, marked the 22nd annual "See You at the Pole [12]" prayer event, in which children nationwide gathered around the flagpole at their schools and prayed in as ostentatious a manner as possible. The event is purportedly "student-led". But at the SYAP I attended, local pastors directed kids in their youth groups to join, told them what to do, loaned them sound amplification equipment, participated in the event and hosted an after-party at a local mega-church, which was staffed with adults wearing t-shirts with the SYAP logo.

    These initiatives are "student-led" in the same sense that a pee-wee soccer league is student-led. Yes, it's the kids kicking the ball, but you have to be pretty detached from reality to imagine that there would be kids on that playing field in the first place without the grown-ups organizing and funding their activities, and cheering them from the sidelines.

    Bible distribution programs are pursuing the same tactic. For years, adult missionaries with the Gideons International sought to distribute [13] Bibles in public schools – with limited success, as adults are not allowed to hand out religious literature on public school grounds. But give a stash of evangelical tracts to a kid, and the kid is allowed to do it for them. In the past three years since its inception, the Life Book movement [14], a "peer evangelism" project of the Gideons International, claims to have distributed over 3.4m evangelical tracts, written with teens in mind, to kids on school campuses nationwide.

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    In many instances, such activities like this will appear as a nuisance at the margin, one of those violations of the spirit of the constitution, if not the letter, that would seem to be more about symbolism and principle than anything else. But in this case, it would be naïve to imagine that that is the end game. The goal of such initiatives, quite clearly, is to normalize the idea that public schools should be venues for religious activity. Once you've got churches entangling themselves in the schools, it is very hard to remove them.

    New York City's department of education found this out the hard way. After being forced by the courts to allow churches rent-free [15] access to space within public schools, a new constituency was created: namely, churchgoers and church leaders accustomed to having state-subsidized houses of worship. Even though the second circuit court of appeals recognized that there was a serious constitutional concern here, the department of education has run into heavy political resistance [16], which they are still battling today.

    Defenders of such religious initiatives call their efforts a fight for "religious freedom." But largely what they seek are special privileges for their religion alone. The normalization of the integration of church and school comes from very particular strands of the Christian faith; not every Christian denomination, or every religion, is involved in this kind of activity. Mainline Christian denominations, to give just one example, are largely excluded. The work of ESES and its friends creates precisely those ills against which the constitutional principle of the "separation of church and state" was intended to defend.

    Such mixing of church and school is sure to cause conflict and division – especially among parents who are not represented by the school-churches. It will burden public school officials who already have enough to deal with in terms of instruction and management, and are frankly not equipped to handle sectarian conflicts in school communities. But the groups involved in these efforts won't be deterred by that division. In fact, many of them welcome it. Many fundamentalists simply do not accept public schools as legitimate enterprises in the first place. They see public education as secular education, and therefore intrinsically hostile to their religion.

    At their core, they do not accept that we live in a diverse society with a secular form of government. If their activities degrade support for the public schools or even destroy them, they will not be sorry to see them go.


  22. Christians Evangelizing Military Youth on the Taxpayer's Dime

    By Mikey Weinstein, AlterNet | Op-Ed 25 February 25, 2013

    Quentin Tarantino deals in tawdry fiction writ large, bloody, and outrageous, as is the case with his latest Best Picture Oscar-nominated exploitation epic, "Django Unchained." Even he would be cowed by the pathetic tale of woe that follows.

    From the onset of Operation Enduring Freedom in October 2001, U.S. military servicemembers and their families have borne the tragic brunt of prolonged operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Herculean task at hand, spanning the full spectrum of human endurance, from coping with multiple deployments to the hopelessly bleak, inhospitable frontlines of the War on Terror hasn't fallen on war fighters alone. Indeed, the oozing sores of perpetual anxiety, debilitating depression, and other extreme disorders have proven themselves across military and civilian communities to be communicable diseases, affecting servicemembers and their dependents alike. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has become a household word across the nation, as active-duty servicemembers, for the first time in a generation, are more likely to fall on their own swords and take their own lives than face death in a war zone. This national tragedy continues to play out despite the phasing out of the U.S. role in Iraq and a sharp drop in troop levels in Afghanistan.

    Some of the most acute psychological torment has fallen heaviest on servicemembers' children. Speaking as a veteran "military brat" from a family with a long and proud multigenerational tradition of service in our nation's armed forces, I can surely empathize with these youth in terms of the trials that they face.

    Enter Tarantinoesque fiction - except it's real.

    It came as a sickening jolt of shock when we at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) learned that a group of savagely opportunistic fundamentalist Christian vultures known as "Club Beyond" are using taxpayer dollars - let me emphasize that point one more time: TAXPAYER DOLLARS - and Department of Defense property to aggressively prey on these youth, as well as advertising their activities via the official Army.mil website. Club Beyond's mission, in their own words, is to "'celebrate life with military kids, introducing them to the life giver, Jesus Christ, and helping them to become more like him,' while offering youth a chance build meaningful relationships." [italics added]. All of the foregoing would be just fine and dandy if only the United States military was not subject to the United States Constitution - but it is. Thus, the just-mentioned "sickening jolt."

    In other words, Club Beyond's nefariously unconstitutional modus operandi is the outright, incontestable proselytization and religious indoctrination of vulnerable youth perceived to be "unchurched." Club Beyond is a sectarian enterprise with global reach. It's a subsidiary of a raging fundamentalist Christian parachurch organization called "Military Community Youth Ministries" (MCYM). MCYM offers, get this, "well chaperoned" weekly 90 minute club meetings, retreats, and Bible Study courses facilitated by "staff and volunteers [that] love young people and are available to journey with them through the hard challenges of adolescence, providing positive role models and exhibiting Christ-like behavior." Uh huh. Want some more?

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  23. Ok. Well, one of the ways that Club Beyond shows its "love" for these captive audiences is by hosting so-called "Purity Conferences," events where the widely debunked abstinence-only movement is, ahem, propagated. In fact, this year's Valentine's Day was the occasion for one such "Virginity Ball," an event called "Can't Lose." At this "ball," rather than receiving a realistic sexual education, youth enmeshed in a cannonade of hormonal tides of teenage passion are schooled solely in the ways of puritanical self-denial. The "virginity movement" has long been exposed as a transparent, fundamentalist Christian campaign that perniciously undermines reproductive health and cloaks old-school misogyny of the very worst kind in mawkish rhetoric regarding "preserving yourself for your future husband." Yep.

    That'll work for sure.

    In 2012's annual "Wastebook" published by the office of Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) - in case you didn't notice, a Republican - the glut of wasteful "non-defense" spending by the Pentagon earned it the notorious and ignominious title of the "Department of Everything." As our brilliant MRFF Senior Research Director Ms. Chris Rodda uncovered, a not-insignificant portion of these shamefully gluttonous expenditures skirt not only the realm of usefulness in the field of national defense but are utterly devoid of lawful constitutionality as well. A virtual king's ransom has been set aside by the Department of Defense (DoD) for the wretchedly theocratic purpose of "saving souls," with a major portion of this sum going directly towards MCYM. Since 2000, this child-targeting, taxpayer funded, proselytizing monstrosity has received a little known largesse of literally hundreds of lucrative DoD contracts for the explicitly-stated purpose of evangelizing ever-vulnerable military youth. In 2011 alone it received nearly $2 million, and in 2012 this sum increased to nearly $2.5 million! It goes without saying that this treasure of treachery represents a staggering violation of the First Amendment's No Establishment Clause, which clearly prohibits the intertwining of church and state.

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  24. As our excellent researcher Ms. Rodda also noted, the cold, calculated, clever, cult-like tactics of these fundamentalist Christian parachurch madrassas include luring teens to pizza parties and movie nights, infiltrating the public schools surrounding military bases, and quite literally stalking minors by following their school buses from their on-post school bus stops to their off-post public schools. Wait...did I really say stalking minors by following their school buses? Indeed I did. It would be one thing if these sectarian religious predators carried out this style of proselytizing on their own time and own dime, as is the case with The Gideons International, who leave Bibles in the dressers of seedy motels. What MRFF takes grave exception to is the hideous fact that the DoD contract descriptions THEMSELVES actually command the utilization of these buzzard-like, textbook, ambulance-chasing tactics, totally negating the Constitution's "No Religious Test" mandate (see Clause 3, Article VI). Noting that the military base "Religious Education Director" and other related positions are the exclusive domain of Christians, contracts include the requirement to "ensure [that] all programs and activities are inclusive of all Christian traditions." Further, the DoD contract descriptions urge these state-sanctioned, uber-fundamentalist Christian proselytizing vultures to "use a variety of communications medium that shall appeal to a diverse group of youth, such as music, skits, games, humor, and a clear, concise, relevant presentation of the Gospel." What? No candy, bubblegum, kittens, puppies, and popcorn?

    These stinking travesties, odiously repulsive in their own right, represent merely the tip of the tip of a proverbial iceberg threatening not only the bedrock Constitutional protections of our military personnel and their families, but our comprehensive national security as well. The campaign to indoctrinate our military youth, at taxpayer expense, with the apocalyptic dogmas of fundamentalist Christianity goes hand-in-hand with other acts meant to advance a scurrilous Dominionist agenda - such as the Pentagon's recently-discovered blocking of LGBT websites. Under the false guise of "freedom of religion," Constitutional tramps have been given carte blanche to ride roughshod over the foundational religious rights of servicemembers and their families, most importantly their right to go unmolested by hectoring, seething, salivating proselytizers of Christian "Talibanism." The eventual goal of these parachurch Mafioso entities isn't simply to comfort military youth by assisting them in some sectarian conception of what constitutes a "walk with God." Quite on the contrary, the obsession is to raise a "Crusader force" championing weaponized Christianity - to be more specific, a twisted version steeped and marinated in poisonous, parochial religious exclusivity, supremacy, exceptionalism, and belligerent fundamentalist backwardness. To underestimate the enormity of the colossal danger posed by this fifth column to America's core Constitutional values, not to mention our strategic national security interests, would be a fatal mistake of literally Jovian proportion.

    It must be stopped. It must be stopped now. Perhaps the next DoD Secretary is listening?


  25. Sophia Investigates The Good News Club

    by Scott Burdick· YouTube February 7, 2013


    Do you think children should be told they are evil and deserve to die? This is what the Good News Club teaches -- in Public Elementary Schools, no less.

    In 2001, a conservative Supreme Court overthrew a New York public school's policy of excluding adult-led religious proselytizing groups like The Good News Club from operating in its schools, turning the Establishment Clause on its head. Since then the Good News Clubs have been on a tear, and now can be found in well over 3000 public elementary schools across America.

    The Clubs, which are sponsored by an organization called the Child Evangelism Fellowship, are designed to indoctrinate very young children in a very specific and deeply fundamentalist version of the Christian faith -- one that endorses Biblical "inerrancy" and creationism, and emphasizes obedience at all costs. By operating in public schools, the Clubs deceive small children into thinking that their school supports this particular form of the Christian religion. Kids who attend the Clubs have said that the religion of the Good News Club "must be true, because they teach it in school, and they don't teach things in school that aren't true."

    The introduction of such proselytizing Clubs sows division in formerly harmonious school communities, weakening support for public education as a whole. Good News Clubs are coming to a school near you. Catch the documentary first.

    Please visit Katherine Stewart's website for more information on her book, "The Good News Club"

    Or these websites with lots of information on what you can do to combat these clubs in general, or if they come to your school. http://www.goodnewsclubs.info http://goodnewsclubs.info/civilremedies.htm

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  26. Here's the Permission form Bob signed (I've omitted Sophia's last name). Bob is now claiming that he only signed permission for Sophia to use the footage for a school project, which is clearly not true. I'll be happy to provide a copy of the form Bob and all the other people interviewed for the film signed if YouTube requests them, seeing as Bob has now filed with YouTube to have the film removed.

    I give Sophia ***** and her team permission to record and use my interviews as well as footage of the Good News Spectacular for the purposes of creating a video documentary, or for any other projects she may give permission for in the future.

    I understand that at my request, I will be provided with a DVD copy of Sophia ******'s final documentary project that I may use in it's completed form free of charge.

    I understand that the recordings of my interview, footage from the Good News Spectacular, and the transcripts (if transcribed) will be maintained and made available indefinitely by the filmmaker for such research, production (e.g., radio, television, film festivals, World Wide Web, exhibitions, related advertisements), and educational purposes as the filmmaker/photographer shall determine.

    I hereby grant, and transfer to the filmmaker/photographer, all rights, title, and interest in the interview and video documentary, including without limitation the literary rights and the copyright. I hereby release filmmaker/photographer, his/her legal representatives and assigns, from all claims and liability relating to said documentary and photographs.

    I attest that I have voluntarily agreed to be interviewed and that this document contains the entire and complete agreement concerning the use and preservation of my interview.

    Signed and dated by Bob -- he also wrote his address and phone # -- and I filmed him doing so. Here is a link to the actual release form with Bob's signature -- I just blacked out Sophia's last name and Bob's personal information.

    And here's a link that proves the claim that the GNC teaches children they deserve death -- from their own course books. http://goodnewsclubs.info/youdeservedeath.htm

  27. 5 Kids Bravely Fighting Christian Domination of Their Schools

    Imagine fighting a pitched church-state battle when you’re a teenager in high school.

    By Rob Boston, Americans United for Separation of Church and State March 5, 2013

    It can take a lot of guts to stand up for separation of church and state in America. People who file lawsuits to stop the display of religious symbols on public property or the use of sectarian prayers before government meetings often find themselves the targets of harassment, threats, and even violence.

    Adults can usually withstand the pressure. But imagine fighting a pitched church-state battle when you’re a teenager in high school.

    The high school years are a period when many young people just want to fit in with peers or keep a low profile. When separation of church and state is violated in a public school, students are the ones most affected. They’re the ones who have to stand up and make it right. It’s not always easy.

    Here are five young people who made a difference.

    1. Zack Kopplin: Zack Kopplin is a one-man war against the teaching of bad science in Louisiana. Zack was a high school student in Baton Rogue when he started to speak out against a measure legislators passed in 2008 to sneak creationist materials into schools through the backdoor.

    Zack began lobbying for repeal of the so-called “Louisiana Science Act” (which is misnamed because it doesn’t actually promote science) and lined up 43 Nobel laureates to endorse a repeal of the law. He also worked with state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) to introduce legislation repealing the law.

    The repeal hasn’t passed yet, but Kopplin, who is 19 and now a student at Rice University in Houston, continues to work on the issue. He has led rallies calling for repeal and lobbies national science organizations, urging them to avoid holding conferences in Louisiana until the law is overturned. (The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology has already done so, shifting its conference from New Orleans to Salt Lake City.) He also captured national headlines by blowing the whistle on the teaching of creationism in private school in Louisiana that receive taxpayer funding through a voucher program.

    In addition, Kopplin successfully lobbied the New Orleans City Council to support repeal of the law. In May, the council voted unanimously in favor of supporting repeal. A group of religious leaders called the Clergy Letter Project has also endorsed the call.

    Along the way, Kopplin has become an effective spokesperson for the cause of sound science instruction in public schools. He has delivered speeches and appeared on national news programs to discuss the issue. In early March, he was interviewed by Bill Moyers on PBS.

    2. Jessica Ahlquist: In 2011, high school junior Jessica Ahlquist protested the posting of a banner listing an official school prayer in the auditorium of Cranston High School West in Rhode Island.

    The banner had been hanging there since 1963 – ironically, the same year the U.S. Supreme Court struck down official programs of prayer and Bible reading in public schools in a famous case called Abington Township v. Schempp.

    Officials at the school refused to remove the banner, so Ahlquist contacted the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU sued on her behalf, and she won. In the ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Ronald R. Lagueux praised Ahlquist for having the courage to take on the case at the tender age of 16.

    Unfortunately, many members of the community didn’t agree. Ahlquist was subjected to a torrent of abuse. A Twitter user said “this girl honestly needs to be punched in the face,” and an anonymous commenter posted Ahlquist’s home address on the Providence Journal's website. She received numerous death threats and was shadowed by police for a time at school.

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  28. Ahlquist was even blasted by the 1970s rock star Meatloaf, who cited her as an example of why “the world’s gone to hell in a handbasket.”

    Remarkably, Ahlquist was also attacked by a state politician. State Rep. Peter Polombo called her “an evil little thing,” a “clapping seal” and a “pawn star” on a talk radio show. Things got so out of hand that when the Freedom From Religion Foundation tried to send flowers to Ahlquist, it couldn’t find a local florist willing to deliver to her house.

    The good news is that school officials decided not to appeal the ruling, and the banner was removed. Ahlquist is currently finishing up her senior year studying at home. This fall, when she goes to college, she’ll have fewer worries about money. An atheist blogger, Hemant Mehta, launched a scholarship fund for her. More than $44,000 was collected.

    3. Krystal Myers: High school senior Krystal Myers knew something wasn’t right at Lenoir City High School in Tennessee. There was simply too much religion in the school.

    Myers made note of a litany of abuses: sectarian prayers at graduation ceremonies, coercive prayer at football games, teachers wearing clothing with religious imagery, lunchtime visits by ministers, distribution of Christian material during the school day and prayers opening school board meetings.

    As editor of her school newspaper, Panther Press, Myers believed she was in a position to highlight these abuses and bring about change. She penned a column explaining what it felt like to be an atheist in such an environment.

    “I have realized that I feel that my rights as an atheist are severely limited when compared to other students who are Christians,” Myers wrote. “Why do Christians have special rights not allowed to nonbelievers?”

    The column never made it into Panther Press. The school’s principal pulled it, asserting the piece might cause disruptions at the school. The Knoxville News-Sentinel had no such worries, however, and ran Myers’ article on Feb. 26, 2012.

    Myers’ willingness to speak out sparked action from Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Attorneys at Americans United wrote to school officials and demanded that they stop the unconstitutional activities. The Lenoir City Board of Education subsequently announced that it would suspend prayer before meetings and would also end the practice of allowing public prayers before high school football games. (The other matters were referred to the school’s attorney.)

    Some in the community lashed out against Myers. In an online forum for Lenoir City residents, a comment thread titled “Krystal Myers should be Excommunicated from the City and County” sprung up. One anonymous commenter asserted, “We need to rise up and Kick (sic) devil worshiping, drama loving, Krystal Myers out of town.”

    Not long after that, hundreds of people gathered to pray on the Loudon County courthouse lawn, calling for school prayer. Some carried signs that read: “He stood for us. We stand for him,” and “It’s freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.”

    Myers graduated and is now studying journalism at the University of Tennessee.

    4. Corwyn Schulz: By the time he was a high school senior, Corwyn Schulz had had enough. Corwyn, who attended Medina Valley High School in Castroville, Texas, endured Christian invocations at school events, prayers led by coaches, religious posters on school walls and other school-sponsored forms of religion.

    As Corwyn prepared to graduate, he decided to fight back. With legal firepower provided by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Corwyn and his family filed a lawsuit to block school-sponsored prayer during the commencement ceremony.

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  29. A flurry of legal activity resulted in an initial win for Corwyn, when a federal court blocked the prayer. An appeals court overturned that ruling, however. Corwyn and his family could sense strong hostility in the community and decided not to attend the commencement.

    Although the Schulz family lost the skirmish over graduation prayer, they won the larger battle. The lawsuit continued, and after more than six months of litigation, school officials agreed to work on settling the case out of court.

    Under the terms of the settlement, district officials, administrators, teachers, staff and other employees cannot initiate, solicit or direct prayers, nor can they join students in prayers, proselytize or invite others to engage in worship activities of this type.

    In addition, the school district agreed to stop displaying crosses, religious images, religious quotations, Bibles or religious texts or other religious icons or artifacts on the walls, hallways and other common areas at the school. The district said it would no longer invite speakers who might proselytize during school events.

    Finally, school officials altered the student handbook to add a section on students’ rights to religious freedom and offer special training on church-state separation to all district personnel who work with students.

    There was an interesting postscript to the case: After the settlement was announced, Superintendent James Stansberry called the lawsuit a “witch hunt” and made untrue allegations about it. At the same time, Keith Riley, the band director, accused Corwyn of making “lies and false allegations.”

    U.S. District Judge Fred Biery held that these comments were in violation of the settlement decree and ordered Stansberry and Riley to apologize to the Schulz family.

    5. Mark Reyes: The small town of Poteet, Texas, had a tradition of including a lot of religion in its high school graduation ceremonies – often Christian. Students were expected to compose and deliver prayers during the event. In fact, they were told to submit their prayers in advance for review by the principal.

    Mark Reyes, who was valedictorian in 2012, discovered that two of the students who were expected to deliver prayer weren’t comfortable doing so, and he decided to challenge the practice. There was no way Reyes could have done this anonymously – there were only about 100 kids in his graduating class.

    Reyes began researching separation of church and state issues and contacted Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which wrote letters to school officials advising them that they could not compel students to write and deliver prayers. In response, the school officials told Reyes that if any students didn’t want to offer a prayer, the school would find someone else to do it. Americans United had to write to the school again and tell the officials that this only made things worse.

    Local media reported that when word of Reyes’ protest became public, an uproar ensued. Reyes subsequently appeared on CNN and Fox News to explain his point of view. Despite the anger in the community, the graduation ceremony went off without coerced prayer. Reyes went on to Texas Tech University to study computer science.

    These are just five examples. Lots of young people stand up against Christian fundamentalism intrusions into public schools and never make the national media. Activists who have been defending the separation of church and state for a long time sometimes wonder if a new generation will rise up to carry the torch. It seems there’s no need to worry. They are well on the way.

    to read the links embedded in this article go to:


  30. Good Lord: In China, Christian Fundamentalists Target Tibetans

    By Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore / XiningMarch 08, 2013

    When Dawa said yes to a party held by American friends in the city of Xining, she expected music, drinks, and a chance to practice her English. But it soon transpired that there would be more to the evening’s activities.

    “When we arrived one person said loudly: ‘Lord!’ and started to cry,” Dawa, an earnest Tibetan in her late 20s, recalls in a café in Xining, the capital of China’s Qinghai province. “Some people came and touched me and cried. We were so afraid. We thought, Why are they crying?”

    For Dawa and her friend Tenzin (names have been changed to protect their identities), both Tibetans from nomadic families trying to make it in the big city, the situation was not only potentially dangerous if they had been caught by police but humiliating. “We were upset,” explains Tenzin. “They had told us we could learn English. We felt like fools.”

    The pair had been roped into an evangelical Christian gathering. For missionaries, places like Xining provide rich pickings among so-called unreached peoples. In the city, Hui Muslims sporting white caps live side by side with Tibetans, many wrapped against the cold in colorful robes. An increasing number of the latter have come from the sprawling Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in search of work and education.

    Tibet is one of the most coveted locations for nondenominational American and Korean Christian groups angling for mass conversion. Most are fundamentalist Christians who prioritize preaching and winning converts over the charitable works traditionally performed by mainstream missionaries. The more radical evangelists believe in the biblical notion of the “Great Commission” — that Jesus can only return when preaching in every tongue and to every tribe and nation on earth is complete.

    On websites like the U.S.-based Joshua Project, ethnic minorities are seen as “the unfinished task.” Of these, “Tibet has long been one of the greatest challenges,” reads a summary. “In 1892 Hudson Taylor said: ‘To make converts in Tibet is similar to going into a cave and trying to rob a lioness of her cubs.’”

    Missionary work remains illegal in China and is viewed as a tool of Western infiltration. In 2011, officials issued a secretive 16-page notice ordering universities to counteract foreigners suspected of converting students to Christianity. But in parts of Qinghai proselytizing is being quietly tolerated, according to Robert Barnett, a Tibet scholar at Columbia University. He cites estimates that as many as 80% to 90% of the few hundred foreigners living in Xining are fundamentalist Christians.

    Barnett believes the reason for the government’s tolerant attitude is twofold. First, American missionaries, often funded by their churches, provide a valuable service teaching English for scant pay. Second, by targeting Tibetan Buddhism, missionaries might just help the government erode this integral part of Tibetan identity. Keeping a lid on restive Tibet, which China invaded in 1949–50, is paramount. Under Chinese rule, self-immolations by Tibetans protesting religious and political subjugation have become common in recent years. Tibetan-language schools have been closed down, nomads resettled in towns and cities, and monasteries subject to close police surveillance. Images of the exiled Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, are banned.

    “There is a certain underlying commonality of purpose between the evangelizers and the new modernizing Chinese state. It’s just convenient for them to use each other,” explains Barnett. “[Today missionaries] have greater opportunities coming in on the coattails of the Communist Party.”

    Jason, whose name has been changed at his request, is one such American working clandestinely on a student visa. He knows foreigners who have been kicked out of more politically sensitive areas of Tibetan-populated Qinghai by authorities. ...
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  31. But he is thriving in Xining. Leaning forward enthusiastically in the bustling Western-style business he manages, he lays out his reason for coming to China: “When I moved out one of my main agendas was to see if the teachings of Jesus work in an environment where they are not known at all.”

    Jason compares the Kingdom of God to an outstretched hand available for anyone to “grab.” But for most Tibetans grasping the hand of Jesus is a moot point. Some might adopt him as one of a pantheon of gods; others simply find his story unimpressive. “[Missionaries say,] ‘Well, look at the miracles Jesus is able to perform, to turn water into wine and to heal the sick,’” Elizabeth Reynolds, a Fulbright scholar researching Tibetan culture in Xining, explains. “The Tibetan goes: ‘Is that all he can do?’ It’s believed that such special phenomena [already] occur around high lamas.”

    To combat such indifference, radical Christians in the past have employed tactics such as tract bombing — undercover distribution of thousands of leaflets in Buddhist areas. In one blog, published in 2006, a young zealot gives a blow-by-blow account of tract bombing among Tibet’s “satanic” monasteries. After his mission is complete, he observes: “Man how blinded these people are.”

    Many missionaries today are subtler. Many become Tibet scholars in their own right. Most entrench themselves in local life. Much of the informal English instruction in Xining is run by missionaries as are the majority of the foreign cafés. They translate the Bible into Tibetan, distribute flash drives containing their beliefs and rework Tibetan folk songs with Christian lyrics. Some help run orphanages. Targeting the young is key. When a South Korean missionary asked Tenzin which Tibetans needed help, he suggested the elderly. According to Tenzin, the Korean replied: “Not old people — [we want] children.”

    Aggressive tactics persist, however. In a quiet Tibetan town three hours drive from Xining, one local describes seeing a missionary throw coins into the air. “This comes from Jesus,” he declared to the astonished crowd. The same Tibetan remembers with an incredulous laugh being told that Christianity brings cash. “All Buddhist countries are poor,” the missionary said. “If you believe in Jesus, you will be rich.”

    If conversions are to be found, it is among those who stand to benefit the most from missionary-led charities and social enterprises. Tibetans in Xining reported knowing at least one convert, an uneducated teenage Tibetan given a job and board by missionaries. According to sources, he hangs around hospitals, spreading the word of God and translating for nomads who do not speak Mandarin.

    Open conversion, however, remains rare. Few would risk the wrath of family members by abandoning their own faith. Barnett describes hearing about one case in which relatives threatened to kill a missionary who had converted their kin. As such it is impossible to know how many converts there are. Barnett says: “I think we are going to wake up one day and see these people have made serious inroads into a culture already under threat.”

    For Jason, it is about providing choice. If a Tibetan travelled to America to share Buddha’s teachings, he reasons you “have a right” to hear their views. It is misguided to think that “Tibetans are too stupid to make decisions about their own life,” he says. “Personally, I would like for all people in the world to have access to the teachings of Jesus.” Asked how he envisions Christianity in China, he insists: “I don’t think it is building big gaudy churches and having people wear suits and changing their culture.”

    Back in the café, Dawa is not so sure. Religion is essential to her Tibetan identity. “I know my way,” she says resolutely. “I believe in Buddhism. They cannot change me.”


  32. The dark side of home schooling: creating soldiers for the culture war

    The Christian home school subculture isn't a children-first movement. Some former students are bravely speaking out

    by Katherine Stewart, The Guardian UK May 8, 2013

    Several decades ago, political activists on the religious right began to put together an "ideology machine". Home schooling was a big part of the plan. The idea was to breed and "train up" an army of culture warriors. We now are faced with the consequences of their actions, some of which are quite disturbing.

    According to the Department of Education, the home schooling student population doubled in between 1999 and 2007, to 1.5 million students, and there is reason to think the growth has continued. Though families opt to home school for many different reasons, a large part of the growth has come from Christian fundamentalist sects. Children in that first wave are now old enough to talk about their experiences. In many cases, what they have to say is quite alarming.

    When he was growing up in California, Ryan Lee Stollar was a stellar home schooling student. His oratory skills at got him invited to home schooling conferences around the country, where he debated public policy and spread the word about the "virtues" of an authentically Christian home school education.

    Now 28, looking back on his childhood, it all seems like a delusion. As Stollar explains:

    "The Christian home school subculture isn't a children-first movement. It is, for all intents and purposes, an ideology-first movement. There is a massive, well-oiled machine of ideology that is churning out soldiers for the culture war. Home schooling is both the breeding ground – literally, when you consider the Quiverfull concept – and the training ground for this machinery. I say this as someone who was raised in that world."

    Too frequently, Stollar says, the consequences of putting ideology over children include anxiety, depression, distrust of authority, and issues around sexuality. This is evident from the testimonials that appear on Home schoolers Anonymous, the website that Stollar established, along with several partners.

    Stollar's own home schooling experience started off well. But over time, as his family became immersed in the world of Christian home schooling, his "education" became less straightforward and more ideological. "I particularly remember my science curriculum," he says. "We used It Couldn't Just Happen, which wasn't really a science textbook. It was really just an apologetics textbook which taught students cliché refutations of evolutionism."

    Many parents start off home schooling with the intention of inculcating their children in a mainstream form of Christianity. However, as many HA bloggers report, it is easy to get sucked into the vortex of fundamentalist home schooling because extremists have cornered the market – running the conventions, publishing the curricula, setting up the blogs.

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  33. As HA blogger Julie Ann Smith, a Washington state mother of seven, says:

    "If you are the average Christian home schooler with no agenda, and you have the choice between attending a secular home schooling convention and a Christian one, chances are you'll choose the Christian convention. But they only allow certain speakers who follow their agenda. So you have no clue. What you don't realize is that they are being run by Christian Reconstructionists."

    Smith is referring to the Calvinist movement, founded by Rousas John Rushdoony, that advocates a Christian takeover of the political system in order to "purify" the nation and cleanse it of the sin of secularism. Rushdoony taught that public schools – "statist education," in his words – promote chaos, primitivism, and "a vast disintegration into the void". He advocated home schooling as a way to rear a generation that could carry out the mission of retaking the nation for Christ.

    Much of fundamentalist home schooling is driven by deeply sexist and patriarchal ideology. The Quiverfull movement teaches that women need to submit to their husbands and have as many babies as they possibly can. The effects of these ideas on children are devastating, as a glance at HA's blogs show.

    "The story of being home schooled was a story of being told to sit down and shut up. 'An ideal woman is quiet and submissive,' I was told time and time again," writes Phoebe. "The silence and submission I was pushed into was ultimately a place of loneliness, bitterness and almost crippling insecurity."

    The fundamentalist home schooling world also advocates an extraordinarily authoritarian view of the parental role. Corporal punishment is frequently encouraged. The effects are, again, often quite devastating. "People who experienced authoritarian parents tend to turn into adults with poor boundaries," writes one pseudonymous HA blogger. "It's an extremely unsatisfying and unsustainable way to live."

    In America, we often take for granted that parents have an absolute right to decide how their children will be educated, but this leads us to overlook the fact that children have rights, too, and that we as a modern society are obligated to make sure that they get an education. Families should be allowed to pursue sensible homeschooling options, but current arrangements have allowed some families to replace education with fundamentalist indoctrination.

    As the appearance of HA reminds us, the damage done by this kind of false education falls not just on our society as a whole, but on the children who are pumped through the ideology machine. They are the traumatized veterans of our culture wars. We should listen to their stories, and support them as they find their way forward.

    to read the links embedded in this article see:


  34. Genghis Christ, General Boykin, and the Fundamentalist Christian Holy War

    By Mikey Weinstein, AlterNet | Op-Ed March 8, 2014

    Jerry Boykin has a grotesque conception of Jesus Christ. Most (non-fundamentalist) Christians practice their faith in a manner that holds aloft the treasured values of love, peace, and good will towards their fellow humans. Boykin, a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General and current Executive Vice President of the ultra-right wing, fundamentalist Family Research Council (FRC), will have none of that. Instead, Boykin’s avatar is a ravenously militant and militaristic one — a deity of universal destruction, bloodshed, rabid bigotry and unadulterated hatred.

    Speaking to the WallBuilders’ Pro-Family Legislators Conference last fall, Boykin staked this claim:

    “The Lord is a warrior and in Revelation 19 it says when he comes back, he’s coming back as what? A warrior. A mighty warrior leading a mighty army, riding a white horse with a blood-stained white robe … I believe that blood on that robe is the blood of his enemies ’cause he’s coming back as a warrior carrying a sword. And I believe now – I’ve checked this out – I believe that sword he’ll be carrying when he comes back is an AR-15.…And the sword today is an AR-15, so if you don’t have one, go get one. You’re supposed to have one. It’s biblical.”

    Jesus Christ or "Genghis" Christ?

    It is absolutely critical to understand and fully internalize that Boykin is far from alone in his nightmarish conception of the Prince of Peace’s (mainstream) redeeming message. Indeed, the retired General’s forces are literally legion with some estimating that the number of adherents totals approximately 38 million people, i.e. about 12 percent of the American public. A multi-denominational grouping known as “dominionists”, these Christian extremists see themselves as a martyred and besieged demographic. They thrill to the imagined drama that they are surrounded on all sides by, among many other constituencies of Satan, 1) sodomites (the LGBT community); 2) hellbound cowards (any non-fundamentalist Christian, non-messianic Jew, or adherents of ANY other faith group or non-faith entity); 3) domestic jihadis (pretty much any breathing Muslim American or fetuses in the wombs of Muslim American women), all of whom advocate “shariah law”; 4) demonic ‘feminazis’ (women who will not merrily submit to male domination in all matters of consequence); and, 4) godless commies (i.e. anyone who hasn’t manifestly absorbed Fox News’ talking points and/or isn’t politically to the right of Ted Nugent).

    In the tortured minds of these dominionists, it stands to reason that, being conveniently beset by divinely predicted enemies from all sides, they must defend themselves to the death by all means at their disposal, including armed force. But that’s not enough. As late dominionist preacher Earl Paulk stated, “Christ in us must take dominion over the earth… the next move of God cannot occur until Christ in us takes dominion.”

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  35. Want more? The über-jingoistic words of the recently deceased dominionist Poster Child, Rev. D. James Kennedy, speak volumes: “As the vice-regents of God, we are to bring His truth and His will to bear on every sphere of our world and our society. We are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government… our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors—in short, over every aspect and institution of human society.”

    You see, my friends, Boykin’s words of wanton war aren’t simply the idle spoutings of some crotchety, eccentric, harmless ex-soldier. They’re a de facto fatwa being issued to “American Taliban” coreligionists to forthwith forge the “Kingdom of God” through bloody sectarian armed struggle, as their twisted, dominionist version of the New Testament demands. How “bloody,” you may inquire? You want the metrics? No one describes Boykin’s dominionist wet dream with more exactitude of revulsion than the “Ragin’ Prophet” Rod Parsley who is the spiritual leader of the enormous (5,200 seat) mega-cathedral in Columbus, Ohio known as the World Harvest Church, which boasts 10,000 weekly congregant attendees. Parsley minces no words when he promises his vast flock of fanatical fundamentalists that there will be a 200 mile long river, 4 and half feet deep, filled with nothing but the human blood of those poor souls whom the weaponized
    Jesus has slaughtered at the Battle of Armageddon. Parsley will then remind his followers, energetically engorged with this blood orgy promise, to “rejoice, for the worst is yet to come.”

    For Boykin and his wretched ilk, Revelation 19 (“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war”) is the mantra that supersedes turning the other cheek, loving thy neighbor, and other sanguine gospel messages à la The Sermon on the Mount. Per Boykin’s instructions, all good Christians need to literally become “warriors for God’s kingdom.” And they need to do it right now!

    Sound familiar? Anyone? Well, it’s right out of the infamous playbook of religious supremacy and exceptionalism writ large in the blood of innocents by such villains as al-Qaeda and Anders Behring Breivik.

    The Top General in the Dominionist “Army of God”

    Boykin was one of the original commanders of the U.S. Army’s elite Delta Force unit, which was formed in the late ‘70’s. Boykin, then 29, apparently saw his induction into Delta as a continuation of his walk with God: “God led me into Delta Force, and He said to me, this is where you ought to be.” Boykin must have been referring to the God of “blood in fury” and the “consuming fire,” described in the Book of Ezekiel.

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  36. Following September 11, Boykin, at the time the Commanding General of the sprawling Fort Bragg, N.C. military facility, would preach that the United States was engaged in nothing less than an all-out holy war. In paid junkets financed by influential dominionist entities, Boykin would appear onstage in churches and other locations around the nation in his full Army uniform, pointing to posters of Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein and stating that “Satan wants to destroy this nation, he wants to destroy us as a nation, and he wants to destroy us as a Christian army… [they] will only be defeated if we come against them in the name of Jesus.” It was around this time that then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld successfully nominated Boykin for a third star, placing the dominionist fascist Boykin only one rank/grade below the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    From 2002 to 2007, Boykin served on George W. Bush’s team as the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence in what Bush referred to as “this crusade, this war on terrorism.” It was in this lofty capacity at the highest levels of the Pentagon that Boykin became thoroughly convinced that the opponents of the U.S. were “satanic” and thus less-than-human. He became Rumsfeld’s point-man on the secretive program to restructure the notorious Abu Ghraib Prison along the lines of Guantánamo Bay’s Camp X-Ray, or in other words, to “Gitmoize” it. It was not long before Abu Ghraib became infamously plagued by horrifying reports of systemic human rights abuses. Query the role played there as a result of Boykin’s dehumanizing sectarian rhetoric of weapons-grade, inflammatory Islamophobia? After all, Boykin has made it publicly quite clear that he believes that Muslims in America do not deserve Constitutional First Amendment protections.

    Commanding Officer in the Domestic Hate Lobby

    Now retired from military life, Boykin is the Executive Vice President of the FRC, one of the leading anti-gay dominionist organizations in the United States and a designated Hate Group according to the venerable Southern Poverty Law Center. Birds of a bigoted feather flock together. Indeed, the FRC (which I always thought stood for “Fascist Rally Center”) is a truly vicious organization that has supported Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s “Kill the Gays” Bill (now the “Imprison-Gays-for-Life” Bill), as well as the anti-LGBT crackdown in Russia. The FRC also furiously supported Arizona’s defeated SB1062, the “Religious
    Freedom Restoration Act,” which basically would have fully legalized the civil “right” to practice atrocious forms of discrimination and prejudice against gay and lesbian residents.

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  37. I head-up a foundation that comprehensively clashes with Boykin on an all too frequent basis. We wage these fights on behalf of our 36,000-plus active duty and veteran clients within the U.S. military, 96% of whom are practicing Christians themselves, who’ve had their Constitutionally-guaranteed, religious rights and protections egregiously violated by unconstitutional mafiosi such as Boykin. As Founder and President of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), I’ve even been the central subject of a scurrilous recent article entitled “One of the Most Dangerous Men in America,” published in the July/August 2013 edition of Decision Magazine, a flagship publication of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Ironically, the cover of that magazine featured a prominent photo of a coyly smiling Boykin himself juxtaposed with the incredibly duplicitous, deceitful and dishonest headline of “Religious Freedom Under Attack in our Armed Forces: Retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin Warns of Efforts to Trample Liberty in the Military.” And, just so you know, this month’s issue proudly trumpets Russia’s anti-gay legislation and features Vladimir Putin on the cover.

    Dominionist Christian Extremism: A Dire Threat

    Without the slightest tacit nuance of hyperbole, one can easily assert that the militant, dominionist fanaticism of Christian fundamentalism which Boykin, and his ignominious swarms spew, mirrors the explicit extremism of the Salafi-Jihadist monsters who’ve torn the Middle East asunder. Indeed, the cruel and callous fundamentalist bigotry of Christian dominionists isn’t limited to gays and Muslims. On the contrary, it is aimed at all “blasphemers” in general, especially including other Christians whom Boykin and his fellow travelers disparagingly deem to not be “Christian enough.”

    Americans who value their remaining Constitutional religious freedoms should rail against Boykin’s incitements to his vast flock to arm as for war. The dominionist “faith” is a frightening, contorted vision of theocratic tyranny dripping with unbridled hostility towards the bedrock rights and protections guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

    The damnable dominionists such as Boykin, the FRC and their awful fundamentalist allies are not merely wolves in sheep’s’ clothing. They are wolves in wolves’ clothing.

    Our American brothers and sisters must recognize the seething and barbarous danger wrought by this sectarian theocratic cabal before it becomes too late and it engulfs our precious freedoms rendering the rest of us impotent to resist its terrible tyranny.

    We cannot merely request them to stop. We must demand it, and remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”


  38. FRC Hot Mic: Boykin Jokes about Jews, Says Obama Supports Al Qaeda, Sends Them Subliminal Messages

    By Josh Glasstetter, Southern Poverty Law Center March 7, 2014

    The Family Research Council’s executive vice president, Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin (retired), was caught on a “hot mic” following a panel yesterday at the National Security Action Summit, which was held just down the street from the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Boykin could be heard, in an awkward attempt at humor, telling a reporter from Israel that “Jews are the problem” and the “cause of all the problems in the world.” Boykin told another reporter that President Obama identifies with and supports Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood and uses subliminal messages to express this support.

    Boykin appeared on a panel yesterday – “Benghazigate: The Ugly Truth and the Cover-up” – as part of the summit held near Washington, DC, which was organized by Frank Gaffney to highlight speakers, like himself, who were not invited to speak at CPAC. Gaffney has alienated himself by repeatedly claiming that the American Conservative Union, which organizes CPAC, has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Boykin, who is FRC’s second in command after Tony Perkins, fits right in at such a gathering.

    After the Benghazi panel came to a close, the video feed for the live webcast went dark but audio continued to be broadcast. Boykin could be heard speaking with two reporters. His first conversation concerned Obama’s supposed support for Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood.

    Boykin said that Obama’s “first real public appearance overseas was in Cairo,” and dubbed that the “notorious apology tour.” “If you understand anything about Islam,” he continued, “there are subliminal messages.” Obama’s message to them is “I understand you and I support you.”

    Boykin argued that “Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and everybody else” are taking advantage of this support and the “opportunity that they see that they have a president that identifies with them, that has been supportive of them inside the United States and is unwilling to go against them.”

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  39. Boykin could be heard recommending that the reporter contact FRC’s head of media relations, J.P. Duffy. He wrapped up that conversation and was approached by Henry Schwartz from IsraeliNationalNews.com, a right-wing Israeli news site run by Arutz Sheva.

    A person, perhaps a PR flack, started to ask Boykin, “Would you mind doing a two minute interview with Israel, Israel National News?” (sic). Boykin cut in with “the Jews are the problem, the Jews are the cause of all the problems in the world.” The same person, or perhaps Schwartz, could be heard laughing and said “I know, I know, that’s why we’re trying to fix everything.”

    Watch: http://youtu.be/yKL7zQb2sdA

    Boykin has a history of making odd and outlandish comments about Jews, Muslims, Obama and much more. Boykin has said that Jews must be converted to Christianity and believes that American Jews don’t understand Hitler and support Democrats as a result. He has also argued that Obama is using the Affordable Care Act to create a Hitler-style Brownshirt army to force Marxism on America.

    Boykin is best known for his animus against Muslims. He has argued that the First Amendment does not apply to Islam. He has also said that Christians must go on offense against Islam, there should be no more mosques built in America and there can be no interfaith dialogue between Christians and Muslims. Not surprisingly, Boykin’s military career was derailed by his anti-Muslim advocacy, earning him a rebuke from President George W. Bush and a Pentagon investigation that found he had violated military rules.

    Yesterday’s hot mic audio demonstrates, yet again, that Boykin’s outrageous comments over the years were not misstatements. He honestly believes this stuff. Now consider the fact that he once served as Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and is still viewed as a credible expert on terrorism by Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee. No matter your politics, Boykin has no place in a reality-based foreign policy.


  40. Good News Club Targets Children Across U.S. for Summer Salvation; Portland Fights Back

    by Valerie Tarico, Away Point June 28, 2014

    In past summers, Child Evangelism Fellowship has targeted children in Boston, Denver, Chicago, Little Rock, Salt Lake City, and the Twin Cities for conversion to their brand of biblical fundamentalism. This summer they chose Portland, Oregon. It may have been a mistake.

    Some child advocates argue that proselytizing children for religious conversion is immoral. By contrast, Child Evangelism Fellowship boldly proclaims what they see as a God-given mission:

    Child Evangelism Fellowship® is a Bible-centered worldwide organization composed of born-again believers whose purpose is to evangelize boys and girls with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and to establish (disciple) them in the Word of God and in a local church for Christian living.

    One of their key tools is an after-school program called the Good News Club, which takes place in public grade schools across the country. Good News Clubs mix snacks, games, art projects and stories with upbeat moral lessons and the theology of blood sacrifice. In a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court, Child Evangelism Fellowship argued that they were entitled to operate in public schools because they are running a social and moral enrichment program akin to Scouting.

    Much to the dismay of church-state watchdogs, a majority of the court agreed, but to call Good News Clubs moral enrichment by secular standards or to liken it to Scouting, is a stretch. Despite Evangelical influences in the Boy Scouts, scouting programs to a large degree emphasize virtues that are prized across both secular and religious wisdom traditions. Good News Clubs teach dark, divisive and potentially traumatic doctrines that are unique to fundamentalist forms of Christianity.

    Attorney Eric Cernyar participated in Good News Club as a child. He now monitors Child Evangelism Fellowship activities and documentsclub practices such as deceptive marketing, authoritarian conditioning, diminishing nonbelievers, shame indoctrination, fear indoctrination, attacks on science education, and the cult technique of “mind control.”

    The Good News Club curriculum is filled with over 5000 references to sin and thousands more to obedience, punishment, and Hell. It stresses Old Testament narratives of a retributive God who must punish sin, warns children that they will suffer an eternity in Hell if they refuse to believe, and stresses complete obedience as the supreme value. Good News Club tells children as young as preschoolers that they have “dark” and “sinful” hearts, were born that way, and “deserve to die” and “go to Hell.”

    One Good News teaching tool is the “wordless book” in which colored pages represent key doctrines of atonement theology. The black page represents sin, seen as evil born into every human that keeps a person from getting to heaven (represented by a gold page). Red is the blood of Christ, whose death was necessary payment for sin. White represents the pure righteousness of Jesus and people who are saved by his atoning sacrifice. It’s as simple as “A,B,C”—Admit your sin, Believe Jesus can save you, and Choose Jesus as your savior. Green, the color of growth, represents the newly-saved child’s life as a budding Christian.

    Each summer since 2008, Child Evangelism Fellowship has run a saturation blitz called Good News Across America in which “hundreds of volunteers” descend on a targeted city to run Bible schools “in community centers, parks, apartment complexes, playgrounds, boys and girls clubs – anywhere children gather.” Child Evangelism Fellowship boasts of reaching 2700 Denver children through these five-day “evangelistic clubs” and swelling attendance at one church from 75 to 235, almost half of whom were children.

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  41. This summer over 100 missionaries will set up shop in Portland from July 14-26 when they will partner with 32 local churches to recruit children as young as five years old to summer day camps. If all goes according to plan, come fall these churches will institute Good News Clubs in Portland public schools. But some locals aren’t so keen on the idea. They point to the experience of Seattle parent, John Lederer, after a local church “planted” a Good News Club in his daughter’s grade school. Lederer was troubled by the treats used to entice children and the way volunteers blurred the line between school and club. But he also hated the effect on the community. “Before we were all Loyal Heights parents together. Now we’re divided into groups and labels: you’re a Christian, you’re the wrong kind of Christian, you’re a Jew, you’re an atheist.”

    For perhaps the first time, this summer Good News Across America will face organized opposition. As volunteers step up preparations for the Portland blitz, a coalition called Protect Portland Children is stepping up outreach to local media, parents, child advocates, and school administrators. Protect Portland Children says they mean no disrespect for local churches and volunteers. Rather, they hope to “spread the word that the Good News Club’s extreme teachings can be psychologically harmful to children” and that Child Evangelism Fellowship “is now targeting Portland with a major recruiting campaign.” “One of our goals is to help the next city they target and to make this a national conversation,” says member Kaye Schmitt.

    Protect Portland Children points to the investigative expose by journalist Katherine Stewart, author of The Good News Club,. Like Seattle’s Lederer, Stewart dug deeper after witnessing Child Evangelism in action at her daughter’s school. And they are taking tips from Cernyar, whose website Intrinsic Dignity examines legal precedents related to use of public facilities, providing guidelines and models for parents and administrators who oppose religious bullying in public schools. Despite the Supreme Court ruling, Cernyar urges parents and district administrators to push back: “It is possible for a school district to regulate its forum to protect its students from psychologically and emotionally harmful after-class activities.”

    Child Evangelism brings to the fight the clout of a national organization with over 700 paid staff in the U.S. and Canada alone and a seasoned legal team. They face a loose-knit group of volunteers. To speak in biblical archetypes, it’s a story of David against Goliath. But in one regard the opposing sides may well be evenly matched: their sense of righteous mission. On the Intrinsic Dignity site, Cernyar puts it this way:

    Children have a right to develop in conditions of freedom, open inquiry, and empathy, and in respect of their inherent dignity and equality. Our mission is to challenge practices—beginning with private organizations infiltrating our nation’s public elementary schools—that shame and terrify children and assault their self-esteem.

    In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus sends his disciples out into the world with these words, “be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” It’s a shame that some Bible believers seem to have missed the second half of the sentence.

    To follow this issue or lend your support, Protect Portland Children requests that you “like” their Facebook page.

    Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org. Subscribe to her articles at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.

    to view the numerous embedded links in this blog post go to:


  42. Evangelical Group Aims to Convert Children as Young as Five at Portland Parks and Pools


    PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An evangelical Christian group plans to try to convert children as young as 5 at Portland apartment pools, public parks and dozens of other gathering spots this summer — a campaign that's got some residents upset.

    They've banded together in recent weeks to warn parents about the Child Evangelism Fellowship's Good News Club, buying a full-page ad in the local alternative weekly to highlight the group's tactics.

    "They pretend to be a mainstream Christian Bible study when in fact they're a very old school fundamentalist sect," said Kaye Schmitt, an organizer with Protect Portland Children, which takes issue with the group's message and the way it's delivering it.

    CEF says Protect Portland Children is a shadow group run by atheists who seek to dismantle Christian outreach. The group said its methods are above reproach.

    "Children are easy to manipulate, we all know that," said CEF's vice president Moises Esteves. "We don't use any of the schemes and high-pressure tactics that we're accused of. Nothing could be further from the truth."

    Esteves' group decided to hold its annual summer mission program in Portland because of the area's irreligious leanings.

    Trying to reach young people in Oregon presents the group with two strongly secular demographics.

    Gallup polls in 2008 and 2012 have consistently indicated that Oregon is among the least religious states in the country, with one of the fewest populations identifying themselves as "very religious."

    Furthermore, focusing on young people opens the group up to an increasingly irreligious demographic. Millennials, or those born in or after the early 1980s, are the least religious generation in U.S. history, according to Pew Research.

    CEF has encountered controversy before.

    It won a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court case that decided they could hold chapter meetings on school grounds.

    The organization was also the subject of a critical book that asserts the group advances a fundamentalist agenda and uses public spaces like schools to make children believe such views are endorsed by authority figures.

    In schools, the group obtains permission slips to speak with children, but it is not required to do so in public spaces.

    CEF spent last week training its volunteers, Esteves said, and will span out through the area this week trying to reach children.

    "We do teach that children are sinners, but we're not nasty about it," Esteves said. "If we were nasty about it, the kids wouldn't come back." He said that they don't try to coerce the children, as "coercion leads to false conversion."

    At a park on Monday, the group laid out a tarp for children and chairs for their parents. A pair of volunteers led about 12 kids through Bible verses and songs that praised a Christian god.

    "My heart was dark with sin," they sang, "until the savior came in."

    Mia Marceau, a mother of two in the Portland suburb of Vancouver, Washington, said she was intrigued when the group approached her apartment complex pool last week. She said she, too, believes in Jesus Christ.

    Within a few hours, however, she didn't like what the group was telling her 8-year-old son and his friends: They were headed to hell, needed to convert their friends and were duty-bound to raise money for the organization.

    "I raised a free thinker," she said. "He didn't buy in. All of a sudden, he's having arguments with his friends over salvation."


  43. Jehovahs Witness grandparents ordered to keep faith to themselves

    Mother argues that 4-year-old can decide on religious practices when she gets older

    By Jason Proctor, CBC News October 21, 2015

    A pair of devout Jehovah's Witnesses have been ordered by a B.C. provincial court judge not to talk about religion in front of their four-year-old granddaughter.

    The couple lost their bid for unsupervised access to the girl because they insisted on taking her to worship at their faith's Kingdom Hall despite the repeated objections of the child's mother.

    The girl is identified only as A.W. and the grandparents as A.R. and B.R. in Judge Edna Ritchie's 12-page decision. And for now, they're on a short leash.

    "There are many people with strongly held religious views that do not discuss those views in front of others, and specifically not in front of children," Ritchie wrote.

    Unless A.R. and B.R. can satisfy the court that they can comply with the mother's wishes, Ritchie said, "their time with A.W. must be supervised and limited."

    Religious rights vs. parental responsibility

    The case pits the Family Law Act against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    The Family Law Act states that only a guardian has parental responsibilities, including decisions about religious upbringing, and the mother, M.W., is sole guardian.

    But A.R. and B.R. argued that forbidding them from expressing their faith to their grandchild would violate a charter right to practise their religion.

    The grandparents want A.W. to experience their religion, while M.W. insists her daughter "can decide when she is older whether or not to participate in any religious practices."

    The battle is the culmination of a saga that began when the child's biological dad, L.R., told his parents he had fathered a child three weeks after A.W. was born.

    L.R. was "disfellowshipped" from the Jehovah's Witness faith, a type of religious excommunication. He testified that he has little contact with A.R. and B.R. He also pays no child support and has no parental responsibilities.

    A.R. and B.R. were determined to have contact with their granddaughter, and the child's mother felt it important for them to be part of their lives. She previously allowed them unsupervised access.

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  44. Poppa and Momma vs. Grandpa and Grandma

    But according to the decision, the relationship between the "well-meaning, determined grandmother" and M.W. has been strained from the outset.

    M.W. also objected to the couple insisting the girl call them Poppa and Momma instead of Grandpa and Grandma. But by far the biggest disagreement arose over visits to the Kingdom Hall.

    From the time A.W. was a baby, A.R. and B.R. took her to services; M.W. said she wasn't happy, but didn't object until December 2013.

    She switched the timing of their visits, but then learned from her daughter the grandparents had taken A.W. to services the following spring; A.R. insisted the child "had begged to go to Kingdom Hall."

    Visits were then limited to supervised access at M.W.'s home.

    But even at that, M.W. was upset to find her daughter watching a Jehovah's Witness video on A.R.'s laptop. The grandmother insisted the child had pushed the play icon before she could stop her.

    Mother knows best

    The judge noted that when two or more parents with different religious views share parental responsibility the court will often support the child being exposed to each religion involved.

    But because A.R. and B.R. are not guardians, the court was bound to respect the decision of the mother. For that same reason, Ritchie also found the charter argument didn't apply.

    The couple cited another Supreme Court of Canada case involving a divorce in which a mother with custody had obtained an order forcing her Jehovah Witness ex-husband not to discuss religion with their children.

    In that case, the top court ruled a custodial parent does not have a right to limit the other parent's ability to discuss religion unless the child's best interests were threatened.

    In this case, Ritchie found it wasn't fair to place A.W. in a holy war between her mother and grandparents.

    "I am concerned that the applicants' demonstrated inability to respect and comply with M.W's decisions on religion will continue to cause conflict," she wrote. "It is not in A.W.'s best interests to be exposed to that conflict."

    Read the Ruling at:



  45. Colorado school district pushes Christian ‘purity’ training for 11-year-old girls to find future husbands

    by David Edwards, Raw Story January 21, 2016

    Parents in Colorado have complained that a school district used its email system to advertise a Christian event which uses Bible lessons to encourage girls as young as 11 to stay “pure” while looking for a husband.

    Colorado blogger Anne Landman first reported that the Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers had been contacted by parents after Mesa Valley School District 51 sent out an email promotion for an event called “Wake Up Sleeping Beauty: Worship At His Feet.”

    The flier includes the silhouette of a girl’s face with a Bible verse from Luke 7:38.

    “As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them,” the flier reads.

    The program, which is put on by June Fellhauer’s Wake Up Ministries, promises that girls will want to change their Facebook status to “The One Who Worships At His Feet.”

    A video posted to the Wake Up Sleeping Beauty Facebook page encourages fathers to “protect her purity.” The video shows a father watching over his daughter as she puts on makeup.

    In promotional videos on the Wake Up Ministries website, Fellhauer warns girls about the “gag reflex” caused by kissing with your tongue.

    “I think ‘Wake Up Sleeping Beauty’ is an amazing program,” one girl declares in the video. “Especially going through the time that I was, being cheated on. That was really hard for me but it also made me realize a lot that I needed to forgive him and he didn’t have the qualities I was looking for in a husband.”

    But it was the imagery from the flier sent out by District 51 that parents found so disturbing.

    “The idea of a woman or girl (‘she’) crying at a man’s feet, then using her hair to wash his feet, then kissing his feet, seems pretty demeaning to me,” one parent said. “Apparently the irony of this imagery used to promote an event which purports to strengthen or support girls/women is lost on all involved.”

    A complaint from the parent was quickly dismissed by the school district.

    “Having reviewed the flyer and KHB-R per your request, we do not find that the flyer promotes a religious organization or demeans a person or group on the basis of gender,” District 51 Communications Specialist Jeannie Smith told the parent in an email.

    Watch the video below [it had been taken off-line at the time of this posting]


  46. These Christian teachers want to bring Jesus into public schools

    By Emma Brown, The Washington Post March 12, 2016

    Finn Laursen believes millions of American children are no longer learning right from wrong, in part because public schools have been stripped of religion. To repair that frayed moral fabric, Laursen and his colleagues want to bring the light of Jesus Christ into public school classrooms across the country — and they are training teachers to do just that.

    The Christian Educators Association International, an organization that sees the nation’s public schools as “the largest single mission field in America,” aims to show Christian teachers how to live their faith — and evangelize in public schools — without running afoul of the Constitution’s prohibition on the government establishing or promoting any particular religion.

    “We’re not talking about proselytizing. That would be illegal,” said Laursen, the group’s executive director. “But we’re saying you can do a lot of things. . . . It’s a mission field that you fish in differently.”

    Not everyone agrees that it’s acceptable for teachers to “fish” in public schools, where government officials are not allowed to promote or endorse any particular faith.

    The nation has been fighting over the role of religion in public education for more than a century, and in helping public school teachers understand — and push toward — the legal boundaries of expression, Laursen and his colleagues are wading into one of the most fraught issues in American life.

    Some advocates say the organization urges teachers to invite Christianity into the classroom in ways that might be unconstitutional and that are bound to make some children — and their parents — uncomfortable.

    “They appear to be encouraging teachers to cross the line,” said Daniel Mach of the American Civil Liberties Union, which fought the Christian Educators Association in a 2009 court case over Florida teachers’ religious expression at school. “Decisions about the religious upbringing of children should be left in the hands of parents and families, not public school officials.”

    Others say that there would be outrage if teachers of any other faith were being encouraged to express their beliefs in the classroom, legally or otherwise — particularly at a time when anti-
    Muslim sentiment is on the rise and some parents have complained that academic lessons about Islam can amount to religious indoctrination.

    “What this really amounts to is a privileging of the majority,” said Katherine Stewart, a journalist whose questions about Christianity in her children’s public school led her to write a 2012 book, “The Good News Club,” about evangelical Christians’ efforts to reach students in school. “If a Wiccan, Muslim or Satanist public school teacher were to try to put their sacred texts on their desk . . . they would likely be shut down.”

    Laursen said he believes teachers of every faith have — and deserve — the same constitutional protections as Christian teachers when it comes to expressing religion at school.

    He and some other Christian educators say the culture in many public schools feels particularly hostile to Christianity compared with other religions, making it intimidating to admit a relationship with Jesus. And they say that by explaining the law in concrete terms, the Christian Educators Association has empowered them to express their faith with new boldness.

    The organization is a nonprofit with broad goals that include supporting Christian teachers and “transforming public schools through God’s love and truth.” It is a professional association that serves as an alternative to traditional teachers unions, offering its approximately 6,000 members liability insurance and other benefits.

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  47. Although the Christian Educators Association is small, it is at the center of a pending Supreme Court case that has the potential to substantially weaken public sector unions in more than two dozen states. The association is a plaintiff in the case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which challenges the right of teachers unions to collect dues from nonmembers.

    The other plaintiffs are 10 individual teachers, eight of whom are members of the association; they argue that they should not be forced to support a union that uses their dues to promote policies — and politicians — with which they fundamentally disagree.

    The association, founded in 1953, also publishes a journal, produces a podcast and organizes prayer groups. It began its training program six years ago, and since then hundreds of teachers across the country have participated.

    During weekend-long seminars in hotel conference rooms, the group teaches teachers that they have a right to pray with colleagues during breaks or at lunchtime. They may lead before- and after-school religious clubs for students. They can honestly answer students’ questions about their beliefs, and they may even pray with students outside work hours.

    Teachers are told it’s okay to keep a Bible on their desk and teach about it in class, so long as it fits within the curriculum. And they are urged to witness for Jesus by acting in a godly manner, in part so that others might be provoked to wonder — and ask — why they have so much kindness and compassion.

    If bringing nonbelievers to Jesus can be compared to growing crops, then “the part that a teacher in public school can do is till the soil and plant the seed,” said Laursen, a former teacher, principal and superintendent. “Very often, they’re not personally involved in the harvest.”

    Daniel Weekends
    California high school math teacher Harlan Elrich said he was inspired by the training he attended several years ago. He sends out prayers and inspirational verses to an email list of like-minded colleagues, and sometimes they pray together in person.

    He plays Christian music in his classroom before and after school and sometimes during tests, if students request it. He keeps a Bible on his desk.

    When a student asked him recently about the meaning of life, Elrich felt free to answer, saying that “in my view, the meaning of life is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”

    Elrich said he would be “thrilled” to lead a student to Jesus, but he is careful to stay within the bounds of the law and does not proselytize at school.

    As he put it: “I’m not going to ask a student, ‘Do you want to become a Christian?’ unless we have had a full conversation about it and they have expressed it as a possibility.”

    An elementary school teacher in rural Kentucky, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid drawing attention to his community, said that after attending a weekend training session, he started scheduling weekly meetings of a Fellowship of Christian Athletes club. Students gather in the school gym just before class begins — a time when they are normally socializing and eating breakfast.

    Most weeks, at least 75 percent of the school’s students participate, listening and praying as guest speakers and other students offer prayer and testimony. “I feel overly blessed with how much I’m able to do with students as far as faith,” the teacher said.

    The trainings are dubbed “Daniel Weekends” for the Old Testament figure who was saved by God after he was thrown into a lion’s den. Daniel was said never to have lost his faith despite decades of exile in Babylon, where he lived among nonbelievers.

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  48. As the Christian Educators ­Association sees it, Christian teachers in public schools are “modern-day Daniels,” working in schools that are hostile to their faith.

    “God sent Daniel, He sent Jesus, He’s sending you and me to be the light of the world,” a presenter told about two dozen teachers last month at a Daniel Weekend in Louisville. “God has a plan, a good plan, for why he has planted you where you are.”

    The association allowed a Washington Post reporter to observe the final half-day of the Louisville training, declining a request to attend the entire session amid concerns that a reporter’s presence would make teachers uncomfortable and less open. The Post also interviewed 10 teachers who have participated in Daniel Weekends; most spoke on the condition of anonymity, some out of fear of provoking backlash against their schools and others because they didn’t have supervisors’ permission to speak publicly.

    Teachers are nominated to participate in Daniel Weekends by former participants, pastors and principals. They attend for free, with the association covering meals and lodging.

    From Friday evening until Sunday afternoon, they discuss not only the ins and outs of the First Amendment, but also how to confront the challenges they face as Christian teachers. They talk about how to communicate more openly and how to build relationships with colleagues and students. They sing together, and they pray.

    Victoria Tomasheski, a middle school teacher in suburban Cleveland who first attended a training in 2012, said the weekend was both personally and professionally rejuvenating. She said that she was grateful to learn about the First Amendment and that she follows the law earnestly.

    She also hopes that living according to biblical principles creates a nurturing environment and sparks those around her to ask questions. “When they ask: ‘Why are you so positive? Why do you always find a silver lining?’ It’s, ‘To be honest with you, it’s because of my faith,’ ” she said.

    A teacher in a suburban Kentucky school said the Daniel Weekend he attended several years ago helped him shed his grouchy disposition and recommit to treating his students with patience and love. “That weekend sort of took me back, made me think about why I got into teaching to begin with. I wanted to be a role model for kids,” he said.

    As the weekend draws to a close, teachers create plans to transform their schools — and their students — with what they characterize as God’s love and truth.

    In Louisville last month, teachers were at times emotional and tearful as they explained the weekend’s impact.

    Some said they were newly committed to seeing their students as children made in the image of God, deserving of love and capable of greatness. Some said they took to heart the message to be positive — to “stop whining and start shining” for Jesus. Others said they were grateful to realize that they were not the only Christians wrestling with how to be true to their faith while working in a public school.

    A music teacher said that she had realized how often she stopped herself from sharing her faith — unnecessarily. “I’m really limiting the way that the Lord can use me and my school,” she said. “I’m really excited to see what He is going to do now.”

    Not religion-free zones
    Charles C. Haynes, a First Amendment expert at the Newseum Institute’s Religious Freedom Center, gives the Christian Educators Association high marks for its efforts to help teachers understand the law and how it applies to their lives in the classroom.

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  49. Many people believe that public schools should be religion-free zones, but that’s simply not the case, Haynes said. While the Constitution says that government cannot establish religion, it also says that the government cannot inhibit religious freedom — a provision that allows students — and to a lesser degree, teachers — to express their faith in school.

    “The First Amendment does not exclude religion from public schools,” said Haynes, who co-
    authored guidelines on religious expression in schools that have been endorsed by dozens of groups from across the political and spiritual spectrum, including the Christian Educators Association. “It gives us the ground rules for how religion comes into public schools.”

    As agents of the government, teachers cannot inculcate religion at school, so they cannot lead students in prayer during class. But they also are private citizens with rights to free speech — so they can, for example, pray with students at church on Sunday.

    Mindy Heine, a Christian parent of three who co-founded a ministry for public school parents and teachers in a Minneapolis suburb, said she appreciates teachers who legally express their faith in school.

    “It’s empowering because it’s helping kids understand the Constitution and our rights,” she said. And teachers are modeling authenticity, she said, “sending students a loud message that they, too, can be confident about what they believe.”

    But parents sometimes feel differently, especially when they are in the minority.

    Erika Estrada, a Catholic mother of two, said that evangelical Christianity seemed to permeate her son’s elementary school in Dallas. Many teachers and students attended the same local church, Estrada said, and it felt difficult to distinguish the church from the school, White Rock Elementary.

    “There’s this very prevalent message that this is our school, and you’re simply a guest,” she said. She said her son — who attended White Rock from 2005 to 2012 — felt bullied because of his Catholicism, ostracized by classmates on the playground and sometimes by teachers in the classroom.

    Estrada, whose daughter still attends White Rock, said she reported her concerns about her son’s experience at the time. The current principal has not received any complaints about religious expression since she arrived at the school in 2012, according to Tim Clark, a spokesman for the Richardson Independent School District.

    “RISD is confident that the school is in compliance with laws and guidelines related to religious expression in a school setting,” Clark said.

    Sharif El-Mekki, a Muslim principal of a Philadelphia charter school, said he believes that children can learn powerful lessons when they see that teachers of different faiths are able to treat all of their students with equity.

    But he said that teachers who are open about their faith also must be ultra-sensitive to ensuring that all students feel included. El-Mekki, who goes to the same place of worship as some of his students, said he thinks often about how to make sure that other students don’t feel slighted.

    “How do I make sure that my Christian student, my atheist student, feels respected and honored?” he said. “At the end of the day, that’s my North Star.”


  50. Gideons versus Godless

    Abbotsford public schools criticized for distributing bibles

    'It feels like I've gone back to 1942 ... saying no, you can't be handing out bibles in public schools'

    By Karin Larsen, CBC News March 31, 2016

    Abbotsford mother Tara MacRae was a little miffed when both her son and daughter came home from elementary school with a brochure for a Christian basketball program — Athletes in Action — that "encourages players to discover a relationship with Jesus Christ," according to its website.

    "I didn't think it was appropriate because they have bible study as part of the program," said MacRae ."Distributing religious materials in the public school system is not appropriate and I think it contravenes our school act."

    Free bibles

    Last year the Abbotsford school district also sent home a consent form offering a free Gideons bible to all Grade 5 students. As a result, 112 bibles where distributed in Abbotsford public schools.

    MacRae says schools in Abbotsford seem out of step with the rest of the province.

    "We moved here in July from Coquitlam," she said. "I grew up in Vancouver. I'm 39 now and we certainly didn't get handed out bibles. And prayers had stopped long before I entered school. So it feels like I've gone back to 1942. Coming to this district where I have to say, 'no you can't be handing out bibles in our public school system.' It's crazy."

    The B.C. Humanist Association believes it's also unconstitutional, not to mention unfair.

    "We think schools shouldn't be a venue for religious groups to proselytize to children," said Ian Bushfield, executive director of the BCHA. "We'd rather see objective and equal discussion of religion."

    Godless Comics

    The BCHA has sent a letter to Abbotsford school superintendent Kevin Godden asking the district stop distributing religious materials.

    Bushfield says if Gideons is allowed to distribute material through the Abbotsford school system, his organization should be granted equal access to hand out a publication called Godless Comics.

    "The comics provide arguments for why some people don't believe in God," stated Bushfield.

    Abbotsford school district communication manager Dave Stephen told CBC News usually he or the superintendent decides what material is handed out in schools. Stephen says the letter from the BCHA "will be reviewed in due course by our district administration."

    "To be clear the only [religious group] who has ever approached the district is Gideons...and they're the only one we've ever engaged with at this level. So it's been, I guess, a legacy arrangement going on for some years in this district."

    "Anybody has the ability to submit materials for distribution," said Stephen. "But now we're going to review the whole question so I'm not sure where we'll land."

    'They didn't answer my question'

    MacRae said she wrote both the Minster of Education and the Abbotsford school district with her concerns. Only the district sent a reply, advising that they would no longer be sending paper material home with students.

    "They didn't answer my question," she said. "The didn't actually respond to whether they agreed or disagreed that distributing religious materials was appropriate."


  51. As the Religious Right Forces the Gospel Into Public Schools, Some Parents Are Opting to Homeschool

    After their kids experienced “religious bullying,” these parents felt they had no choice but to take their kids out of public school.

    By Katherine Stewart, The Nation MAY 3, 2016

    One Friday afternoon, Betty Ogletree’s daughter RaMae came home in tears. “I can’t do this anymore,” RaMae cried, as Ogletree remembers it. RaMae was a straight-A fourth grader at Watauga Elementary School, a public K-5 in the bucolic town of Abingdon in southwest Virginia. But in a community where most families trumpeted their conservative Christianity, she was marked as an outsider for her lack of belief in the Gospel of Jesus. “Can you please homeschool me?” her mother recalls her pleading.

    The bullying started in first grade, when Ogletree’s daughter’s classmates started pressuring her to attend a Good News Club, an after-school Bible class intended to indoctrinate young children in a conservative form of evangelical Christianity. Until 2001, Good News Clubs were generally excluded from public schools out of concern that their presence would violate the constitutional separation of church and state. But a Supreme Court ruling that year, Good News Club v. Milford Central School, deemed their presence in public schools legal.

    According to Ogletree, the club’s appearance at her daughter’s public elementary school had an immediate impact. Most of the girls RaMae considered her friends signed up for the Good News Club on Tuesday afternoons. Lunchtime conversations quickly started to revolve around God and Jesus. RaMae, who had been raised with a sense of skepticism about conservative religious doctrine, made an effort to stand up for her own beliefs, and she resisted her friends’ repeated efforts to recruit her to the club. One day, however, the girls decided on an aggressive new tactic. They took away RaMae’s juice and told her they wouldn’t give it back until she sang a song about Jesus.

    “This is the day my child came home and collapsed in a pile of tears on my couch,” Ogletree says. “I said, ‘No more!’ I started making phone calls and plans.’”

    First, Ogletree complained to the administration. But she felt they sided with the children attending the club. “It figures,” she says ruefully. “At the school entryway there’s a large sign that spells it out, ‘In God We Trust.’”

    So Ogletree made the decision to homeschool. “While some tend to see religious bullying as a ‘right,’ it is at the heart [the same as] every other kind of bullying—mean, cruel, and without forethought,” Ogletree says. “There are children committing suicide all over the US because of bullying. I refuse to let my child become a statistic.”

    “I could have brought in the ACLU,” Ogletree adds, explaining why she didn’t press the administration harder on the issue. “But in this area it would have caused a shit storm and I didn’t want to put my family through that.”

    There is an idea in our culture, planted and carefully tended by culture warriors on the right, that America’s public schools are godless. And most people have the impression that homeschooling is mainly for religious fundamentalists and other extremists who want to shield their children from the perceived secularism of public education. But Ogletree and her family are part of a small but growing group that is moving in the exact opposite direction. Dismayed with the overt religiosity and faith-based pressure they encounter in their public schools, they are opting to homeschool. And they are anything but extremists.

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  52. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 3.4 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 17 are educated at home—or approximately 1.7 million children. The NCES cites religion as a motivator in approximately 65 percent of those families. Other estimates are even higher. In a 2006-2007 survey by the US Department of Education, 83 percent of homeschooling parents cited a desire to provide religious and moral instruction.

    It is difficult to estimate the numbers of families homeschooling for the opposite reason—because of religious intrusion into their public schools. According to Ryan Stollar, Executive Director of Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out, an educational nonprofit providing support to homeschooling families, this segment of the homeschooling population has been sorely neglected. “Conservative Christians dominate homeschooling,” he says, “and they intentionally exclude non-Christians from state organizations and local co-ops. So researchers have great difficulty reaching them through the normal networks.”

    * * *

    Among the many factors that came together in making the Ogletrees’ experience in Virginia possible, the most important by far was a transformation in the judicial landscape originating in the United States Supreme Court. While the media concentrated on political campaigns, the religious right worked to advance its agenda through the courts. By the start of the 21st century, their efforts had begun to pay off.

    Clarence Thomas’s majority opinion on the 2001 Good News Club case opened the door to a revision of the judicial theory governing what’s known as church-planting in public schools—that is, turning public school facilities over to churches for nominal rent or no rent at all. Legal advocacy groups promptly marched through that door. Exploiting the Court’s decision, they pushed cases through the lower courts that further undermined Establishment Clause concerns that had previously impeded efforts to plant churches in public schools. As a consequence, there is now a growing network of churches operating inside public schools facilities, effectively subsidized by the taxpayer. In some communities, nearly every public elementary, middle and high school is turned into a church on Sundays.

    For parents such as April, a 31-year-old mother of two living in Springfield, Missouri, the appearance of an evangelical church inside her child’s public school represented an unconstitutional entanglement between church and school. (April does not feel comfortable using her real name, as she still lives in the community.)

    Not long after the Red Tree Church started holding Sunday services at April’s child’s public school, the Willard Orchard Hills Elementary School, pamphlets advertising the church started coming home with the kids on a weekly basis. According to April, the church set up promotional tables at meet-the-teacher nights and during school fairs. At these events, church staff invited parents to Sunday services and encouraged kids to join the youth ministry. The church also put up notices advertising church services on the school’s digital board.

    “This is a publicly funded school, and here they are sending home these religious materials,” says April. “It just seemed to inappropriate! How is it right that the taxpayer is paying for the building, the water, the electricity, and their publicity, and sending information about the church home with my kid?”

    Even worse, April says, the administration seemed to sanction the church’s proselytizing activities. “At one point, the superintendent sent around an e-mail asking everyone to pray for a particular child,” April recalls. “When you as the superintendent are sending out e-mails saying ‘God bless’ and things of that nature, you are indicating to people who don’t share your religious perspective that they are second-class citizens.”

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  53. When asked for comment Willard Orchard Hills Superintendent Kent Medlin asserted that “Red Tree has been a respectful and welcome group for our district,” noting that written materials offered to students from outside groups are “principal-approved.” But April says the entanglement between church and school seemed disrespectful of members of the community who are members of minority faiths.

    “I identify as a Christian,” April notes. “But this is a total disregard for the separation of church and state.”

    * * *

    Public school teachers and administrators have a right to their religion. But students have rights too, and one thing public-school students have is a right to an education free of religious coercion from representatives of the state. Teachers have a duty to deliver that.

    Unfortunately, not all teachers are cognizant and respectful of this duty. That was the issue that persuaded Sarah Small, a mother of three from central Kansas, to homeschool. Small worked as an educator for children with disabilities and was employed by the school district. She had long observed a pervasive atmosphere of religious favoritism—according to her, several teachers seemed friendlier and more sympathetic toward the pupils in their classrooms who attended church.

    But Small had always avoided conflict with her coworkers, and was especially fearful of speaking out about religious matters. “I didn’t want teachers to see me as a troublemaker or an outsider and refuse to work with me,” she says. “In fact,” she adds, “I was afraid that if I made the wrong people mad I could be fired.”

    One especially egregious offender, in her mind, was a third-grade teacher who was also a Sunday-school teacher. “Half of her class was with her at church on weekends,” Small says. “I saw blatant favoritism of those kids. One day, I saw her give a child who had just been baptized a gift card that said, ‘Happy Baptism.’ She always seemed to have higher patience levels for kids who were members of her church. She seemed to give them more academic attention, and a greater number of chances at corrections when they made mistakes.”

    Small recalls the example of two students in her class who had similar learning disabilities; Small was working with both, and was able to observe the teachers’ interactions with them up close. “The kid who was not attending church was often made to sit in an isolated place, separated from the rest of the students, and was sometimes treated harshly,” she says, “while the other one, who attended church, got to sit with the other students. If he didn’t finish his work on time, she would give him extra time.”

    Small says this woman was a very good teacher. “But in this community, religion is so pervasive, and we are an openly atheist family. I know that as my son progressed at the school, that information would come out. My son is a high-energy kid, and I worried that she or others might use that as an excuse to label him ‘different’ or ‘a troublemaker’ as a way of punishing him for being a religious nonconformist.”

    Like so many other parents, Small felt she had nowhere to turn to voice her concerns. “My hands were completely tied,” Small says. “I couldn’t complain because of my job. So when we decided to homeschool, I just told the administration that we think this is best for our family and left it at that. I have familial ties to the school and the area, so we just kept it very simple.”

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  54. These days instead of assisting students with disabilities Small instructs her son from homeschooling curricula in math, reading, science and other topics. “I miss my job,” she says. “And income-wise, it was definitely an adjustment for our family. But I was happy to leave an atmosphere where religion was always going to be an issue.”

    * * *

    Many parents who wish to homeschool must fulfill certain requirements, which vary dramatically by state. Thirty-six states require that parents teach certain subjects. While homeschooled students are largely exempt from assessment of their progress, those parents who wish to offer an education commensurate with that of the public school quickly find that home instruction can be as absorbing and time-consuming as any job.

    “A lot of us ended up homeschooling as a worst-case scenario,” says Amy Cogswell, a mother from the suburb in central Ohio. “I wasn’t one of those people who had a baby and thought homeschooling would be sweet and wonderful. We felt like we were pushed into it because there wasn’t another option for us.”

    It was the religious bullying that did it. Cogswell’s daughter’s troubles began in the second grade when a classmate told her she was going to hell. “At first my daughter brushed it off, but the bullying got worse,” says Cogswell. “Other kids would taunt her too. One day in the lunchroom, all the kids went around the table saying, ‘The Bible is real.’ My daughter defended herself saying, ‘It’s just a book of made-up stories!’ But she said the way the kids argued with her after that made her feel like they were ganging up on her.”

    Things came to a head when one girl’s bullying became more aggressive. Previously, this girl had cornered Cogswell’s daughter and told her she was going to hell for nonbelief. But one day, she choked her.

    According to Cogswell, the school responded to the choking incident by telling her that her daughter was “overly sensitive.” Cogswell and her family decided at that point to leave the school system. “I didn’t believe the school could guarantee my daughter’s safety. I did look into private school, but the ones around here cost at least $15,000 per year.” She says they couldn’t afford that.

    “I could have stayed and fought for my daughter’s rights,” she concedes. “But I was vastly outnumbered by religious people, and honestly it wasn’t a fight I wanted to fight. It could have turned into an expensive, lengthy legal drama. So, given the options, homeschooling felt like the best choice.”

    Some days, Cogswell blames herself. “It made me feel like it was my fault, because I chose to raise my daughter in a way that is not socially accepted around here,” she says. “Maybe it would have been easier if I had kept my own doubts about God to myself and just shut up and took her to church, like most of the other people around here do with their kids. But I wasn’t willing to make that concession and live in a way that didn’t reflect what I really believe. And,” she adds grimly, “I felt like my daughter was paying the price for that.”

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  55. How did the present level of religious involvement in public schools happen in a country whose Constitution is thought to guarantee equality of all, regardless of religious belief? Much of it is traceable to the unheralded success of religious advocacy groups on the religious right, working with what was, prior to Justice Scalia’s death, a majority on the Supreme Court that tended to agree with them on many key issues. Though the recent advances in same-sex marriage rights have led many observers to declare that the culture war has ended with victory on the left, in fact the religious right has benefitted from a string of judicial successes in recent decades that have enabled religious groups to enter the public schools under the specious title of “religious liberty.”

    While a small number of school administrators welcome the new involvement of religion in public schools, many do not. School administrators are generally preoccupied with issues of budget, management, and curriculum, and are not eager to moderate the type of religious battles that erupt as a result of religious involvement in a diverse school community. Officials at the schools of Betty Ogletree, Sarah Small, and Amy Cogswell did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

    While homeschooling families often connect with one another to offer their children opportunities for socialization and group learning, nonreligious homeschoolers often feel shut out. The religious homeschooling movement often encourages Christian homeschool groups to shun nonbelievers and members of non-Christian faiths. As Stollar points out, “They intentionally create walls to keep unbelievers out.”

    A widely hailed leader of the Christian homeschooling movement, Gregg Harris, urged homeschooling groups to adopt statements of faith. “A disagreement over policy or doctrine or an aggressive intruder can mean a lot of problems for the group,” he wrote. “A statement of faith, which should be affirmed by any potential group leader, ought to be broad enough to include Christians who disagree on nonessential matters (such as eschatology), but narrow enough to exclude people from a non-evangelical framework or who hold abhorrent opinions.”

    Micki Carr, a Georgia mother who decided to homeschool, in part because of a perceived bias in her kids’ public school, says that when she attends state homeschooling conventions, only a tiny number of the informational booths are nonsectarian. The overwhelming majority—“perhaps 95 percent,” she says—are geared toward evangelical Christian families.

    “The hardest part of homeschooling is finding secular curriculum materials to teach science, as opposed to creationism,” she says. “That goes with history as well. It’s been rewritten. Even the math books include examples that are based on the Bible.”

    Carr says that the local homeschool group, the Central Savannah River Area Home Education Association, used to make you sign a statement of faith. “Now it’s a statement of agreement that if you don’t agree with what they’re doing, you have to agree not to make a fuss,” she says. “We can leave the public school that has become too religious, but secular resources on this side are still sparse in comparison.”

    Betty Ogletree has homeschooled long enough now to look back on the experience with the bemusement of distance. “It’s pretty weird to be living in the middle of the Bible Belt where most people think the public schools have no religion,” she says. “But here we are homeschooling because there’s too much. The irony is not lost on me!”


  56. The Radical Theology That Could Make Religious Freedom a Thing of the Past

    Even devout Christians should fear these influential leaders' refusal to separate church and state.

    by David R. Brockman THE TEXAS OBSERVER June 2, 2016

    Though it’s seldom mentioned by name, it’s one of the major forces in Texas politics today: dominion theology, or dominionism. What began as a fringe evangelical sect in the 1970s has seen its influence mushroom — so much so that sociologist Sara Diamond has called dominionism “the central unifying ideology for the Christian Right.” (Italics hers.) That’s especially true here in Texas, where dominionist beliefs have, over the last decade, become part and parcel of right-wing politics at the highest levels of government.

    So, what is it? Dominionism fundamentally opposes America’s venerable tradition of church-state separation — in fact, dominionists deny the Founders ever intended that separation in the first place. According to Frederick Clarkson, senior fellow for religious liberty at the non-profit social justice think tank Political Research Associates, dominionists believe that Christians “have a biblical mandate to control all earthly institutions — including government — until the second coming of Jesus.” And that should worry all Texans — Christians and non-Christians alike.

    Dominionism comes in “soft” and “hard” varieties. “Hard” dominionism (sometimes called Christian Reconstructionism), as Clarkson describes it, explicitly seeks to replace secular government, and the U.S. Constitution, with a system based on Old Testament law.

    The father of hard dominionism, the late Presbyterian theologian R.J. Rushdoony, called for his followers to “take back government … and put it in the hands of Christians.”

    Rushdoony’s legacy has been carried on by his son-in-law, Tyler-based economist Gary North, an unapologetic theocrat who in 1982 called for Christians to “get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political, and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.” (North, founder of the Institute for Christian Economics, did not respond to my request for comment.)

    Mainstream Texas political figures don’t go quite that far. Instead they trade in “soft” dominionism. While soft dominionists do not advocate replacing the Constitution with biblical law, they do believe that Christians need to regain the control over political and cultural institutions that they (supposedly) lost after the Founding period.

    Top Texas political figures have had links to dominionism for years. In 2011, the Observer covered then-Governor Rick Perry’s ties to a branch of the movement, the New Apostolic Reformation. Since then, the relationship between dominionism and right-wing politics has become even cozier.

    Case in point: Ted Cruz. Although Cruz is too politically savvy to openly endorse dominionism, key figures on his team are explicit dominionists.

    The most important may be his father, evangelist Rafael Cruz, a frequent surrogate for Cruz on the political stage.

    Cruz père espouses Seven Mountains Dominionism, which holds that Christians must take control of seven “mountains,” or areas of life: family, religion, education, media, entertainment, business and government. Speaking at the Texas GOP Convention in Dallas in May, Rafael Cruz claimed that God inspired the Founders to produce the Constitution, and declared that “biblical values” have made America the greatest country on earth. He encouraged Christian pastors to run for public office at every level, and called upon all Christians to exercise their “sacred responsibility” to vote for candidates who uphold biblical values.

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  57. As for what Thomas Jefferson famously called Americas “wall of separation between Church & State,” Cruz claimed in a 2016 sermon that it was meant to be a “one-way wall” — preventing government from interfering in religion but allowing the Church to exercise dominion over government. (I have to wonder whether a “one-way wall” is really a wall at all.…)

    Another Seven Mountains Dominionist active in Cruz’s failed presidential bid was David Barton, who managed one of Cruz’s super PACs. On a 2011 radio program Barton said that Christians need to “be able to influence and control” the “mountains” in order to “establish God’s kingdom.” An amateur historian, outspoken Christian Americanist, and long-time Texas GOP activist, Barton runs WallBuilders, an Aledo group that seeks to “exert a direct and positive influence in government” and to assist public officials in developing “policies which reflect Biblical values.” (Barton also played a key role in incorporating Christian Americanism into the Texas curriculum standards.)

    Perhaps the most powerful dominionist in Texas politics is Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. In a 2012 sermon and again at the 2015 Texas Tribune Festival, he said that the United States was founded on the Bible. Patrick has also made it clear he believes the Bible should determine public policy. In 2014, Patrick said that elected officials must look to Scripture when they make policy, “because every problem we have in America has a solution in the Bible.” (Where the Bible addresses problems like greenhouse gas emissions or cybersecurity, I’m at a loss to explain, even with 20 years of biblical study behind me.) His call for a “biblically-based” policy mindset “doesn’t mean we want a theocracy,” he insisted. “But it does mean we can’t walk away from what we believe.” For Patrick, not “walking away” seems to mean basing policy on his own religious beliefs — as he showed when he opposed same-sex marriage on biblical grounds. (Patrick also did not respond to my request for comment.)

    Another dominionist active in Texas politics is conservative firebrand-slash-medical-doctor Steven Hotze. Hotze is linked to Gary DeMar, a dominionist writer and lecturer. DeMar has called for the United States to be governed by Old Testament law, including instituting the death penalty for gay/lesbian sex. As recently as 2013, Hotze was an officer of DeMar’s dominionist think tank American Vision; its mission is “to Restore America to its Biblical Foundation.”

    Hotze also heads the influential (and hate-group certified) Conservative Republicans of Texas (CRT). In a promotional video, Hotze explains that CRT “is committed to electing Republicans” who will “defend the constitutional liberties that arose from the Christian heritage of our Founding Fathers.” (Hotze did not respond to my requests for comment.)

    In short, dominionism has risen from an obscure fringe movement to the highest reaches of government here in Texas. No doubt Rushdoony would be pleased. The rest of us, however, have good reason to be troubled.

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  58. The dominionist goal of having Christianity shape law and policy amounts to the very governmental establishment of religion that the First Amendment explicitly prohibits. It would also appear to violate the Texas Bill of Rights, which states that “no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious society or mode of worship.”

    Of course, dominionists insist that none of this matters, because the Founders intended to create a “Christian nation.”

    Even if some of the Founders did mean for Christianity to be normative for law and policy, the question today is: Which Christianity? Christians disagree sharply on a whole host of issues, and dominionists simply don’t speak for many Texas Christians. For example, Hotze’s CRT supports capital punishment and wants to eliminate entitlement programs, and would deny marriage to same-sex couples, while Patrick would deny Texans reproductive choice and transgender people access to appropriate public restrooms. Those positions directly oppose the gospel as many Christians, myself included, understand it. And in seeking to make law and policy conform to the Bible, dominionists don’t speak for the growing number of non-Christians and religious “nones” — those who are religiously unaffiliated, including atheists and agnostics.

    To be clear, I’m not saying that religion has no place in the public square. Far from it: religious persons have just as much right as anyone else to advocate laws and policies that line up with their beliefs and values. Government officials, however, are in a different position. No, they don’t have to “walk away from what they believe,” as Patrick puts it. Their religious beliefs can inform their personal morality in office — don’t lie, don’t steal, and so on — and give them comfort and hope or motivate them to serve others. But they can’t make policy based on those beliefs. Government officials have a duty to uphold the Constitution, not to enact their personal religious convictions. They are obliged to serve all of the people, not just members of the officials’ own religious community.

    Ironically, for all their talk about what those Founders intended, it seems that dominionists have failed to heed the wisdom of two of the most prominent, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Madison warned that when government prefers one religion over others, religion suffers. A government that can make Christianity the official religion, he observed, can just as easily prefer one form of Christianity over others — for instance, Catholicism over evangelicalism.

    For his part, Jefferson appealed to history. Whenever government officials “have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible” (my emphasis), he wrote, they have ended up creating “false religions.”

    Christians who seek political domination would do well to heed those wise words.

    David R. Brockman, Ph.D., a religious studies scholar and Christian theologian, is an adjunct lecturer in religion at Texas Christian University. He is the author of Dialectical Democracy through Christian Thought: Individualism, Relationalism, and American Politics.