By James A. Haught
In violation of the separation of church and state, American tax dollars are funneled to fundamentalist private schools teaching crackpot absurdities – such as a claim that Noah probably took two baby dinosaurs onto his ark.
To me, it’s a form of child abuse to teach such lies to youngsters. However, that’s what happens under the voucher system supported by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and many Republican legislators across America.
Under the banner of “school choice,” vouchers are a device to pour taxpayer money into religion, despite the First Amendment’s prohibition of it. Pious parents who don’t want their children exposed to public schools can obtain government vouchers to pay for religious schooling – some of it Catholic but more of it evangelical. The born-again schools provide shabby education.
The Orlando Sentinel examined 151 private Florida schools with 140,000 students – most of them funded with tax dollars through a voucher plan passed by Republican legislators. The Sentinel’s report began:
- Some private schools in Florida that rely on public funding teach students that dinosaurs and humans lived together, that God’s intervention prevented Catholics from dominating North America, and that slaves who ‘knew Christ’ were better off than free men who did not.”
It says some evangelical schools use texts from three fundamentalist publishers – Abeka, Bob Jones University Press and Accelerated Christian Education – adding:
- The books denounce evolution as untrue, for example, and one shows a cartoon of men and dinosaurs together, telling students the Biblical Noah likely brought baby dinosaurs onto his ark.
Actually, the last dinosaurs became extinct nearly 65 million years before the first early humans appeared.
The books teach Religious Right politics, saying the historic civil rights movement occurred because “power-hungry individuals stirred up the people” – and that the Endangered Species Act is part of a “radical social agenda” – and they hint that gays are evil, and European whites are superior.
The Sentinel said some evangelical schools “hire teachers without degrees and with criminal records, and forge fire and health inspection forms, and… hold classes in aging strip malls” where some face eviction for nonpayment of rent.
The Huffington Post likewise studied fundamentalist private schools and concluded that they “teach lies. These schools teach creationism, racism and sexism. They’re also taking your tax dollars.” It says one teacher called environmentalists “hippie witches.”
Intelligent, educated Americans should pity children from born-again families who suffer indoctrination with such right-wing hate and superstition. When the youths enter adult life, they’re ill-equipped for modern scientific society.
Regardless, the GOP and DeVos want to increase tax money for religious schools, despite the separation of church and state. Here’s an ominous court case: Conservative Montana legislators passed a 2015 law letting religious parents donate to private church schools and write it off their taxes. In 2017, Montana’s Supreme Court struck down this taxpayer funding of faith. Right-wingers appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is to hear Espinoza v. Montana soon, on January 22.
Secular groups have filed briefs against the Montana travesty. But Republican appointees on the highest bench may ignore the First Amendment’s command that government must stay out of religion.
Stay tuned. Keep watching to see whether conservative justices funnel your tax dollars to church schools teaching that Noah took baby dinosaurs on his ark.