Onward, Christian Fascists: Trump and DeVos Escalate Assault on Education

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Editors’ Note: What is described below is part of major moves by Trump and his associated Christian fascist forces in different arenas of society, aimed at cohering this society under new “norms,” and forging this “fascist base” while he faces impeachment. These include for example, the January 24 “March for Life” in Washington, DC, at which Trump spoke—the first time a sitting president has appeared in person at this annual gathering of anti-abortion fanatics; and the January 20 “gun rights” rally in Richmond, Virginia, that brought together 22,000 armed thugs, mainly white supremacists, making clear their intention to impose their vision on the rest of society, by violence if necessary.

On January 16, Trump proclaimed “Religious Freedom Day.” He told Christian Broadcast News (CBN) that the U.S. is in a “... cultural war. You have two sides. You have a side that believes so strongly in prayer and they’re being restricted and it’s getting worse and worse....” That afternoon, he told a group of students and teachers from religious schools, “Tragically, there is a growing totalitarian impulse on the far-left that seeks to punish, restrict, and even prohibit religious expression.... That is why today my administration is issuing strong new guidance to protect religious liberty in our public schools.”

Later that same day, Betsy DeVos, Trump’s secretary of education, announced a directive requiring every state to report yearly on policies of all local educational agencies regarding school prayer, or possibly lose federal funding. She also announced measures concerning federal funding for colleges and universities, both public and private, aimed at removing restrictions on federal funding to “faith-based” organizations on college campuses; ending prohibitions on funding used for “religious purposes” on historically Black universities; and enforcing compliance of all universities with federal regulations that ensure religious speech and activity of students and faculty aren’t “discriminated against” in order to receive federal grants or research funding.

Taken together, these threats and regulations issued by the Trump/Pence regime are a significant escalation in forcefully injecting religion—specifically, Christian fundamentalism—into education at all levels.

A Fascist Big Lie

This offensive is justified by the lie that Christians in America, especially school children, are persecuted just for “living their faith.” After DeVos released her new regulations, she wrote in a USA Today op-ed that “too many students and too many teachers are separated from their faith while they are in school.” Robert Jeffress, a leading Christian fascist minister and Trump supporter, exulted that the announcements by Trump and DeVos represent “the beginning of the end of the war on faith” and claimed that prayer in public schools “has been under assault from groups like the Freedom from Religion Foundation, and liberal courts as well.”

In fact, individual prayer in schools has never been prohibited under U.S. law. What is true is that under a 1962 U.S. Supreme Court decision, based on the constitutional ban on government “establishment” of religion, states and local government bodies and agencies, such as school boards, cannot impose religion in public schools or allow school activities organized and directed by religious institutions and organizations.

But since the 1970s, Christian fundamentalists have argued that attempts to restrict religion in education or other spheres violate the “free speech” clause of the First Amendment. In 2001 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld this argument, ruling that the school board of a small town in upstate New York could not prevent a Christian group aimed at elementary school children—the “Good News Club”—from holding its religious activities at schools.

Christian fundamentalists have used that ruling as a battering ram to break down what is supposed to be a “wall of separation” between the church and state, and opened the floodgates to large-scale intrusion of fundamentalist Christianity into public schools. Numerous Christian fundamentalist organizations—Good News Club, Gideons, Vineyard, Victory Outreach, Evangelical Covenant Church, and dozens of others—have seized on this and are engaged in what they call “church planting” in schools. This means using public schools for church-sponsored after-school activities, especially in elementary schools, and using the schools themselves as churches on Sundays. The Child Evangelism Fellowship reported on its Facebook page that it alone has “nearly 5,000” Good News Clubs in public schools—not only in the Bible Belt but also in places like New York City, Seattle, Boston, and Santa Monica.

The measures DeVos announced on January 16 stop just short of officially allowing teachers and school administrators to lead prayers and religious gatherings in public schools—for now. But Christian fundamentalist forces are pushing cases through the courts that could result in a ruling allowing organized religion in public schools. On January 21, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case of a Seattle-area high school coach who claimed he was fired from his job because he led his team in mid-field prayers. The Court did this because the school district claimed the reason he was fired did not have to do with the prayers he led. But at the same time, the Court—where the fascists have a solid majority with Trump’s appointments of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh—issued what one legal expert described as an “open invitation” for a better case with which to issue a ruling to impose religion into schools.

How Will the Future Be Shaped?

Trump and DeVos claim they are protecting all religions. This is another big lie. Well-funded and organized fundamentalist Christian fanatics have been working diligently to establish, embed, and legitimize the dominance of fundamentalist Christianity in schools and all of society—and this is what the Trump/Pence regime aims to further promote. As Katherine Stewart, author of The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children, has written of these Christian fundamentalists: “When they invoke ‘religious freedom,’ it is typically code for religious privilege. The freedom they have in mind is the freedom of people of certain conservative and authoritarian varieties of religion to discriminate against those whom they disapprove of, or over whom they wish to exert power.”

The Trump/Pence regime is out to establish new norms and ways of functioning that suffocate the youth, impose government-endorsed religious ignorance in place of scientific methodology and inquiry, crush critical thinking among young people, and facilitate government promotion of Christian fundamentalism. Trump kicked off 2020 by speaking to an Evangelicals for Trump rally at the King Jesus International Ministry in Florida. Tens of millions of reactionary Christian fundamentalists, overwhelmingly white, are a crucial component of the fascist base of Trump/Pence supporters. Now, as the impeachment trial develops in Washington, his regime is moving aggressively to solidify support for the fascism Trump embodies among these millions. Promotion and enforcement of ignorant, anti-scientific religious fundamentalism, especially in schools, is central to the consolidation of fascism, and neither the regime nor its legions of Christian fascist adherents are going to waver from this.

Removing this regime from power is the most urgent question confronting all people who refuse to accept all this—and many other horrors—as the world we and the rest of humanity will live in.

To go further into the roots of Christian fascism and the driving forces behind its rise, we encourage readers to get into works by Bob Avakian, including the following:

* Film of the talk THE TRUMP/PENCE REGIME MUST GO! In the Name of Humanity, We REFUSE to Accept a Fascist America—A Better World IS Possible! The whole talk, videos of the Q&A session, and film clips available here.

* The book Away with All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World (Insight Press, 2008). Excerpts available online, including—

Why Is Religious Fundamentalism Growing in Today’s World—And What Is the Real Alternative?

Christian Fundamentalists, Christian Fascists

The Bible Belt Is the Lynching Belt: Slavery, White Supremacy and Religion in America”; and others.

* Film of the talk WHY WE NEED AN ACTUAL REVOLUTION AND HOW WE CAN REALLY MAKE REVOLUTION. The whole talk, and video clips from the speech and Q&A sessions, available here.

“The Christian Fascists Now In Power”

Watch the complete film here.




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