Christ salvation

Salvation, Purity, and Right-Wing Activism: A Sample of What Taxpayers Will Be Forced to Support in the Carson v. Makin SCOTUS

Both Christian schools in the center of Carson v. Makin– the case in which the Supreme Court has just ruled that the State of Maine must include religious schools in its tuition assistance program for rural families which, until then, was limited to non-denominational schools – much like the evangelical institutions I attended growing up, in Indianapolis, Indiana and Colorado Springs, Colorado. As The New York Times reportsthe Maine Supreme Court brief noted that the schools “frankly admit that they discriminate against gay people, transgender people, and non-Christians.”

This position is comparable to the course of evangelical schools, which often refer to themselves simply as “Christian schools” or “Christian academies”. Catholic schools, which have their own issues and are certainly not havens of LGBTQ inclusion, are nevertheless often a little more lax on the issues Maine points to in the brief – for example, they frequently allow non-Christians to enroll (which is rare in evangelical schools). schools, although they are not unknown).

In the wake of the unsurprising but nevertheless disastrous decision of the (in my opinion illegitimate) Roberts Court, many will write about its shortcomings in terms of constitutionality, the Establishment Clause and other case law issues. In this column, I will take a different approach, highlighting my own experience and that of others in ideological Protestant schools in the hope of raising public awareness of what taxpayers are forced to fund when religious schools have access to them. state funds.

The Indy Christian School from which I graduated in 1999 is a K-12 institution that I would describe as offering “the way of the elite culture warrior.” By this I mean that the school, although it is undoubtedly a bastion of far-right ideology, biblical doctrine of “inerrancy”and anti-LGBTQ animosity, also bragged about his students’ high test scores and college placement rates (although to be sure the guidance counselor tried to funnel us in the evangelical colleges). The school offered an Indiana state-recognized college prep program, and by the time I graduated, it offered a handful of advanced-level courses, two of which I took . (Since I got a five on my AP English and AP Biology exams, I can’t say I wasn’t prepared).

The school required all sophomores to practice for the preliminary SAT before giving us the actual PSAT to ensure that we all qualified for the National Merit Scholarship competition. The goal in preparing us for college and future careers was, of course, to have us “further the kingdom of God” in all our endeavors, whether working in evangelistic ministries or right-wing lobbying organizations. either by financing those who do so as entrepreneurs, executives, engineers, lawyers, doctors, investment bankers, etc. The Christian school I attended in Colorado Springs in grades seven and eight was broadly similar.

I mention all of this to emphasize that my experience at the Christian school was far from being the worst. Some makeshift faith schools do not prepare graduates at all for life in the real world. Many are much more fundamentalist in their approach than the one I graduated from. For example, although my school encouraged students to volunteer at Billy GrahamDuring the 1999 crusade in Indianapolis, a friend from my church’s youth group who went to another local Christian school told me that her school forbade its students from getting involved with Graham (who decades later earlier, had bailed out Martin Luther King, Jr. prison) because he was “too liberal”.

The Christian schools that the Supreme Court requires states to fund will run the gamut. But even if all taxpayer-funded Christian schools were like the ones I attended, here is a sampling of the egregious wrongs that you, the taxpayer, would continue to fund:

  • Students being required to provide a Christian “testimony” of our conversion experiences in order to be admitted.
  • Culture of purity. Did you know: (alternative) fun fact! Anything we did with long-distance sex with a boyfriend or girlfriend that we didn’t end up marrying was cheating on each other’s future spouses.
  • Mandatory weekly (and sometimes more frequent) chapel services, sometimes featuring manipulative altar calls, frequently featuring anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ messaging as well as exhortations to “witness,” i.e., to target non-Christians for conversion efforts. The most ironic example I can remember is being told, “If you had the cure for cancer, you would share it, right? Well, salvation from hell is so much more important than a cure for cancer! It’s funny because everyone at school was against universal health care. Once, when a local Republican politician came to speak and made vague references to a common faith and values, I remember one of my professors saying that she was troubled by it – because it acted as if his faith was the same as ours when he was a Jew. He hadn’t mentioned he was Jewish when he spoke to us. For obvious reasons.
  • Partisan mobilization for right-wing politics. My school took juniors and seniors on field trips to the annual conventions of an organization called Citizens Concerned for the Constitution. (It has since been renamed Moving America Forwardand bills itself as “Indiana’s largest pro-family, pro-church organization.”) After “appreciating” this far-right circus, we distributed their voter guides via direct mail, during the school hours.
  • Instruction required in Christian “apologetics”, ie the defense of the faith as the only and absolute Truth. This included instructions on how to identify logical errors, which, together with the solid training I received in English classes on how to write well and make coherent arguments, left me with unbearable levels of cognitive dissonance.
  • A required Bible course in which the “correct” answer to a test question about when the world was created was “4004 BC”. The professor, a die-hard Calvinist, too tell us he thought “aborted babies” went to hell.
  • That AP biology class I took? The teacher, who sometimes made derogatory comments about girls’ science abilities and opposed environmentalism, made us watch “documentaries” in class about young earth creationism and “flood geology.” “. Qualifying a class for the AP program requires a standard college introductory textbook, but he refused to teach us the evolution chapters, telling us to read them for ourselves and regurgitate them for the exam. Apparently, lying for Jesus is okay when you’re on the trail of elite culture warriors. Lesson learned.
  • Teachers begin classes with prayers and devotions that often had highly, uh, questionable content. This same AP biology teacher tended to start his classes with rambling devotions he called “thoughts,” sometimes wasting up to half of our class time with them. These “thoughts” were full of charismatic and often apocalyptic contents. Around the beginning of each year that I was in his class (he was also my chemistry teacher), he would use one of these devotions to predict that Christ would probably return this fall, around Yom Kippur. (This is not a Dave Barry column, but I feel compelled to say that I am not making this up.) I have heard from more recent alumni that he continues to predict the impending Rapture.

I could go on – there are so many stories – but that’s probably enough. And again, my experience is a privileged experience in the context of the Christian school. I would even point out that many teachers really cared about their students, encouraging us to participate in academic, musical or artistic competitions, organizing educational trips to Europe (one of which I did with the German teacher), etc While I recognize that and am grateful for this, I hold this gratitude in tension with the fact that the model of primary and secondary education I grew up with should not exist – school, whether private or public, religious or secular, should not consist largely of indoctrination in fundamentalist views and right-wing political ideology. And certainly this type of education should never receive a penny of taxpayer funding.

For those of you who might be thinking, okay, but this was all over 20 years ago, let me note that last year I received an email “call for action” from my alma mater urging me to oppose the Equality Act because it would “threaten religious freedom. Also, I’ve been in regular contact with younger alumni to the point that I’m convinced not much has changed significantly (although the school is far more racially integrated than it was). in my time). For those who want more, I recommend checking out Rebecca Klein’s 2017 deep dive in Christian school curricula, Julie Ingersollit is book Building the Kingdom of God: Into the World of Christian Reconstructionand the hashtag #ExposeChristianSchoolswhich I launched in 2019.

In other words, as the immortal LeVar Burton said, you don’t have to take my word for it. There is a lot of information available, including many first-hand testimonials. Children should not be indoctrinated into religious extremism during their schooling. That the current majority of our Supreme Court asks the states, like Justice Sotomayor wrote in his dissent, “subsidizing religious indoctrination with taxpayers’ money,” is very bad for America.