This is a guest post written by David G. McAfee. He is author, most recently, of Atheist Answers: Rational Responses to Religious Questions.
The Education Committee of the Council for National Policy, a non-profit that brings together conservative leaders in order to advance the “restoration of education in America, in accordance with historic Judeo-Christian principles which formed the basis of instruction in America’s schools for its first 300 hundred years,” just released an “Education Reform Report” for the Donald Trump/Betsy DeVos administration.
If adopted, it would push revisionist Christian history into public school classrooms. The report appears to be hidden on the Council for National Policy’s website and hasn’t been released to the public, though the link to it is clearly on their servers. (A reader found it on an online thread and sent it to us.)
The document is based on “four assumptions and one pledge.”
1. All knowledge and facts have a source, a Creator; they are not self-existent.
2. Religious neutrality is a myth perpetrated by secularists who destroy their own claim the moment they attempt to enforce it.
3. Parents and guardians bear final responsibility for their children’s education, with the inherent right to teach, or to choose teachers and schools, whether institutional or not.
4. No civil government possesses the right to overrule the educational choices of parents and guardians.
5. The CNP Education Committee pledges itself to work toward achievable goals based on uncompromised principles, so that their very success will provoke a popular return to the Judeo-Christian principles of America’s Founders who, along with America’s pioneers, believed that God belonged in the classroom.
The report, which mistakenly identifies Betsy DeVos as “Mrs. Becky Devos,” was spearheaded by CNP Education Committee Chairman Dan Smithwick. CNP has been criticized for links to hate groups, and its 2014 vision statement calls for restoring “religious and economic freedom, a strong national defense, and Judeo-Christian values under the Constitution.”
CNP has also been investigated by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which catalogues hate groups and determined that this one was an “intensely secretive group.” SPLC said the group is notable for the “real extremists” it counts among its members.Paul S. Teller, the hardline chief of staff to Sen. Ted Cruz who was once described by The Hill as Cruz’s “agitator in chief,” is a member, or at least he was in 2014. Tony Perkins, the head of the LGBT-bashing Family Research Council, was its vice president that year, one of three executive officers. And Frank Gaffney, whose group provided Trump with bogus statistics about American Muslims’ support for violent jihad and who was a senior adviser to Cruz until May, was a member, too.
Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon, two people in Trump’s inner circle, are also members of the group.
There’s no telling when this report, or an amended version of it, will be made available to the public. There’s also no telling how seriously it’ll be taken by the Trump administration. But, as it stands, it’s a pretty clear violation of the separation of church and state, and Trump has frequently talked about how little he values that principle. I suggest all secular activists prepare for this next fight — it will be a big one.
David G. McAfee is a Religious Studies graduate, journalist, and author of Atheist Answers: Rational Responses to Religious Questions, The Book of Gods, The Belief Book, Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist: The Guide to Coming Out as a Non-believer, and Disproving Christianity and other Secular Writings. He is also the founder of The Party of Reason and Progress and a frequent contributor to American Atheist Magazine. McAfee, who writes about science, skepticism, and faith, attended University of California, Santa Barbara and graduated with bachelor’s degrees in English and Religious Studies with an emphasis on Christianity and Mediterranean religions.
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