Thursday, March 5, 2020

New Book Argues Christian Right Worships Power

Katherine Stewart is an author and journalist who specializes in issues surrounding te separation of church and state. She has a new book coming out-- The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism, and a recent interview at Salon captures some of the highlights.

It's always interesting to see what happens when someone whose main beat is not education takes a look at education issues. Stewart has looked at educational issues in the past where they relate to church-state separation, and here she comes again with this statement from the interview:

We also have to recognize that the role of public money is absolutely huge. A lot of the calls for "religious freedom" that characterize much of the activism of the movement today are often seen, rightly so, as a demand that conservative Christians should be able to discriminate against LGBT Americans, nonreligious women and members of the religious minority groups. But even more than that, activists have their eye on a vast potential flow of public funds in the future. This is one of the reasons why the calls for religious freedom are just like this ever-louder drum beat that we're hearing in so many places.

This agenda has been made really explicit in the field of public education where activists are determined to expand access to public funds in the form of vouchers. They've actually placed a key voucher case before the Supreme Court, which they hope will allow a greater funnel of funds in their direction.

The United States spends something like $700 billion a year on K-12. So Christian nationalists realize that, if they can get their hands on a small portion of that in the name of religious liberty, the money will flow without end. So when you look at the larger demands of the movement, it's not just about these culture war issues, it's about public policy, foreign policy, and it's about money.

There's also some stuff about abortion as an issue that reminds me of several things I've read about Prohibition and how that single issue united voters in a bloc that was then deployed against other issues by leaders who basically said, "Since you're with us on this signature issue, follow us on these other issues as well."

Her main thesis is that the current version of the religious right is far more interested in political power than, well, anything. You may or may not buy her arguments, but the book looks to be an interesting discussion-starter.

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