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Tue Jun 19, 2012, 03:11 PM

Thom Hartmann: School & Religious Freedom Dying in Louisiana

Public education is dying in the state of Louisiana - and religious freedom is dying right alongside it. Earlier this month - the Republican-controlled state legislature approved a new school voucher program in Louisiana that shifts tens of millions of taxpayer dollars AWAY from public schools and TOWARD private, religious schools. As in - teaching kids in Louisiana math, science, and history will no longer be in the hands of qualified, unionized teachers. Instead, it will be in the hands of profiteers and religious fundamentalists who don't believe in science and don't think the history of the world goes back farther than 5,000 years. This new voucher program achieves two goals: One, it hurts teachers unions, which tend to support Democrats. And two, it gives the Religious Right an excuse - through the disguise of "religious freedom" - to embed their evangelism into the next generation of Americans. And I say the disguise of religious freedom - because that's all it is: a disguise.

There is no religious freedom in this voucher program - the Republicans and Democrats who supported it only had one type of religious school in mind when they pushed for this program - and that was a Christian school. That's why - when an Islamic school was approved to for the voucher program - lawmakers went nuts. Like Republican state Rep. Kenneth Havard who immediately changed his mind about the voucher program when he learned an Islamic school might be included saying: "I won't go back to home and explain to my people that I supported this [program that] will fund Islamic teaching." And Democratic Rep. Sam Jones who said: "It'll be the Church of Scientology next year." You see - these guys don't give a rat's ass about religious freedom - they're all about Christian evangelism.

Trying to avoid a firestorm of hate, the Islamic school withdrew its request to participate in the new voucher program, leaving only Christian and private, for-profit schools in the mix. So now - kids in Louisiana will no longer learn math, science, and history from professional teachers who work for "We, The People." Instead, they’ll be taught by businessmen and religious fanatics who don’t believe in science and think the history of our planet began 5,000 years ago - and paid for by Louisiana's taxpayers. Right about now - our Founding Fathers - in unison - are doing a barrel roll in their graves. That's because - unlike these politicians in Louisiana - our Founding Fathers didn't think religion had any place in our government. You might have noticed how the Constitution says a lot - but it says nothing about God, nothing about Jesus, nothing about Christianity, nothing about the bible, and nothing about a creator. And really - the only thing it says about religion is in Article 6, section 3 where the Constitution reads: "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States" \\

Most of the Founding Fathers weren't Christians - they were Deists who believed that the universe had a creator - but that creator had nothing to do with the daily lives of humans and certainly did not intervene in the world through miracles or religious texts like the bible. Embracing this Deism - Benjamin Franklin wrote in 1728 about why he didn't pray: "I cannot conceive otherwise than that He, the Infinite Father, expects or requires no worship or praise from us...." Another Founding Father - Thomas Paine - wrote in his book the Age of Reason: "All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit."

Historian Barry Schwartz described our first President - George Washington's religious beliefs writing: "George Washington's practice of Christianity was limited and superficial because he was not himself a Christian... He repeatedly declined the church's sacraments. Never did he take communion, and when his wife, Martha, did, he waited for her outside the sanctuary...Even on his deathbed, Washington asked for no ritual, uttered no prayer to Christ, and expressed no wish to be attended by His [church's] representative." And as Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1814 - long after the Constitution was ratified: "Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the Common Law." In 1796 - our nation signed a peace treaty with Tripoli - what is now known as Libya - and in this treaty, negotiated by the George Washington administration and signed by President John Adams, our Founding Fathers made very clear the religious nature of the United States when they wrote:"The government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."

Unfortunately - more than 200 years after the Treat of Tripoli - politicians in Louisiana - and elsewhere around the nation - are trying to recreate the United States as a Christian nation - going against everything even the Christians among our Founding Fathers wanted for this secular nation they'd created. As another one of our Founding Fathers - James Madison - warned in 1803: "The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries." It's time to stop giving public tax money to evangelists - and promote quality, free, and religion-free public education again - like we used to do - when we put men on the moon, created the middle class, and established generations of entrepreneurs, scientists, and engineers like the world had never seen before. That's the American way.

The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann on RT TV & FSTV "live" 9pm and 11pm check www.thomhartmann.com/tv for local listings

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