DeVos gives for-profit schools a gift while punishing defrauded students

t is getting more difficult by the day to keep pace with the barrage of nasty policy “reforms” and attacks on domestic programs because of the never-ending distractions centering on the criminal in the White House. No doubt a few Americans overlooked another abominable action from Trump’s evangelical extremist running the Education Department that fairly epitomizes why Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary is an epic disaster. It also shines a glaring light on Trump’s greatest lie that his primary reason for running for office was to “drain the swamp” in Washington when in fact he began transforming the so-called “swamp” into a rotting special interest cesspool the day of his poorly attended inauguration.

Despite the best efforts of a real President, Barack Obama, to aid students defrauded by unscrupulous for-profit schools, Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos devised “new rules” to protect the for-profit private education industry that DeVos represents; the plight of the defrauded students was never a consideration despite they were fundamentally scammed out of a reported $13 billion.

The corporate-friendly plan eliminates regulations requiring for-profit colleges to prove that they provide a quality education that allows enrolled students to secure gainful employment. The plan is being criticized as “the most drastic in a series of moves that DeVos has made to free the for-profit sector from safeguards.”

The Obama-era regulations would have cut off federally guaranteed student loans to colleges if their graduates did not earn enough money to pay those loans off. The rule sent many for-profit colleges and universities into an economic tailspin because so many of their alumni were failing to find decent jobs due to fraudulent claims and inadequate education.

The DeVos-Trump private-school protection plan was hailed as a long-needed reform to “correct Obama-era” rules created to protect consumers. It is noteworthy that DeVos blocked the “Obama-era borrower rule”  from ever being implemented to protect her personal special interest – the for-profit private school industry. The action obviously garnered rave reviews from the for-profit education industry because it provides them with a field-tested means of defrauding students with veritable impunity.

Education activists, however, sharply criticized the action because it leaves defrauded students with $13 billion indebtedness with  little-to-no recourse or relief. At best, education advocates and defrauded students learned that in Trump’s America past corporate corruption and fraud is richly rewarded, and future corruption will be nearly impossible to prosecute – at least that is the case for industry that DeVos exists to enrich. It is worth noting that a government ethics report listed DeVos as invested in a “student debt collection agency” that does business with the Department of Education, but DeVos is only looking after the interests of the cheated students to hear her tell it.

DeVos said the proposal will assist for-profit private schools avoid trouble – by describing how best to avoid being caught or held accountable for cheating. She also lied and claimed the “new rules” actually protect any student who was economically devastated by deliberate deception. According to DeVos, her plan is really focused on protecting the significantly indebted students, but only if “they can prove the [private for-profit] schools deliberately misled them.” If DeVos’ past actions are any indication, students will have to  prove they were defrauded by a for-profit private school to a committee made up of for-profit private school officials.

Education Department documents that were alleged to support DeVos’ plan claimed that although students “really should be protected” from fraudulent private schools, it is really their fault they picked the wrong schools. The Department said:

Postsecondary students are adults who can be reasonably expected to make informed decisions;  if they have access to relevant and reliable data about program outcomes.”

That giant pile of bovine excrement statement fails to mention that one of the primary purposes of President Obama’s “borrower protection rule” was to pressure for-profit private schools to provide prospective students with something they resisted like plague – “access to relevant and reliable data about program outcomes.”

DeVos claimed the new proposal will save nearly $13 billion by reducing the amount of loan relief awarded to students who were defrauded to the tune of at least $13 billion by the people DeVos exists to enrich and protect. Under the new proposal, likely written by the for-profit school industry, private schools can now defend themselves against fraud claims and prevent damage to their reputations; all while preserving the billions in revenue from students who were defrauded. It also authorizes for-profit fraudulent schools to “force students into arbitration agreements as well as bar them from ever suing the schools that defrauded the students.” It is a practice that many for-profit colleges use regularly and “would have been banned” under President Obama’s rules that DeVos prevented being implemented.

While the private education industry cheered another means of cheating students, education advocates “blasted the proposal.” They rightly claimed DeVos’ plan “places [unscrupulous] private schools ahead of students while discouraging victims from ever pursuing financial relief.”

The director of the Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard University explained the real purpose of the Trump-DeVos gift to the for-profit education industry.  Toby Merrill said:

“It encourages abusive and predatory institutions to continue to rip off students with impunity, while slamming the door on the debt relief that Congress has instructed the department to provide to cheated students.”

A senior fellow at the Century Foundation and a former Education Department official, Bob Shireman said:

The proposal is perhaps the most damaging action Betsy DeVos has taken since assuming office. These changes would effectively strip students of their right to recourse if a college or university misled them, making it next to impossible for defrauded students to get the relief they are entitled to.”

The for-profit school industry and their Republican facilitators hailed the corporate-friendly changes as a “great improvement for the for-profit college industry.” The president and chief executive of the trade group, Career Education Colleges and Universities, said the old rules allowing fraud claims to reach fruition were not only unfair, they were very detrimental to for-profit private schools, even though they were never implemented. Steve Gunderson said:

The department has undertaken a thoughtful and deliberate approach to this rule, and we applaud their hard work on this important matter.”

It is unclear how much Mr. Gunderson’s “private school trade group”  was involved in devising the rules to benefit the industry, but it was likely substantial. DeVos does not make any education move without consulting, and then enacting the demands of special interests .

DeVos belied the publicly-stated motivation behind what is her gift to the for-profit education industry she helped create and now represents. She told an assembly of her close business associates in the private school industry: “Our commitment and our focus has been and remains on protecting students from fraud.”

Of course the private education leaders applauded DeVos’ new policy because they perfectly understand that DeVos’ commitment and focus “has been and remains” protecting charlatans in the private education industry. If that was not the case, she would not be making it virtually impossible for defrauded students to ever get relief, much less restitution. It is the only reason she made suspending President Obama’s  2016 “borrower defense rules”  one of the first acts as the most “unqualified Education Department head” in history.

As a reminder, President Obama’s action followed the total collapse of two for-profit schools, Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute to give defrauded and indebted students a possible means of “relief” after suffering far too many for profit private schools’ obvious breach of contract.

It is almost certain that the average American is repulsed at the thought of being scammed, or defrauded, out of any amount of dollars – especially if they had to borrow those dollars with the hope of  improving their future. Trump is firmly behind this act because his so-called “Trump University” epitomized what at least 100,000-plus defrauded students experienced and now have the Herculean task of waiting until 2019 to attempt to “prove the schools deliberately misled them.”  The new rules will not go into effect until 2019, and because DeVos canceled President Obama’s “borrower defense rule” before it was implemented, defrauded students have no recourse.

Although this Trump-DeVos atrocity is not nearly as exciting as the myriad other troubles currently plaguing the criminal in the Oval, it should enrage the population whether they support education or not. It is yet another monumental monetary gift to special interests and that is ire-inspiring in-and-of-itself. But the real outrage is yet another Trump administration “reform” devised to allow special interests to inflict harm on consumers with the full protection of a corrupt federal government that is run by special interests and theocrats.

Propaganda works – 58 percent of Republicans believe education is bad

Critics of Fox News may discount the effectiveness of the right wing outlet’s effort to transform America into a fascist theocracy controlled by the ultra-rich and extremist evangelicals, but that would be a monumental mistake. Like all propaganda agencies, Fox broadcasts talking points crafted by evangelical and corporate activists nonstop until their mendacious messaging is considered a biblical truth.

Fox News, like Republicans and Trump, could never succeed as an ultra-conservative propaganda outlet without an ignorant population. The only way to continue having success at propagandizing is moving the proverbial Heaven and Earth to convince Americans that being educated and informed is detrimental to America and its citizens; something Fox and Republicans have been very successful at.

The idea that education is bad for the country is contrary to the belief of the Declaration of Independence’s author,  Founding Father and third American President Thomas Jefferson. He said:

“An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”

Another great leader, Sir Winston Churchill said:

“The privilege of a university education is a great one; the more widely it is extended the better for any country.”

Obviously, the current administration and the Republican Party it represents wholly disagrees with the concept of a well-educated citizenry, or that it is beneficial to America if the populace is educated. Likely because the less educated the people are, the more electoral support Republicans enjoy and the more success Trump has as the ultimate purveyor of “fake news;” idiot morons will believe anything.

That being the case, it should be no surprise to any semi-conscious American that since Trump’s poorly-attended inauguration there has been a concerted effort to dismantle, and eventually destroy, America’s education system; from public elementary and secondary school to colleges and  universities. It is also not stunning that Trump and the GOP’s propaganda arm, Fox News, has played a crucial role in convincing Republican voters that education is “bad for America.”

For years conservatives have demeaned “secular” education at all levels, and over the past decade Republicans have pandered to the religious right by railing against higher education with valuable aid from the GOP and Trump’s propaganda agency Fox News. It is evident that neither Trump, Republicans, nor Fox News would exist without a fair number of the population mired in rank ignorance about everything, and that does not include the willingly stupid contingent.

To demonstrate precisely why the people’s freedom, and democracy, are in jeopardy today, a recent poll revealed that nearly 6 out of ten Republicans sincerely, believe that “education is bad for America.”

Seriously, it is beyond the pale that anyone in this country thinks education is bad for America, but nearly 60 percent of Republicans is a mind boggling number. It is not entirely unexpected, but it is stunning that they have no issue telling a pollster that they believe education is a negative for the country.

It is noteworthy to mention that to Republicans and the Trump organization, all education is not “bad;” only secular education and any subject not steeped in fantasy and not recorded as Bronze Age mythos in the Christian bible. If America’s education system followed that of theocracies founded on religion, such as Iran or Afghanistan under Taliban rule, Republicans would spend an unlimited amount of taxpayer money on education. Instead, because America is still a secular democracy with Separation of Church and State enshrined in the First Amendment, Trump and his evangelical malcontent Education Secretary are on an honest-to-dog religious crusade to decimate public education and create a system of taxpayer-funded evangelical madrasas.

Republicans have opposed education for well over a decade, but over the past two years the percentage of Republicans who believe education is bad for the nation has risen sharply. In fact, two years ago a Gallup poll revealed that 54 percent of Republicans viewed education in America as a positive for the country. Now, according to the latest  annual Pew Research Center poll, 58% of those same Republicans believe higher education negatively affects society. Those figures represent a swing of epic proportions, and although there are enough GOP supporters who are too stupid to see the value to themselves and the nations of an education, it is telling that close to 60 percent of Republicans consider education bad for America.

To get a good idea of why a majority of Republicans, obviously Fox News viewers, believe education is bad for America, a recent Fox segment featured Tucker Carlson presenting the issue of education as one of waste because “colleges and universities don’t teach kids anything.” He said:

“Colleges barely teach, yet every year they increase their fees. Try that in a private business, you might get indicted for fraud. Do it at an American university and you get billions in taxpayer subsidies.”

Carlson cited some studies about “adult literacy,” and it is unclear to this author how he connected “adult literacy” reports with universities not teaching students or wasting taxpayer money. For the record, “adult literacy” involves helping citizens 16 and older to better read, write, and do basic arithmetic; something any American graduating from the eighth grade will have mastered with relative ease … if they or their adult caregivers consider education as valuable.

What is glaringly apparent is that based on the opposition to education, the Fox audience only heard Carlson parrot what conservatives, and Fox News, have preached for close to a decade; “colleges barely teach …and they get billions in taxpayer subsidies.”  Of course there is a problem with the high cost of a college education in America, but to claim they don’t teach, or that taxpayers are funding liberal indoctrination programs, is something only dyed-in-the-wool religious conservatives, and obviously 58 percent of Republicans, believe as if uttered by their biblical god.

A big issue conservatives have pushed for years, and likely contributes to the Republican opposition to education, is the mindset expressed by no small number of conservatives, particularly those making up the religious right. A former member of the Arizona state legislature, Frank Antenori, summed up a belief often shared by conservatives. He said:

Why does a kid go to a university these days? They go there to get brainwashed and learn how to become activists  and cause trouble.”

No, kids go to a university or college for an education to hopefully have a better life than their parents. And what too many Republicans and religious conservatives consider brainwashing is what sane civilized human beings regard as “being informed.” And, that “being informed” generally results in a religious conservative “kid” informing their parents that no, the Earth is not 6,000 years old and flat; or that no, a zygote is not a living human being; or that no, America was not founded by religious white supremacists to exist and rule the world as an Aryan Christian nation.

This author knows two families who refuse to send their children to public schools because “they only hire teachers that are either gay, atheist, or sexual predators,” and because all colleges train “those teachers to brainwash the kids with lies about America.”

Of course none of the conservative propaganda warning that education is bad for America is true, but for the ignorant religious zealots and angry racists making up the majority of the Republican movement, that propaganda is biblical truth; why else would Fox News and Republicans promoting school privatization keep telling their supporters that America’s education system is inherently evil, and bad for the country?

Here’s the problem going forward; Trump and his evangelical crusader DeVos will not have much Republican opposition to their goal of dismantling the education system in America and replacing it with for-profit private religious and corporate charter schools – at taxpayer expense. For dog’s sake, they have already garnered support from close to 6 out of 10 Republicans who openly admit they believe education is bad for the country. It is probably true that Republican and conservative leaders are not nearly as concerned with religious indoctrination as they are keeping the voting public ignorant, but despite their motivation, wanting an uninformed population is appalling. However, it is the only way Republicans can ensure that the stupid contingent keeps faithfully voting against their own self-interests and contributes to keeping the GOP in power.

America faces myriad threats to its continued existence as a matter of course, even as a crippled world leader, but with Trump and DeVos on a religious crusade to decimate public education, the greatest threat is an ignorant population opposed to public education. Tragically, with 58 percent of Republicans claiming education is bad for the country, the ignorant population is going to grow with every Fox News segment and with every dirty lie from the fascist in White House and the evangelical extremist running the education system.

Now DeVos wants separation of church and state in the “ash heap of history”

Despite what evangelical know-nothings the current administration is overflowing with claim incessantly, the intent of the Founding Fathers and Constitution’s Framers is crystal clear regarding the “wall of separation” between church and state. Thomas Jefferson famously said in his second explanation of what the religious clauses in the First Amendment mean that,“No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever.”

In Trump’s “cesspool” administration, far too many evangelicals from Mike “preacher” Pence to J. Beauregard Sessions to that nasty “B” DeVos person, the idea of “not compelling” all Americans to support religious places is an affront to evangelical zealots and patently unconstitutional; and according to DeVos it needs to be “assigned to the ash heap of history.”

Seriously, this idea of abolishing the “separation” clause is only being proposed openly by the Trump theocrats because the media, almost all media, and Democrats are too terrified of ever alerting the American people that their government is being hijacked by a minority of the population made up of evangelical extremists with the undying support of Republicans. As this column has stated over two-hundred times over the past twelve years; it is not against any federal or state law to cite the unconstitutionality of allowing evangelical zealots to force their bastardized version of Christianity on the people.

Even though it is brutally painful for a secular humanist and two decade-long educator to see Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ name in print, or her face in an image because of the horrors she represents, it was with no great pleasure to learn that there is yet another DeVos theocratic atrocity to comment on. And like everything that DeVos and her evangelical ilk represent, it is a struggle to comment without getting downright nasty; especially when her latest outrage is a major threat to America as it has existed for 238 years.

Some Americans are aware that DeVos openly claimed her intent as Education Secretary is to change American culture in ways that more rapidly advance her god’s kingdom, but they may not be aware that she and her wealthy and powerful friends intend on meeting their 2020 “deadline for restoring religion and Judeo-Christian values under the Constitution.” It is a goal that requires deleting the Amendment in the Constitution that forbids the government from “imposing” any religion on the people; or compelling the people to “support religious worship, places, and ministries.”  It is why DeVos and her evangelical cabal want the Constitution’s “Establishment and Separation” clauses “assigned to the ash heap of history.”

DeVos made the not-so-stunning remark after spending two days visiting some schools in New York and then addressing an evangelical-corporate outfit, the Alfred E. Smith Foundation. It is noteworthy, but not atypical for DeVos, that during her two-day visit to New York schools, she  spent the entirety of her taxpayer-funded time “officially” visiting private religious schools; she refused to set foot into any of the public schools the agency she runs is tasked with overseeing and assisting.

In defending her intent to shift even more taxpayer money intended for public schools to private, for-profit, religious schools, DeVos lashed out at the so-called “Blaine Amendment” founded on the Separation and Establishment Clauses in the Constitution’s First Amendment.

The Blaine Amendment is the law of the land in 38 states that were intelligent enough to know that unless there is a clear state Constitution prohibition on robbing public school funding to pay for private religious instruction, the stinking evangelicals would attempt to skirt around the U.S. Constitution; something that is occurring regularly in Republican controlled states.

The Blaine Amendment simply forbids “direct government aid to educational institutions that have a religious affiliation.”

DeVos used her speech to the religious-corporate “non-profit” group to rail against what she considers an atrocity of biblical proportions; not allowing religious parents to rob public school funds to send their children to private, for-profit, religious schools.

The nasty piece of work said:

I know very well there are powerful interests that want to deprive families their God-given freedom. I know that those sycophants of ‘the system’ have kept legislators here from enacting a common-sense program that would open options to thousands of kids in need.”

Then she cited last year’s atrocious Supreme Court ruling, Trinity Lutheran v. Comer,allowing a church to rob public money for its playground as why abolishing 38 states’ Blaine Amendments is something the new theocracy has to do quickly in order to legally rob public school funding for private religious schools. She screeched:

As many of you know, the Supreme Court ruled in last year’s Trinity Lutheran case that it was unconstitutional for a playground restoration program funded by state-taxpayers to exclude a school ‘simply because of what it is – a church.’ These amendments should be assigned to the ash heap of history.

The dirty evangelical comment is tantamount to saying that the Separation and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment are destined for the “ash heap of history.” There is also the issue of another hypocritical Republican who regularly champions the States Rights when it contradicts federal law; unless it interferes with an agenda Republicans won’t comport. In this case those Blaine Amendments are founded on the U.S. Constitution so there is no “conflict.”  The only problem for the theocracy advocates is that those Amendments don’t allow the likes of DeVos to steal even more taxpayer dollars to fund religion.

There has been chapter and verse written about DeVos’ intent to decimate the public school system, including the Department of Education she leads. That was verified by a Dominionist Christian group with close ties to DeVos that devised what sane Americans would call “an alarming report” demanding the immediate end of the Education Department and a federal mandate promoting Christianity in “public schools.”

The report, an honest-to-dog evangelical manifesto, was handed to Trump and DeVos less than a month after Trump’s poorly attended inauguration. The Council for National Policy’s orders to Trump and DeVos were clear: “Restore education in America in accordance with historic Judeo-Christian principles.”  Translation: decimate public schools and create a system of taxpayer-funded evangelical madrassas with the Christian bible as curriculum.

Of course DeVos was already a major player and committed acolyte of the Council for National Policy organization, and Trump duly followed its orders in his first address to a joint session of Congress pledging his intent to provide all the taxpayer dollars necessary to fund private, for profit, religious schools; and this was after his call to drastically slash funding for the public schools system.

Look, this is getting serious rapidly and there seems to be little-to-no urgency to respond to America lurching towards an evangelical theocracy. It is true, of course, that religious Republicans have long advocated robbing the public schools to enrich the private religious school industry, but this is the first time anyone in a position like DeVos actually advocated sending the separation clause to the ash heap of history. It is true that Mike “preacher” Pence and J. Beauregard Sessions have called the Separation of Church and State patently “unconstitutional” and an unhistorical concept; but even those two evangelical maniacs have not called for deleting a major part of the First Amendment.

Although DeVos did not, in fact, call for sending the actual 1st Amendment to the ash heap of history, her call to abolish 38 states’ constitutional provisions founded on the First Amendment’s “wall of separation” informs that she and her dirty evangelical cohort will not rest until anything preventing a theocratic coup d’état, such as the First Amendment, is abolished and sent to the ash heap of history.

Image: Patheos

Evangelical Extremists Freak Out Over “Unholy” Yoga in Schools

It really is tragic that America is home to an inordinate number of both religious extremist and stupid people, and not solely because they installed an ignorant and corrupt fascist in the White House. Actually, one could comport a nation of ignoramuses and religious radicals if they kept to themselves, and if their Republican facilitators would cease pandering to what is a growing threat to the rest of the population. However, without the ridiculously stupid sect and religious extremist cult, Republicans would not be in power and America would not be in danger of becoming the West’s version of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

As has been the case since Trump’s poorly attended inauguration, there is yet another in a long list of signs that the evangelical malcontents are crusading to make America great by attacking anything unrelated to advancing their filthy version of the religion. Religious extremist have once again attacked a public school over a program designed specifically to help students succeed and prosper. It is beyond question that the only “problem” with this specific “program” is that it does not entail imposing evangelical god-prayers or inculcating students with an Old Testament mindset as part of public education.

The outrage among some Christians in a Maryland public school district is the addition of a locally produced program in recorded video format known as the daily “Mindfulness Moment.” The program was created solely to  “help young students calm themselves both physically and mentally, and thereby help them focus on their schoolwork.” As an extension of the school’s daily announcements, “the students participate in a mini 6-10 minute mindfulness and yoga session to help them positively start off their day.”

As has occurred in a few other states, the stupid and the religious, a nasty combination in any situation, went ballistic at the idea of students not being forced to “focus on all things god.” Seriously, one comment on the school’s Facebook page demonstrates the epitome of stupid and religious extremism. The outraged “Christian” wrote:

“THIS IS COMPLETE LAST DAYS DECEPTION! There is nothing wrong with stretching, or being still to focus on your day, but yoga takes it another step further. There are spirits invited in by focusing on things not of God … there is an unholy Spirit behind it. If this is allowed in school, than (SIC) Jesus must be allowed to be enjoyed in school also.”

The furor prompted the school to set up an approval meeting with four local preachers; the school principal, the district superintendent, the school guidance counselor and two women leading the program attended to defend their effort to assist the students. It is likely that school officials were attempting to show the “faithful” that unlike in Sunday School, the children were not being compelled to listen to archaic mythos about god to frighten them into submission. The result was the school changed the word “yoga” to “stretching” to comfort the stupid Christians who complained because they believe “yoga” is an “unholy”  religion, and nearly as Satanic as meditation. It is noteworthy that meditation is mentioned often in “god’s immutable” word in the Christian bible.

To get an idea where the radically stupid faithful get the idea that yoga or meditation are unholy religions implemented to “invite unholy spirits” in, one of the four preachers monitoring the program issued a statement prior to preaching about how horribly dangerous yoga is. Daryl McCready is the pastor of SonRise Church, and he posted a statement about the observational experience on his church’s Facebook page. He wrote:

Our meeting went well and the Superintendent of the Board of Ed, the Principal of the school, the Guidance Counselor, and the two ladies leading the new program met with myself and the other three pastors. Everyone was kind and respectful of one another and the meeting went well. I am not sure yet what the result will be but they said they understood our concern. It was clear that everyone wanted the best for the children though we may differ about what that is.”

Despite eradicating the word “yoga” from the program to satisfy the preachers’ demands, McCready gave a sermon with a different tone about the “program,” or acknowledging that the school, principal, superintendent, and guidance counselor submitted to the will of the preachers who were terrified of the unholy word “yoga.” McCready spent no small amount of time “denouncing practices like yoga and reiki as teaching a false equivalence between humanity and divinity. Christians are being deceived!”

It is true Christians are being deceived and this author has spent the past two-and-a-half decades opining in print and digital media that as the Christian bible warns, false prophets (clergy) are deceiving the imbeciles under their control. This is not the first time evangelical zealots have raised holy Hell over the public schools they claim are using Satan’s religion yoga to destroy Christianity and crush the “holy spirit” children learn at home and in church.  If those evangelicals were not so ridiculously stupid they would comprehend how absurd their claims are about an exercise.

Yoga, like reiki, is not a religion. And there damn sure is no stinking divinity involved in either practice. Yoga is an exercise with several minor variations according to the particular “style” being practiced, and in twenty-plus years as a practicing yogin, this author can attest that divinity” never entered the picture. And reiki is a well-documented pseudoscience, like chiropractic therapy, with no measurable, medical or scientific value whatsoever; except whatever placebo effect easily manipulated ignoramuses experience.

It is noteworthy that this opposition borne of ignorance and extreme religiosity is not shared by all faiths, including Christians. There is an entire network of Christians who practice yoga and this author personally knows two Christian pastors who are dedicated yogins. One of the preachers explained that even in her congregation, ignorant people are easily swayed by extremists they see on television leading them to criticize her for being a yoga practitioner. Obviously, this issue is the purview of a minority of extremists who curiously control much of the public agenda because politicians are too frightened to dare challenge a small religious minority’s power over the majority.

Look, if radical evangelical parents do not want their progeny participating in “yoga,” then they should take their children and enroll them in the nearest Christian madrasa, but at their own expense. If that is not acceptable, then they should humiliate their children by forcing them to explain that they are forbidden from participating in yoga because of the scary unholy spirits. However, either of those options will not force the rest of the students to stop participating or compel the school to allow the evangelicals abolish yoga entirely and force all students to “enjoy Jesus in school.”

This incident is a portent of the state of America going forward with an administration Hell-bent on allowing a radical religious minority to control all aspects of public life. It is worth restating that if America was not home to an inordinate number of stupid people and religious extremists, the nation would not be lurching towards a theocratic coup d’état and Trump would not be living in a place a dirty fascist has no right visiting.

GOP Education Bill Gives Religious Bigots License To Discriminate

Republicans have had a field day with a rubber stamp in the White House, and besides handing the treasury to the rich and corporations, they have handed social and domestic policy over to bigots under the guise of protecting religious liberty. And it is noteworthy that they have acted stealthily while the happy fascist in the Oval keeps the people mesmerized with social media distractions.

Last week House Republicans introduced a “massive” 542-page “higher education” bill that gives bigots steeped in evangelical fundamentalism a free pass to discriminate if they do so according to their deeply-held religious beliefs and part of their religious practices. The bill, H.R. 4508, authored by Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), contains a pair of provisions that “enables discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity” without saying it is legal to violate the 14th Amendment on religious grounds. By not specifically mentioning sexual orientation or gender identity the Republicans left room for religious fanatics to discriminate against any group they choose.

The inaptly named bill, “Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education” Reform (PROSPER Act) gives the impression that Trump’s America creates opportunities for Americans, but like nearly everything else in Trump’s America, it is a gift to evangelical bigots. Don’t believe it? In a section titled “Campus Access for Religious Groups” a provision guarantees that students can be discriminated against if the bigotry is founded on “religious beliefs or religious standards of conduct.

The offending provision states:

None of the funds made available under the Act may be provided to any public institution of higher education that denies to a religious student or organization any right, benefit or privilege afforded to other students or organization because of their religious beliefs, practices, speech, membership standards or standards of conduct of the religious student or organization.”

What that really means is any person or any group can discriminate against anyone based on a deeply-held religious belief and their religion’s standard practices without repercussions from the “place of higher learning” or state policy forbidding discrimination; it obviously neuters the 14th Amendment to sate religious bigots.

It is yet another Republican religious license to discriminate that taxpayers and tuition-paying students will have to fund and like it; it is how theocratic governments operate and Americans better get used to it.

Prior to this GOP theocratic legislation, the only way to prevent blatant discrimination was by withholding funding from institutions of learning, or by denying religious organizations campus funding for violating nondiscrimination policies they are obliged to uphold as recipients of free money. That concept is unacceptable to religious Republicans and their radical evangelical supporters. So they inserted language allowing the free flow of campus funding to evangelical bigots so they can discriminate against whatever kind of person they regard are “undesirable.”

Apparently there have been institutions of higher learning and governments that have withheld funding for groups that reject LGBTQ students’ membership or participation because “those kind of people violate the religious tenets of the group.” Despite non-discrimination policies at higher-learning institutions and the state and the federal government, the religious groups expect to be funded like every other campus organization that adheres to the U.S. Constitution and campus non-discrimination policies. With this hideous abomination of a bill, Republicans are ensuring that taxpayers and tuition-paying students will have to support bigoted religious groups whether they like it or whether it violates their humanitarian beliefs that discrimination is vile and unconstitutional.

Another section of the “PROSPER Act” protects universities that encourage and enact blatantly discriminatory policies with language virtually mirroring the religious Republicans “First Amendment Defense Act.” That “Act” is a federal Republican license to violate the 14th Amendment with impunity by protecting any businesses and organizations that refuses to serve LGBTQ people; it is the religious bigots’ version of the former Confederacy’s “whites only” laws and religious Republicans love it.  That provision states:

No government entity shall take any adverse action against an institution of higher education that receives funding under title IV, if such adverse action… has the effect of prohibiting or penalizing the institution for acts or omissions by the institution that are in furtherance of its religious mission or are related to the religious affiliation of the institution.”

Some of what religious Republicans call adverse actions to prevent discrimination are:

Denial or threat of denial of funding, including grants, scholarships, or loans; denial or threat of denial to access to facilities or programs; withholding or threat to withhold licenses, permits, certifications, accreditation’s, contracts, tax-exempt status or exemptions; or any other penalty or denial, or threat of such other penalty or denial of an otherwise available benefit.

The two provisions combined mean that institutions of higher learning cannot legally enforce their own non-discrimination policies, and states cannot enforce state or federal discrimination laws on offending schools. This hate-policy is typical of Virginia Foxx who said in 2015 after the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality that it was a threat to the rights of religious bigots and their organizations. She pledged at the time to “do everything in my power to defend these rights;” she followed through with a religious license to discriminate tucked into an education bill.

These religious impositions legalizing discrimination are a growing trend now that the religious right co-owns the federal government. And as the folks over at the Human Rights Campaign noted, this particular “higher education bill is rife with other troubling aspects that should concern both LGBTQ students and all other students.” It is a continuation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ effort to dismantle protections for victims of campus sexual assault targeting women and endemic in her crusade to use the Department of Education to “advance the kingdom of god.”

Since Trump’s poorly-attended inauguration there have been nonstop attacks on the rights of Americans, primarily women and members of the gay community, founded on evangelical fundamentalism. And those attacks are always justified as promoting religious freedoms despite they violate the U.S. Constitution; something that should horrify any American who still thinks they live in a free democratic society. Americans’ equal rights are being whittled away by religious Republicans and it is a tragedy that there is absolutely nothing any American can, or is willing to, do to stop the rush towards theocracy. For dog’s sake, most Americans are too afraid to even whisper that all of the Republican attacks on equality are founded on America’s bastardized version of Christianity and it’s exactly why the religious right is running the government.

Betsy DeVos Punishes Students Defrauded By For-Profit Schools

In another signal that corporations and businesses in Trump’s America are going to be allowed to rape and pillage without restrictions, and in many cases with government assistance, a report by an Education Department inspector general reveals that committing fraud is an accepted and worthwhile endeavor in the for-profit education business.

On Monday past, an inspector general reported that with a for-profit education crusader, Betsy DeVos, and a for-profit “fraudulent college” operator, Donald Trump running the government,  the process of “canceling student loan debt of the people who have been systematically defrauded by for-profit schools” has come to a screeching halt.

DeVos will not implement rules that aided defrauded students by speeding up the debt cancellation process to stop interest from accruing and destroying students and their family’s credit. DeVos claims she can’t help students because she is still looking for a means of “redoing” the debt cancellation  process that still lets failed and cheating for-profit schools off the hook. Under DeVos, none of the defrauded students have had their debt canceled despite tens-of –thousands of legitimate claims for relief.

Spending 10 months “seeking a means of redoing” the debt-cancelation process is code for DeVos intent to do nothing to help Americans cheated by the people she champions as education’s salvation; for profit schools. DeVos said canceling the debts creates a cost to taxpayers she claims shouldn’t be responsible for helping students cheated by for profit schools. The concept of holding the for-profit schools responsible for “breaking the law” and defrauding “hundreds-of-thousands” of students is simply out of the question. This is Trump’s America now and the people who were defrauded by for-profit schools have to be penalized and pay the price for being defrauded; the for-profit schools get to keep their very substantial profits.

DeVos has gone beyond just foregoing an Obama-era rule to aid a specific group of students cheated by “Corinthian Colleges,” a for-profit outfit that finally collapsed in 2015 after several federal and state investigations into the widespread fraud that touched an untold number of students. There are other “failed schools” guilty of defrauding students that, combined with the Corinthian organization, cheated “hundreds-of-thousands of students” who are left with rapidly accruing interest and loan fees damaging their credit, according to the Education Department inspector general.

In fact, because of DeVos’ inaction,  the defrauded students and their families will “ultimately owe more on a denied discharge than if they had not asked for cancellation and simply continued making payments” for a worthless education, the inspector said. The big problem for the defrauded students is that because their “education” is for all intents and purposes worthless, their job prospects are non-existent making outrageous loan payments  nearly impossible. It is why the “cancelation process” was put in place to begin with and it is also why many states have been pushing the DeVos-Trump education syndicate to cancel the loans.

Attorneys general from several states are attempting to pressure DeVos to help the defrauded students they rightly say “cannot afford to repay often-large amounts because the ‘for-profit’ schools DeVos champions either didn’t  provide adequate training much less an education or a diploma.” The inspector general also reported finding nothing in the DeVos Education Department resembling an “information system” and complained that he was forced to “manually retrieve claims data.” That is a change from the previous administration’s efforts to help students cheated by for-profit schools.

During the Obama Administration the Education Department received 46,274 claims for “discharging defrauded students’ loans” and had approved 27,986 in a six month period. Since Trump’s poorly-attended inauguration, out of 25,991 applications, DeVos made sure none were discharged. The Inspector General reported that the entire debt cancellation process, no matter over death, fraud or disability, was brought to a halt.

The senior Democrat on the senate education committee, Senator Patty Murray (WA) said:

Hundreds of thousands of students were defrauded and cheated by predatory colleges that broke the law, but today’s report confirms Secretary DeVos tried to shirk her responsibility to these students and shut down the borrower-defense program, leaving them with nowhere to turn.”

This atrocity, and it is an atrocity, is a trend in the current administration that is not completely down to Trump or DeVos, although they are ultimately responsible for this particular abomination. Republicans as a party have demonstrated that they will go to great lengths to give special treatment to big, small and corporate businesses at the expense of the people whether it is eliminating regulations or failing to enforce rules that protect the people, or fund corporate tax cuts with tax hikes on the poor.

There is an easy solution to this particular issue but Republicans, Trump, or DeVos will never even consider putting the burden students are facing on the “predatory, for-profit colleges that broke the law by defrauding and cheating students.” And it is not necessarily that DeVos is “shirking her responsibility to cheated students;” she doesn’t consider the students her responsibility. She is responsible to the church, misogynists, bigots and corporations and if they defraud students the students have to be penalized again.

DeVos has shown throughout her time as the most unqualified member of team Trump that her responsibility is to anti-women men’s groups, anti-LGBTQ religious fanatics, for-profit evangelical madrassas and church-chartered schools; and of course predatory for-profit colleges. If that wasn’t the case she would at the least allow the existing process to cancel the defrauded students’ debts as it was intended; but that would not punish the students.

DeVos’ lack of action does send a powerful message to for-profit schools, corporations, and businesses in general that in Trump’s America they are free to defraud, damage and cheat Americans with impunity; punishment is reserved for the victims as is the typical Republican way.  In DeVos’ case, punishing defrauded students appears to be an integral part of her intent of using the Education Department to “advance the kingdom of god.”

Trump-DeVos Cut Public Education To Fund Evangelical Indoctrination

 

For those secular humanists who consider it their social obligation to cover politics and warn about the ever-present threat from the evangelical right, it seems reasonable to scream “we told you so;” especially now that Christian fundamentalists control the entire government. Part of the reason a relatively small percentage of the population now holds sway over the course of the nation and will easily usher in their long-awaited theocracy is because most political commentators, pundits and politicians are terrified of calling out the sole basis for many of the nation’s ills; evangelical fundamentalism. But that’s the subject of another commentary and not this angry piece.

It is an angry screed because as forewarned, this past week evangelical fanatic and unqualified Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has implemented phase one in her effort to transform America’s public education system into a loose confederation of taxpayer-funded Christian madrassas. This author, and a few others, have warned that when religious Republicans gained control of the entire government, they would finish what a few religious Republican governors started; force taxpayers to fund private Christian religious schools using money intended for public schools.

Part and parcel of DeVos’ assault on public education is drastically cutting its funding and using the proceeds to fund and develop for-profit private religious schools. The education budget’s draconian cuts of $10.6 billion will provide seed money for DeVos’ and Mike Pence’s plan to use the taxpayers’ money to fulfill the evangelical theocratic “goal of confronting the culture in ways to advance god’s kingdom.” One of the Christofascists’ “ways” is robbing taxpayer dollars to force America’s school-age children into embracing the evangelical worldview through indoctrination, fear-mongering, and daily propaganda; exactly like every other extremist religion has done throughout history.

That forced indoctrination will be supported in its initial stage with taxpayers giving “hundreds of millions of dollars” to for-profit private religious schools that was intended for public education “via vouchers and school choice programs.” The Washington Post reported:

The administration would channel part of the [public education cuts] savings into its top priority: school choice. It seeks to spend about $400 million to expand charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools, and another $1 billion to force public schools to adopt choice-friendly policies.”

It is important to note that when Republican theocrats use the term “choice-friendly policies,” they mean “evangelical-friendly policies” and that includes spending taxpayer dollars to expand for-profit evangelical charters. Anyone who believes the religious right Republicans will allow taxpayer dollars to fund Islamic, Buddhist, Wiccan, Jewish or Heathen charter or private schools is an idiot. Remember, DeVos’ stated “their goal” was advancing god’s kingdom; a term straight out of the Christian bible and a favorite of the Christian Dominionist movement.

Previously, when queried about the constitutionality, and morality, of wasting taxpayer dollars on private religious schools, DeVos declared that her reason for robbing public education funds is that “there are not enough philanthropic [private] dollars “ to fund what is currently the need in education… advancing god’s kingdom.”

Tragically, DeVos isn’t alone in the drive to proselytize the youth of America into the evangelical mindset and it doesn’t bode well that Trump’s vice president and ultimate liar Mike Pence and well-documented perjurer Jeff Sessions are maniacal theocrats. In fact, it is certain that any legal challenge to using taxpayer dollars to fund private religious schools will be summarily dismissed by the attorney general who has gone on record stating the Constitution’s “Separation Clause” is patently unconstitutional and is no part of American history.

It is even worse than the vice president and attorney general pushing theocratic indoctrination in public schools.  Earlier this year, an alarming report was released by a conservative Christian group with intimate ties to Donald Trump that advocated forced promotion of Christianity in public schools and abolishing the Department of Education because it is not driven by evangelical theocracy.

The front for radical conservative Christians ensconced in the Trump White House presented an evangelical education policy manifesto to Trump and DeVos demanding the dismantling of the Education Department and inserting the biblical god into American classrooms. It is what the evangelical manifesto considersrestoring education in America in accordance with historic Judeo-Christian principles.” And DeVos, Trump, and the rest of the evangelical Republicans intend to follow those “principles” to the letter. According to the DeVos-Trump education budget, taxpayers will pick up the tab as they watch their public education system transformed into a cabal of money-making theocratic Christian madrassas and a generation of young people indoctrinated into stupidity and seriously archaic mythos.