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.