“Our schools are for education, not indoctrination.”
The FFRF Action Fund couldn’t agree more. What makes this statement so unusual is that it was made last week by one of FFRF’s arch-nemeses: Lone Star State Gov. Greg Abbott, who has warned FFRF not to “mess with Texas” and whom FFRF successfully sued over his viewpoint discrimination of our holiday display.
Has Abbott had a come-to-Enlightenment moment? Not at all. He simply has no understanding of the word irony.
Abbott made this statement about indoctrination while out on the hustings (that is, touring Christian schools) to crusade for his latest plan to rob public schools to give to religious schools. Abbott claims it is about “parental empowerment” to hand out taxpayer-funded vouchers so parents can decide where to send their children to school.
Once again, oh the irony! Abbott’s the guy who ordered the Department of Social Services to literally hunt down parents who who are providing medical treatments to transgender teenagers, calling it child abuse. Parents who provided gender-affirming care for their 16-year-old transgender daughter were investigated for child abuse last year. So much for parental empowerment.
Abbott announced during his State of the State address last month that he is making “parental rights” a priority and would introduce “state-funded education savings accounts.” The former superintendent of the Dallas school district has roundly critiqued this proposal. Michael Hinojosa notes that “people in private schools are not necessarily held accountable.” He adds, “They don’t have to take the state exam, and they don’t have to comply with discrimination issues. They get to cherry-pick the kids, and in reality, as we’ve seen in other states, 80 percent of the kids that go to vouchers were already in private schools. They didn’t get them rescued out of the inner city.”
Yet Abbott, who has no understanding of the meaning of the Bill of Rights, pronounced during his tour of Christian schools that “We will achieve [parental empowerment] with my parental bill of rights to protect parents’ rights.” While the First Amendment is all about freedom of conscience, Abbott’s “bill of rights” is all about government suppression.
Abbott is famous for his book censorship crusade, as well, in 2021 ordering state education officials to develop statement standards preventing “pornography” and obscene content in Texas public schools. Last year, Abbott introduced a bill to prosecute anyone supplying a minor with “inappropriate material.” What’s “inappropriate material” for any minor in actuality is that which inculcates religious indoctrination at public expense.
The Texas Constitution echoes the wording of Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, stating, “No man shall be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry against his consent. No human authority ought, in any case whatever, to control or interfere with the rights of conscience in matters of religion, and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious society of mode of worship.” Even more pertinent, the Constitution continues: “No money shall be appropriated or drawn from the Treasury for the benefit of any sect, or religious society, theological or religious seminary, nor shall property belonging to the state be appropriated for any such purposes.” And even more specific, the state Constitution bars appropriating “any part of the permanent or available school fund to any other purpose whatever; nor shall the same, or any part thereof ever be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian school.”
Unfortunately, constitutional principles and rights are being ridden roughshod over in Texas by an executive officer who is essentially a Christian nationalist.