A photo of Glenn Greunhagen with the title theocrat of the week and a photo of Justin Paramenter with the title secularist of the week

“Theocrat” wants creationism taught while our “secularist” defends public schools  

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FFRF Action Fund’s “Secularist of the Week” is a North Carolina teacher who is championing public schools by speaking out against voucher schemes that funnel public funds into discriminatory Christian schools. Meanwhile, our “Theocrat of the Week” is a Christian nationalist seeking to harm public education by inserting creationism into science curricula.

Minnesota state Sen. Glenn Gruenhagen, representing Minnesota’s 17th District, pontificated during a state Senate hearing for an omnibus education policy bill about the so-called “censorship, lies, and deceit” in Minnesota science classes because creationism is not included in the curriculum. “You know, there’s lots of scientific evidence that points to a creator or God,” he added. “One is the law of cause and effect. For every effect, there’s a greater cause. . . . You have this building. Somebody built it. You have the Earth. Somebody made it. You have the universe. Somebody created it. That is a repeatable, observable, scientific fact. And yet we censor that from our students.” 

This is not the first time that Gruenhagen has tried to legislate his religious views. In February 2023, Gruenhagen introduced SF 517, which would require that Minnesota schools teach that all “sickness, disease, pain, suffering, and death are a consequence imposed by the Creator” as a way “to advance critical thinking skills.”

His campaign website declares that he “believes that our rights come from God and not from man or government” and that his “political philosophy stems from his study and understanding of the principles laid out in our founding documents, written by men who believed in the Judeo-Christian worldview.” Given Minnesota’s blue trifecta, Gruenhagen’s laughable beliefs on “scientific facts” did not block the omnibus education policy bill from passing while SF 517 failed to gain traction.

Presenting a refreshing contrast to Gruenhagen is our “Secularist of the Week,” Justin Parmenter,  a language arts teacher who is documenting how public funds being redirected to private religious schools in North Carolina are hurting students.

“NC Republicans are forcing taxpayers to fund bigoted private schools that discriminate against children,” Parmenter recently posted on X. “This year they gave $1.8 million in vouchers to Fayetteville Christian which specifically denies admissions to Muslim and Mormon students, among others.” 

Earlier this month, Parmenter also pointed out: “NC’s Millersville Christian Academy got $863,953 in public voucher funds this year. MCA bars admission to LGBTQ+ students, and if a student is even discovered to have an LGBTQ+ family member they’ll be expelled. Public dollars shouldn’t subsidize discrimination.”

Parmenter also documented the discriminatory policy of another religious school receiving public funds: “Wesleyan Christian in High Point, NC has received $1,012,752 in taxpayer voucher funds for this school year. This school claims to want students that are ‘reflective of the global community in which we live.’ That doesn’t include the gay ones. They’re banned.” Posting a graphic hyping a “scholorship oppertunity [sic]” by yet another religious school receiving public funds, Parmenter noted: “This is not a parody. Rod of God Christian Academy in Charlotte, NC is pocketing your public tax dollars for school vouchers. NC’s Republican legislators want you to believe this is the solution to what ails education in North Carolina.”

Parmenter has written significant published commentary defending public schools, including pieces such as “NC school voucher dollars are funding Christian nationalist indoctrination” and “New voucher bill would give taxpayer dollars to schools that discriminate based on religion.” Parmenter is an exemplar of the kind of public education advocate desperately needed nationwide as elected Christian nationalists such as Gruenhagen target our secular public schools. 

FFRF Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that develops and advocates for legislation, regulations and government programs to preserve the constitutional principle of separation between state and church. It also advocates for the rights and views of nonbelievers, endorses candidates for political office, and publicizes the views of elected officials concerning religious liberty issues.