It’s been two weeks since Donald J. Trump was elected president, and his appointments and prospective picks for his administration thus far have been horrendous for church-state separation.
First, he appointed Steve Bannon, a racist misogynistic xenophobe who has a long history of insulting religious minorities, as his chief strategist. Then, he nominated U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to be attorney general – a man who thinks church-state separation is “a recent thing that is unhistorical and unconstitutional.”
Now, he’s reportedly considering Jerry Falwell Jr. to be a part of the Department of Education. (This is not straight out of a horror movie or a “Saturday Night Live” skit, by the way.)
Yes, creationist Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, the largest conservative evangelical school in the country, is being considered for an education position within the Trump administration despite his history of prioritizing his brand of fundamentalist Christian teachings over nearly everything.
“I let them know one of my passions is reforming higher education and education in general,” Falwell told the Richmond Times-Dispatch after a meeting with Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence took place in New York.
Those “passions” include teaching creationism instead of evolution, teaching that being gay is a sin, promoting the idea of taxpayer money funding religious schools via school vouchers and repealing the Johnson Amendment so that tax-exempt universities such as his, alongside houses of worship, can endorse political candidates.
The book depicted here is not a science text.
“I told them I’d be willing – I have a lot of responsibilities here – but I’d be willing to serve in some capacity that sort of brings education back to some form of sanity,” Falwell continued.
Well, his ideas certainly bring “education back,” that’s for sure – back to the 19th century.
Based on Falwell’s comments, he seems confident that he will be offered some role in the Education Department, and the mere idea of him contributing his ideas about “sanity” is troublesome.
The Religious Right’s idea of “sane” is anything but. If Trump appoints Falwell Jr. or another Religious Right figure with similar views, there would be a huge reversal on LGBTQ students’ rights, especially given the Obama Administration’s guidance protecting transgender students.
And Falwell Jr. represents the most hypocritical of the Religious Right. He was one of the first Religious Right leaders to back Trump by endorsing him in January and setting a precedent for evangelicals to empty their “values” tank. Even students in his university thought he favored being a right-wing Republican over being a Christian this election season.
So it comes as no surprise that Trump, who bases a lot of his decisions on who’s blindly loyal to him, is likely to make Falwell Jr. a part of his administration. However, it should worry anyone who cares about the future of our public school system.
Falwell and his gang have a plan for public schools: If they can’t turn them into fundamentalist Christian academies, they’d like to drain their funding away and move to a voucher system of taxpayer-funded private schools, most of them religious in nature.
I’m sure there will be more horrible considerations and appointments to come during Trump’s transition period, especially since he sold his soul to the Religious Right while campaigning, and they will expect a lot in return.
But with this possible appointment, Trump has, at least for now, hit a new low.