The Religious Right's Plot To Take Control Of Our Public Schools
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Stewart explains how CEF has used this access to teach children to conduct “student-initiated” ideological warfare in school. Public schools are forced to distribute the club’s media and announcements to all students, and to allow tables with media at all kinds of school events. These tables are typically laden with balloons and sweets in order to draw kids in. The coercion extends from the playground to the classroom, so there’s nowhere non-evangelical kids can go to avoid classmates who are insisting — with support from adult aides — that they’re doomed to hell unless they join the club. According to Stewart, it’s hard to overstate the sense of confusion experienced by young Catholic, Mormon, mainstream Protestant, Jewish, and non-theist children when adult authority figures in their school promote a particular sectarian belief, often while actively denigrating and contradicting the worldview they’re being taught at home.
The 4/14 Window
CEF is just one of an array of organizations targeting children in an international evangelizing effort called the “4/14 Window," aimed at children from four to 14 years old. Stewart’s book points out that this infiltration is a well-orchestrated effort conducted by a “small number of influential actors.” With a few exceptions, noted by the author, the organizations involved teach a literal interpretation of the Bible, and “see their efforts in the schools as a part of a plan to bring the nation’s children back to its founding religion and thereby lay the basis for a Christian control of all the important parts of government and society.”
The push to infiltrate social institutions is promoted by a theology called Dominionism, which originated in Christian Reconstructionism and the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), but is now spreading rapidly across the right wing of the evangelical world. The NAR has simplified the theology into a campaign to gain Christian control over the "seven mountains" of American culture: family, business, media, education, religion, goverment, and the arts. The Good News Club is a leading initiative to achieve domination on the education front.
As a researcher and writer working to defend religious pluralism and secular democracy, I often stress the difference between those with conservative religious beliefs and those who are determined to force those beliefs on the state and everyone else. Stewart also makes the clear distinction between Christian conservatives, the Christian Right, and Christian Nationalists. “All conservatives who are also Christians are not members of the Christian Right,” she writes. “And many supporters of the Christian Right are not Christian Nationalist. However, to a degree that many social conservatives fail to appreciate, it is the Christian Nationalists who are driving the agenda in the public schools.” The people Stewart repeatedly encountered in her research often fell into the latter group, which is the most extreme and dangerous faction of the religious right.
“To take over the world, focus on the youth”
Stewart attended trainings and conferences to learn more about how these activities are being coordinated. She describes a CEF conference keynoted by attorney Matthew Staver, the founder of Liberty Counsel and one of the leading forces defending church access to public schools and other publicly funded venues in the name of “religious freedom.” Staver makes it clear that he’s on a war footing. Stewart quotes his keynote address: “If you want to ultimately take over the world, how are you going to do it when you have limited time and limited resources?...The best way to do it, and anyone who studies warfare [knows] you focus on the most strategic part of the human chain link...You focus on youth.”