In another sign of the broad creeping theocracy that has set in across the United States under the watch of the Republican Party, there has been a dramatic increase in sectarian religious instruction in American public schools.
In just one instance of this trend, the principal of Cedar Shoals High School in Athens, Georgia used the school's intercom system to preach an angry religious sermon to the entire school during instructional time. The principal, Tommy Craft, read an evangelical Christian poem he had found on the Internet and praised the Ten Commandments and "the word of God". As part of the announcement, the principal attacked non-Christian spiritual practices, including Native American beliefs and Wicca. The announcement went on to condemn birth control, then took the paradoxical twist of lashing out against pregnant students. From there, the principal characterized non-Christian students as "freaks", and demanded that mandatory prayers be recited by all students.
After outraged parents called the school district in protest, principal Craft offered a half-hearted apology in which he defended his sermon as "no attempt to individualize or to bring ridicule on any particular person". Of course, it is impossible to know what Craft's specific intentions were, but it is clear that his sermon did bring ridicule on particular religions, as well as upon those students who choose not to conform to the demands of conservative evangelical Christianity.
This sermon was brought to the students and teachers of Cedar Shoals High School through direct funding from local taxpayers, and with the assistance of funding by the federal government and the state government of Georgia. Yet, the Clark County School District has refused to discipline Tommy Craft in any way, and it appears that he will retain his job, along with the power to force his particular sectarian beliefs on the adults and children under his authority.
The Republican Party, from the local level in Clark County all the way up to the U.S. Congress and the White House, has also refused to do anything to stop the growing infiltration of American public schools by conservative evangelical groups. In fact, many Republican politicians openly promote the official installment of Christian evangelical theology in public schools. Heck, the evangelical religious agenda has even penetrated AmeriCorps, which has instructed some of its volunteers to give sectarian religious instruction to children.
As Doctor Theopolis has pointed out on the Irregular Discussion Boards, American theocracy can no longer be considered a potential threat in the future. Under the Republicans' approving watch, the foundation of a national American theocratic government is being installed right now.
The rise of this theocracy should be unsettling to most Americans, not just secular Americans and religious minorities. With George W. Bush assembling religious-based power as a kind of Ayatollah-in-Chief, it is only a particular breed of Christianity that is gaining official government endorsement. No liberal Christians need apply for the White House's office of faith-based initiatives. The overwhelming majority of government checks are being written to conservative elements in the Catholic Church and to strongly right-wing organizations within the evangelical arm of protestant Christianity.
That there should be such a selective focus to the government's funding of religious programs should come as no surprise. After all, the same religious groups that are benefitting most from American governmental endorsement and financing of religion are those groups that actively campaigned for Republican candidates in 2004, including George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Indeed, the Bush/Cheney re-election campaign directly targeted ultra-conservative religious groups to solicit their participation in the campaign. In exchange, the Republicans promised a government that would be friendly to the religious agendas of those groups.
This pattern of what some quaintly refer to as "patronage" in the Republican government has long been observed with corporate donors who receive special favors in return for campaign contributions. However, the rapidly accelerating scale of religious patronage by federal, state and local governments controlled by the Republicans has been shocking to those Americans who believed that the Bill of Rights guarantees a separation between the powers of government and the operations of religious groups.
So, in the years to come, with a Republican political juggernaut fueled by the organizational resources of conservative churches and organizations, we can expect a lot more sermonizing from principals like Tommy Craft. We can expect that, in spite of explosive record budget deficits, our government will be paying an increasing amount of the bill for conservative churches' religious programs. We can also expect that, as politicians in both the Republican and Democratic parties catch the smell of faith-based power in the air, there will be almost no one in public office who will stand in the way of the creeping theocracy.
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