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In a remarkable new ad from Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker, the incumbent Democrat goes after his challenger, Republican Darren Bailey, for running a fundamentalist Christian school that lies to kids using textbooks from Bob Jones University Press.

It’s been a rare treat this election cycle to watch Democrats condemn Republicans for being too extreme on issues like abortion rights, but I can’t recall ever seeing an ad that bluntly called out a gubernatorial candidate for faith-based sexism and homophobia, evolution denial and promotion of Creationism, and David Barton-esque historical revisionism.

YouTube video

Did you know Darren Bailey runs a school? And they use quite the curriculum. The same one that taught lessons like:

– Women in the workforce have been harmful to America.

– Evolution isn’t real. Dinosaurs and humans were definitely on Earth at the same time.

– Gay people have no more claims to special rights than child molesters or rapists.

– The majority of slave holders treated their slaves well.

Class dismissed.

Darren Bailey is too extreme for Illinois.

The backstory here is that Darren Bailey is an evangelical Christian who opened up the Full Armor Christian Academy in 2016. That alone probably wouldn’t be fodder in a political campaign, but the way the school operates creates a huge opening for criticism:

In 2016, he and his wife started a private Christian school in Louisville, Illinois, which now has 360 students from preschool through high school and has expanded to a second campus in Olney. They use a curriculum developed at the fundamentalist Bob Jones University. The curriculum is centered on the inerrancy of Christian scripture – even when it may appear to contradict scientific determinations.

Guns are under lock and key throughout the campus and a large sign at the entrance proclaims that the staff is armed and prepared to defend pupils.

Two years ago, the Baileys stepped away from running the school, but their daughter remains involved.

Setting aside the bizarre gun fetish, as if that makes the school any safer, it’s truly messed up that any school would use a curriculum from Bob Jones University Press because it’s notorious for misinformation.

It’s not like the school itself is any better. Bob Jones University didn’t accept black students until the 1970s, banned interracial dating until the year 2000 because “it breaks down the barriers God has established,” and didn’t even observe Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday until 2017.

The Pritzker campaign didn’t go into the school’s history, but they called out the sort of things that are taught in BJU Press textbooks:

All of that, of course, is nonsense. It’s factually untrue, ethically dubious, and utterly jaw-dropping. But it’s just par for the course for fundamentalist Christians who want to indoctrinate children rather than teach them to think critically. It’s not like Bailey’s religious community will ever push back against these lies, but that usually doesn’t matter inside their bubble. (For what it’s worth, I haven’t been able to source the line about women in the work force.)

The reason all this matters is because Bailey has long been a critic of public education, voting against increased salaries for teachers and perpetuating right-wing lies regarding sex education and “critical race theory” while courting support from conservative hate groups that exist to smear LGBTQ people and promote a whitewashed version of history.

Someone who thinks BJU textbooks are valid has no business dictating what public education ought to look like. People who lie to children that easily can’t be trusted to look out for your kids’ best interests.

The amazing thing about this commercial is that the basic template could theoretically be used by any number of Democratic candidates against their opponents. It’s about damn time conservative Christian zealots had their beliefs used against them in a political campaign. These issues should be talking points! And unlike so many of the attacks coming from the right, these have the benefit of being accurate. Bailey really believes this stuff.

It’s not like Bailey can deny them even if he wanted to because we know these things are also taught in many white evangelical churches. But voters who aren’t familiar with Christian nationalism will hopefully realize someone who accepts these lies as true shouldn’t be anywhere near a position of power. The polls seem to be heading in that direction:

It’s one thing for a far-right conservative Christian like Darren Bailey to win an election for State House in a rural area. People who care about education can’t let someone like Bailey take over the whole state. We deserve so much better than him.

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Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.