iowa religious schools creator bill
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Since when is subterfuge — it’s a particularly despicable species of lying — OK with committed Christians?

It’s rapidly becoming normal in America, as evangelical Christians disingenuously labor in shadows to maximize their leverage on our religiously pliant (but heretical) president, Donald Trump. Their goal: to further Christianize a culture they fear is rapidly secularizing, and to dismantle the “wall of separation” between faith and state that Thomas Jefferson alluded to.

iowa religious schools creator bill
The phrase “Endowed by their Creator” is appropriately subsumed by “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is this illustration. (Ben Taylor, Flikr, CC BY 2.0)

We’ve already seen some of the bitter fruit of this dark harvest (and there’s a new crop, as I’ll discuss below), such as the Christian Right group Project Blitz’s success in convincing eight state legislatures to pass laws requiring or strongly recommending that all schools in those states prominently display at multiple sites the phrase “In God We Trust.”

Although the initiators of this subterfuge argue that they just want students to learn and be frequently reminded of what, they like to repeat, is “our national motto,” this phrase is neither an honest initiative to help students develop pride in our democratic republic nor, as they imply, a time-honored national motto. The phrase was only co-opted and stipulated to be the new motto in 1956, as Americans fearfully eyed the nation’s new post-war bogeyman: godless, communist Russia.

It was a religious not patriotic act. The phrase E pluribus unum (out of many, one) is the nation’s original motto, endorsed by the Founding Fathers. This other one is a religious pretender, an arguably unconstitutional add-on in that the Constitution prohibits government from favoring one religious tradition over another. And a religion that has a “Creator,” capital “C”, is not the only “religious” hypothesis available. What about atheists?

So, in my view, the subterfuge in this whole “In God We Trust” conceit is that its Christian proponents know full well that their core aim is to spread and perpetuate Christian principles throughout the land, not enhance the patriotism of youth. How better to do that than in schools, by indoctrinating our most vulnerable citizens?

The ninth of the 10 commandments — “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor” — is “essentially a command against lying.”

How is it not lying then when a group uses subterfuge to achieve a goal by stealth, by purposely misrepresenting their aim and hoping the real purpose will not be evident?

Here’s how the Oxford Dictionary defines “subterfuge”:

: deceit used in order to achieve one’s goal:”he had to use subterfuge and bluff on many occasions”

Synonyms: trickeryintriguedeviousness, evasion,

deceit, … more

Antonyms: honestyopenness

The latest version of evangelical trickery as it tries to insinuate Christian principles in publicly funded schools is happening in Iowa, where the state Senate is considering a bill — SF 2101 — that will force all schools in the state to prominently display the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence preamble, which includes the religious expression “endowed by their Creator.”

The full sentence is as follows:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

In response to this “religious propaganda” bill, Justin Scott, Iowa state director of American Atheists, released this statement:

“Iowa’s ‘Endowed by their Creator’ school display bill would force students to view a religious message in every single classroom across our state. With 35% of teenagers identifying as nonreligious, SF 2101 stigmatizes more than a third of all students and attacks their religious freedom.

“This divisive bill also serves no educational purpose. Instead, it serves one purpose and one purpose alone: allow activists to advance a distorted, Christian nationalist agenda in schools. This ideological bill reeks of Project Blitz, the copy-and-paste model bill campaign by the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation that also tries to force “In God We Trust” into public schools.”

Scott said teachers already are allowed to display any part of the Declaration that they want in their classrooms, but “forcing them to do so is government overreach — plain and simple.”

Trying to sneak these religious phrases into schools under the disingenuous cloak of “patriotism” is dishonest, tantamount to a lie, which is un-Christian.

So, are Christians now saying that blatant religious hypocrisy is a completely justifiable strategy for spreading the message of their supposed divinity?

Must be. Because American Christians are now fervently embracing the most ungodly president in U.S. history as “the chosen one” — literally, they have said that — to save the nation.

And they’re doing it with a completely clear conscience, as they apparently believe their Creator allows.


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Rick Snedeker is a retired American journalist/editor who now writes in various media and pens nonfiction books. He has received nine past top South Dakota state awards for newspaper column, editorial,...

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