For the religious right, what is the opposition to President Obama's speech to public school children next week really all about? Theologically, the end of days. Politically, the separation of church and state.
At its core, the conservative hyperventilating about "indoctrination" of students with "socialist" ideology is a dog whistle to evangelicals who believe -- and have believed for decades -- that "big government," be it in the form of the New Deal or health care reform, is a sign of the end of days. One of the critical signs that the final showdown is upon us is the emergence of an Antichrist and his consolidation of a "one-world government," a "one-world economy," and a "one-world order." Not that they necessarily believe Obama himself is the Antichrist -- I was just watching the televangelist Jack Van Impe insist that the false prophet would be the head of the European Union -- but that his efforts to reform health care or cooperate with global leaders on economic or military matters prove that the last days are upon us. (December 12, 2012, to be exact, according to Van Impe.)
Van Impe was fixated, as well, on what he insists is Obama's false claim to be a Christian (a sign that a false, one-world religion is upon us, a situation that Jesus has to come back to rectify). Along with his wife and on-air sidekick, Rexella (whose cadence is remarkably Palin-esque), he offered what they believed to be proof (via WorldNetDaily, among other sources) of Obama misleading the public about his Christianity. More evidence, in other words, of the establishment of a "one-world religion," facilitated by the banishment of Christianity from America.
But setting biblical prophecy aside, the claim that Obama is not a real Christian, is a closet socialist, and wants "big government" to take over your life plays into one of the principal political grievances of the Christian right: that religion has been cast out of our public schools. Supreme Court decisions holding that school prayer was unconstitutional form the bedrock of Christian-right charges that "activist judges" have created law (such as the separation of church and state) in contravention of the nation's supposed "Christian heritage." Thus it's no surprise that conservative backlash to Obama's speech includes claims that what we really need in public schools is the Ten Commandments.
The hyperbole coming out of the religious right is ominous. Obama is "forcing himself on America's children," screeches Mat Staver of the Jerry Falwell-founded Liberty Counsel. "Obama is after our children, who, like some socialist members of Congress, have not read the healthcare bill." For good measure, he reminds us that Education Secretary Arne Duncan hired the founder of the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, "a radical group that promotes forced acceptance of homosexuality and transsexuality in schools to children as young as five."
One of the legal powerhouses behind altering Supreme Court jurisprudence on separation of church and state in public schools, the Alliance Defense Fund, is providing legal backup next week to anti-abortion groups who are urging students to wear t-shirts that read, "Abortion Is Not Health Care." But the message is more dire -- and more threatening -- than just an anti-abortion fashion statements. Jeff White, co-founder of a group called Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, stated in a press release, "I saw recently President Obama in a 2nd grade class on a little chair talking with the students. I wonder if he told them that just eight years ago he advocated the right to kill them."
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