Trump nominee Betsy DeVos makes Interfaith Alliance naughty list
Acton Institute Powerblog

Trump nominee Betsy DeVos makes Interfaith Alliance naughty list

Your writer hates to be the one to do this, but sometimes it’s necessary to bring a necessary understanding of religion to those who deliberately misunderstand and mischaracterize it. In this specific instance, it’s the Interfaith Alliance, a group more intent on spreading progressive ideology than religious faith. How else to explain a consortium that declares education vouchers anathema and clutches its respective pearls at the nomination of Betsy De Vos for U.S. Education Secretary?

Here’s IA on vouchers, for example:

Religious schools provide an important service to many students and families, [sic] However, Interfaith Alliance firmly believes that public funds should not go to private religious schools or to any educational institutions that may discriminate against students and teachers based on religion. Interfaith Alliance has a long history of fighting in in [sic] the halls of Congress and in our communities to ensure that voucher programs for sectarian schools are eliminated, not expanded.

Got it? So intent is the nominally faith-based IA “to separate church and state” it would deprive families of viable educational options and opportunities they otherwise may not be able to afford.

Among the champions of school vouchers is Ms. DeVos, which has put her on IA’s naughty list. Here’s the official IA statement from Rabbi Jack Moline, under the title “DeVos Appointment Is Bad News for Public Schools and Church-State Separation:”

Billionaire activist Betsy DeVos has dedicated years of her life and vast sums of money to undermining our nation’s public education system in favor of private, largely religious and politically conservative, institutions. She and her family have pursued these goals on parallel tracks: they directly fund conservative, private religious schools while promoting voucher schemes that would transfer vast sums of public funds into the coffers of these very institutions. That redistribution of public wealth would undermine the public school system on which the overwhelming majority of American children rely.

The school voucher programs promoted by DeVos would also raise church-state concerns. Americans are always free to send their children to private schools and religious schools, but raiding the public treasury to subsidize private businesses and religious organizations runs against the public trust and the Constitution.

President-elect Trump’s selection of DeVos is deeply disappointing. It suggests that he has little regard for our nation’s public schools or the constitutional principle of separation of church and state.

Never mind the “constitutional principle of separation of church and state” fallacy. What is it about private schools with religious curricula that so saddens the members of I – remember the “I” stands for interfaith – A? Well, it might have something to do with this:

Interfaith Alliance is making a difference in America by promoting the positive and healing role of religion in public life; encouraging civic participation; facilitating community activism; and challenging religious political extremism. However, religion’s powerful healing force can be severely compromised when America’s shared values are replaced by values that advance only particular sectarian interests.

Ahhhh! Political extremism – a phrase indicating any religious group with which IA disagrees politically is ipso facto beyond the pale. So much for diversity!

The IA screed veers off the rails at the assertion that “religion’s powerful healing force can be severely compromised when America’s shared values are replaced by values that advance only particular sectarian interests.” Let’s unpack this – religion exists only as a “powerful healing force”? That’s news to me, and sounds subversively close to Karl Marx’s adage about religion being the “opiate of the people.” What better way to subvert religious objections to your political agenda than to claim any watered-down version of religious means for your own progressively political ends?

Not to mention “particular sectarian interests” sets up a nice tu quoque argument, right? Something akin to the assertion that IA’s secular, progressive agenda is superior because it derives from a faith-based group compared to a religious agenda that derives from a faith-based group? Or something?

Let’s return to Rabbi Moline’s objections to Ms. DeVos and education vouchers: “Americans are always free to send their children to private schools and religious schools,” which is true enough for those families who can afford the tuition. “[B]ut raiding the public treasury to subsidize private businesses and religious organizations runs against the public trust and the Constitution” – who on Earth does the good Rabbi believe funds the “public treasury”? And again with the Constitutional fallacy that separates church and state?

Additionally, our country’s founders never addressed education or its funding. A monolithic government apparatus for education and funding it has evolved over the past century or so with ever-diminishing results. Where does it say in the U.S. Constitution that taxpayers should be coerced into both paying for and sending their kids to a public school when they’d much rather those funds were portable to schools of their own choosing? For all their talk about religious freedom, you’d expect the members of IA to understand that.

Bruce Edward Walker

has more than 30 years’ writing and editing experience in a variety of publishing areas, including reference books, newspapers, magazines, media relations and corporate speeches. Much of this material involved research on water rights, land use, alternative-technology vehicles and other environmental issues, but Walker has also written extensively on nonscientific subjects, having produced six titles in Wiley Publishing’s CliffsNotes series, including study guides for "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest." He has also authored more than 100 critical biographies of authors and musicians for Gale Research's Contemporary Literary Criticism and Contemporary Musicians reference-book series. He was managing editor of The Heartland Institute's InfoTech & Telecom News from 2010-2012. Prior to that, he was manager of communications for the Mackinac Center's Property Rights Network. He also served from 2006-2011 as editor of Michigan Science, a quarterly Mackinac Center publication. Walker has served as an adjunct professor of literature and academic writing at University of Detroit Mercy. For the past five years, he has authored a weekly column for the mid-Michigan Morning Sun newspaper. Walker holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Michigan State University. He is the father of two daughters and currently lives in Flint, Mich., with his wife Katherine.