Vouchers & Christian Nationalism: The Agenda to Dismantle Public Education

Vouchers & Christian Nationalism: The Agenda to Dismantle Public Education

As vouchers come under scrutiny across the US, their ties to dangerous Christian nationalist organizations are being revealed. It’s no surprise that far-right billionaires are pushing vouchers — but now it’s becoming more clear why that’s the case.

CNN recently released an in-depth investigation into Arizona’s universal voucher program, finding that millions in taxpayer funds are now being funneled to MAGA Christian academies. These new, unaccountable voucher schools (funded by taxpayer dollars) are being sponsored by far-right organizations like Turning Point USA, which spread Christian nationalist ideology. 

In other words — Arizona’s voucher program has quickly become a petri dish for Christian nationalism. By design. 

Voucher-Funded Christian Nationalist Schools

As CNN reported, one example is Dream City Church, a megachurch where Donald Trump recently held a campaign rally and where Turning Point USA often holds Freedom Night political rallies. Their Dream City Christian School (sponsored by Turning Point) received nearly $2 million in ESA voucher funding last year. Indeed, Turning Point’s Charlie Kirk announced they’d be opening schools just 2 weeks before the Arizona legislature and then Gov. Ducey passed universal vouchers into law. During a recent video info session, Turning Point executives described how the program was “restoring God as the foundation of our education” at a time when “exposure to all of the secular, really godless ideologies is on the rise.”

Turning Point schools advertise to parents by vowing to fight “liberal ideology” such as “evolutionism” and “gender identification.” Their Statement of Faith mandates that teachers and staff agree to declarations such as “rejection of one’s biological sex is a rejection of the image of God within that person” and that “homosexual behavior” is “offensive to God.” These extreme, far-right schools are being propped up by taxpayer dollars. 

What is Christian Nationalism — And Why Is It Dangerous? 

Christian nationalism is an ideology that is based on the idea that the United States was founded as a Christian nation and, therefore, should be today. 

In general, Christian Nationalists believe

  • The government should advocate Christian values and pass laws and enact policies that reflect those values
  • The separation of church and state is not a formal law that should be followed
  • God’s plan is for the US to be a nation based on Christian ideals

According to the Center for American Progress, Christian Nationalism “threatens the principle of the separation of church and state and undermines the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. It also leads to discrimination, and at times violence, against religious minorities and the nonreligious. Christian nationalism is also a contributing ideology in the religious right’s misuse of religious liberty as a rationale for circumventing laws and regulations aimed at protecting a pluralistic democracy, such as nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQI+ people, women, and religious minorities.”

Who is Pushing School Vouchers?

The organizations spending hundreds of millions to push vouchers in Arizona and other states have always been part of the Christian Nationalist movement. The Betsy DeVos-backed American Federation for Children alone has spent millions in Arizona to push for private school vouchers — and other deep-pocketed dark money groups like the Heritage Foundation, the Alliance Defending Freedom, and the Center for Arizona Policy have joined them. These groups have three things in common: they are propped up by far-right billionaires, they believe America was founded as a Christian nation that should be guided by Christian laws based on their interpretation of the Bible as God’s truth, and they want private school vouchers to “advance God’s kingdom.” 

Private school vouchers are a vehicle for these Christian Nationalist ideas to take root. What better way to indoctrinate a future electorate than to set up a tax-funded system of private and home schooling that instills their insular worldview? When these same extremists accuse public schools of “indoctrinating,” they’re merely telling us all what they intend to do themselves.

This election cycle alone, Turning Point USA is spending millions of dark money dollars to install an Arizona state legislature that will push laws to advance an extremist platform based on Christian nationalism. 

What Do Vouchers Have to Do with Christian Nationalism?

School voucher legislation in Arizona and several other states have focused on pushing taxpayer funding into church-run schools and microschools with no regulation around what is taught. It’s no surprise or secret that many of these lawmakers have extreme views — like Arizona state Senator Kern, who recently said, “Separation of church and state is absolutely a lie and we have got to elect leaders in government that is willing to bring Jesus Christ back into our government. It’s all throughout the Bible. Our Christian heritage in this country is very biblical and we’ve got to bring that back in order for this country to turn around.” These lawmakers have now created a mechanism to openly teach taxpayer-funded Christian Nationalist ideology in various school settings.

For example, Arizona taxpayer funding is now being used to push dangerous, anti-scientific religious curricula such as materials from Bob Jones University, Abeka, and Accelerated Christian Education. Analyses of these materials show they inaccurately portray events in Muslim and Catholic history while perpetuating anti-Semitic stereotypes. The materials speak disparagingly of Native Americans and Native culture. For instance, an ACE textbook referred to Manifest Destiny, responsible for the death of millions, as spreading the gospel: “It was considered God’s will that this vastly superior American culture should spread to all corners of the North American continent… The benighted Indians would be among the many beneficiaries of God’s provision.”

It’s important to remember that vouchers are not the end goal, but rather a means to an end. The end goal for these high-powered special interests is using taxpayer-funded religious education to “advance God’s kingdom” in order to create a broader electorate that is open to Christian nationalist laws and government structures. Vouchers create an opportunity for Christian Nationalism to entrench itself in minds and across communities — while using taxpayer dollars to do so. By this logic, private school vouchers are a bullet train to speed America toward that vision.

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