Reading time: 4 minutes
In a remarkable new ad from Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, the incumbent Democrat is suing his challenger, Republican Darren Bailey, for running a fundamentalist Christian school that lies to children using textbooks from Bob Jones University Press.
It was a rare pleasure to watch Democrats condemn Republicans for being too extreme on issues such as abortion rights, but I don’t recall ever seeing an ad that bluntly called on a gubernatorial candidate to faith-based sexism and homophobia, denial of evolution and promotion of creationism, and historical revisionism a la David Barton.
Did you know that Darren Bailey runs a school? And they totally use the program. The same who taught lessons like:
– Women in the workforce have been harmful to America.
– Evolution is not real. Dinosaurs and humans were absolutely on Earth at the same time.
– Homosexuals claim no more special rights than child molesters or rapists.
– The majority of slave owners treated their slaves well.
Darren Bailey is too extreme for Illinois.
The backstory here is that Darren Bailey is an evangelical Christian who opened the Full Armor Christian Academy in 2016. That alone probably wouldn’t be fodder in a political campaign, but the the functioning of the school create a huge openness to criticism:
In 2016, he and his wife opened a private Christian school in Louisville, Illinois, which now has 360 students from kindergarten through high school and has expanded to a second campus in Olney. They use a program developed at Bob Jones Fundamentalist University. The program centers on the inerrancy of Christian Scripture – even when it may seem to contradict scientific determinations.
Guns are locked throughout campus, and a large sign at the entrance proclaims that staff are armed and ready to defend students.
Two years ago, the Baileys stopped running the school, but their daughter remains involved.
Aside from the weird gun fetish like it makes school safer it’s really screwed that any school uses a program from Bob Jones University Press because it’s notorious for misinformation.
It’s not like the school itself is better. Bob Jones University did not accept black students until the 1970s, banned interracial dating until the year 2000 because “it breaks down the barriers that God has established”, and didn’t even observe Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. until 2017.
The Pritzker campaign didn’t go down in school history, but they called the kind of things that are taught in BJU Press textbooks:
All that, of course, is nonsense. It’s factually wrong, ethically dubious, and utterly mind-boggling. But that’s just normal 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 it usually doesn’t matter inside their bubble. (For what it’s worth, I couldn’t find the line on women in the labor force.)
The reason all of this matters is that Bailey has long been a criticism of public educationvoting against raising teachers’ salaries and perpetuate 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 the BJU textbooks are valid doesn’t have to dictate what public education should look like. People who lie to children who can’t easily be trusted to look out for your children’s best interests.
The amazing thing about this ad is that the base model could theoretically be used by any number of Democratic candidates against their opponents. It is high time that conservative Christian fanatics had their beliefs used against them in a political campaign. These problems should be talking points! And unlike so many attacks coming from the right, these have the advantage of being precise. Bailey really believes in it.
It’s not like Bailey could deny them even if he wanted to because we know these things are taught in many white evangelical churches as well. But voters unfamiliar with Christian nationalism will hopefully realize that someone who accepts these lies as true should not be near a position of power. The polls seem to point in this direction:
It’s one thing for a far-right conservative Christian like Darren Bailey to win a State House election 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.