BY VERN TURNER
Now, more than ever, it’s clear that our founders’ genius at separating church and state was the most important thing they did. I say this in light of examples of how churches and religious zealots are infiltrating governments in our country and using them to institute and legalize their own agenda. Kansas is at the vortex of this insurgency and it is a scary thing indeed.
Consider how a former used car salesman, Randall Terry, imposed his religious zealotry on Kansas with his Summer of Mercy activity in 1991. From this pit of anything-but-mercy came the eventual murder of Dr. George Tiller by one of Terry’s anti-abortion acolytes.
Then there is the church that demonstrates at military funerals as another expression of God’s will against gays.
The anti-abortion zealots, funded chiefly by the Kochs, have moved in to take over the Kansas “legislature” and turned it into a rubber stamp for perhaps the most draconian governor of any state in our national history, Sam Brownback.
The moderates like Bob Dole, Kathleen Sebelius, Nancy Kassebaum and Dwight Eisenhower are long gone from the fabric of reason in the Sunflower state. They’ve been pushed to the side of the road by right wing radicals and their paymasters in Wichita.
Listening to any Kansas politician label himself or herself “conservative” is beyond absurd.
Is it conservative to cut taxes such that a several hundred billion dollar surplus gets tanked into a huge deficit to the point where Kansas is now flirting with junk bond status? I thought conservative meant husbanding resources and maintaining the status quo.
Is it conservative to allow guns in every venue so that money won’t have to be spent on detection and security? I guess a few random shootings in public buildings will just be the cost of doing business and living in Kansas.
Maybe Kansans have more faith in their fellow citizens for maintain peace and tranquility than I do. But then, faith is their thing, right?
How about the faith the Kansas “conservatives” show toward those trying to educate their children?
Well, new, draconian state laws require that teacher salaries be zero-based every year and are denied any right to form collective bargaining units, i.e., unions. Furthermore, the teachers will be classified as “at-will” [which means that certain labor laws no longer apply] and will not be required to have a teaching certificate to teach in schools, private or public. Curriculum will be determined by the local districts.
The best and the brightest teachers should be flocking to this environment.
In 1999, the Kansas Legislature passed a law expunging the teaching of evolution in any form from public school curriculum. The blowback finally forced saner heads to repeal that backward thinking nonsense in 2003.
Yes, the famous case of Brown vs. Board of Education stemmed from a Topeka, KS case and finally outlawed segregation in schools. But the fiddling of education laws has allowed parents to send their kids to schools outside their home districts and have applied state [public] funding for private schools.
This is, of course, the slippery slope to not only elitism, but also fascism in the long run.
Speaking of Sam Brownback … He has been the great drumbeater for all the policies and laws that now plague the good people of Kansas. He has acted as the bridge between right wing, religious zealotry and the composition of the Kansas Legislature.
Moderate Republicans are almost non-existent and Democrats even less so. Many of these folks have moved to states where less ideological manipulation of democracy is in vogue.
Brownback [ … or should it be Brownshirt … ?] has cut social services to the bone, education such that the state Supreme Court has ordered the government to return some funding. The Legislature has so far refused to do so.
The Brownback team has privatized Medicaid [also illegal], killed teachers unions, entirely abolished the funding for the arts and intends to abolish the state income tax altogether even though the state is running an acute deficit.
Many articles have been written about all these things, but Brownback and his discredited economic guru, Art Laffer, a former Reagan supply-sider [it didn’t work then, either], have managed to bring Kansas close to the Ayn Rand utopia envisioned by Paul Ryan and the other deniers of economic reality and have produced another abject failure.
Jobs didn’t get created. The budget didn’t get balanced. The people didn’t get governed. But the religious zealots still rave and rage about abortion while human services and the regressive taxes that mostly affect the poor go into effect.
There is nothing conservative about the Kansas example. It is backward and dangerous to democracy – to say nothing about the callousness for those less fortunate. God will not provide. Only we as a community of citizens can provide for those in need, and poor Kansas is in acute need of a political do-over of the first order.
We should all beware of allowing the snout of overt, irresponsible religious fervor to overthrow reason under our tents of democracy.
– Vern Turner is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. He lives in Marble Falls, TX, where he writes a regular column for the River Cities Daily Tribune. He is the author of three books – A Worm in the Apple: The Inside Story of Public Schools, The Voters Guide to National Salvation and Killing the Dream: America’s Flirtation With Third World Status – all available through Amazon.com.