Christian lawmaker cites Bible to defend hitting special needs students

Here’s the link to this article by Hemant Mehta.

State Rep. Jim Olsen helped defeat a bill that would’ve banned the use of corporal punishment against students with special needs

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Republicans in Oklahoma had the chance to ban corporal punishment against students with disabilities… but failed to pass the bill today, in part because one legislator said beating kids with special needs was biblical.

Oklahoma currently permits corporal punishment in public schools. That’s a problem in and of itself, but the law at least has a carve-out exempting students with “the most significant cognitive disabilities.” Teachers can theoretically spank kids but a handful of students are off-limits.

House Bill 1028, sponsored by Republican State Rep. John Talley, was designed to broaden that exemption so that it applied to all students with disabilities. GOP State Rep. Anthony Moore signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill specifically because he thought this would be an easy vote. “There’s going to be nobody who’s for corporal punishment on students with disabilities,” he said.

He must have forgotten that he’s surrounded by other Republicans from Oklahoma.

They will always find a way to defend abuse in the name of Jesus.

State Rep. Jim Olsen argued earlier today that the Bible permits hitting a child as a form of discipline—therefore that option must be available to teachers.

Rep. Jim Olsen, seen here after comparing abortion to slavery (screenshot via YouTube)

The Recount @therecount

Oklahoma lawmakers have rejected a bill that would have banned corporal punishment for kids with disabilities in schools. Rep. Jim Olsen (R) cites Proverbs in rejecting the ban: “The rod and reproof give wisdom. But a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”

You know, several scriptures could be read here. Let me just read just one: Proverbs 29: “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself bringest his mother to shame.”

So that would seem to endorse the use of corporal punishment.

So how would you reconcile this bill with scriptures…?

Who cares. It’s the Bible and he’s a legislator. We don’t need to run policy ideas through his favorite book.

Olsen later cited Proverbs 13:24, the infamous verse that gave us, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” Kudos to the Tulsa World for including this line in its article:

Olsen did not turn to Deuteronomy 21:18-21, which is usually translated as God ordering that “stubborn and rebellious” sons be stoned to death.

And what about the American Academy of Pediatrics, which supports banning any form of physical discipline against children because there’s plenty of evidence showing the harm it causes in the long term?

Olsen didn’t care.

“God’s counsel is higher than the American Academy of Pediatrics,” said Olsen. “God’s word is higher than all the so-called experts.”

To paraphrase a famous line, Olsen acts like he placed his hand on the Constitution and swore to uphold the Bible. It’s supposed to be the other way around.

But the Bible wasn’t the only way a Republican defended hitting kids with disabilities. Another one said teachers needed the threat of discipline in order to coerce kids to do their bidding.

Rep. Randy Randleman, R-Eufaula, made a different argument from Olsen’s against HB 1028. A child psychologist who often infuses religion into his medical opinions on the House floor, Randleman this time said spanking is almost always inappropriate but is sometimes called for. And he said teachers need the threat of corporal punishment to maintain classroom order.

“‘You can’t touch me.’ I hear that over and over. I don’t want to hear that in school,” said Randleman.

If your classroom is so chaotic that physical discipline is your only solution, you shouldn’t be a teacher. And if you’re someone who thinks threatening children—special needs children!—with abuse is the only way to maintain order, you shouldn’t be anywhere in a position of power. Yet here we are.

Today’s vote in the House was 45-43 in favor of exempting kids with disabilities from physical punishment in schools. That sounds like good news… but because there are 101 members of the State House, 51 votes are needed for a bill to pass. That’s why the bill was technically defeated. More than a dozen legislators were absent for the vote.

Because neither side had the majority, the bill may come up for a vote later in the legislative session. 10 Republicans have yet to cast a vote on this matter. At least a few of them would have to do the right thing for the bill to pass.

Democratic State Rep. Forrest Bennett put today’s vote bluntly:

Forrest Bennett @ForrestBennett

Good morning from the Oklahoma House Chamber, where a pastor and a psychiatrist (who are also legislators) are fighting *AGAINST* a bill that would ban corporal punishment for students with special needs. It’s 2023 outside; it’s 1880 in here.2:45 PM ∙ Mar 14, 2023872Likes211Retweets

“It’s 1880 in here” should really be Oklahoma’s State Motto.

Incidentally, hitting kids has long been a core belief among fundamentalist Christians. Years ago, Michael and Debi Pearl wrote an infamous guide to faith-based abuse called To Train Up a Child. It’s a book that tells adults how to properly hit their kids, and it’s as awful as it sounds, recommending that Christian parents physically discipline kids as young as six months with “the same principles the Amish use to train their stubborn mules.”

In Oklahoma, this isn’t just theoretical. Corporal punishment is legal in the state and school officials take advantage of that:

Oklahoma educators reported using physical discipline 3,968 times during the 2017-18 school year, according to the most recent federal data available from the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education. The federal government reported that corporal punishment was administered at more than 1,800 Oklahoma schools.

Ultimately, the Sunday School teacher who routinely cites the Bible to defend horrible policies used his power to defeat a bill so that more vulnerable students could be hurt just a little more. He’s the sort of guy who wants to protect kids from learning about systemic racism while making sure teachers have the option to beat students with disabilities.

All because his Christian faith taught him that abuse is more important than compassion.

Arizona House GOP passes bill forcing kids to say Pledge in school

Here’s the link to this article by Hemant Mehta written 02/23/23.

State Rep. Barbara Parker claimed the bill was legal because church/state separation wasn’t in the Constitution

Hemant Mehta

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On a straight party-line vote, Arizona Republicans have backed a bill forcing public school students to say the Pledge of Allegiance. While no penalty is specified for those who disobey, the illegal bill offers no exceptions for students who refuse to participate in the religious ritual.

HB2523, which passed by a slim 31-29 vote, says that all K-12 students “shall recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States Flag.” The only exceptions apply to students who are at least 18 or who have the explicit permission of their parents to sit out. But students who oppose saying the Pledge on principle would have no recourse here unless their parents were on their side.

I’ve made an entire podcast series about the history of the Pledge, but just to go over the biggest concerns…

The phrase “under God” pushes religion onto people who may not be religious. Even without that phrase, the very notion of pledging allegiance to a flag violates the religious beliefs of some students who believe only God deserves allegiance.

The Pledge also falsely suggests that we have “liberty and justice for all,” which is one reasons students of color have opposed it in recent years.

The Pledge was originally written to promote anti-immigrant sentiment.

And frankly, our country doesn’t always deserve admiration. Why would we want to “pledge allegiance” to a nation that is so often a global embarrassment? If Saudi Arabia forced students to say a pledge to their country every day, we’d immediately call it a form of brainwashing.

Those are all reason not to say the Pledge in a normal situation, but forcing students to participate in the religious ritual against their will, unless their parents feel the same way they do, is undoubtedly a violation of students’ civil rights.

That means this bill is illegal and would provoke a lawsuit if it ever became law. In fact, the Supreme Court ruled in Barnette in 1943 that students couldn’t be forced to salute the flag or say the Pledge. (That decision overturned a notoriously awful ruling from 1940 which said the opposite.) While “Under God” wasn’t in the Pledge at the time, the justices said the government could not compel speech, with one justice famously writing, “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

None of that mattered to the bill’s sponsor, first-term Republican State Rep. Barbara Parker, who, in a speech just before the vote took place, implied that church/state separation was a myth and that the 1943 Supreme Court decision was irrelevant.

Hemant Mehta @hemantmehta

Arizona House Republicans just passed a bill *forcing* kids to say the Pledge of Allegiance in school. Rep. Barbara Parker, the bill’s sponsor, defended it by claiming church/state separation wasn’t in the Constitution. Details:…

2:40 PM ∙ Feb 23, 2023

First of all, a couple of things. One is: It’s really important that we clear up a few things that should never be said again from lawmakers in a legislature.

One: The separation of church and state is in the Constitution. That was never said in the Constitution. It was written in a letter years later. The separation clause was therefore the government couldn’t form a religion or couldn’t force a state religion. So let’s never hear that again.

A second thing is that: Everybody tends to quote the Barnette ruling from 1943. First of all, “Under God” wasn’t put in in 1943. It was put in in 1954. And nobody’s really ever opposed that.

Furthermore, we stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance everyday on this floor. What’s good for us is good for the children.

Separation of church and state emerges from the First Amendment and has repeatedly been interpreted that way by the courts. To pretend the government can therefore promote religion is nothing more than willful ignorance by someone who has plenty to spare.

More importantly, Parker is flat-out wrong about the Barnette case. She cited it because a Democrat mentioned it just before she spoke, but Parker seemed to think the case was being used to push back against “Under God.” It wasn’t. It was cited to point out that government cannot force students to say or do something political against their will. (And, yes, plenty of people and judges have opposed both mandatory recitation of the Pledge and the inclusion of “Under God.”)

Parker also thinks that if her legislative colleagues do it, it should be okay for kids to follow suit. Again, she has no clue what she’s talking about. Just to give one example, the Supreme Court has permitted invocation prayers at city council meetings, but the same privilege doesn’t extend to school board meetings or graduations where children may be present.

Just because Republicans in the Arizona legislature want to use their majorities to inflict Christianity on their colleagues doesn’t mean they have any right to force that on children.

The Arizona Senate, where the bill now heads, also has a slim Republican majority of 16-14. Even if it passes there, though, Gov. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, can thankfully veto it. If and when that happens, Hobbs would be saving taxpayers from a costly lawsuit they would inevitably lose.

The government cannot force children to say a prayer in school no matter how much misinformation Christians like Barbara Parker want to spread.

$100M Jesus Ads Point to Exploitable Weakness in Religious Right

Here’s the link to this article.

Article written by Valerie Tarico.

Posted on 02/20/20. 

Christianity has a brand problem. If it were a corporation, brand managers would be scrambling to scrub public image—maybe by greenwashing or with corporate diversity trainings or by renaming their product, say natural gas instead of methane, or by coming up with a new catchy slogan.  Or they might actually do something substantive, like ceasing to “gift” baby formula to poor moms or to use child labor in their factories. There are many ways to polish brand.

Christianity’s recently launched He Gets US campaign—millions of people got a dose during the Superbowl—tells us two things: 1. Conservative Evangelical Christians care about their brand problem.  2. Some major Christian donors have decided, to the tune of $100 million apparently, to go with the greenwashing strategy rather than substantive change.  And that combination provides a possible avenue for fighting back against some of the ugly objectives and tactics of the Religious Right.

The people paying for this ad campaign are the same ones promoting homophobia, advocating against reproductive healthcare for women, and funding politicians to protect the good old pecking orders: rich over poor, men over women, pasty white people over everyone with more melanin.

Losing customers
Back when the world and I were young, Evangelical Christians were a politically diverse group. But Republican strategists recognized them as a potential political voting block. Hierarchical social structures within churches meant the strategists had to recruit only Church leaders, and those leaders would bring along their congregations. It worked for the Republican party, but at an enormous cost to Christianity as an institution. That is because right wing operatives were spending down Christianity’s good name by merging its brand with their own.  The more Christianity came to be associated with ugly political priorities—and then crass power grab-‘em-by-the-pussies—the more young people fled the ChurchBy the millions.  (Tangentially, Islam faces a similar brand problem and deconversion pattern wherever the Mullahs wield political force. Almost half of Iranians say they used to be religious.)

Losing money
Losing customers by the millions would be a problem for any corporate body—especially one with a product that people realize they don’t need when they actually take a good look.  When there are better options, in this case secularism, people rarely go back to the same-old-same-old.  The financial impact of deconversion is potentially huge. The Mormon Church may coerce tithes with visits from elders who review a family’s finances, but most protestant and Catholic sects rely on more subtle social and emotional pressures. Either way, market share requires mindshare. You have to get people in the door before you can pass the basket.

Losing prospects
But this isn’t merely a financial calculus. At some point, brand damage becomes a threat to identity. Evangelicals are evangelical.  It’s part of the ideology.  Go into all the world and make disciples of every creature. Unlike Judaism or Hinduism, Christianity is a proselytizing religion. Proselytizing (ok, coupled with colonization and holy wars) has been the strategy that allowed Christianity to spread across the planet. Missionaries may not explicitly recognize that they are recruiting paying customers who will trade cash for club benefits and afterlife services, but they do recognize that “harvesting souls” is a central commandment of their faith. For many, this mandate—called the Great Commission—is their version of praying five times facing Mecca. For some, it becomes an underlying feature in virtually every relationship: All non-Christians are potential converts; friendliness becomes friendship missions; feeding the poor becomes first-and-foremost a path to winning their souls. Evangelicals are a sales force, and as their brand becomes more and more soiled, it gets harder to do their job.

In need of a savior
Having spent down Christianity’s brand, the patriarchs of the religious right are uncomfortable with how far that has gone—the image, that is, not the substance. Most Americans used to think of the Bible as The Good Book, but not anymore.  Most Americans used to think of Christianity (and religion more broadly) as benign, but not anymore.  Jesus, though—the image of Jesus is relatively untainted. Even those who don’t buy into the idea of him being the perfect human sacrifice who saves our souls (Are you washed in the blood?) tend to believe that he was a good, wise, loving man.  They think we know a lot more about him than we do, and what they think we know is positive.  So, it totally makes sense that a $100 million rebranding and recruiting effort would center on the person of Jesus.  Much of Christian theology is nasty, and the Iron Age texts in the Bible contradict what we now know about science, anthropology and—well, pretty much every other field of modern scholarship. This iconic personal Jesus is all they have left.

The fact that conservative Christians are spending $100 million on marketing Jesus means they are bad off and know it. It means they recognize the deterioration in their brand, and they feel desperate to turn it around.  They have made the mistake of letting that desperation slip out, and those of us who would rather not return to the good old dark ages when the Church ruled the world can exploit that vulnerability.  Their product sucks, and we need to keep saying so in every way possible. We need to make sure the general public keeps associating Christianity with what Christians are doing, not what they are saying:  Those anti-abortion centers that dupe women into keeping pregnancies aren’t Crisis Pregnancy Centers, they are Church Pregnancy Centers.  Fetal personhood isn’t a philosophical debate, it’s theology.  Denying rights to queer folks and women isn’t conservative, it’s theocracy. 

When people do ugly things that are motivated by religious dogma, we should name what’s going on. Conservative Christians are telling us that they can’t afford more brand damage.  And maybe if their bad works keep getting exposed they will realize that the answer isn’t Jesus-washing; it’s substantive change. 


Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings.  Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including The Huffington Post, Salon, The Independent, Quillette, Free Inquiry, The Humanist, AlterNet, Raw Story, Grist, Jezebel, and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.  Subscribe at   

The GOP Is Herschel Walker, by Andrew Sullivan

Here’s the link to this article. I encourage you to subscribe the Andrew’s substack, The Weekly Dish.

A clarifying glimpse into the values of the Party of Trump

Andrew Sullivan

Oct 7

(Demetrius Freeman/WaPo via Getty Images)

There are times, I confess, when I decide to pass on writing another column on how degenerate the Republican Party is. What else is there to say? It’s not as if the entire media class isn’t saying it every hour of every day. And it’s not as if the depravity of the party hasn’t been a longtime hobbyhorse of mine. Unlike most of the Never-Trumper set, I was writing about this derangement on the right in the 1990s. I tore into George W. Bush’s spend, borrow and torture policies. I wrote a book on what I thought conservatism really was in 2006 — and why the GOP was its nemesis. I couldn’t have been clearer about what Palin represented — even as Bill Kristol selected her to be a potential president.

But then you come across the Senate candidacy of one Herschel Walker, and, well, words fail. No magical realist fiction writer could come up with something so sickeningly absurd. Walker is, of course, inextricable from his longtime friend, Donald Trump, who made his campaign possible in March 2021:

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if the legendary Herschel Walker ran for the United States Senate in Georgia? He would be unstoppable, just like he was when he played for the Georgia Bulldogs, and in the NFL. He is also a GREAT person. Run Herschel, run!

Which is to say: he’s a celebrity and a friend of mine. Enough said. That’s how a cult picks a Senator. And it worked with the incurious, star-struck base voters who gave Walker a 55-point lead over his nearest rival in the primary.

There are a few problems, however.

Walker is, to start with, very dumb. I don’t usually note this quality in a candidate and it doesn’t make him a huge outlier in politics of course. Being brainy, moreover, can be a serious liability for some pols. But seriously: this stupid?

Here is Walker’s grasp of climate change: “Our good air decided to float over to China’s bad air so when China gets our good air, their bad air got to move.” Here’s his take on John Lewis: “Senator Lewis was one of the greatest senators that’s ever been, and for African Americans that was absolutely incredible. To throw his name on a bill for voting rights I think is a shame.” On the Inflation Reduction Act: “They continue to try to fool you that they are helping you out. But they’re not. Because a lot of money, it’s going to trees. Don’t we have enough trees around here?” On natural selection: “At one time, science said that man came from apes, did it not? But if that’s true, why are there still apes? Think about it.”

Where do you even start? This man is running for the Senate for one of our major political parties. Not even the House. The Senate. He’s clearly incapable of understanding even a scintilla of what his job would entail, and manifestly incapable of doing it.

Maybe Walker makes up for it in charm and eloquence? Nope. He speaks like someone with brain damage. (As a pro-football alum, it’s amazing that the possibility of CTE has barely been raised, even though he has shown classic symptoms — no impulse control, murderous rage, incoherent speech, and even multiple personalities — for decades.) Just read any transcript of his incoherent rambling.

Is he just a good, honest guy who relates well to people? That can make up for a lot of flaws. But nope. He’s a serial liar. He has bragged that he served in law enforcement (he hasn’t); he said he’d been an agent for the FBI (untrue). He has lied about his business:

Walker claimed his company employed hundreds of people, included a chicken processing division in Arkansas and grossed $70 million to $80 million annually in sales. However, when the company applied for a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan last year, it reported just eight employees.

Much more seriously, Walker stalked, harassed and threatened to murder his ex-wife, threats that were enough for a judge to grant her a protective order in 2005. She had divorced him four years earlier, citing “physically abusive and extremely threatening behavior.” At one point, he put a gun to her head and said “I’m going to blow your fucking brains out.” This week, his son, Christian, claimed that he and his mother had to move six times in six months to escape his threats of violence.

Look: everyone’s human; everyone deserves a second chance. But when a man makes the problem of fatherlessness a central part of his campaign, and turns out to be entirely AWOL in the lives of his own four children — from four different mothers, three of whom he only publicly acknowledged after the press discovered them — he beats even Boris Johnson for chutzpah. In the words of his own son this week: “Family values, people? He has four kids, four different women, wasn’t in the house raising one of them. He was out having sex with other women.”

Then the coup de grace: the mother of one of his kids has now said Walker had also paid for an abortion for her. She provided the receipt, the cashed check and a personal card from Herschel. He responded by saying it was a “total lie”, and he had no idea who the mother of one his children was (he had previously identified her to the reporter). Her response? A classic:

He didn’t accept responsibility for the kid we did have together, and now he isn’t accepting responsibility for the one that we didn’t have.

Oof. When asked yesterday if he’d reached out to any of the mothers of his children with all this in the news, he replied: “Why do I need to?” (He also says he hasn’t spoken to his son since the news broke of the three step-siblings.) About the abortion itself, he said this to Hugh Hewitt: “Had that happened, I would have said it, because it’s nothing to be ashamed of there.”

And that’s when your head explodes. A candidate who would make abortion a criminal act without any exceptions — the most draconian regime imaginable — also says that abortion is “nothing to be ashamed of.” A man who says he believes that abortion is murder thinks it’s also no big deal if he paid for one.

And for this he is celebrated by the Christianist right. They speak of absolution when he hasn’t even confessed. They shield him from Satan. Ralph Reed went so far as to say that after the abortion news, “he ‘100 percent’ expected evangelical Christians would stick with Mr. Walker. He even argued that the latest report could lift Republican turnout by rallying social conservatives to defend Mr. Walker.”

I might add another twist: Walker’s race. The party that decries identity politics picked him in part because he’s black in a race against a black incumbent — the first African-American to represent Georgia in the Senate. Clarence Thomas and Alan Keyes were picked for similar reasons. But at least they were smart minds who had more qualifications than merely having been a football star. The use of race here is more egregious, creepy even — a sign to my mind of disrespect for black voters that a man like this was deemed qualified to represent them, or anyone else.

So here we have a celebrity candidate with no political experience, neither eloquent nor honest, who abandoned his kids, threatened to kill his ex-wife, and has serious mental health problems … who may hold the balance of the Senate in his hands. That’s what the GOP now is. And if he actually paid for an abortion, i.e. in the view of sincere evangelicals, paid for the murder of an innocent child? Here’s Dana Loesch’s response:

Does this change anything? Not a damn thing. How many times have I said four very important words? These four words: Winning. Is. A. Virtue. I don’t know if he did it or not. I don’t even care.

It’s rare to see this kind of nihilist consequentialism expressed so nakedly. It’s rare to hear someone publicly say something so deeply hostile to any shred of Christianity. (Christians never believe the ends justify any means. Christianism is defined by that principle.) But nothing matters to the current GOP more than victory, by fair means or foul, by democratic processes or not.

I am not saying that the Democrats are not also corrupted by rank tribalism. At their worst, they are, as I often point out. I am saying that they do not compare with the current GOP in its hollowness and depravity and madness.

Walker shows that there is no principle they will not jettison, no evil they will not excuse, no crime they won’t “whatabout,” and no moron they won’t elect, if it means they gain power. There is degeneracy among many Democrats, sure. But the Republican party is defined by this putrescence. Burn it down.