The Catholic Church, Betsy DeVos, and Brett Kavanaugh

The sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church of Pennsylvania has been exposed in a 900-page grand jury report covering seventy years and upwards of 1000 victims. Here’s an excerpt:

In another case, a priest raped a girl, got her pregnant, and arranged for an abortion. The bishop expressed his feeling in a letter: “This is a very difficult time in your life, and I realize how upset you are. I too share your grief.” The letter was addressed not to the girl, but to the rapist.

There’s enough in the news about that today, and rightly so. Let’s take it a step further—to the point where, in their own myopic manner, Betsy DeVos and Brett Kavanaugh will provide an atmosphere in which scandals like that one will become more prevalent.

In the background, while we’ve been distracted by Omarosa, Putin, and the failing white supremacist movement, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has continued her assault on public schools. Her most recent accomplishment: removing strictures from for-profit universities, which no longer have to verify the success of their graduates. But her real efforts remain focused on vouchers—on decimating the public education system and shifting resources to private institutions.

Luckily she’s as hapless and vacuous as she is dim, and left to her own devices, she might easily drift through an entire presidency without accomplishing a thing. And that would be good…except…

Enter Brett Kavanaugh, Supreme Court nominee, and possibly DeVos’s savior. Kavanaugh has decried Jefferson’s metaphor of “a strict wall of separation between church and state,” which explains the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment; he has strongly suggested that atheist and/or agnostic students in public schools should be proselytized and prayer be imposed upon them; he fought to uphold Jeb Bush’s voucher program in Florida. (The state courts ultimately struck it down.)

In short Kavanaugh sees the separation of church and state as a quaint throwback to our country’s beginnings. He’s wrong there too, but were he to become Betsy DeVos’s brain, a simple “under God” in the pledge will be the least of our concerns.

Admittedly, public schools have their scandals—we hear about them all the time. But we can take some solace in the fact that we do hear about them, that they don’t fester for years, that there’s oversight instead of attempts to sweep everything under the rug and simply shift abusers from place to place. Teachers fired for cause don’t get rehired or “sent to another parish.”

But with DeVos and Kavanaugh working hand in hand, another safeguard will crumble; and the theocracy the Founding Fathers fought so hard to prevent, will take hold, buttressed by an evangelical right that has already seen fit to throw in with sexual predators, and a Supreme Court whose choices will decimate public education right through the middle of the century.

Preventing Brett Kavanaugh from ever winning a seat on the Court is about more than abortion rights: it’s about the future of a country where religious freedom has always stood for something, but may not for much longer.

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