Notes on the Atrocities
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Wednesday, April 21, 2004  

One of the minor notes sounded by Woodward's indictment of Bush (continuing excerpt series at the Post) was the suggestion that our foreign policy is being guided by religious belief. Woodward quotes Bush saying, "There is a higher father that I appeal to." This isn't going to get a huge amount of play--mainly because most Americans will be relieved to learn that Bush's inspiration was God, not Dick Cheney. (Well, it was both.) But there is a serious policy question here--should the decisions of our leaders be guided by religious conviction?

I discussed this question over a year ago at length (try here, here, and here), so this isn't particularly new information. It has nevertheless roused some concern. Yesterday's Village Voice had an article suggesting a Bush crusade is underway. In Salon, Robert Scheer makes a similar argument (which discerning readers might call over the top). Other articles touched on the point: Newsweek, Berkowitz, The Nation (Corn), the Age.

But it is the Independentthat offers the most interesting news. In an article today, Andrew Buncombe documents the connections between the fundamentalist Christian Patrick Henry College and the GOP.

Students at Patrick Henry are on a mission to change the world: indeed, to lead the world. When, after four years or so of study, they leave their neatly-kept campus with its close-mown lawns, they do so with a drive and commitment to reshape their new environments according to the fundamentalist, right-wing vision of their college.

It is also worth making clear that the staff and students at Patrick Henry College are extraordinarily pleasant. The campus itself lies in the small town of Purcellville, about 90 minutes' drive west of Washington DC, amid rolling hills and anonymous commuter communities. The campus is small - there are currently only 240 students, all of them white - and dominated by one large building that houses the classrooms, library and cafeteria where the students and staff take their meals. On one wall is a copy of a famous painting of the revolutionary war hero after which the college is named, 10 years before he made the "Give me liberty or give me death" speech for which he is best known. Students are required to attend "chapel" every morning.

The college was established in 2000 by Michael Farris, who runs the Home School Legal Defence Association, itself set up in 1983 to promote the values of Christian home-schooling as an alternative to what he and others considered the increasingly secular and irreligious culture taking hold in America's public schools. Farris - a lawyer who, with his wife, home-schooled their 10 children - is a prot?g? of Tim LaHaye, well known in the American Christian community as a veteran conservative evangelical author and preacher.

Farris, who is also the president of Patrick Henry, was unavailable for an interview when we visited his establishment, but he has told The New York Times: "We are not home-schooling our kids just so they can read. The most common thing I hear is parents telling me that they want their kids to be on the Supreme Court. And if we put enough kids in the system, some may get through to the major leagues."

[Note. I would like to emphasize that I'm not anti-Christian. To me, this isn't a sectarian issue--if the President were Buddhist (as I am), and was doing the same thing, I'd be equally critical. The issue isn't a Christian issue, it's an issue of how we wish to be governed.]

posted by Jeff | 8:19 AM |
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