Making the rights of children dependent on their grades, Part 2

Just yesterday I posted about the Senator in Tennessee who wants to make TANF assistance payments to families conditional on how well the children are doing in school.  Today, the Universe saw fit to deliver Round Two of this sort of fuckery to me, in the form of a school in Maryland making religious accommodations for Muslim students conditional on their grades.

Gosh, why didn't anyone ever tell me that the human rights of children - rights to food, shelter, and religious expression - are contingent upon how well they please the almighty public education system?  "Get good grades" is not as simple as it generally sounds, for a variety of reasons ranging from developmental disabilities, different learning styles, difficulties with particular subjects, or simply being the kind of kid whose unconventional personality and academic style is "unacceptable" by the rigid standards of the public school system.  (Show of hands, who here got in trouble, repeatedly, for not showing your work or for using alternate methods to get your answers, because it made more sense to you than the "right" way of doing it - even if you still got the correct answer?  *raises hand*) 

This comes down to ageism and Islamophobia, pure and simple.  Islamophobia because they're certainly not requiring Christian students to get good grades before being allowed to wear a cross or pray before class.  Ageism because I'd love to see a workplace try to make legally-required religious accommodations contingent on your latest performance review.  Just imagine the shitstorm that would kick up! 

For bonus fuckery points, this "accommodation" - and I hesitate to call it that, because can you call a conditional concession that must be earned a real accommodation? - only came about after some Muslim students began praying during the day at school, and teachers got upset and tried to make them stop, telling them "this is a Christian school".

By the way, Parkdale High School is a public school.

At which point the principal stepped in - good for her, I guess?  Really I shouldn't have to feel approval of that course of action, it's the bare minimum requirement of school management, caring for the needs of all one's students equally, but there are plenty who wouldn't have said anything, or would have supported the teachers in their harassment of Muslim students. - and came up with this "compromise".  I just want to ask, why was a compromise necessary?  Why could she not have just told the teachers to STFU and look up the 1st Amendment as pertains to education, and given Muslim students the accommodations they needed without making it conditional? 

Oh.  Right.  Because fuck fairness, when it comes to children, Muslims, or Muslim children.


People seeking abortions may only think about their decisions on business days, according to South Dakota

In the chip-chip-chip fight to render Roe a meaningless statute by eroding access to abortion services until we have the right, but not the ability, to access it, waiting periods have been a core piece of the movement.  Force people to make two visits to the clinic, which makes it harder for people who don't live near the clinic, which very few people do at this point what with absurd over-zoning and regulation forcing clinics out of business.  Force people to have to arrange rides, time off work, childcare, or missing class not once, but twice, possibly missing out on an extra day's pay in the process.  Make the whole thing drag a little more and hope that some of them tip over into the 2nd trimester while they have to wait, so that it becomes even more difficult, costly, and time-consuming to get that abortion.  And do it all under the plausible deniability of "we just want to make sure you don't do something you'll regret!  We are helping by making sure you take lots...of...time...to think about this (because we assume you haven't already thought about this, because if you had, obviously you wouldn't have decided to do it, Q.E.D.)."

And last year, if you'll recall, South Dakota made infamy by insitituting the longest waiting period thus far, at 72 hours (most states that have it are 24 hours, though I think there might be a couple 48s). 

Not satisfied with that, they're now trying to make those 72 hours stretch  e v e n   f u r t h e r  by specifying that they mean 72 hours, not including weekends and holidays.


So...if the ostensible point of waiting periods is about making sure pregnant people SIT DOWN AND THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU'RE DOING YOU FILTHY BABY-MURDERING WHORE take enough time to come to a reasonable decision so they don't do anything they'll later regret...what does it matter which days the sit-and-think period encompasses?  Are people incapable of considering serious, life-altering decisions* on their days off?**  If anything, I'd think that'd be when people have more time and leisure to consider major issues, when they're not busy taking care of work, kids, and/or school obligations.

It all makes perfect sense when you know what's really going on, whisper-thin veil of concern for pregnant people aside, but usually they try a little harder to hold on to that veil.  When they start proposing restrictions that no longer make even surface sense with their supposed reasoning, they're beginning to risk more people figuring out what's actually happening.  Which suggests two very scary possibilities, to me.  Either they really do believe that people won't notice, that the average public isn't paying enough attention to catch the disconnect and suss out their real motivation (and what scares me here is the possibility that they're right) - or they are so confident in their political power after all the gerrymandering bullshit of late that they don't care how it looks, they're sure it'll go through anyway, and that's all that matters to them.

Like I said.  Scary possibilities.

*It's a serious, life-altering decision for some, but not for all; I phrase it this way because that's the framing that always surrounds this issue when we talk waiting periods.
**Not that weekends and holidays are everyone's days off, though a lot of people forget that.  Retail and food service don't stop for holidays and weekends.  And considering that it's low-income people, like those who work retail and service industry jobs, who are generally most affected by abortion restrictions, it sort of makes this doubly shitty by imposing a more or less irrelevant concept of "non-work days" on the people it's enforced against.


State Sen. Campfield to TN kids: "The beatings will continue until morale improves!"

Or rather, in this case, "The starvings will continue until your grades improve!"

By which I mean, he has proposed a bill to punish the families of underachieving children on public assistance by decreasing their TANF allotment (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, ie, food and living subsidies).

"How are your grades, little Timmy?  Well, no pressure or anything, but we could get kicked out of our apartment and end up in a shelter if your grades aren't up to snuff!  Have a great day at school, kiddo."  Because as we all know, children learn best under pressure and threats of starving their whole family.  It's a motivation thing.

And the whole ugly affair gets even grosser, if you read his own words on the subject:
One of the top tickets to break the chain of poverty is education. To achieve a quality education is like a three legged stool. The state has put a lot of responsibility on schools and teachers to improve student performance. If the children don't produce, it could impact the pay of the teacher and the standing of the school with the state. We have pushed two of the three legs of the student performance (teachers and schools) to improve, and they are. ... The third leg of the stool (probably the most important leg) is the parents. We have done little to hold them accountable for their child's performance. What my bill would do is put some responsibility on parents for their child's performance.
First of all, "If the children don't produce"?  Produce?  Are we talking about schools here, or child labor factories?  Come on, Mr. Campfield, let that ill-fitting compassion mask slip a little further and show us the full extent of your disdain for poor children and how you're already seeing them as future disposable worker-commodities.

Secondly, are you just completely unaware of the fact that children are dependent upon their parents to provide food/shelter/etc.?  Children don't exist in a vacuum.  Putting "responsibility" and "accountability" - ie, punishments - on the parents transfers those effects directly to the kids, who are relying on their parents to be able to care for them.  So you can cloak it in "parental responsibility" language all you like, but it still comes out to punishing children for bad grades by TAKING THEIR FUCKING FOOD AND HOUSING AWAY.  And there is absolutely no possible circumstance in which that is anything but a hideously, grossly unethical and immoral thing to do.  (But of course, Stacey Campfield has a 100% rating with Tennessee Right to Life, and sponsored a bill in 2007 to issue death certificates to aborted fetuses.  He's very consistent that way.  All about caring for the lives of children, amirite?)

Thirdly and most importantly, this completely and utterly fails to take into account the sorts of structural barriers to excelling at school that poor children ALREADY FACE.  Kids are already under stress when their family is struggling with poverty, both stress within the family - especially if there are issues of food scarcity, which has effects on a child both physiologically and psychologically - and from the fact that kids are evil, nasty, bullying little shits sometimes, and poor kids make a great target for that kind of bully.  Additionally, children who have learning disabilities or illnesses - mental or physical - that make school more difficult are less likely than their economically well-off peers to receive the interventions and accommodations they need, which further sabotages their ability to do well in school.  Then you have older - teenage - kids in poverty-level households who may well be trying to hold down jobs in order to help their families get by, which takes time away from schoolwork.

He frames it as "Parents are responsible to make sure their kids are ready for school and that they get an education." Which, again, shows stunning ignorance of what families in poverty are having to do to get by.  Parents who are struggling to make ends meet often just don't have time to do the suburban-middle-class "make sure your kids have a nutritious breakfast, drop them off at school, pick them up after school, and help them with their homework" thing.  That takes time and energy that the parents are already expending just trying to make ends meet.

So to sum up, this absurdity of a proposal specifically targets those children who are already struggling the most with school, sets up a hard-line target that doesn't take any variance in circumstances into account, then threatens to punish those who don't meet the requirement by pushing their whole fucking family even further into poverty.

What part of that sounded like a good idea to you, Senator?

And is it just me, or is there a "welfare queens" sort of dogwhistle in there, too?  The whole thing, especially the fact that it hinges on rhetoric of "parental responsibility" and parents "not doing their job [of making sure their kids do well in school]", seems designed to evoke the image of lazy welfare-dependent adults who are just not bothering to help their kids out of apathy or spite.

See, class, here we have a truly stunning shitshow of ignorance, arrogance, classism, racism, and paternalism, held together with BOOTSTRAPS GODDAMNIT.

Congratulations, Mr. Campfield.  You are officially the douchiest Republican I've seen in the last few days.  Which, considering the state of your party, is actually kind of an accomplishment.  I hope you can look back fondly on this experience from your post-political career in the very near future after the people you claim to represent toss you out on your ass.


Quote of the Day

What will religion look like in the year 2060? Conservative Christians will be treated as second class citizens, much like African Americans were prior to civil rights legislation in the 1960s. Family as we know it will be drastically changed with the state taking charge of the children beginning at birth. Marriage will include two, three, four or any number of participants. Marriage will not be important, with individuals moving in and out of a 'family' group at will. Churchbuildings will be little used, with many sold to secular buyers and the money received going to the government. Churches will not be allowed to discuss any political issues, even if it affects the church directly. Tax credit given to churches and non-profit organizations will cease. Christian broadcasting will be declared illegal based on the separation of church and state. The airwaves belong to the government, therefore they cannot be used for any religious purpose. We will have, or have had, a Muslim president. Cities with a name from the Bible such as St. Petersburg, Bethlehem, etc. will be forced to change their name due to separation of church and state. Groups connected to any religious affiliation will be forced out of health care. Health centers get tax money from the state, making it a violation of church and state. Get involved! Sign THE STATEMENT."
- The [White, Straight, Rich, Nuclear, Christian] American Family Association, in an email designed to make privileged asshats very, very afraid indeed.

There is only one possible response to this.

A screen-cap from the old Spiderman cartoon. Spidey is pointing urgently at something off-screen, and two policemen beside him are laughing.  Macro-style text on the image reads "LOOK AT HIM. LOOK AT HIM AND LAUGH."

This Should Be Interesting...

I've complained before about the IRS' privileging of churches and religious organizations.  My complaints were generally more about churches being totally tax-exempt despite their politicking, which has gotten bolder and bolder in its forays over the border between "non-specific beliefs that have political ramifications" and "telling people how to vote or who to vote for" - and the IRS has done nothing about it.

These two lawsuits, however, take up against different religion-specific tax rules, ones I hadn't even known existed.  Apparently, churches and affiliated organizations which have 501(c)(3) status or want to acquire such don't have to pay application fees, which secular non-profits do - and these are not $20 copay type fees; apparently, they can run up to $850.  Which isn't *that* much to most big orgs, but a lot of starting-out non-profits don't have a generous budget, and so this takes a big bite out of what they can do as they're getting set up.  Additionally, churches and religious organizations aren't required to submit yearly financial information filings, which secular non-profits do.   When the IRS itself estimates a total of 211 work-hours to complete the relevant filing?  That's not a small inconvenience.  The informational filings are public information, and must include the names of any donors who give over $5,000.  People who want to donate fuckbuckets of money to churches to carry out their (frequently political) work can do so in anonymity, but if you want to donate to a secular non-profit, your contribution goes on public record.

I don't know enough about the relevant laws and precedents to speculate on these cases.  But I think it'll be interesting to see how they play out, and if it might help lay groundwork for further challenges to churches as tax-exempt demi-political organizations (for those who choose to behave that way).


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