The California megachurch pushing public schools to the far right

The California megachurch pushing public schools to the far right

The Daily Beast reports:

Outside the California State Capitol last month, a fitness trainer turned school board president fired up the crowd at a parental rights rally, telling them they were all fighters in “a spiritual battle” for their kids and must answer the call from God.

Sonja Shaw, who was elected to the Chino Valley Unified School District board of education last November with an assist from a local megachurch and its Christian nationalist pastor, didn’t equivocate in naming the enemy: state Democratic officials who are challenging her right-leaning policies—and drafting laws that hinder book bans and protect teachers from harassment.

“Today we stand here and declare in his almighty name that it’s only a matter of time before we take your seats and we be a God-fearing example to the nation, how God is using California to lead the way,” Shaw crowed, adding, “We already know who has won this battle. You will be removed in Jesus’s name! You, Satan, are losing.”

Now Shaw is in the national spotlight in wake of her Chino school board passing codes that ban pride flags in classrooms and force educators to inform parents if their children identify as transgender—the first such policy to be passed in the state.

This summer, Shaw’s school board meetings, about 35 miles east of Los Angeles, became chaotic spectacles, ones that attracted the Proud Boys and other right-wing extremists and pitted them against students and parents protesting what they’re calling anti-LGBTQ practices that endanger children. When California superintendent of schools Tony Thurmond appeared at the July meeting in opposition, Shaw unceremoniously silenced him.

Weeks after state Attorney General Rob Bonta announced a civil rights probe into Shaw’s “gender disclosure” policy, his office sued the school board. Bonta said the policy violates the California constitution and state law, and would cause LGBTQ+ students, “mental, emotional, psychological and potential physical harm,” according to a press release.

Other right-leaning school boards across the state have followed Chino Valley Unified’s lead. Shortly before filing suit against the Chino board, Bonta issued statements denouncing the Anderson Union High School District, Temecula Valley Unified and Murrieta Valley Unified school boards’ decisions to pursue “copycat” anti-trans policies.

“These students are currently under threat of being outed to their parents against their will, and many fear that the District’s policy will force them to make a choice: either ‘walk back’ their constitutionally and statutorily protected rights to gender identity and gender expression, or face the risk of emotional, physical, and psychological harm,” Bonta said.

To concerned observers in Chino, Shaw’s tack is not unlike what’s happening at school boards across the country, with brawls over curriculum, social emotional learning, and the banning of books that focus on race and LGBTQ issues. Extremist groups like Moms for Liberty have spawned a mainstream narrative that public schools are “indoctrinating” children with “woke” ideology and into believing they’re a different gender.

But in Chino Valley, the school board’s new direction appears to be spurred on by a man behind the curtain: Shaw’s megachurch pastor Jack Hibbs. [Continue reading…]

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