Thursday, March 9, 2017

Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVos: A Win for the Christian Right - Rolling Stone

Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVos: A Win for the Christian Right - Rolling Stone:

Betsy DeVos' Holy War
Her appointment as education secretary marks the crowning achievement of the Christian right's campaign to infiltrate America's secular institutions

A few weeks after September 11th, 2001, with the nation reeling from the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., about 400 or so of the country's leading Christian conservative investors convened at the luxury Phoenician resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. They were there for the 17th annual meeting of the Gathering, a four-day, invitation-only philanthropic and networking event for the Christian donor class, whose members often describe themselves, simply, as "believers." The perks awaiting them in their off hours included a 27-hole golf course, nine crystalline swimming pools and a luxury spa. At dusk, the ruddy hues of the desert rippled across the stone patios where, warmed by fire pits, some of the most important funders of Christian charity, and the Christian right, sipped cocktails and talked about expanding the Kingdom of God.
Politics was one facet of a much larger effort the DeVoses called the Shfela. This is the biblical name for the fertile crescent of land between Israel's Judaean Mountains and the coastal plain, where David fought Goliath and other historic battles were waged between the Israelites and the Philistines. During a recent trip to Israel, the DeVoses had been highly impressed by a story about an archeological dig that unearthed a trove of ancient pig bones in layers of soil dating to the eras when the pagan Philistines held sway. But in other layers of the Shfela, the archeologists found no pig remains at all, suggesting that during these times, the Jews, who kept kosher, had come down from the mountain to spread their religious values among the people. For the DeVoses, the Shfela offered an essential metaphor of the challenges facing modern America. As Dick put it: "How do we get the pig bones out of our culture?"
In the 16 years since that meeting, the DeVos family – which includes 91-year-old patriarch and Amway co-founder Richard "Rich" DeVos Sr., his wife, Helen, their four children and their spouses – has been one of the driving forces behind a stealth campaign powered by a small group of Republican billionaires to chip away at America's secular institutions: the pig bones, so to speak, of our society. According to a recent analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, the family, whose net worth is estimated at $5.6 billion, gave $10 million to national GOP candidates and committees during the 2016 cycle alone. But this amount pales to the gargantuan sums they have channeled into state and local races, evangelical and free-market think tanks, advocacy groups, foundations, PACs, Super PACs and other dark-money organs that have effectively created a shadow political party within the GOP.
Regular attendees at the Koch brothers' biannual summits, the DeVoses have been healthy benefactors of several Koch-seeded groups that advance an anti-tax, anti-regulatory agenda, including the charitable arm of Americans for Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVos: A Win for the Christian Right - Rolling Stone: