Religion In Schools, Abortion Rights At Risk, And A Taste Of The Trump Trial

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00:03 – Doug (Host)
Find out how a 10-year-old Ohio law ignited a massive and well-funded effort to inject the Holy Bible into public schools. And then we talk about an Ohio State Representative who wants to punish cities who support abortion access, contrary to the recent Abortion Rights Amendment passed by a majority of Ohioans. I’m Doug Berger, and this is Secular Left. Welcome to Secular Left. I’m your host, doug. And before we get into the meat of the episode today, where we’re going to talk about Bible classes in public schools and about a local representative, ohio representative, who wants to penalize cities who support abortion rights, I wanted to make a comment about the current trial that former President Donald Trump is experiencing in New York City. It’s called the Hush Money Trial. It’s called the Hush Money Trial and basically what it is is that he allegedly paid off Stormy Daniels, who was a porn actress that he allegedly had sex with, and paid her off $130,000 to not tell her story in public, even had her sign an NDA, a Noun Disclosure Agreement, and everything, and in the process of paying her off, he then covered up the fact that he paid her off while he was president in the Oval Office. So that is why he is in trouble, because that is illegal to hide things from voters, especially when it comes to money. And so, like a lot of the MAGA people and Trump and Trump in particular, stormy Daniels was giving her. She was on the witness stand was it last week or the week before, I forget when I’m not following it too closely but she was on the witness stand telling her side of things, and Trump’s lawyer kept assuming that she was a liar, that she made money off the fact that she had sex with the president, even though they still claim that no sex happened. And then, in a case of the pot calling the kettle black, the lawyer complained about Stormy selling merchandise based on her notoriety with Trump, which is funny, because Trump does the same thing. He sells merchandise with his name on it, but anyway. So basically, they were trying to impugn her credibility, call her a liar, that she was only in it for the money, etc. Etc.

The fact is that the former president was not indicted for having an extramarital affair. That is the primary way to look at it. He was not indicted because he had sex with that woman, as Bill Clinton famously said during his time of being in trouble for doing that. What the former president is in trouble for is that he allegedly paid the $130,000 back to his fixer, michael Cohen, with a personal check and hid the fact that that’s what the payment was for. They tried to hide it and say that it was like a legal fee or something like that, because that’s something that should have been disclosed on forms and and be a public record, etc. Because he was president of the united states at the time.

So the only comment that I want to make about this is you know, don’t miss the forest for the trees, because they’re going to do that with Cohen, because Cohen’s due to come up to the witness stand and they’re going to call him a liar and say he was making it all up, etc. But the fact is Stormy was paid off. She was paid $130,000 by Michael Cohen, so they’ve established that fact. So the only thing that the prosecution now needs to do is they need to connect Trump to that payment, either proving that he gave the $130,000 to Cohen as a wink and a nod, saying you know, this takes care of that debt, that you created a debt for me by paying off this porn star, and that’s all they need to do. I’ve seen some information on the internet where some pundits supposed knowledgeable pundits are saying that he’s going for jury nullification, showing all these nefarious people liars and cheats, attacking him and trying to ruin his career, ruin his reputation, and that the jury would take pity on him and acquit him of anything. And I don’t think that’s going to work because, as some people that know the political scene in New York City, they know that most New Yorkers do not like Trump. They hate Trump. You know he has a bad reputation just in the city. So anyway, I just want to make that comment that you’re going to hear the right wing echo chamber talk about how Stormy Daniels is a whore, a porn star. Stormy Daniels is a whore, a porn star, making money off supposedly having sex, even though it didn’t happen. But the fact remains she did receive a $130,000 payment. She did sign the NDA as a result of that, and so now it’s up to the prosecution to say that when Trump was president, he paid the money back to Cohen and covered it up. That’s what they need to prove, that’s what he’s on trial for and that’s how we should see it.

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Explosion of LifeWise in the state of Ohio. And for those that don’t know, lifewise is a religious group that is exploiting the state law Ohio state law that allows for released time religious religious education programs in public schools, and what that means is, if a school district has a release time religious instruction program policy, that a third party can come into the school district and set up a religious instruction class and take kids off out of school during the school day and religion instruct them in their religion, whatever religion that is. And the reason why I’m saying that they’re manipulating it is because this law has been on the books for many years. The US Supreme Court ruled that such release programs are constitutional and that was in the 50s. So we’ve had this concept available since the 1950s and I remember when I was a kid going to school, particularly high school. As a kid going to school, particularly high school, some of the kids would disappear on Lent. The day of Lent, kids would disappear and be gone for an hour or two and come back and they’d have ashes on their forehead. It was Ash Wednesday, ashes on their forehead, it was Ash Wednesday, and so these were Catholic students that would leave school with permission and go and participate in the Ash Wednesday mass and get the ashes put on their forehead and then they would come back to school. You know, and that that’s never been a problem People have been able to do that, you know again, since the 1950s. Public school cannot prevent you from with permission with parental permission from going leaving school for a religious instruction period.

Where it’s different now is this group, lifewise, which is a large group. In the last tax year that I looked at 2022, they went from a few hundred thousand dollars income to over six million dollars. They are in over 300 public schools and what they do is they come into a public school district. They organize a grassroots effort because it has to be grassroots so that these volunteers get this started, and what LifeWise provides is they provide a curriculum and liability insurance, which is required under state law state law but one of the things that they have to do is they have to have the district have a release time, religious instruction policy, and they have not been 100% successful in getting some of these school districts that don’t have a policy to get one. And I know of at least one school district that had a policy and then got rid of it. They rescinded it just recently.

I think it was Elmwood, and so the guy that’s in charge of LifeWise, joel Penton, talked to his buddies in the state legislature and now there is a law in committee right now under consideration that would change the RTRI policy to require school districts to have one, and our buddy, reverend Gary Click from Fremont, is the co-sponsor of the legislation and one of the things in his testimony to introduce the bill he claimed that it was a religious freedom issue, that the schools that were denying these policies was infringing on parents’ religious the right for parents to direct their children’s religious education. That’s hogwash. He’s absolutely incorrect. Parents have a choice. They have a choice to send their kids to a religious-based school, to a religious-based school. They also have the choice to have their children go to Bible school before or after school.

What this is is what they want is they want to force indirectly religion back into public schools. And why do I say indirectly, because it’s still illegal, unconstitutional for them to have a class in the building where somebody’s teaching religion like Bible school. Okay, you can still have, like in social studies, you can talk about all the great religions and do a concept thing, but you can’t actually say you know, we’re going to learn about the Ten Commandments today, kids, or anything. So LifeWise is manipulating the ability to have these programs off campus and what they do is they enroll these kids. These kids show up, they have their little Bible class and then they ply them with candy and prizes to go back to school and tell the kids that aren’t participating how great it was and look at all this free stuff we get. So then they’re prophetizing indirectly to the kids using kids, and so they get around that. And so they got this state law now to force public school districts to have a policy.

Now my group, the Secular Humanists of Western Lake, lake erie, we oppose the law, obviously we are. We oppose rtri programs completely. We, we just don’t like that process at all. And so people want to know you know what about it, what’s? You know what’s? What’s your concerns? All right? Well, first of all, lifewise refuses to divulge anything about their company or even what specific curriculum that they use. They claim that they are teaching character values, but it has nothing to do with anything that the kids learn in school. Currently, lifewise claims they do background checks on everyone involved with the program, since the people who work with LifeWise aren’t school employees and they’re not allowed to be according to state law. The districts are not doing the background checks, so we have no idea how good of a check it is and how it goes, because they don’t divulge that information. No matter what the law says and how many waivers are signed, the school district still will be responsible should anything happen to the children.

These children, these young children. It’s happening mainly with elementary school students. They are being removed from the public school campus for up to a couple of hours a day. I think it’s once a month. I think this happens once a month, I’m not sure. So these kids are being removed by somebody who wasn’t vetted by the school district and they’re taken to an off-site location that the school district has no oversight over. And people think this is a good idea. Idea in the day and age of school shootings and other nefarious things that happen to school kids when they’re not in the school building proper.

The other concerns we have is LifeWise teaches only the Christian Bible and only their version of the Christian Bible. Remember, if you follow religion closely, you know that there is more than one version of the Christian Bible. Remember, if you follow religion closely, you know that there is more than one version of the Christian Bible. That’s why we have all these different Christian sects like Pentecostals and Baptists and Presbyterians and Catholics. They exclude not only other faiths from their program and no faith people with no faith, but they also exclude other Christian sects like Catholicism and Jehovah Witnesses and Mormonism. Schools already have a busy day of coursework and testing. They’re doing something every day and so it’s not the time to basically stop all of that so the kids can go to a Bible school in the middle of the day. The beginning or the end of the day is a better fit should be a better fit if that’s something that people want to do.

Lifewise is not responsible for what happens to children who don’t participate in the program and from what we’ve heard from actual people who have experienced LifeWise in their school district experienced LifeWise in their school district most of the kids that don’t participate are put in a study room or other room to do busy work while the other kids are gone, and then they feel like crap and then they cry when they get home because they couldn’t go have fun like their friends. See, that’s how that peer pressure works. While LifeWise doesn’t openly prophetize in school, they do give enrolled students candy and other prizes, as I said. And so, like I said, we think that that is totally unethical for them to do indirect prophetizing. And then there’s also the issue of bullying. The kids will bully other kids that don’t participate, and we’ve heard reports about that as well.

There have been reports from districts that have LifeWise that, in violation of state law, administrators and teachers have been recruiting students to attend the class. Now people will say, well, they’re not teaching the class. Now people will say, well, they’re not teaching the class, but they are using time and funds in the school to recruit students. Because when you have a teacher, spend time to talk about LifeWise and how much fun it is and please sign up, she or he is not teaching the class. So you’re using up school funds to support that program, which is against the state law. And once RTRI is approved in a district, it is open to any third party that meets the thin requirements in the state law.

Any group with the money to set up the infrastructure for a class can set up shop and enroll students. The district would have no oversight beyond taking attendance. They wouldn’t have any oversight at all beyond taking attendance. You just have to make sure that the kids that are enrolled show up and that they’re not home at home goofing off. That’s the only oversight a school district would have. You couldn’t have oversight over what the program was, what they were teaching, what the curriculum was, and you know it could be a group that gets together to supposedly teach character but instead they’re letting the kids drink beer and play video games for an hour, and the school would have nothing to say about it. The school district would have nothing to say about it. They would have to actually resend their policy to stop it.

So, as we said, parents do have a choice. If they want their children to have a religious education, they can send them to a religious-based school or homeschool them. A district refusing to have an RTRI policy doesn’t violate a parent or child’s religious freedom and it doesn’t prevent them from practicing their religion Again. They can do it before or after school. Public schools are a common good, and giving LifeWise permission to remove children from school to teach them something that has nothing to do with school takes away time and effort from already time-strapped public schools, and so if you want additional information on this topic and it’s something that really concerns you, you can check out our website. But I just wanted to give an update that, like I said, the Christian nationalists are attempting to force public schools to allow LifeWise to take kids off of school grounds to teach them about the Bible, and we think that that’s wrong. For more information about any of the topics covered in this episode, check out our show notes at secularleftus. Secularleftus.

Last November, the state of Ohio had an election, and by a good majority. It wasn’t even close. Ohioans adopted the Reproductive Rights Amendment that was put up for a vote enshrining reproductive rights for people in the Ohio Constitution, and one of the stipulations in that amendment was that the state government could not interfere directly or indirectly with somebody exercising their reproductive rights. Well, we also have here in glorious, rural Northwest Ohio, where I live. Toledo is the major city, but most of the Northwest Ohio is in the country we have.

I think I’ve pointed out previously, we have six members of the state legislature who are members of the so-called pro-life caucus, and one of those people was from the 41st House District, state Representative Josh Williams, I believe. He represents Point Place and a little strip that goes all the way over to Sylvania and the western part west of Sylvania, something like that, and he decided that he was going to introduce a bill in the state house I think it was last week, from when I’m doing this recording that it is going to take away local government funds and the state of Ohio gives a portion. You know people pay like state taxes, state sales tax, use taxes, fees and everything. It goes into a big pot in Columbus and it gets and then and then the state house divvies it up into local government funds and then they fund the library and the police departments, stuff like that, and it’s called the local government fund. And this bill that Representative Williams introduced is House Bill 475, and it would prohibit state and local government funding for abortion services and it would require municipalities and other government entities local government entities to have an accounting of money that they spend on abortion services they use a big, gigantic, generic term for it and any of that funding then would be taken away from their local government portion the local government fund portion that they would be getting, and that funding then that they quote clawed back unquote, would be diverted and given to a fund that would make grants to the fake pregnancy crisis centers dotting the state that already get millions of tax dollars from the state of Ohio. These are clinics that try to talk women into keeping their babies and they say that they are going to give them an ultrasound so that they because the Christian nationalists they always believe that if a pregnant woman could just see their baby on an ultrasound that they wouldn’t give it up. So they always do that. They always try to talk the woman into doing an ultrasound. They’re not a medical clinic. They don’t take care of a woman’s medical needs due to the pregnancy. They offer free diapers and formula and coupons for milk and food and things like that, but that’s all they do and they get millions of state tax dollars. I think the last budget it was like $7 million to be divided up to these so-called pregnancy crisis centers. So Representative Williams’ new bill, if it became a law, would do that Now.

I mentioned at the beginning that the Reproductive Rights Amendment that was passed says that the state cannot interfere directly or indirectly says that the state cannot interfere directly or indirectly. So there is some question about whether or not, if this were to become a law, if it would actually be enforceable. I know currently they are in court over the. They still had some leftover cases abortion law cases and one of them was the six-week abortion ban. That is still in court in the I think it’s the 6th District down in Cincinnati. Yeah, the plaintiffs, the people that sued to stop that law, have asked the court to throw out the law because of this new amendment and the state’s fighting it. David Yost is fighting it, of course, because he doesn’t think that it applies. It does.

The Reproductive Rights Amendment is pretty clear, and that’s what a lot of these Christian nationalists do, is they try to find loopholes, and this josh williams is trying to find this loophole and and he’s going to claim that it’s not. Uh, I think there was a news report where he was being interviewed and he was like well, you know, if we’re gonna call it an elective abortion, I’ll put that in there or something like that. You know, and just to try to make it seem like it was going to be good, call it an elective abortion. I’ll put that in there or something like that and just to try to make it seem like it was going to be good. These are the same people that passed a law that required a sign to be put up saying how bad it was and immoral it was to have abortions, and to put that up at abortion clinics licensed by the state. So they do all this stuff to try to these shenanigans trying to undermine this new amendment and the fact that they’re going to give. Then he wants to give this money to an entity that already gets tax dollars to stop women from getting abortions, but he’s part of that so-called pro-life caucus.

The other thing that these pro-lifers in the Ohio legislature are doing is they passed out of committee the so-called bathroom ban and it now moves to the full house to be considered. It says the bill not only prohibits trans individuals from using multi-person restrooms and locker room in Ohio schools that correspond to their gender identity. It also the current, the one that’s being considered by the House right now also bans colleges and universities from having non-gendered, multi-gendered or open to all gender facilities. When I was in college, we had male and female floors in our dorm, but a few years later, a couple, two or three years later, they started having mixed gender dorm floors. You know where they had men and women in separate rooms. They still had separate rooms, but they had men and women on the same floor and this bill supposedly would stop that. And this bill supposedly would stop that. It would also stop colleges and universities from having unisex bathrooms. Many of these places have converted their bathrooms to unisex by taking off the men and the women’s placard and putting a person’s placard on. Now, when they were talking to one of the Christian nationalists that introduced this bill, she admitted that they were probably going to remove the part that affected colleges and universities, but they didn’t in the committee. They didn’t remove it before they passed it and it passed in four minutes. So elections have consequences, as it were.

But sure, go ahead and not try to help out and protect the transgender community because a certain political person doesn’t share your view, because that’s what I’ve heard from some of my more progressive friends is they’re very upset about that. I think people losing their rights in this country is far more important right now, where I’m making a decision to vote Again, I’m a white, cisgendered man. It doesn’t matter to me who’s in office. It doesn’t matter to me who gets elected, I’m the default. But I really care about these bills that will harm friends of mine trans friends, lgbt community, pregnant people, all this stuff and it’s these Christian nationalists that are doing it and we need to stop them. And one way of stopping them is making sure that you vote for people who do not support those that agenda at all and make that the litmus test. The other stuff, yeah, you can argue with people about. If, let’s say, they don’t support your views on immigration or China or something like that, that’s all well and good. You can have arguments with them on that. Okay, because that’s not hurting your neighbors. Right now, at least, it shouldn’t be. But that’s how I feel about it. With the election coming up, I can’t tell you who to vote for. I wouldn’t tell you who to vote for, but I can tell you don’t vote for people who support these draconian bills like the bathroom ban and clawing back this local government money because somebody supports abortion services.

Thank you for listening to this episode. You can check out more information, including links to sources used in our show notes, on our website at secularleftus. Secular Left is hosted, written and produced by Doug Berger, and he is solely responsible for the content. Send us your comments either using the contact form on the website or by sending us a note at comments at secularleftus. Our theme music is Dank and Nasty, composed using Amplify Studio. See you next time.

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