Saturday, April 29, 2006

Right-Wing Message Paid for with Tax Dollars

Would it surprise you to find out that a rock band is touring the country, performing at school assembly programs, and espousing their message that guns are good, science is wrong, and that the Constitution does not guarantee separation of church and state?

And even with an ultra-conservative evangelical president like George W. Bush in the White House, would it surprise you to find out that this band is being paid for by federal tax dollars?

Now, unlike the funds that went for the so-called abstinence program that proselytized to our nation’s youth under the guise of sex education, there is no evidence that the Bush administration is endorsing this rock band, or funding it directly.

But through grants from the Department of Education, local school districts are paying as much as $1,500 per gig to this band, Junkyard Prophet, to come to schools and spread right-wing propaganda to unwitting students.

Through its outreach program, You Can Run but You Cannot Hide, the band claims to have performed at more than 200 schools over the last few years, mostly in Middle America. Its official Web site claims its mission is to, “…reach the youth of this nation with a message of hope, conveying civic responsibility, morality and ethical behavior. Our method is to take our group with the band Junkyard Prophet to schools….”

The mission further states that the band will provide students with the tools they need to deal with social issues. The group wants students to understand the beauty and value of the moral absolutes on which this nation was founded. Of course, the moral absolutes they are promoting are that of the Conservative Christian Right. And the tool they use is nothing short of brainwashing.

Their mission statement goes on to say, “We speak the truth with no compromise.” But in at least one example reported by the Web site, the group separated boys and girls and told the girls they would, “…get black spots on their wedding dresses if they held hands with a boy and would be serving leftovers to their husbands if they lost their virginity before marrying a God-fearing man.”

The band’s promoter, Bradlee Dean, has alleged that alcoholism is not a disease but a choice and that pornography doubled during the Clinton administration. His entourage also distributed religious literature at some of the band’s performances.

There are lots of Christian and right-wing rock bands out there these days. One of them, The Right Brothers, has a popular video of their song “Bush was Right.”

And whether you agree or disagree with their message, they have the right to promote it. And so does the band Junkyard Prophet. But they don’t have the right to promote it in public schools and at public expense.

Even if Junkyard Prophet performed at schools for free, they would be violating the laws of the land by promoting their right-wing agenda and religion to a captive audience. But they are not performing for free; we, the taxpayers, are paying their fees.

Not surprisingly, some students, their parents, and school administrators have expressed outrage over Junkyard’s shenanigans. They promote their assembly programs as a way to stress alcohol and drug prevention to students. But they go way beyond that, promoting their ultra-conservative political ideology and religious views instead.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has always been quick to denounce federal funding of educational programs that tend to be liberal. And perhaps she’s correct. Liberal ideologies shouldn’t be promoted to students with public funds either.

But where is she now when the religious right’s message is getting a lift with federal dollars? Her silence is deafening.

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