The head of a religious freedom advocacy organization cited “the dominance of woke culture that thinks it’s OK to silence people who disagree” as the greatest threat to religious freedom in the U.S. and around the world. Michael Farris, president of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), discussed the state of religious freedom at home and abroad in an interview ahead of the 2nd annual International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington, D.C. He explained that many Christians find themselves on “the receiving end of efforts to silence them, or cause them to lose their careers.” Farris said “the dominance of woke culture that thinks it’s OK to silence people who disagree is very dangerous in many respects for freedom of speech and religion” in the U.S. Farris said that “in some nations,” the greatest threat to religious freedom is “the same as the U.S.” specifically, “the imperialism of woke culture.”
He maintained that the “totalitarian mood” behind woke culture extends to the dominant orthodoxies in other countries as well. “In India, for example, Hindu nationalism operates on a very egregious basis and tries to close down people with differing opinions. Recently in India I met with a young man who was beaten by the police for simply praying out loud on a neighbourhood apartment balcony,” he said. “He was charged with the crime of forcible conversion. All he was doing was praying for his uncle’s healing.” Farris cited the intolerance of Hindu nationalists in India as well as woke culture in the U.S. as examples of how “diversity of opinion is not being tolerated. There’s pressure to adhere to whatever the prevailing viewpoint is in a particular country, whether that’s Hindu nationalism or left-wing cultural wokeism.” “Fall into into line or face the consequences, is the mood in way too many places in the world,” he said.
He stressed that “it’s a small vocal but vicious minority that wants to silence people. “I don’t think the majority of Americans support it,” he added, noting that “waking up to what’s happening” is a necessary step in reversing the trend of intolerance because “most Americans still believe that everybody should be able to say whatever they want and not suffer the consequences of being subjected to mob violence.” Farris recalled that earlier, one of his colleagues, General Counsel Kristen Waggoner, had a mob try to “drown her out” as she addressed students at Yale Law School. Christians who hold biblical views on sexuality, gender and abortion are not being tolerated in the public square.” Farris identified “most college campuses and public schools” as the most hostile environments for those with such beliefs: “It is very difficult to communicate your views as a Christian and there is punishment being metered out.”
“Now, the good news is we’re winning an increasing number of those battles in court” he added.” Farris elaborated on his concerns with American education, noting that he had been “litigating cases” involving a tug of war between parents and schools and teachers over what is taught in public schools surrounding sex and gender for 40 years. “It’s gotten a lot worse today. It’s a material increase and probably the most significant fact is millions of parents became far more aware of what was going on in public schools by watching what their kids were learning over the internet during the COVID shutdowns. That has resulted in a huge increase in parental awareness and parental involvement. I think that the changes that we’re going to see in education policy as a result of that are going to be pretty significant over time.”
Farris said one change in education policy that has already materialized is a doubling of the home-school population in the last couple of years: “It went from 5% of the school-aged population to about 10%.” “There’s a certain segment that will probably return, but the presence of both critical race and gender theory in the public schools has grown so rapidly that I think that the net trend is going to be more and more home-schooling,” he predicted. “This is a phenomenon that’s here to stay, and as long as the public schools decide that they are more about indoctrination than they are academic excellence, home-schooling’s going to continue to flourish.” Farris attributed the ascendance of critical theory and other concerning curriculum in schools to the fact that “school districts are organized in a way that the teachers’ union has an outsized influence in a number of ways.”
He also explained that “the general education establishment, starting with the teachers’ colleges in the country that control a lot of what happens downstream, has pretty much bought into the culturally woke agenda.” “They’ve accepted critical race theory as their framework,” Farris added. He described universities and the teachers’ unions as “true believers in that ideology” who have an “outsized impact” on education in the U.S.. He cheered the emergence of “more and more parents who are independent and willing to speak out and stand up for their kids.” “The education establishment needs to wake up and realize that their customer base doesn’t share their ideology. If they don’t want to lose the power that they now possess, they need to change course,” Farris contended.
Farris also said that public schools are to blame for causing a spike in “culturally-induced transgender incidence by embracing the tenets of the “culturally woke agenda.” “ADF has represented many parents in cases involving parental rights: “There have been so many incidents that we’ve been involved with where kids are momentarily confused, and then once they get away from that environment, their head clears. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t kids with genuine mental health issues arising out of sexual confusion. But people within mental health professions need to be helping parents with that.” Farris insisted ”gender confusion is being caused by peer pressure and the faddishness that’s going on. The ability of parents to be able to make decisions for their kids and not lose control of that, because of the wokeness that has entered into the medical profession is an important component of parental rights as well.”
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