March 27, 2021

Maurice Cunningham: Massachusetts Parents United, National Parents Union, and the Christian Right

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Maurice Cunningham has followed the money behind many of the ed reform groups operating in Massachusetts. In this post he looks at a couple of “parents” groups and their ties to familiar names like Koch and Walton. Reposted with permission.

Two of the important props of the far right in America are Christian conservatives and economic royalists like the Waltons and Charles Koch. Those ties are becoming evident in school privatization including in financial support the Massachusetts Parents United has offered to a Christian right group and in National Parents Union’s funding from a Koch-Walton joint venture that partners with a far right Christian home schooling network.

Here’s the Massachusetts Parents United $1,000 “sponsorship” from its Form 990 tax return for 2017:




Here are some headlines about National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and its leader Pastor Samuel Rodriguez from Right Wing Watch:

Samuel Rodriguez: New General in Global Anti-Gay Culture War

Samuel Rodriguez: Getting Conservative SCOTUS Trumps Immigration Reform

The Preachers on Trump’s Inaugural Podium (Pastor Rodriguez prayed at Trump’s inaugural).

Samuel Rodriguez Says Trump’s Supreme Court Will Save Religious Liberty

Sam Rodriguez Has ‘Disagreements’ With Harsh Anti-Immigrant Bill but Calls It a ‘Positive Development’ (also identifying Rodriguez as a “promoter of the Libre Initiative,” the Koch political outreach program to Latinos).

Samuel Rodriguez Joins Bid to Rebuild GOP Power in California

In short, Samuel Rodriguez and his National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference are cogs in the religious right’s alliance with the Republican Party.

The religious right-economic right connection is a component of conservative political power, as Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson recently argued in Let Them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules in an Age of Extreme Inequality. The Waltons and Charles Koch fund MPU’s allied organization National Parent Union through a joint venture called the VELA Education Fund. VELA announced a grant to NPU on August 3, 2020, NPU having established a track record of nearly seven months. VELA has also given grants to homeschooling organizations “through VELA’s partnership with the Home School Legal Defense Association.”

So what is the Home School Legal Defense Association? It is led by Michael Farris, a leading figure in far right evangelical politics. According to Sourcewatch HSLDA identifies as Christian and supported Mike Huckabee for president in 2008. HSLDA is anti-gay. Farris is also general counsel of the Alliance Defending Freedom which Sourcewatch identifies as a right wing legal group working on Christian legal issues. The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies Alliance Defending Freedom as a hate group due to its extreme anti-LGBTQ+ positions. Farris is also a member of the powerful Council for National Policy, which has directed right wing operations for many years (see Anne Nelson: Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right.) At least six CNP former or present members helped to organize pro-Trump rallies on January 6, 2021 that degenerated into an attempted coup. The Kochs, of course, are financial supporters.

Did I mention that the Alliance Defending Freedom is a sponsor of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference? MPU’s donation was also for sponsorship.

The Koch-Walton connection is taking additional measures to prop up National Parents Union. For instance, VELA sponsored a panel at South by Southwest to promote NPU:

The Christian right and oligarchic billionaire right are powerful and intertwined. VELA’s partnership with HSLDA deserves attention, and so does that $1,000 check Massachusetts Parents United mailed off to the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

Money never sleeps. Follow the money.

[Full disclosure: as an educator in the UMass system, I am a union member. I write about dark money, democracy, oligarchy, and privatization.]

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