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School Vouchers: Is President Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education good or bad for religious liberty? Prof. Mark David Hall, of George Fox University, joins us to discuss the impact on religious liberty based on the policies supported by Betsy DeVos President Trump’s pick for Education Secretary.

Air Date: 01/23/2017

Guests: Mark David Hall, David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton

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Transcription note:  As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast.  However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers.  Additionally, names may be misspelled because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.


You found your way to the intersection of faith and the culture. This is WallBuilders Live where we’re talking about today’s hottest topics on policy and faith and other areas of the culture. We’re doing it all from a Biblical, historical, and constitutional perspective.

Take those three things and you’ll find the right answer to pretty much any question out there, and what the right position should be. We’re here with David Barton, America’s premier historian, WallBuilders founder and president and best selling author and one of TIME magazine’s top 25 most influential American evangelicals. Also Tim Barton, national speaker, and pastor. And my name is Rick Green.   I’m a former Texas state representative.

Check out our  Websites at WallBuilders.com and WallBuildersLive.com. Wealth of information there.  And the new WallBuilders Live site, by the way,  if you haven’t been there in a few months we’ve got a new site up. Lots of great information there really flows well.  You can check out our archives and also find out which stations we’re on across the nation. We’ve added over 100 stations over the last few months. Again always applying those three things, Biblical, historical, and constitutional perspective in every area.

Donald Trump”€™s Picks

Of course, now we’ve got a new president and a lot of appointments that are going to be going through the Senate soon. You know this is this is an area obviously we want to pay attention to the type of people that are going to be leading our government and leading certainly these major agencies that have an impact on all of our lives and hopefully see them applying things in that Biblical, historical, and constitutional perspective.

Yeah, it’s an interesting list that he has because so many of them are very qualified for what they do.  But they’re outside the Washington box. There’s at about four agencies were that the person he’s put over the agency are people who have pledged to abolish that agency.

So he is putting people in cabinet positions or high level positions who are not trying to perpetuate their own existence. Now I will say, you take somebody like Governor Rick Perry, he’s over energy.  That’s one of the areas he wanted to abolish but it’s not up to Rick Perry to abolish that. It will be up to Congress to do that.  But you can be sure that with Rick Perry in there he’s not going to allow it to become intrusive.

He was a governor.  So he saw what they did in the state of Texas to essentially try to shut down the economy by shutting down all drilling and etc. So he is going at it with a whole different mindset that is not going to get in the way of killing jobs, of the Tenth Amendment and what states are supposed to do.  Because energy is a state issue, it’s not a national issue.

You’ve got folks like that.  And you get Scott Pruitt who’s over the EPA who doesn’t want the EPA to exist in the way that we know it. You’ve got Betsy DeVos who wants local education and state education vouchers.  She”€™s Department of Education.

You go down the list of folks he”€™s put there, even the guy that’s at HHS.  And HHS is probably the agency most in charge of Obamacare. He put Tom Price there who is an actual doctor who’s been working his tail off in the House of Representatives to abolish Obamacare.

Politicians In Favor Of Small Government

You look at these folks.  They’re all competent for what they’re there for.  But they’re all guys who don’t want to see that agency exist. Again, it’s not up to them.  And if the Department of Energy for example still exist four years from now I’m not going to blame Rick Perry for that.  Because it’s up to Congress to abolish those. But these kind of guys he’s putting in there  are guys that are going to help government not grow and help it’s intrusive arms to be drawn back in.

So when you appoint people like that then at least you don’t have the out of control federal growth that we’ve had, even if they can’t abolish it. But even just that kind of the tone and the attitude with which they run that agency it’s going to filter down to the way that it impacts the businesses they touch, the individuals that they touch.  

You take an agency like education and the impact that the Department of Education has on our schools and our local communities.  All of it is is going to reflect what the president’s tone has been what these people are like. So what you’re saying with Rick Perry, he’s going to have energy policies that basically get out of the way and let the market decide, right?

Well you know guys, the shift in direction, with such a mentality difference, it really can have a dramatic effect downstream. When you think about in the last year there were 3,800 new federal laws that were passed but less than 200 came from actual lawmakers from Congress?

Regulatory Laws Vs Congress Passed Laws

You remember when Mike Lee told us that in his office he keeps a stack of all the federal laws that are passed by Congress and signed by the president and those that are not passed by Congress, but they”€™re regulatory laws.  People say, “€œWell they’re regulatory.  They can’t be laws.”€ Yes they can.  They still have fines.  They still go in the U.S. code.  They still can put you in jail.  They’re everything that a law can do except they didn’t go through the House, the Senate, and President.

In his office is a stack of laws signed by the president is four inches high.  That’s the traditional way. The stack of laws passed by regulators not elected by anybody is 11 feet high. That’s the amount of laws last year that went through that process. So yeah, it’s a big deal of who you have in there and what they do downstream.

So one of the things that certainly we would expect to change, as we’re talking about this downstream effect, is you would think there would be less infringement on people, on states rights, as we’ve already mentioned.  Even though they can’t shut down the department they’re in, they certainly can keep it from invading and taking over our life and especially if they have enough federalism to recognize that the job of creating laws actually is from the people that were elected to create laws.  That’s not what this agency should or does exist for.

So there is a lot of promise that maybe we won’t see so many regulations coming from these agencies because they’ll recognize that’s not their place.

Betsy DeVos As Secretary Of Education

One of those agencies that has been a real problem, particularly over the last eight years, has been Department of Education. They’ve tried to promote Common Core.  What they’ve done in so many areas, they’re the ones that push transgender bathrooms through the schools and messed up all the Title 9 stuff. That’s been Department of Education.  

So the new nominee Betsy DeVos has a real opportunity to make a statement and go in a different direction and get that department out of our lives. Though she can’t abolish it, she can move the right direction. We actually have a guest that will be coming up shortly talking about what Betsy Devos is going to do the Department of Education.

Stay with us, Folks.  Be right back on WallBuilders Live.

Pastors Only Briefing Trip

Hi, this is Tim Barton with WallBuilders and I want to encourage all the pastors out there with a unique opportunity that we’re presenting it WallBuilders. We’re doing a special tour just for pastors that you can come and learn more about the spiritual heritage of our nation. Not just seeing the sights but understanding the significance of what they are and what they represent.

We get to go to the Capitol at night.  And we get to see the spiritual heritage of our Founding Fathers, of who we are as a nation, where we came from. We bring in Congressman that will tell you about current legislation, about our religious liberties and freedom, and what’s going on in Washington D.C.

If you’re a pastor or if you want to recommend your pastor for this trip, you can go to our website at www.WallBuilders.com.  And there’s a link that’s for scheduling.  If you click on that link there’s a section for pastor”€™s briefing. There’s more information about the dates, when it’s going, and how it’s going to happen. If you want to know more about our nation, our religious liberties, our freedom, our spiritual heritage, this is a trip you want to be a part of.

Those Who Like Government Expansion Don”€™t Like Betsy DeVos

Welcome back.  Thanks for staying with us here on WallBuilders Live. We’re talking today about some of the president’s appointments and what to expect from some of these agencies once they have a new head in that agency, new policy coming from the administration.   David, you mentioned the Department of Education which, of course, is one of those that frankly Republicans have been wanting to abolish for about three decades now.

It was only established in the 70″€™s.  I guess it was, it wasn’t very long after that the Republicans said, “€œWait a minute this isn’t constitutional.  There’s nothing in Article 1 Section 8 that empowers a Federal Department of Education. But it’s still there.”€ And as you said it has done a lot of damage in many different areas so.  What do you think with Betsy Devos —

General Welfare

Now, wait for a second Rick.  What about what, about general welfare? This is for the good of everybody. Isn’t that how we do everything these days is through general welfare?

I don’t think you want to head in that direction, that hasn’t turned out too good.

Oh this isn”€™t my direction.  


That’s their direction.   No doubt.

That’s a great point because general welfare is how we’ve expanded government in so many areas. Those people who are into government expansion do not like Betsy DeVos. I do not call the NEA and those at the Department of Education, I do not call them educators.  I call them, “€œEducrats.”€ They’re really not interested in the kids and in education.  They’re interested in the educational process and the institution of education, not the output of education and not the kids in it. So as you look at them, they are after Betsy DeVos and they’ve talked about how bad she is.

What The Department Of Education Won”€™t Say

Let me thrown in an interruption real quick.  As you are saying it, I do think I understand exactly where coming from.  But I do think they do care about the kids.  They care about shaping the kids in the image they want them to be. So to say, “€œThey don’t care about the kids.”€ They would argue, “€œNo! I do too care!”€ Well no, you do care about the kids, But what you care about is making them into socialist little bricks.  Where everyone’s the same, where their not individuals, where they’re not unique, where we can’t teach them to think when you want to just force feed them to where they just regurgitate whatever you have told them.

That’s right. They’re not after traditional education.  They’re after indoctrination.

No doubt. Though, I would argue that their actions as their results to me say that they don’t care about the kids. Because they don’t care that they’re failing schools and they try to protect failing schools when they see that the product is absolutely debilitating these kids futures. They’re more interested in the building and in the institution than they are in making sure that that kid really does get an education.

They’re never going to say that.  I’m just saying that based on the results that we see, if they really cared about the kids they”€™d say, “€œI want every kid to get the best education in the world.  I can’t provide it here at this school because of whatever strings are keeping me from doing it. So I want some of these kids to be able to get out of here and go to a school that will serve them better.”€ But you don’t hear that from them.

Betsy DeVos Is Good News For Religious Liberty

You know one of the greatest ironies about the attacks against Betsy DeVos is it’s coming from the secularists, the hard core secularist groups. They’re saying, “€œShe’s bad for religious liberty.”€ Wait a minute, you guys are bad for religious liberty.

If the hard core secularists think she’s bad for religious liberty that’s probably good news for us because their definition of religious liberty is exactly opposite to what the rest of the nation believes. Mark David Hall at George Fox University has a great piece out on how that Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education is really good for religious liberty and not bad.  It”€™s a great piece that he wrote on her.

Stay with us folks! Mark David Hall from George Fox University with us when we return on WallBuilders Live!

DVD On Common Core

Hi, friends! This is David Barton of WallBuilders. The current condition of education in America is abysmal. Not only is educational achievement plummeting, but every year, some 19 percent of high school seniors who graduate is completely illiterate. They can”€™t read at all but it was not always this way.

For generations, we taught students how to think. But after the progressives took over education in the early 20th century, things began to radically change. Education shifted from thinking to learning, which made the emphasis on the teachers rather than the students. And that elevated indoctrination above knowledge.

At that time, progressives also made massive changes in the way we tested students. They extended school from 8 to 12 years. They introduced graded education and they added compulsory education. Statistics prove that these changes have harmed education rather than helped it. And now the progressives are pushing Common Core.

In our new DVD on Common Core, we give you eight reasons why this current approach is so dangerous to our kids and our culture. We also show you an amazing history of education. So get this new DVD at WallBuilders.com.

What About Separation Of Church And State

Welcome back, thanks for staying with us on WallBuilders Live! Professor Mark David Hall with us from George Fox University. Always good to have you, Sir.

Thank you for having me, Rick!

Great article on Trump’s Secretary of Education pick, Betsy DeVos. You say she”€™s a great pick and good news not just for education but for religious freedom. What does the education secretary have to do with religious freedom?

That”€™s a great question.  In fact, I wrote that little piece as a response to groups like Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the ACLU.  They were saying that she is a huge threat to religious liberty by giving Americans choice with respect to where they send their children to school, that we”€™re imperiling the very principle upon which America was founded, that it”€™s a strict separation of church and state. If she was confirmed, and if she has any influence, that she would serve as a grave threat to religious liberty. But that seems to be completely backward.

Yeah, it’s the opposite, it’s going to be good for religious liberty. Parents would be able to choose to send their kid to a school that doesn’t tear down their faith but maybe builds it up.

That”€™s exactly right.  One thing that Groups like Americans United and ACLU don’t understand is it that some Americans feel they have a religious obligation to provide a faith based education for their children. I understand some religious Americans don’t feel or don’t have that same conviction. But for those of us who do, and I very much include myself in that category, we”€™re faced with a very difficult dilemma.

Religious Freedom Is Now Too Expensive

We have to pay our taxes to support the public schools and then we have to turn around and make tuition payments to send our children to Christian schools, Jewish schools, or Islamic schools, or whatever our convictions dictate. It’s very difficult for those of us who are just middle class Americans.
If they’re very wealthy like the Obamas you can pretty easily send your children to a Quaker school if they chose to do as the Clintons did before them. But if you’re middle class it becomes very, very difficult to do.

School Vouchers Offer Choice For Everyone

Of course, if you’re a poor American you basically cannot act upon your religious conviction.  That”€™s why I love vouchers.  Vouchers simply provide choice. No one is forced to send their children to a Christian school or a religious school. But if you have the conviction that you should do so you’re now able to do so. I don’t see how you can see that as anything other than a win for religious liberty.

Yeah, from what I’ve seen in the studies of places that have done this, whether cities, states, or even other countries it’s not only good for that family, parent, and that child that’s making that choice but it seems to have improved the public schools that that kid left as well. That rising tide lifts all boats.  It created a competition that as we’ve seen in every other area of the marketplace makes the product better.

You know, that”€™s exactly right.  It’s just common sense. Often times I’ll tell my students to imagine a scenario where the city of Newburgh where I live gives one bakery a monopoly on selling bread in Newburgh. And I ask, “€œHow many would expect this to be excellent bread at a low price?”€ Everyone recognizes right away, “€œWell we might get lucky and it might happen but chances are we’ll get bad bread that”€™s expensive because there”€™s no competition.”€

Competition Is The Rising Tide That Lifts All Boats

You open the marketplace.  You allow the large chain grocery stores to sell bread.  You allow bakers to come along and sell various types of bread, and then you have competition.
So what you’re going to get are a lot of different choices.  You”€™re going to have cheap Wonder Bread, excellent gourmet bread, and all sorts of things.

Competition lifts all boats.  We”€™ve seen this. There are great studies published by ED Choice, a group out of Indianapolis that go over all the empirical studies that have been done and all the voucher programs in America.
And of course what we have are voucher programs in the state or city level. Virtually all of them, not literally all of them, but something like in 95% of the studies it benefits the educational outcomes for the kids who received the vouchers. It also improves the schools from which these kids came, again, now you have competition.

So these schools have to do a better job of actually educating the children. So it does end up benefiting everyone. And that’s just in terms of educational outcome, of course in terms of worldview, isn’t it a much better environment in which the devout Muslim can send his child to a Muslim school if that’s his conviction? The devout Catholic can send her child to Catholic school and the seculars can send their kids to a public school. Because of that Supreme Court decisions, are a more or less secular schools nowadays. No parent is forced to act against their convictions and every parent gets to act upon them, education rises, and religious liberty is increased. I just think it’s a great solution and I just love that Betsy Devos has been a long time advocate of school choice. That’s why I think she’s just a wonderful pick.

Education System Is A Monopoly Without Choice

Well Mark, you and I say that it’s good for everybody but we’re not exactly right because the one person that doesn’t like it is that baker that has the monopoly. The baker that has the monopoly doesn’t want all these other bakers making other offers available.  And so that’s who’s whining and complaining at this point. They are the people that have the monopoly.  They don’t want the competition.  They don’t want to have to improve.  And they certainly don’t want someone taking away some of their customers.

So she’s going to face a tough fight.  The education establishment that right now we say to families in most communities across America, “€œYou can get any education you want as long as you send them to this one school.”€ So, in reality, you can’t get any education you want. Man, they’re going to dig in.  So it will be interesting to see what she’s able to do against that establishment.
Well, you are exactly right, it’s an important corrective. In the National Education Association is just livid. They are on record of saying, “€œShe’s the worst pick ever. Not only is she incompetent she’s dangerous. She wants to divert money from the public schools.”€ Which is sort of a ridiculous claim if you think about it.  If you think about how, right now, we do medical care.  Most of us have medical care through private insurers.  But there are public alternatives available. Is mine or your medical diverting money from public hospitals? I don’t think so.

We Should Be Able To Follow Our Conscious

Basically what we have right now is, even though we have more government interference then we had before, we have a free market in health care. We choose where to buy insurance and we may have various choices based on where we work but we take our money and we put it towards this sort of medical care that we think is the best deal and quality at the lowest price.

In essence, a nice rich and robust outsource system would do a similar thing right? People would be taxed, their money would be given back to them if they have children, and then they could use this money to send their kids to the school of their choosing.

You want public school? Send your kids to public school. No one is saying in the environment that we live in that they’re going to go away anytime soon. But give other people choices as well. Let people do what the Obamas did, send their kids to Quaker schools if that’s what their conscious tells them to do.

Focusing On The Children Not The Institution

Yeah, I’ve always hated that that phrase, “€œdiverting money from the public schools.”€  As if the thing we want to protect is the institution or the building or the name on the building. Instead of saying, “€œWait a minute. That money ought to go with the kid wherever the kids are going to get a good education.”€

So why would we complain about what the name on the building is? The whole purpose of education is to have an educated populace and informed citizens.  That’s what’s going to give us a good culture.

But boy those institutions are working hard to keep their gravy train. It’s going to be a huge battle.  It’s an important battle, that has been coming for a long time. This could be one of the biggest steps towards school choice we’ve seen in years.

That’s on the heels of some great victories at the state level.  So now, potentially a great victory at the federal level if she’s able to get some real movement. So appreciate your article! We”€™ve got a link to the article today folks, you can go to our website at WallBuildersLive.com and read this article by Mark Hall. Appreciate you coming on! Let’s get you back again soon.

Thank you for having me! I appreciate it!

Stay with us, folks.  We’ll be right back with David and Tim Barton.

Truth Be Told With Tim Barton and David Pate

Hi, this is Tim Barton from WallBuilders and we are battling culture and attack on truth.  In fact, the majority of Americans now no longer believe that there are absolutes and that absolute truth does not exist. Well, we are being bombarded from an existentialist, a postmodern, a humanistic, and a secular worldview that tells us the truth is how we define it. “Truth is what we imagine, truth is what we believe.”

Well, friends, I can tell you that’s not the way it works. In fact, God defined truth in the Word of God and laid out very clearly what it is. And we have great examples from history. They show us some things work and some things don’t work. What we’ve done a while ago is to try to help combat this attack against truth.  

We started a conference called Truth Be Told.  One of the other speakers, David Pate, and myself team up and we go around from city to city talking about cultural issues but looking at it from a Biblical perspective and from American history seeing the examples. And so if you want to learn more about how we can apply truth to various issues of culture you can go visit our website, WallBuilders.com  and look for information on Truth Be Told. Friends, in a time when truth is being attacked, it’s time for truth to be told.

Vouchers Eliminate Coercion

Thanks for staying with us.  We are here with David and Tim Barton. Thanks to Professor Mark David Hall from George Fox University for joining us today as well. The article will be available on our website so you can check it out there WallBuildersLive.com.

David, Tim, he nailed it. For us, the nation, and for religious liberty, Betsy DeVos will be great because she’ll give parents more options, more choices to be able to make sure that what they’re teaching is supported not destroyed.

If you look at vouchers, people hate that word.  Even the guys on the Right say, “€œOh, vouchers are “€˜really bad”€™ because where you get federal money you get federal regulation.”€ The one thing about vouchers is they eliminate coercion from any side. Vouchers provide freedom for whatever worldview you have.

If you’re a hardcore secularist take the vouchers and keep your kids in government schools because you’ll get a secular education. But if you are Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, or if you’re whatever you are, there’s no coercion for anybody’s worldview.

You can’t coerce me into your worldview because I get to choose where I put my kids.  And I can choose where they are. By doing that, you can’t force your views down my throat. If you’re for freedom at all vouchers are a really good deal.

So if you oppose vouchers you are opposing the individual right to choose.  You’re opposing parents having the right to choose what their kids should be taught. That’s inconceivable that you would oppose that level of individual choice.

Freedom Of Choice And Freedom Of Religion

What and where they’re taught, there’s a lot of things you oppose. That also means you oppose parents being able to take their child out of a failing school and potentially put them in a school just down the road that is successful. So not only are you opposing the freedom of choice for parents, you’re opposing in some cases even the opportunity for the success of the students.

Go back to what Louisiana did where Governor Jindal, maybe two years ago, when they first started enacting school choice in Louisiana.  What they discovered was that when they took kids out of these failing schools, there were many private schools and charter schools that these kids we’re going to, the kids that were struggling all of a sudden were able to increase their performance ability.
But when they started to remove kids from these failing schools guess what the fairly schools did? They went, “€œHey, we better up our game a little bit.”€ So competition helped the market.

Whomever Opposes Vouchers Opposes Statistically Improved Education

Mark said, “€œNinety five percent of the studies show that competition lifts all boats. That every single form of education goes up when you have competition.”€ So really what happens is, anti-voucher folks, they oppose statistically improved education for all kids.

This is a program that raises statistically the numbers for every kid but they’re saying, “€œWe oppose this program.”€ Think about that. What they’re saying is, “€œWe want inferior education for every kid we can get.”€ Which is essentially the same result they’re getting by saying we oppose vouchers.

Because stats say that 95% means it essentially stats rise for everybody. So you know to say, “€œBetsy Devos is anti-religious liberty”€ is nonsense. What she is, is for improved education. When you have choice everybody benefits from that choice.

Change Is Coming
But when you have people that don’t want choice, they want monopoly.  Rick as you pointed out in the interview, they want that monopoly.  They want to control.  So they’re going to be against it. But it’s not because it doesn’t work. It’s because maybe they don’t like competition.

I think we have more than just a new president that is going to shake things up. But we have a lot of appointees at these agencies that could shake things up. It’s going to be fun to watch and hopefully we will see some very positive outcome as well. Thanks so much to all of you for listening today to WallBuilders Live!