Critical race theory has infected the bulk of America’s foundational institutions over the past few years, including, most notably, even the government at both the state and federal levels.
Oftentimes, this promotion of CRT comes in the form of so-called “diversity” seminars and trainings aimed at promoting equity, or racial equality of outcomes, at the expense of equality of opportunity. This is happening at a myriad of public institutions, including public schools and universities, federal departments and even the military.
Various legal experts and critics of CRT argue that it is a religion, given that it advances a system of subjective values and operates on faith-based assumptions. Therefore, these experts then posit, government promotion of CRT trainings directly violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
In a September article for New Discourses — a self-described apolitical site aimed at countering “critical social justice” philosophies such as CRT — James Lindsay made the case that critical social theory, including CRT, should be treated as a religion and therefore should no longer benefit from government promotion.
A mathematician, political commentator and co-founder of New Discourses, Lindsay stands as one of the most prominent critics of critical social justice.
According to Lindsay, critical social justice theories bear all the markings of an Augustinian religious system: Followers are taught they must atone for their sins (identity privilege), which were born out of the “Fall” (historical injustices against minority groups). Atonement for followers of CRT can come through confession (acknowledging one’s privilege) and good works (adopting social justice causes).
Additionally, while there is no “God” figure present in these philosophies, theism isn’t the only form of religion.
Citing a Cornell Law Review article by attorney Ben Clements, Lindsay explained that the framers of the Constitution seemed to define religion as something akin to “a matter of private conscience” and “willful community participation,” both of which are decisions “to be made by the individual” unhindered by the state.
“[Critical race theory] acts religiously rather obviously for one thing, and it believes in transcendent ideas like ‘systemic racism’ that can exist and persist even if there are no individuals or institutions that are racist. This is an article of faith, then,” Lindsay told The Western Journal via email.
“If you want to go deeper, it has an underlying metaphysics that believes society can be remade through continual critique (this is ultimately Hegel’s metaphysics of the dialectic) and that when this is done sufficiently, a ‘liberated’ world will emerge. That is an eschatology (religious belief about the end of the world/History).”
Speaking with The Western Journal, two prominent legal experts — Doug Seaton, president of the Upper Midwest Law Center, and Kellie Miller, director of SchoolHouse Rights — agreed with Lindsay’s assessment, explaining how government-mandated CRT trainings do, in fact, violate the First Amendment.
Miller said that, although “Establishment Clause cases typically involve challenges to state-sponsored prayer or public religious displays” CRT seminars “raise unique Establishment Clause concerns.”
“One way to violate the Establishment Clause is for the state to promote or inhibit religion. In our work, we have seen CRT curriculum presented to students not as a theory to be studied critically, but as an all-encompassing religious system that requires active participation and acceptance by students,” Miller told The Western Journal.
“Readings and lessons include encouraging students to give themselves to the movement, to unlearn old beliefs taught by family or their religion, and even to participate in extreme fasting or hunger strikes. Doubters of CRT teachings are condemned, and their doubt used as evidence of their privilege and desire to oppress others.
“CRT also unambiguously inhibits other religious beliefs by labeling Christianity as ‘oppressive’ and telling students they need to unlearn Christian beliefs. If reciting a prayer at a high school graduation is an establishment of religion, then how can we accept an educational program that trains students to unlearn their religious beliefs in favor of new ones?”
On behalf of the experts at the Upper Midwest Law Center, Seaton concurred with Miller’s assessment.
“We do believe that CRT constitutes a secular creed or religion and that efforts to impose it by requiring adherence, affirmation, confessions and the like in government controlled settings amount to establishment and compelled speech in violation of the first Amendment,” Seaton told The Western Journal.
“We also believe that these CRT activities often amount to the creation of a hostile work environment and that the same compelled speech and adverse actions against critics are violations of the civil rights laws, in both public and private settings.”
Seaton took things to a personal level, explaining how he himself became diametrically opposed to the teachings of CRT.
“Prior to my legal career, as a Ph. D. Historian, I was part of a genuine, multi-racial staff teaching a positive version of minority history and contributions to secondary teachers in the Upper Midwest. Before that, as a college student, I demonstrated against segregated housing and South African investments,” Seaton said.
“These experiences make me a particular critic of the fundamentally racist, divisive and anti-American CRT ideology/religion, which badly serves Americans of all races, as is attested by the variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds of the clients coming to the UMLC to challenge CRT.”
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