Schrenko Rap

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Just about everybody knows that Georgia’s current Republican state school superintendent, Kath Cox, wanted to gut science education of anything that might upset bible thumpers. She not only eliminated the term “evolution,” she also took out references to the “long” age of the earth, and she removed about 70% of the material covering evolutionary biology.

The woman she replaced, Linda Schrenko, was even worse. Schrenko, the first woman elected to a state wide office, was once the darling of the Republican Party and the Christian Coalition. In 1996 Schrenko asked the state attorney general if creationism could be taught in public classrooms. Apparently Linda never heard of Edwards v Aguillard. Undeterred, she continued to insist that it was a local issue and encouraged teachers to decide for themselves how they were going to teach biology. (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.)

However, she was so bad at her job that one conservative political commentator has referred to her as the worst politician in the history of the state. She politicized her job to such an extent that she couldn’t do it. She refused to meet with anyone who didn’t donate to her campaign. She appointed friends to lucrative positions in the state department of education, including her pastor and his wife. She spent much time in Washington hobnobbing with the Republican elite. (She was with Bush when he signed NCLB). She never attended meetings of governing board of Georgia Public Broadcasting even though she was an ex-officio director. She fought continuously with the governor and the board of education. She stopped attending state board meetings, despite the fact that it was part of her job description. By the end of her term she simply stopped coming to work and left her staff to run the department without her. She spent her time traveling across the state on the taxpayer’s money to campaign for governor.

I remember watching Schrenko on CSPAN arguing for NCLB saying that Washington needs to act to improve schools. I saw her as saying “I’m lazy and ineffectual, please do my job for me.” Perhaps the pain-killers she is rumored to be addicted to are to blame.

She is still making headlines. Last week she was indicted for embezzling federal education funds to finance her campaign for governor and a face lift.

Schrenko allegedly directed the state Department of Education to issue more than $500,000 in checks on the same day July 24, 2002 to companies created by Botes purportedly for computer services for the Atlanta Area School for the Deaf, the Georgia School for the Deaf and the Gov.’s Honors Program, Yates said.

The checks were issued in amounts just under $50,000 each, as that is the maximum amount that Schrenko could issue in her position as superintendent, Yates added.

About $250,000 of the roughly $614,000 was funneled from the companies to Schrenko and Temple and to Schrenko’s campaign through cash payments, wire transfers to an account in Bermuda and other disguised transactions, Yates said.

28 Comments

Schrenko on creationism:

In Georgia, one school district, Hall County north of Atlanta, this year adopted a policy calling for the teaching of creationism along with evolution. A bill in the state Legislature to give state approval for teaching creationism has stalled in committee, but State School Superintendent Linda Schrenko, who is sympathetic to teaching creationism, has asked for a state attorney general’s opinion on whether creationism can already be taught.

And on teaching the Bible:

Schrenko has recommended that the State Board of Education add to its curriculum social studies courses based on the Bible. History of the Old Testament I and II and History of the New Testament I and II would be taught in Georgia schools if Schrenko’s idea is approved. She said the courses focus on the Bible in the context of history, and that through that historical context students would get a great deal of value from the Bible and the course lessons.

I’ve often wondered how it is that the most sanctimonious religion pushers are often the least likely to adhere to their own moral codes. Stealing from deaf children to give yourself cosmetic surgery? How many sins can you rack up in one go?

from deaf children to give yourself cosmetic surgery? How many sins can you rack up in one go?

That’s not entirely clear from the links you cite; could you possibly expand that idea?

I don’t think we should make the mistake of tarring all Creationists by the brush of this charming lady. It is pretty clear though that party politics can propel some phenomonally incompetent and dishonest people, by concentrating on this particular individual’s corrupt dealings, we leave our end open to the same allegation when the odd researcher turns out to be playing games (as happened not too long ago with Professor Reiner Protsch).

To answer “Rilke’s Granddaughter”’s question - Schrenko appears to have spent $9300 on cosmetic surgery. Allegedly it was a facelift. I don’t know if the prosecutors have evidence that links the Board of Education funds to that surgery, or if they just made the reference to improve their publicity.

It’s also been reported that Schrenko has gone through a divorce and personal bankruptcy, so regardless of the outcome of the trial, I can feel that there’s some justice in the world.

I certainly wouldn’t imply that all creationists are anything like this (I’m sure that most are fine, upstanding citizens), but the level of hypocrisy required for this lady to do what she did is breathtaking. Remember, creationists routinely claim that teaching their “worldview” will lead society to be more moral, and that the opposing view is responsible for much of the world’s problems (all of which occured since the 1960s). Sure, it’s silly, but one would think that an indivdual who supposedly believes this would not be a blatant criminal.

Rilke's Granddaughter Wrote:

That’s not entirely clear from the links you cite; could you possibly expand that idea?

I’m not sure what you think is unclear. From the article posted by Reed, we learn that the money Schrenko stole was intened for deaf children, and that she spent part of it on a face lift. That’s the trifecta of stealing, depriving the disadvantaged, and vanity all in one.

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Even according to “Christian pollster” George Barna, Evangelical Christians as a group don’t seem morally different from the population as a whole.

As for Schrenko, I think she’s only the tail end of a normal curve, and I doubt she allows her religious convictions to influence her political goals or methods. There’s an aphorism in politics that those who desire power are least suitable to hold it. The Catholic priesthood is as delectable and irresistable an attractive nuisance for pedophiles as human ingenuity can construct - those with normal sexual appetites find the requirements unattractive, pedophiles are plied with a constant supply of candidates, the nature of the office encourages complete trust by parents, and if things get hot, the church authorities cover it up and move you to new hunting grounds. What does belief in the religious doctrines have to do with any of this?

As far as I can see, religious belief however devout exercises no influence on the relation of the believers behavior to his doctrines. It lies too far from the perceived self-interest that directs our lives.

As far as I can see, religious belief however devout exercises no influence on the relation of the believers behavior to his doctrines. It lies too far from the perceived self-interest that directs our lives.

You’ve outdone yourself, Flint. Sometimes it takes me a couple read-throughs to figure out whether you’re channeling an evangelical creationist’s thought process versus speaking your own mind.

But I can’t unravel these two sentences! Surely you aren’t suggesting that one’s religious beliefs don’t influence one’s behavior …

Is it your position that Shrenko became a Christian in order to achieve her political goals? You don’t suspect that Shrenko’s fundamentalist beliefs enabled her to push her bizarro positions with a reckless vigor that exceeds the ordinary sort-of-religious person?

GWW:

No, I can’t see that Shrenko’s fundamentalist beliefs had any effect on her behavior at all. I don’t think religious fanatics are overrepresented among the politically ambitious, nor the politically clumsy. Idiots come in all faiths, and none. Crooks too.

I don’t even think religious beliefs influence most peoples’ behaviors in any important way. Yes, we have the fanatics, but we have fanatics of all stripes. The reason I went into detail about the priests was to show that the doctrines of the Catholic church were irrelevant; what we had was a pure recruitment function.

And so I suggested that behavior is informed by self-interest. At the extreme, sure, we have people whose religious beliefs and self-interest are closely tied, but I think this isn’t common enough to worry about.

Sometimes I think you really DO believe that religious belief is a neural pathology that metastasizes early, extensively, and invariably. You see bozos banging bibles under every bed.

Oh man that’s such sweet sweet news. You’d think the religious right would understand, having been raped by hordes of televangelists for decades, that some folks really will lie to them. That they’ll lie to them boldy, right to their face, over and over staring them in the eyes, with a warm convincing smile, a brotherly pat on the back, and a shared prayer. You’d think they figure that out …

Flint #1

religious belief however devout exercises no influence on the relation of the believers behavior to his doctrines.

Flint #2

I don’t even think religious beliefs influence most peoples’ behaviors in any important way.

Someone tell Ryan Longwell he doesn’t have to kick the ball quite as far as he thought he did. :)

At the extreme, sure, we have people whose religious beliefs and self-interest are closely tied, but I think this isn’t common enough to worry about.

It’s not the “self-interest” that worries me. You brought up “self-interest.” It’s the “achieving the Lord’s aims by any means necessary to save society from the hands of the Devil” that worries me.

If you honestly believe that religious fanatics in this country are uncommon then you lead a wonderfully sheltered life. If not for a generous supply of religious fanatics, this web site and others like it would be non-sequiturs.

I think you really DO believe that religious belief is a neural pathology that metastasizes early, extensively, and invariably.

Nope. The religious beliefs I’m worried about are learned, (and, incontrovertibly, under abusive circumstances on occasion). We’ve been through this.

You see bozos banging bibles under every bed.

Nope. But I do see religious fundamentalists at work in our government and I read about them in the news (where their exploits are often reported uncritically). I like to know what they’re up to before it’s too late.

Flint Wrote:

As far as I can see, religious belief however devout exercises no influence on the relation of the believers behavior to his doctrines. It lies too far from the perceived self-interest that directs our lives.

I don’t think I’d go that far. Certainly there are behaviors that are affected by religious belief, like going to church every if nothing else. I also think that for many people, religious doctrine does indeed have an effect on their socially desirable behavior, though it probably does far more to reinforce existing behaviors rather than to shape new ones.

But what’s amusing about this episode is that creationists (including Schrenko, I’m sure) vehemently argue the exact opposite of what you’re saying. They say that not only does religious belief strongly influence people’s behavior, but that having the correct religious belief (theirs) is essential if that behavior is to be socially desirable. To that end, it is necessary to encourage the whole of society to adopt their religious beliefs. That’s one of their main rationales for getting creationism taught in public schools.

Now, ironically, we’ve got a big proponent of that hypothesis serving as a big ugly data point against it.

stealing federal education funds for a failed 2002 campaign for governor. ~$250,000

stealing federal education funds for cosmetic surgery $9,300.

stealing federal education funds that have simply disapeared >$229,700.

fundamentalist christian criminals at work in our government, priceless!

I wonder whether places like this give a jaundiced perspective on this issue. Living in Alabama, I work daily with devout practicing Baptists. And if someone else doesn’t raise the topic of religion in conversation, it generally doesn’t come up at all. These people are pretty much just like everyone else. Yeah, they attend church on Sunday. But (as I tried to point to with a link), they are not overrepresented among marriages or divorces, among crooks in the jails or deans of academic departments.

So I think we are selecting the far end of a normal curve and trying to present it as, if not typical, at least indicative. I don’t think this is even close to correct. In most of these cases, I think GWW and Steve Reuland have it backwards. Religion does not instigate behavior like Schrenko’s, but is instead used to justify it. Her actions are common enough so we could find lots of examples, and we’d find an equal number of justifications, most of them not religious.

So if two people are caught doing the same thing and one of them says “I thought I could get away with it” and the other one says “God told me to do it” are we seeing the cause of the behavior, or the rationale?

As for creationism, I think most people find magical explanations simpler, absolute explanations more comfortable, and scientific explanations more reliable. They want all of these things at the same time. Understanding that this is not possible takes more time and effort than they choose to carve out of their existing habits. Our enemies aren’t evil.

Well, Flint, our enemies may not be “evil” but certainly toxic folks like Shrenko are just a *tad* immoral, in addition to suffering from the laziness you outlined in the ultimate paragraph of your previous post.

I don’t doubt that Shrenko and the limelit creationist characters whose antics we discuss here represent “the far end of a normal curve.” This “far end,” unfortunately, does not comprise a miniscule number of persons, nor does it appear to be shrinking (at least, it’s not shrinking as rapidly as it might if it were merely a fad).

I know very well that there are vast vast numbers of creationists who are too busy or too lazy or too dumb or who simply don’t care about science, but who are also quite capable of minding their own business. Fabulous people, I’m sure, every damn one of them. I bet there’s even a handful of such folks who believe in letting their kids make up their own minds about the subject and who make an extra effort not to indoctrinate them. Bonus points for them!

Yes, I can live quite happily with such people, especially if they aren’t averse to liquor. Such people (even the tee-tollers) are inclined, from time to time, to do and say great things and to create works of art which I admire and wonder at.

But these perpetually whining science-disparaging Constitution-ignoring fundamentalists need to be taken out to the proverbial woodshed. If there’s any justice, Ms. Schrenko is about to get hers.

Goodness, I never said that Schrenko’s religious beliefs were the cause of her behavior, though I do take issue with Flint’s more extreme view that religion has no affect on behavior at all.

I believe that Schrenko did what she did because she’s scum. I simply point out the irony that religion failed to do what people like Schrenko claim it’s supposed to do. According to Schrenko, it’s important that everyone adopt her religious beliefs, otherwise they could end up like her. You can’t make this stuff up.

Steve Reuland:

I think I agree with you. Schrenko is scum. I agree that the explicit teachings of her beliefs would have prevented her from doing every bit of it. I tried to point out that her religious beliefs *did not influence* her behavior. You seem to agree with that in particular, but not in general. I tried to show that as a group, evangelicals did not vary from the population as a whole in those respects where their religious teachings are most adamant – about divorce rates (as opposed to opinions about divorce), incidence of homosexuality (as opposed to opinions about it), actual criminal activity (as opposed to opinions about crime), etc.

From this broad lack of distinction (even according to a pollster who is *trying* to find higher morality among evangelicals), I conclude that religion is used as a post-facto justification for behavior, rather than a guide for behavior.

On the other hand, I think religion makes a political difference (as I tried to imply when I kept harping on opinions about morality). For one example of many, evangelicals are far more likely than the population as a whole to support the war on drugs, though no less likely to USE those drugs themselves. Perhaps it would be accurate to say that religious belief correlates with hypocrisy?

Flint–

What I disagree with is that there is no correlation between religious belief and behavior across a wide specturm of beliefs and behaviors. That might be much more broad than what you’re talking about, but I think it would be hard to deny that religious belief sometimes affects social behavior, even if it’s in ways that most of us don’t care about. For example, every Mormon I’ve ever known abstained from drinking alcohol, as their religious beliefs dictate. It’s possible that they’re really hard-core drunkards in the privacy of their homes, but I doubt it. I think I can safely say that their religious beliefs influenced their behavior, at least for some of them.

I fully agree that when it comes to Christian fundamentalists, who are the most conspicuously pious, there doesn’t seem to be much correlation between the behaviors they condemn and the behaviors they commit. I personally think this is more a symptom of fundamentalist psychology than a general truism about religion, but that’s a complex topic that I don’t want to delve into. Either way, it does make their excessive moralizing hypocritical. Schrenko is a prime example of just how bad that hypocrisy can get.

Steve Reuland:

OK, I can’t disagree with any of that. Clearly, some behaviors are modified by religious beliefs, from drinking to church attendance. Religion is embedded in culture, to the point where it makes sense to say that different faiths lead to different cultures in some definable ways. Sometimes it’s hard to tell to what degree the religious doctrines influenced a cultural practice.

So I’ll tone it down a bunch: I simply don’t see that fundamentalism influences the behavior of the evangelicals in most morally important aspects of their lives. They behave just like everyone else in these ways, such that someone taking a survey of what people actually DO could not on the basis of most of his data select out the evangelicals.

I regard Schrenko’s behavior as about as reprehensible as can be imagined in a public official, but I don’t think her religion is even as relevant as her weight or age to her behavior. So if she’s overweight, perhaps on an anti-fat forum her weight would be snickered at (“fat people do things like this”), with equal justification. Perhaps even moreso, considering the cosmetic surgery.

For example, every Mormon I’ve ever known abstained from drinking alcohol, as their religious beliefs dictate. It’s possible that they’re really hard-core drunkards in the privacy of their homes, but I doubt it.

Reminds me of the joke about the importance of taking two Mormons with you when you go fishing. If you take one, he’ll drink all the beer.

Flint Wrote:

Living in Alabama, I work daily with devout practicing Baptists…But (as I tried to point to with a link), they are not overrepresented among …divorces

If you track back your link to the original Barna study, it reports just the d. rate of self identified “Christians” as the same as for non-Christians. According to a ‘99 Barna study, “independent/nondenominational” protestants had a d. rate of 34%, Baptists 29%. At the low end of 21% were Catholics, Lutherans, atheists and agnostics. In response to this, some Baptist leaders mounted a No-True-Scotsman defense. FWIW, routinely at the top of the divorce charts with rates up to twice that of the northeast are majority/heavy plurality Southern Baptist Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, along with a state with known… ummm… marriage eccentricities, Nevada.

Groups that drove the later Barna study’s non-christian rate up to the overall Christian average were groups like Jews (30%), and the “Unwilling-To-Definitely-Commit to religious categorization” (surprise!).

If Shrenko is scum now, imagine what she’d be if she were found guilty!

If Shrenko is scum now, imagine what she’d be if she were found guilty!

Uh oh, not another leftist troll … ;)

Der Fall Shrenko is nothing surprising. Sociologically speaking there is a lot of overlap between fraud and popular religion, Both preachers and confidence men belong to the class of individuals who solicit money by promising benefits not backed by tangible assets; and both recognize the age-old truth that you can’t swindle an honest man, though the theological formulation of this principle, salvation by faith alone, has a rather better ring to it than other ways of conceptualizing the matter. There’s also a lot of commonality between Republican politics and religious flim flam. I remember a prophet who used to advertise the end of the world on the radio, and then ask her supporters to make contributions using Visa and MasterCard that they would never pay off since the end of the world would have occurred before they maxed out the plastic.

What is problematic about the whole fundamentalist movement is that it is based on the premise that the “godless” ones intend to corrupt the moral underpinnings that their religion provides. Fundamentalists claim also to see this attack as directed particularly towards their children, thus the brouhaha about creation science and/or ID in the schools. Sexuality in any guise seems to make them particularly vicious and unreasoning. Yet, As Flint has pointed out, they are morally par with the general population, at best and in the case being discussed and others, a good deal worse. I visited a hard core conservative site earlier and there was an incredible amount of ranting against the embedded photographer that caught the dispatch of the wounded Iraq fighter in Fallujah. About the nicest thing he was called, was a traitor, several advocated the journalist’s murder…incredible! The “whistle blower” in the Abu Garaib scandal has been obliged to go into hiding. It goes on and on. The teachings of Jesus, if I may distill them down as I understand them are “treat others as you would have them treat you” coupled with “I am God’s son, as you treat the least of your fellows so do you treat me”. I can see NO evidence of these principles in the current fundie movement, or in christianity as practiced in the past, with very few exceptions, quite the opposite. They ,(in my opinion), are wielding their religion as both a shield and a club, solely to gain control over others, including their children, who disagree with their falsified “moral” agenda. Let me repeat, it is all about control. Why they seek this seems based in a brew of hypocrisy, ignorance, paranoia, hate, greed and fear, in what order, I have no idea.

Sociologically speaking there is a lot of overlap between fraud and popular religion, Both preachers and confidence men belong to the class of individuals who solicit money by promising benefits not backed by tangible assets

True, that. I occasionally listen to Christian talk-radio here in Austin (purely an anthropological interest, I assure you), and it’s impressive, the amount of advertising that is aimed at the particularly credible (and paranoid).

Bob Somerby (as usual) makes some very wise comments today relating to religion and political discourse.

http://www.dailyhowler.com/

Bob Somerby (as usual) makes some very wise comments today relating to religion and political discourse.

http://www.dailyhowler.com/

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This page contains a single entry by Reed A. Cartwright published on November 16, 2004 12:47 AM.

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