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Peter Greene notes that 2021 has been a year of attacks on public education, and he introduces us to an organization that is a little-known but influential player behind the scenes. It has actively sought to destroy teachers unions and to bring Christian beliefs into the classroom. That is, their version of Christian beliefs.
The Christian Educators Association is not a new player (you may have heard the name before–we’ll get to that shortly). They were founded as the National Educators Fellowship in 1953 by Dr. Clyde Narramore, an author of over 100 books, most focusing on psychology. He even had a syndicated radio show with his wife Ruth. His shtick was psychology steeped in Christian belief, and he eventually launched and led the Rosemead School of Psychology which has since been folded into Biola University, a private evangelical Christian university in La Mirada, California (we’ll meet them again). Biola was founded as the Bible Institute of Los Angeles by the president of the Union Oil Company of California, based on the model of the Moody Bible Institute, later broadening their programs (including an education department)…
In 1984 they changed the name to Christian Educators Association International, and in 1991, then-leader Forrest Turpen continued restructuring the group to be “an alternative to teachers’ unions, at a time when unions were embracing values more and more hostile to the Biblical worldview.” I was teaching then; I’m not sure what exactly they were upset about (Outcome based education?) Turpen led the group from 1983 till 2003, expanded membership, and went after the secular unions. As always, the mission was unequivocally evangelical; when he died, friends noted his “dogged determination to see the gospel proclaimed to the children of this nation.” After his death, CEAI set up the Forrest Turpen Legacy Grant, asking teachers “Do you dream of impacting your school for Christ?” Grants were awarded for Bibles, tracts, t-shirts, and transportation costs to visit the Ark Encounter, all for various school clubs.
Of one thing you can be certain, the CEAI wanted the schools to be religious. But they also had a political goal: to weaken the teachers’ unions, which they considered godless. CEAI was behind a lawsuit intended to free teachers from any obligation to pay dues. Their plaintiff was Rebecca Friedrichs. She represented teachers who wanted to collect the benefits negotiated by the unions without paying dues. As Greene explains, her case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, but was deadlocked when Justice Scalia died. The next anti-union case, Janus, completed the mission.