Even farther afield than The New York Times‘ hilariously silly hits on Sen. Marco Rubio has landed a recent Salon article on Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (who hasn’t declared his presidential candidacy yet but is expected to). Salon apparently wants readers to believe that just because a few homeschool kids worked for Jindal’s campaign once, and one of those kids had a bad homeschool experience, Jindal’s a religious nutjob who will impose a “Handmaid’s Tale”-style theocracy on America should he ever win the presidency.
I know, right? Soundproof logic.
As further proof, Salon offers that a former Jindal chief of staff, Timmy Teepell, who with his wife “already had six children” “by the age of 32” (oh, my everloving nonexistent deity! Children are so disgusting and horrible! How can anyone have SO MANY?!), is now a campaign advisor who makes three times as much from private donors as he had from taxpayers.
Heaven forfend that anyone ever earn more in the private sector than they had in the government sector, especially when that money is, you know, benefiting six little children. Besides, Teepell has no advanced degree. How dare he earn good money without having been compelled to fork over huge chunks of it for left-wing university reprogramming? He’s destroying our dispirited narrative about the impossibility of getting a high-paying job without a college degree!
And so on and so forth. It’s pretty impossible to read the breathless, hate-filled prose without chuckling at its bad imitation of a small-town newspaper that also makes front-page stories out of non-events like the weekly fish fry at Eddie’s. At least people get something worthwhile out of the fish fry. Here we get nothing but baseless accusations, fried in knowing eye-rolls and dastardly insinuations.
Jindal’s a Nothing—Fear Him
So Salon goes on to build its case about how Jindal (for whose outfit America Next I’ve done a very little policy work), although he’s a laughable nothing who has no chance at the presidency, could possibly make it based on his network of underground tunnels filled with homeschool students rushing to and fro between phones and laptops embedded in church basements. Teepell, you see, went to Washington DC for a time and worked with that notorious Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy Leader Michael Farris, who helped found the Homeschool Legal Defense Association, Patrick Henry College, and teen political activism organization Generation Joshua.
The article is a flaming pile of contradictions. It notes, for example, that Farris’s minute-long radio show “is obscure to anyone unfamiliar with homeschool advocacy” and that Generation Joshua’s claim of helping Jindal win his congressional seat is “absurdly implausible,” which contradicts its entire thesis that these absurd, ineffective little homeschool people are somehow going to win Jindal the presidency.
It then becomes clear why Timmy Teepell has become so important to Bobby Jindal: Jindal believes Teepell delivers the homeschool movement’s voters, financial support, public relations apparatus, campaign volunteers, and staffers — a tremendous marshaling of human resources, one that has provided the backbone of his political success to date and one that, thus far, has remained completely under the radar.
Either homeschoolers are obscure and absurd, or they’re a “tremendous” motherlode of political power. They can’t be both, Salon.
The Duggars Are a Homeschool Anomaly
The article then attempts to tie Jindal to the Duggar family through a religious cult they participate in called the Advanced Training Institute, which was founded by a fellow named Bill Gothard. It is almost exclusively populated by homeschoolers. ATI spiritually abuses its members by teaching a distorted version of Christianity, in which people earn their salvation by doing good works. This is often called “works righteousness” or “pietism.” ATI probably would insist they don’t teach this, but I have known several families involved in ATI and have reviewed its curriculum and other materials rather exhaustively, and that is the clear takeaway.
Salvation by works is a pernicious belief that Christians are the only religious system in the history of the world to repudiate. It torments people’s souls, because nobody can stop themselves from doing every single wrong thing all the time. So when people inevitably sin, in cults like ATI they get the message that it’s because they’re not trying hard enough, which creates a loop of torment. They try harder, and fail again, and the torment gets worse. Repeat, until the person lands in despair or rejects God entirely. Instead, the Christian message to people who admit their sin is to offer forgiveness Christ earned for them, and move on.
The Salon article doesn’t tie Jindal to ATI; it ties him to homeschoolers, then homeschoolers to ATI, and then ATI to the Duggars, and there you have it! Jindal is clearly a cult-worshipper, just like the Duggars! Again, the logic is breathtaking.
This smear-by-association is also just plain false. The average homeschooler is not an ATI/Duggar type. ATI’s heyday was several decades ago. This year, they celebrated that “more than a thousand” people attended their most recent conference in Nashville. To put this in perspective, the biggest set of homeschool conventions, which has several locations across the country each year, gets at least 7,000 and as many as 10-12,000 attendees to each spot.
Atop that, almost every state has its own homeschool convention, and in states like California and Texas attendance is at least 10,000 people per event. ATI is a drop in the homeschool bucket. Leftists just like to go crazy about them like they want to go crazy about other fringe religious elements like the Quiverfull movement: These totally nonrepresentative groups whom even insiders consider a little weird confirm the Left’s deepest fears about the Right’s version of utopia. This is like if the Right started insisting all liberals were closet enviroterrorists like Richmond Valentine.
Michael Farris Has Publicly Repudiated ATI
It’s also patently unfair to brand Farris as an ATI/Duggar type. He used his influence as the leader of an organization with at least 80,000 homeschool members to call out ATI and another fringe homeschool organization last year for advancing ideas that harm women and children: “Some young people who were raised in patriarchal and/or legalistic homes are now telling their stories. It is from their stories that I have learned that these men’s teachings are being applied in ways that are clearly unwise and damaging from any reasonable vantage point—Christian or secular. People are being hurt.”
So absent some, you know, evidence that Farris or Jindal or Teepell or ANYONE involved with Jindal secretly plans to turn the country into a burgundied, skirt-wearing, woman-beating, child-subjugating hellhole, and their actions and words to the contrary are just diabolical pretense, I’d say it’s appropriate to assume that Farris put his reputation on the line for something he actually believes. And what this says about Jindal is precisely zero, given the utter lack of substantive connection between him and ATI followers besides that once they may have eaten at the same pizza place.
Pretty much about the only way I can understand how anyone—especially someone who “has a juris doctor from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, a bachelors from Rice University in Houston, and is currently a doctoral candidate in political communication at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge”—would write an article this terrible is to guess he was drinking absinthe or perpetuating one of those pranks whereby someone submits a randomly-generated thesis to reviewers who, because it contains the “right” trigger words, immediately hit publish although the document doesn’t even make any sense.