In the wake of the May 24 horrific school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that claimed the lives of 19 children and two teachers, Christian nationalists sought to pin the blame on the teaching of evolution, the lack of formal prayer in schools and the secularization of society.
In Arizona, state Sen. Rick Gray (R-Maricopa) laid the blame for the killings on the teaching of evolution in public schools and the alleged promoting of atheism in classrooms.
“For decades, for decades, we’ve been teaching our children in school there is no God,” Gray ranted on the Arizona Senate floor. “You can’t pray. You can’t even pray on the field! There is no God. There are no absolutes. We live in a post-modern world, so whatever you think is right is right, and if somebody else has a different view, you’re still right. There are no absolutes. That we’re animals. And we’re just animals. It’s survival of the fittest. But then we’re shocked when they act that out! But we say, ‘Don’t act that way!’”
A few days later, Pastor Jack Hibbs of Calvary Chapel in Chino Hills, Calif., also placed the blame on evolution in schools.
“We teach kids in school, ‘God’s dead. He’s not real. Evolution is true. You’re nothing but an animal’,” Hibbs said in an interview with the ultra-conservative TV network Newsmax. “And then we see them act up, and we get upset that they don’t act like angels. We tell them they’re animals, go out there and be a good boy. And this man, this young man conducted himself like an animal.”
Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears (R) took a slightly different, though equally vapid, tack during an address to the National Rifle Association in Houston in late May, blaming the murders on a general breakdown of society that has come about, she said in prepared remarks, “Because we took prayer out of schools. We have so liberated our sexuality, that we are now informed that men can have abortions.”
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) pursued a similar line, telling a conservative radio station, “I think the secularization of society, I think in many cases the loss of faith” are to blame for mass shootings. He added, “I think the solution is renewed faith.”
Writing for the Discovery Institute, a group that promotes creationism over evolution, Scott S. Powell pinned the blame on a variety of societal factors, including “a marked decrease in religious belief and associated fear of God, particularly among the young in the United States.” For good measure, Powell added, “high divorce rates, abortion and broken homes are correlated to the moral breakdown associated with sexual revolution of the latter 1960s.”
Two members of Congress, U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), blamed the shootings on a lack of mandatory prayer in public schools.
“Look, maybe if we heard more prayers from leaders of this country instead of taking God’s name in vain, we wouldn’t have the mass killings like we didn’t have before prayer was eliminated from school,” Gohmert said during a House hearing.
During a press conference, Scalise remarked, “We had AR-15s in the 1960s. We didn’t have those mass school shootings. Now I know it’s something that some people don’t want to talk about, but we actually had prayer in school during those days.”
On its “Wall of Separation” blog, Americans United charged that these claims are just attempts to distract Americans from the real issues.
“If we really want to have an honest discussion about school safety, gun violence and why some young men have embraced violence and terror, now’s the time,” Church & State Editor Rob Boston wrote. “But let’s leave Charles Darwin out of it. He had nothing to do with the tragic events in Uvalde.”