One year after Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law stirred controversy, Iowa’s Republican Governor Kim Reynolds has signed Senate File 496, a law that prohibits discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-6. Effective from July 1, the law has garnered nationwide attention for its restrictions on education. It not only bans discussions on LGBTQ+ topics but also mandates informing parents if students request non-binary pronouns or names. Additionally, it calls for age-appropriate library materials and prohibits any books containing depictions of sex.
AI Determines Banned Books
In a unique approach to comply with the law, a K-12 Iowa school district, Mason City, employed artificial intelligence to identify books to remove from school libraries without reading them. Using the ChatGPT tool, the school administration generated a list of 42 books, including classics like Toni Morrison’s “Beloved,” Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple,” and Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” This move reflects a broader trend of increasing restrictions on students’ access to diverse resources, particularly on topics like sexuality and gender identity.
Christian Nationalism’s Influence
The adoption of such restrictive laws aligns with the foundational principles of patriarchal white Christian nationalism. During a panel discussion on white Christian nationalism in December 2022, speakers highlighted key components, including the belief in the “innocence” of history and the promotion of “purity culture.” These concepts, rooted in colonial history, have been used to uphold the idea of white racial identity as special and innocent.
Challenging the Status Quo
Challenging the concept of “white innocence” involves discussing difficult aspects of American history, such as white supremacy and racism. However, these discussions are increasingly being restricted or banned in schools and businesses. Sara Moslener, a religion lecturer at Central Michigan University, noted that “purity culture,” derived from conservative evangelical Christianity, opposes abortion rights, homosexuality, and traditional gender roles. This cultural influence also plays a role in Christian nationalism.
A Unified Ideology and Political Movement
Christian nationalism is not just a religious belief but also a political ideology. It seeks to unite a shared theology of family and a common perception of gender roles, sexuality, and gender expression. Politicians like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis have embraced this ideology to gain political support.
In conclusion, while politicians like DeSantis and Governor Reynolds push for laws restricting LGBTQ+ discussions and diversity, equity, and inclusion in education, their underlying goal appears to be the establishment of a patriarchal Christian nationalist power structure in the United States. These laws aim to control education and suppress discussions that challenge the myth of “white innocence” and the invention of a Christian “purity culture.” By limiting access to diverse knowledge, these laws reinforce the dominance of the white Christian power structure.