COLUMBUS, Ohio – Conservatives supporting the enactment of anti-Critical Race Theory (CRT) education legislation rallied on the Ohio Capitol’s south plaza, even as Ohio’s state board of education remains quiet about a shot across the bow Attorney General Dave Yost fired on the panel last week.
About 100 supporters of House Bill 327 gathered at the Stop CRT in Ohio organization’s event to hear speakers against allowing teachers to promote CRT, a political agenda that presents American history, social justice, business and other aspects of society as well as political action through the lens of radical racial and ethnic politics. In many ways, it updates Marxist theory highlighting class struggle with a focus on racial disparities.
The bill’s joint sponsor, State Representative Sarah Fowler Arthur (R-Ashtabula) said the legislation encourages objective instruction about divisive concepts in contrast to the CRT’s promotion of viewing systemic racism in individuals and institutions such as government.
Arthur said the proposal supports the state’s mandatory teaching of foundational documents such as the federal and state constitutions and the Declaration of Independence as it also aligns with the landmark federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, “We condemn racism,” she told those gathered at the late-morning rally.
If enacted, the legislation also prohibits school districts, public colleges and universities, and state agencies from requiring employees and contractors to receive training in such divisive concepts and protects those employees from discrimination in hiring or penalties for not adopting such training.
In an interview afterward with The Ohio Star, Arthur said the legislation has 35 co-sponsors in the 99-member House.
She said the Ohio House State and Local Government Committee will have another hearing today as the hearing process continues. Arthur expressed optimism the bill will advance to the House floor during the fall session.
“It’s all dependent upon testimony,” she said, “and that we have properly vetted the bill.”
The conservatives gathered also heard from, among others, FreedomWorks senior fellow and black conservative commentator the Rev. C.L. Bryant, and Ruth Edmonds, a black conservative and political activist from suburban Columbus who vied unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination for Ohio’s 15th District in a special primary in early August.
Edmonds said CRT makes the wrong assumption that all people of a racial group have the same political attitudes and life ambitions. CRT educational programming “trains the mind to think a certain way,” she told the crowd, “so it’s indoctrination.”
Edmonds, who serves as director of Christian engagement for the Columbus-based Center for Christian Virtue, said CRT also promotes group identity over traditional American individualism. “We’re at war for our American democracy and in a spiritual war,” he said.
Bryant called the teaching of CRT in schools another form of “social engineering” supported through taxpayer-funded education.
“We don’t get our rights from Democrats; we don’t get our rights from Republicans,” he said in a fiery tone. “We get our rights from God and we will not bend our knees” to government.
Challenging the Ohio Board of Education
The backdrop of the rally and legislation includes the Ohio Department of Education’s state board of education Resolution 20 “equity” policy statement passed in July 2020 in support of several policies and directives closely echoing those of CRT. Those goals and directives included employee training at the department and local districts addressed in House Bill 327.
Public outcry over the policy statement – fully titled as “Resolution to Condemn Racism and to Advance Equity and Opportunity for Black Students, Indigenous Students and Students of Color – and Statehouse political calculus recently led Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost to send an advisory opinion suggesting actions taken under the policies could run afoul of the U.S. Constitution and the Civil Rights Act.
“Our aim has been to provide you with as much clarity and precision as possible under state and federal law, given the vagueness and lack of specific detail about what actual actions are contemplated to execute the general direction of the resolution,” Yost wrote in a September 14 letter accompanying the opinion.
“In place of [Martin Luther] King’s vision, which seeks to make race irrelevant, this contra-King movement makes race central to all interactions, social, legal and political,” wrote Yost, who had joined other state attorneys general in May in opposing President Biden’s CRT initiatives.
Another rally speaker, GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate Mark Pukita, had spoken to the board earlier Tuesday morning urging the repeal of Resolution 20, which passed during a summer of contentious and sometimes violent protests in numerous cities nationwide against allegations of police abuse and unjustified shootings of minorities.
Pukita in July of this year also had challenged the board to repeal the resolution.
“In July, you had a chance to act, before the schools opened, to force a vote on the repeal of the Equity Resolution,” he told the board Tuesday.
“Instead you played typical ‘swamp” politics,” he added. “You have failed Ohio parents, children and families.”
Mandy Minick, the department of education’s chief communications officer, said the board has not issued any public response to Yost’s advisory opinion or the proposed Ohio House legislation.
– – –
Brian R. Ball is a veteran Columbus journalist reporting for The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Email news tips to him at [email protected]
Photos by Brian Ball.