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Noem’s Misdirected Anti-CRT Bill Actually Tells O’Gorman to Knock Off the Jesus Talk

Contrary to nearly every headline on Kristi Noem’s latest culture-war sally, the Governor’s latest draft bill does not ban, block, prevent, or limit any discussion of critical race theory in South Dakota’s schools and colleges. It refers to a lot of silly ideas, but nothing encompassed by critical race theory.

But eager reader O poses a question about whether Noem’s bill would ban certain religious teachings at South Dakota’s private schools:

Also, if public money goes to private/religious schools (as scholarships), will those schools be held to account? Is O’Gorman, for example, a state accredited school? [“O”, comment to Dakota Free Press, 2021.12.21]

Sioux Falls O’Gorman High School is part of Bishop O’Gorman Catholic Schools, which, like many other non-public, religious, and tribal school systems, is accredited by the State of South Dakota. Governor Noem’s draft bill reads, in part:

No… state accredited school district shall direct or otherwise compel students to personally affirm, adopt, or adhere to… the… tenet… that any…religion… is inherently superior or inferior…” [Gov. Kristi Noem, draft bill “Protecting Students from Critical Race Theory,” 2021.12.20].

The state-accredited Bishop O’Gorman Catholic Schools carry out their mission by “promoting a Catholic way of life through Gospel values and academic excellence.” Bishop O’Gorman Catholic Schools teach students to affirm, adopt, and adhere to four core values, the first of which is “Faith—exemplify Gospel values in our daily lives.”

O’Gorman High School requires all Catholic students one course each semester in “Theology,” by which they mean Christian/Catholic theology. All students must take at least one credit of Theology. The theology courses listed in the current O’Goramn catalog all teach from a Catholic perspective. The Apologetics course, which “equips students with solid theological explanations for various aspects of the Catholic faith,”  refers to “the necessary relationship between faith and reason.”

The mission, values, and courses of Bishop O’Gorman Catholic Schools indicate that this state-accredited school system teaches the inherent superiority of one particular religion. That position unavoidably includes teaching the inferiority of other religions.

Kristi Noem’s anti-something bill isn’t banning critical race theory; it’s banning teaching kids to be Catholic.

Noem’s anti-something bill may not actually punish Bishop O’Gorman Catholic Schools or any other private or tribal schools with religious or indoctrinaire tendencies. Noem’s only enforcement is the withholding of public funding. O’Gorman kinda-sorta gets public funding through the infamous stealth vouchers program that its backers cooked up a few years ago, but the state cleverly launders its funding for O’Gorman and friends by sending tax rebates to insurers who give scholarships to kids going to Christian schools like O’Gorman. Enforcing Noem’s sloppily conceived  proposal would be hard enough against public schools and universities; it would be even trickier against private schools.

But the language of Noem’s bill is clear: no state-accredited school should be teaching any child to affirm or adopt any one religious belief over another. Pass Noem’s bill, and you won’t stop discussion of critical race theory, but you will be telling your favorite Jesus schools to stop beating their Bibles in class.


  1. grudznick 2021-12-22

    BAH. Everyone knows theology is bunk. I was tempted to say this year they should ban all law bills, but maybe this is a good one after all.

  2. Nix 2021-12-22

    Kristi….Follower of Christ.
    Mr. Arnold should have named their daughter Lucy.
    As in Lucifer.

  3. larry kurtz 2021-12-22

    Despite urging from the primate of the Roman Church to get inoculated during a pandemic Sioux Falls O’Gorman High School has joined a lawsuit against the Biden administration’s vaccine or testing/masking mandate. Representing the Diocese of Sioux Falls pro bono is the Alliance Defending Freedom, identified as a hate group in 2016 by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

  4. Donald Pay 2021-12-22

    I’ve decided that what Noem’s legislative strategy resembles what is called “fluffing” in the porn industry. Fluffers are hired to keep the male porn talent aroused. Apparently it’s a “hard” job walking around all day with a stiffy, especially if you have to have sex 10 hours a day. The poor guys need a little help keeping it up. And that seems a great metaphor for what is necessary to keep he nutcase right aroused enough to keep sending in the dollars and the death threats.

    Like you, Cory, I don’t see the Noem’s bill does anything about critical race theory. It’s vague. It’s sort of like that “agreement” she signed with the US Forest Service regarding fireworks at Mt. Rushmore. That was an agreement to do nothing, actually, but she’s still trying to make out like that agreement means something more than it says in plain black and white. But the thing is, the proposed bill is so vague that it would allow a lot of mischief, mainly in the form of generating lawsuits and outrage on the right. Noem is a master at fluffing.

  5. Loren 2021-12-22

    Seems as tho the GQP NEVER seems to answer one basic question: And then what…? Kill Obama care… and then what? Enact huge tax cuts… and then what? Make all abortion illegal… and then what? Now they are on a crusade against CRT and real history. Texas is even starting the elimination of objectionable books from its libraries. And then what…?

  6. DaveFN 2021-12-22

    Ironically, yet not surprisingly, the literal text of Noem’s bill is effectively infringing on freedom of religion. But then, fundamentalists and Papists have long been like oil and water—Pope is the Antichrist, the mark of the beast is the mark of the Roman Catholic Church, yada yada yada. Why Noem should be any different doesn’t surprise us.

    Straight out of the playbook of Alex Jones:

  7. SuFuMatt 2021-12-22

    Actually, all of the Indian schools in the state are state accredited, as well. Sweeping with a very broad broom here.

  8. Scott 2021-12-22

    I like Donald’s comment!

    It is all about publicity, speaking engagements, FOX tv appearances and so forth for Kristie. She has made millions of dollars with these gimmicky type of promotions to a certain group of people.

    I question why she does all this type of stuff.
    -Is she mentally ill such that she craves attention, similar to someone who sets a fire and then calls the fire department to report the fire.
    -Has she been brainwashed to such an extent that she believes she is doing the right thing.
    -Is it just about money.
    -Has she been brainwashed such that she believes she can achieve higher office, like president.

    The recent poll by SD News Watch indicated voters feel the legislator spends too much time on issues that do not matter to the voter. This issue and the transgender sports issue from last week would seem to be issues that do not matter to voters. So why is Noem going down these paths? I stated my best guesses above.

  9. bearcreekbat 2021-12-22

    As an alternative or supplement to withholding funds, perhaps there are additional enforcement remedies. For example, perhaps an individual or the state could obtain injunctive relief against a school like O’Gorman to prohibit the teaching of religious superiority or inferiority. And perhaps the state could also revoke accreditation, and thereby remain religiously neutral, if the school violates Kristi’s commandment. Oh what a tangled web we weave. . . .

  10. grudznick 2021-12-22

    Let us not be fluffy here, Mr. Pay. Let us be accurate instead.

    It was not the Forest Service, nor even the bear named Smokey. Good environmentalists, like grudznick, understand the difference.

  11. Francis Schaffer 2021-12-22

    How about where it would hurt the most – Revoke Non-Profit status?

  12. Tom 2021-12-22

    Yes on religions paying taxes! They use all our public services for free…they even tow your car (on our dime) if parked in the church parking lot when the wailing is not in session. It’s way past time for mega mall churches and the rest to help improve the community. And who the hell gave religious organizations millions (billions?) of bail-out tax money? WTH? That bureaucrat needs to be fired. Religious freedom? Fine with me. Just pay your share.

  13. Scott 2021-12-22

    To me every nonprofit tax exempt should at least be paying for law enforcement and fire protection services, based upon the true value of the land and buildings they own.

  14. bearcreekbat 2021-12-22

    FS – yes, that too sounds like a possibility for “lawbreakers.”

  15. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-12-22

    SuFuMatt, I wonder if Noem intends to prevent tribal schools from teaching Lakota kids critical race theory as a framework ffor understanding and challenging their oppression at her hands.

  16. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-12-22

    Mike, Kristi Noem is constantly off topic. Her political survival depends on fluffing the electorate (Donald, your comparison is gross and accurate) and preventing them from taking a rational look at her utter failure as a policymaker. She is “reality” TV writ large, meaninglessness wrapped in constant cravings for fame.

  17. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-12-22

    BCB, I wonder if we will see an amendment from anti-CRT legislators like Rep. Trish Ladner to add a vigilante enforcement mechanism like the Texas mechanism to which you allude.

  18. bearcreekbat 2021-12-22

    Cory, apparently that vigilantism is the new method of punishing a friend, family member or stranger for exercising a constitutional right that one objects to. Thus, you are right that this tactic could punish the exercise of the1st Amendment rights to free speech as well as the free exercise of religion. Under the current judicial distain for particular constitutional rights I am not really sure an amendment to Kristi’s proposed law would even be necessary for a private individual to use the court system to punish his or her neighbor for exercising a constitutional right. As Bob Dylan said, “the times they are a changing.,”

  19. jerry 2021-12-22

    bcb, there is money in these church’s to make a lawsuit worthwhile.

    “Marcin Stanislaw Garbacz, an ordained priest assigned to the Catholic Diocese in Rapid City, South Dakota, was sentenced on November 23, 2020 by Jeffrey L. Viken, U.S. District Judge, on fifty counts of Wire Fraud, nine counts of Money Laundering, one count of Transportation of Stolen Money, and five counts of Making and Subscribing a False Tax Return. Garbacz was convicted in March 2020 following a week-long jury trial at the federal courthouse in Rapid City.

    Garbacz was sentenced to seven years and nine months in federal prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Garbacz was ordered to pay a $6,500 special assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund, and $258,696.19 in restitution to be split equally between three churches – St. Therese the Little Flower, Blessed Sacrament, and Cathedral of our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH), and $46,008 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.”

    A cool quarter of a million bucks in just three years that they didn’t even know about. Oh yeah, to the courts, vigilantes are the new way forward and you don’t even have to live in the state!

  20. JO 2021-12-22

    As a Catholic school survivor from elementary to O’Gorman high school I am disgusted by the decision to sue the Biden administration over the mask and Covid vaccine mandate. After graduating from the SDSU College of Nursing I was employed as a BSN for 38 years 20 of those as a Certified Infection Prevention RN. Every medical journal I read predicted we were overdue for a global viral pandemic. I thought pro-life was important to Christianity. Also when told by a nun in 3rd grade that only Catholics can go to heaven, whatever that is, even at that age I knew something was unbelievable.

  21. Porter Lansing 2021-12-22

    60 Minutes will devour the “stealth voucher” scam.

  22. Arlo Blundt 2021-12-22

    Well…it is another case of the Governor’s million dollar staff and consultants shooting the Governor in the foot with their ineptness. An amendment to clarify that the law effects public school districts only will be forthcoming.

  23. exSoDak 2021-12-26

    Funny. My mom wanted me to go to O’Gorman, she thought it would give me a better chance at college. A devout Baptist (at the time) I told her that everybody knew O’Gorman was a party school and they all drank. No way was I going.

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