President-elect Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is a successful businesswoman, philanthropist, and education activist. She has dedicated most of her adult life advocating for school choice, voucher programs, and improving Michigan’s school system. Betsy is also an evangelical Christian whose faith motivates her work.
Despite DeVos’ impressive resume that includes decades of work and millions of her own money donated toward improving education, Senate Democrats on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee expressed reservations about the nominee’s ability to serve because of previous donations to Christian organizations including Focus on the Family, a ministry that provides biblical advice on marriage and parenting.
In fact, during DeVos’ confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Democrats repeatedly questioned these connections questioning whether donations to organizations that do not share the prevailing secular, pro-LGBT worldview should disqualify DeVos from serving as Secretary of Education.
Sen. Al Franken’s (D-MN) line of questioning was particularly revealing.
“Mrs. DeVos, your family has a long history of supporting anti-LGBT causes including donating millions of dollars to groups that push conversion therapy, the practice of trying to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” Franken stated. He continued, “For example, you and your family have given over $10 million to Focus on the Family, an organization that currently states on its website that, ‘homosexual strugglers can and do change their sexual behavior and identity.'”
He then asked without offering evidence, “Mrs. DeVos, do you still believe in conversion therapy?”
DeVos responded, “Senator Franken, I’ve never believed in that. First of all, let me say I fully embrace equality and I believe in the innate value of every single human being and that all students, no matter their age, should be able to attend a school and feel safe and be free of discrimination. So let’s start there and let me just say that your characterization of our contributions I don’t think accurately reflects those of my family.”
Senate Democrats were not alone in their effort to vilify DeVos for living out her Christian values. Mother Jones, a left-leaning news outlet, also published a scathing critique of DeVos’ charitable giving drawing attention to donations made to the Family Research Council.
They write: “The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation gave $275,000 to Focus on the Family from 1999 to 2001 but hasn’t donated since; it gave an additional $35,760 to the group’s Michigan and DC affiliates from 2001 to 2010. The Prince Foundation donated $5.2 million to Focus on the Family and $275,000 to its Michigan affiliate from 2001 to 2014. (It also gave $6.1 million to the Family Research Council, which has fought against same-sex marriage and anti-bullying programs—and is listed as an “anti-LGBT hate group ” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.”
Although these private donations (many of them made years ago) do not have any bearing on issues related to improving national education standards and assessments, empowering families to make decisions about their child’s education or rising student debt, Senate Democrats and liberal journalists have fixated on them and turned the confirmation hearing into a witch hunt simply because Betsy DeVos and her family have donated to organizations that align with their deeply held religious values.
DeVos’ qualifications to lead the Department of Education are almost unmatched. There is absolutely nothing in her history that suggests animus toward minorities or the LGBT community.
As a committed Christian living out a biblical worldview, DeVos’ charitable contributions do not suggest hate or bigotry. Rather, they demonstrate her consistent belief in the importance of family, marriage, and life. This should be applauded, not vilified.
Betsy DeVos’ confirmation hearing demonstrates that many in the political and cultural elite fundamentally do not understand or appreciate the implications of a worldview that differs from their own.
Senate Democrats should devote the rest of the DeVos confirmation hearing to focusing on issues that matter to American families—failing inner schools, repealing and replacing Common Core, and tackling issues of mounting student debt.
Betsy DeVos’ Christian worldview guides her life and advocacy; it has emanated lifelong engagement with issues related to education. Her charitable giving is part of this. A worldview that promotes strong families and communities ought to be commended rather than maligned or questioned.
When Senate Democrats recognize this they will realize that Betsy DeVos’ nomination to lead the Department of Education represents a tremendous opportunity to improve America’s education system.