Michele Bachmann's School Banned 'Aladdin'

Religion was a big reason the Tea Party celebrity entered politics

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Michele Bachmann's path into politics was one followed by many conservative Christians: through the schools. Bachmann sent her five kids to religious schools near her suburban Minnesota home, but she sent her 23 foster kids to public schools. She found the materials brought home by those kids to be troubling. So in 1993, she helped found one of the first public charter schools in her state. Only three months after the school opened, Bachmann faced controversy for the religious bent of the curriculum, Bloomberg's Lisa Lerer and John McCormick report. One teacher, for example, had banned Aladdin because the Disney movie mentioned magic.

The Bloomberg profile offers several anecdotes that illuminate the character of Bachmann, the Tea Party favorite whose potential presidential candidacy is looking more serious. The story indicates just how central Christianity is to Bachmann's political career, and drops some interesting anecdotes.

When parents complained that Bachmann's publicly-funded school was overtly religious, the school district investigated and found that to be true. In fact, a board created to guide the school, which Bachmann sat on, advocated mandatory prayer. Bachmann resigned, though she said it was for academic reasons. Bachmann said she wanted to pair at-risk kids with high-achievers. "We were trying to bring kids up, and instead it ended up being a school focused on minimum level of achievement," she told Bloomberg. Bachmann moved on to joining a homeschooling group, then ran for school board office to overturn a state-mandated curriculum.

Lerer and McCormick also, under the heading "No 'Team Player,'" report this incident recounted by a former fellow Republican, who later became a Democrat:

Dean Johnson, a Lutheran pastor and a former Republican leader of the state Senate, said he prayed before returning a reporter's phone call to find strength to say something nice about his former colleague. He found no such inspiration.

"I don't think I ever served with anybody who I mistrusted more, from either side of the aisle," said Johnson...

Johnson, who eventually became a Democrat, recalled how he told Bachmann one day in 2004 that he needed to leave the capitol in St. Paul early because his wife, who later died of cancer, was in a hospital intensive care unit and he needed to be with her. He said Bachmann never mentioned she would be traveling that night to an event in his district to back a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage that he opposed.

"It seemed kind of backhanded in one of my dark days," he said. Bachmann said she didn't remember the incident.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.