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Jim Pillen elected governor of Nebraska

November 13, 2022

Jim Pillen has been elected as Nebraska’s 41st governor.  

Republican Governer Jim Pillen’s policies are disastrous for the teen and young adult population of Nebraska. By neglecting transgender Nebraskans, campaigning to reinstitute prayer into schools and fighting to ban abortion, he will create detrimental effects for the future of Nebraska’s constituency and its economy.  

Pillen ran on a platform that alienated the young population, campaigning to take away the rights of transgender Nebraskans, “[Putting] God back into schools” by teaching “Christian” values, banning statewide sex ed standards, ending abortion in the state–something most Nebraskans don’t support–and “[restoring] patriotic education” by banning Critical Race Theory. Pillen’s policy “Playbook” is full of reactionary conservatism that will only harm Nebraska in a multitude of ways. 

Pillen’s threat of “Putting God Back Into Schools,” as his policy playbook explains, is inflammatory at best, and outright unconstitutional at worst. He explains that the “erosion of Christian faith is hurting America… We need to put prayer back into K-12 schools.”  

The First Amendment to the Constitution establishes the freedoms of speech, petition, assembly, press and religion. Pillen should know this, as his holy grail of the Second Amendment, the constitutional right to bear arms, appears just one line after the right to freedom of speech. Pillen’s plan for reintegration of prayer into schools is vague – intentionally to gain the support of devout and extreme Christians in the state. But that doesn’t take away the harm that it could cause.  

While the Supreme Court has not explicitly banned prayer in schools, it has repeatedly ruled against “state-sponsored” and “state-organized” prayer in schools, according to the Freedom Forum Institute. The Supreme Court has made it clear that prayer – even prayer “delivered” by a student – in public schools, violates Americans’ First Amendment rights.  

Christians ought to be treated with the same respect by the state in the way which it treats other religions. But our state must separate itself from all religion, including the Christian church. The establishment of a state religion by our government would violate the civil liberties of its nearly two million citizens. 

Forcing a Christian prayer upon students who do not have a say in whether they get to hear it or not, especially for students who are not Christian, imprints an idea of what is “correct” and “accepted” by society. But I am afraid that defining Christianity as “correct” outrightly is what the Republican party in Nebraska is fighting for.  

Not only is Pillen planning to roll back Nebraskan’s First Amendment rights, but he plans to reject the rights of transgender Nebraskans as a whole. Pillen’s policy on transgender people is one rooted in bigotry and transphobia. One in five Gen Z Americans identify as LGBTQ+, according to a Gallup Poll, and 1.4% of Americans aged 13-17 identify as transgender.  

Pillen directly denies the existence of trans people. “There’s no place for men in women’s sports, women’s bathrooms, and women’s changing rooms,” Pillen said in his policy Playbook. “There’s no excuse for subjecting minors to treatments that mutilate their bodies and harm healthy growth and development. I’ll oppose the radical transgender agenda at every turn.” He goes against the informed claim of the scientific community, that transgender healthcare is proven safe and effective. 

It is, quite frankly, disgusting that the candidate projected to win the Nebraska gubernatorial election thinks of my peers as “mutilated” and “radical.”  

Is the mere existence of queer children radical? Is it something to oppose?  

What Pillen doesn’t realize is that his claims will directly lead to the suicide of trans Nebraskans. The UCLA Williams Center reports that mistreatment and discrimination in education and other aspects of life is associated with a higher prevalence of suicide attempts for trans people. The prevalence of “past-year” suicide attempts by those who were denied equal treatment were more than twice the amount of those who “had not experienced such treatment (13.4% compared to 6.3%).” Closer to home, The Register reported that “26% of [trans] respondents reported attempting suicide because of the severity of the discrimination they experienced” at a Catholic high school in Omaha.  

Moreover, these effects will not be purely social. The future economy of Nebraska will take a serious hit from Pillen’s politics. Nebraska businesses should be worried that right-wing politicians, like Pillen, will push young consumers out of the state.  

If Pillen moves forward with his plan of banning abortion in the state, the workforce will suffer because of it. One third of job seekers in the United States say that they will not apply for a job in a state that has outlawed abortion, according to a Resume Builder survey. One in four job seekers in a state where abortion is restricted are actively searching for a job in a state that is likely to keep abortion legal. 34% of workers under 40 are considering switching jobs to work for companies offering more “generous” reproductive healthcare benefits, according to a Lean In survey. 

If Pillen wants to stop the brain drain and “keep our kids here,” like he claims in his playbook, he will have to take a more neutral stance on issues like abortion, transgender and other LGBTQ+ rights and religion. But he has shown an unwillingness to do so, an unwillingness to care about the youth and the future of the state.  

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