The Christian Nationalists, neo-Nazis, racists and anti-government militia who attacked the U.S. Capitol and our democracy on Jan. 6 have been roundly denounced. But the Freedom From Religion Foundation believes it is also important to call to account the Christian Nationalist views of most of the 147 disruptors inside Congress who voted later that night to deny the will of the voters.
More than a quarter of the members of Congress taking shelter for their lives while a seditious mob rampaged through the heart of our democracy ended up siding with the insurrectionists to try to deny Joe Biden his lawfully won presidency. What do we know about these members of Congress, including eight senators? Besides being all Republican, mostly white and mostly male, what do they have in common?
Their religious identity. And more than that, the Christian Nationalist flavor of their religious views (145 of the 147 identify as Christian; the exceptions are Reps. David Kustoff and Lee Zeldin, both Jewish). Almost half of the 138 House members who objected to the Electoral College count were evangelical Christians.
A disproportionate number of members of Congress claim to be Christian (88 percent versus 65 percent of the general population), but fully 98 percent of the certification naysayers identify as Christian. Many who voted to overturn the presidential election fall into religiously extremist categories.
Christian Nationalists believe, by definition, that the United States is or should be a Christian nation, actively seek to pass laws to privilege religion and Christianity, and impose their religious views on all citizens. They want to turn the godless U.S. Constitution upside down, granting sovereign authority to their “King, the Lord Jesus,” rather than “We the People.” That would be a theocracy, not a democracy.
Although some of these Christian Nationalists who voted not to certify the election results are newcomers, the majority are previously seated members with standard resumés, but with declared zealous views. Almost all are stringently opposed to abortion and LGBTQ rights, typically bragging of perfect 100 percent scores from the National Right to Life Committee and Heritage Action For America. Most are dyed-in-the-wool archconservatives, also with high ratings from the NRA and a variety of other ultraconservative lobbying groups. Many proudly trumpet their Christian Nationalist beliefs, are publicly prayerful and evince hostility to the separation between state and church.
It is not unusual for these members of Congress to list church membership on their official bios, and to add that they’ve served as deacons or taught Sunday school. They invariably proclaim their anti-abortion views prominently on their campaign websites. Many have made the news for controversial views.
“Our nation is properly examining the white supremacist, anti-government, Christian Nationalist ideologies of the insurrectionists who broke into the Capitol to steal the election,” says Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “But many members of Congress share at least some of these extremist views, and are essentially dedicated to overthrowing the secular principles of our government.”
Attached are short synopses documenting the Christian Nationalist voting records and pronouncements of the eight senators who opposed certification, and a representative sampling of the views of House members who voted unsuccessfully to nullify the will of the electorate.
“Christian Nationalists strive for a theocracy, a A ‘kingdom of Jesus,’” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker, himself a former evangelical minister and author of several books about rejecting religion. “That is a betrayal of American principles.”
“Obviously,” Barker adds, “public officials are free to worship as they like. Our Constitution properly guarantees there can be no religious test for public office. But public officials must be held responsible when their allegiance to religious ideology trumps their allegiance to the Constitution.”
The Wisconsin Legislature is moving quickly to overturn our statewide mask mandate, an egregiously irresponsible move as the pandemic continues to claim lives and threaten the health care system in our state. Please take a few moments to join FFRF in telling our lawmakers to “listen to the science” and uphold the life-saving mask mandate.
Public policy must be based on science, reason, data, compassion and expertise, especially during a pandemic. In the absence of any legislative leadership on the Covid-19 pandemic, Gov. Tony Evers recently extended Wisconsin’s statewide mask mandate through March 20, 2021. As he pointed out in his emergency order, there are new, highly contagious Covid-19 variants that pose a significant risk to Wisconsinites, our health care system and our essential workers.
Shockingly, the state Senate has voted to overturn this order. The Assembly will vote tomorrow, Thursday, Jan. 28, on a similar measure. Please click on the red “Take Action” link below to contact your assemblyperson and urge them NOT to overturn Wisconsin’s statewide mask mandate and to defend public health policy driven by science and data. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided. Personalized messages are always the most impactful.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation applauds the Biden administration for revoking the draconian global gag rule that denied U.S. funding to foreign nongovernmental organizations providing any information, counseling or care about abortion.
President Trump had signed an executive order imposing the global gag rule on his fourth day of office. It’s laudable that President Biden, in his second week of office, has lifted it.
First implemented by President Reagan in 1984, when it was known as the Mexico City Policy, it imposes anti-abortion worldviews on not just the United States, but the entire world. This rule, which has either been implemented by every Republican president or revoked by every Democratic president since Reagan, was expanded in 2017, when Trump applied it to any U.S. global funding, including organizations that provide HIV and AIDS programs and services. It has blocked critical funding for services like maternal health, contraception and HIV prevention in 32 countries and some 50 projects that provide essential health care to underserved communities.
The Helms Amendment already restricts any U.S. foreign assistance going to fund abortions. The gag rule has blocked aid to foreign organizations that use their own (non-U.S.) funds to provide information or referrals, or services for legal abortion, or that advocate for access to abortion services in their own countries. According to Planned Parenthood, this has dismantled general health services in a number of communities.
The horrific impact of the global gag rule has been staggering. Studies have shown that the rule is not only ineffective and dangerous, but that it is counterproductive because it can triple abortion rates. Since many of these clandestine abortions are conducted in unsafe conditions, women needlessly die because of this terrible imposition. In fact, there are nearly 68,000 maternal deaths globally per year from unsafe abortions, with 99 percent of them taking place in developing countries.
FFRF believes that everyone should be able to receive comprehensive health services free of religious interference, and fact-based information. The Biden administration’s reversal of the global gag rule is a necessary step in that direction. The Freedom From Religion Foundation celebrates this important moment for women’s reproductive rights, human rights and secular values.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is pleased to welcome many of President Biden’s early actions to reverse course on measures taken by the previous administration, which FFRF had roundly opposed.
Biden’s laudable executive orders to date include:
FFRF long argued, including before the Supreme Court, that banning individuals from entry to the United States based on religion is an egregious religious test and violation of the Establishment Clause. The orders being overturned favored Christians from those countries, exempting them from the ban and allowing them to immigrate. FFRF pointed out that if the United States can exclude Muslims, atheists and other freethinkers would be next on the list.
To make this change permanent, FFRF strongly urges Congress to pass the No BAN Act, which had more than 200 co-sponsors last year.
FFRF’s position is that the climate crisis is a state/church issue. “It's not just the casual denial of reality that impacts views on climate change, but also the influence of apocalyptic religiosity. The virulent strain of evangelicalism that tends to infect our current government welcomes the end of this world as a fulfillment of prophecy and ‘the second coming,’” we noted in 2017. FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor has been fond of saying: “The only afterlife we ought to care about is leaving our descendants and our planet a secure and pleasant future.” Ideology that denies facts and reality must not dictate public policy crucial to the survival and future of our planet.
Ordering mask-wearing on federal property:
Speaking of formulating public policy based on facts and reality, the new administration is already living up to its promise to be guided by science, with executive orders that protect federal employees and citizens by mandating masks on federal property and in interstate travel. FFRF has been advocating for a science-based approach to the pandemic since the beginning, including no exemptions for churches.
Science-minded response to COVID pandemic:
Several executive orders have been aimed at combating the COVID pandemic that has been handled ineptly up until this point, with religious leaders and the prior president assuring the country that the virus will “magically” disappear while they themselves actively spread the contagion, denying the advice of doctors and scientists. The new administration has organized a government-wide response and ordered that the response must be driven by data and science.
FFRF has long supported LGBTQ rights and defended them against religious bigotry and attacks. And make no mistake, the transgender military ban was directly motivated by religious bigotry. FFRF noted this when it was enacted via Tweet after it was recommended by Tony Perkins, a Christian Nationalist and president of the Family Research Council, and without first consulting military leaders. There is of course no secular justification for discriminating against service members based on their gender identity, and this order corrects a cruel and totally unnecessary harm.
Banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation:
In another instance of correcting religion-based bigotry, the new administration also set out a policy to vigorously enforce anti-discrimination provisions with respect to LGBTQ individuals. Christian Nationalists who had the ear of the prior administration have been consistently obsessed with stopping LGBTQ people from receiving equal treatment under the law. Biden has signed an executive order repealing the ban on transgendered individuals serving in the military.
Promoting racial equality:
“Diversity is one of our country’s greatest strengths,” reads the order — and FFRF agrees. The order also explains: “Affirmatively advancing equity, civil rights, racial justice and equal opportunity is the responsibility of the whole of our government,” which is all true, but not the end of the story. FFRF has been working to implement equity, diversity and inclusion into our organization at all levels, from membership to staff to the alliances we forge, such as joining the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
Stopping construction of the wall:
Finally, the prior administration’s most iconic project, a failed and pointless wall along the border with our southern neighbor, has been stopped, thankfully nowhere near completion (though still at great cost to American taxpayers, endangered species and the environment). The order comports with FFRF's slogan: “The only wall we need is the one between state and church."
Humanistic executive orders
Other executive orders just signed by Biden, with more to come, embody the humanism shared by many of our freethinking members, including over immigration reform and expanded food assistance programs food assistance programs. The pandemic’s blight, both in health and economics, has disproportionately landed on people of color, low-wage workers, indigent Americans and women.
Notably absent from executive orders to date are attempts to repeal the (bogus) revoking of rules prohibiting nonprofits, including churches, from wading into partisan politics, undoing the Christian Nationalist agenda allowing religion-based discrimination by federal contractors and similar acts by the prior administration. FFRF is committed to defending the wall of separation and will hold all administrations accountable for breaching that wall or for excluding nonbelievers from the American tapestry. But we also want to recognize progress and give credit where it is due.
While the Freedom From Religion Foundation has voiced reservations about the new president’s public piety and is even more concerned about the long-term damage done to the federal judiciary by the prior administration, these early executive orders are a cause for hope and celebration for those who value our secular democracy.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is celebrating a federal appeals court’s decision affirming that the city of Boston has the right to deny citizens’ requests to fly a divisive Christian flag in front of City Hall.
FFRF had previously joined a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the city’s opposition to Christian residents who demanded the unfurling of the flag — white with a blue rectangle in the corner inset with a blood-red Latin cross — on government property. In Shurtleff v. City of Boston, a three-judge panel for the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed on Friday, Jan. 22, with a federal district court that flying this flag would send a clear message that the city favored Christianity, in violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.
The panel made the crucial legal determination that a flag in front of City Hall is government speech, not private speech or a public forum, even if residents can occasionally make flag requests. The city is “entitled to select the views that it wants to express,” the court stated, quoting a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court case. “Our government-speech finding bolsters the conclusion that the city would be perceived to endorse the messages conveyed by the flags that it flies,” wrote Circuit Judge Bruce Selya, joined by Judges Sandra Lynch and Kermit Lipez.
The Christian flag is the same flag paraded by Christian Nationalists into the U.S. Capitol at the Jan. 6 insurrectionist riot, intermingled with symbols of white supremacy, FFRF points out.
“The Christian Nationalist nature of the insurrection highlights the importance of vehemently rejecting calls for governmental bodies to identify with Christian extremism and Christian Nationalism,” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. “The U.S. Constitution guarantees religious liberty for all by prohibiting the government from favoring any one religion in particular, or from favoring religion over nonreligion.”
As many as a third of Boston city residents identify as “Nones” while a further 10 percent follow faiths other than Christianity, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey.
“Boston is not a Christian city and the United States is not a Christian nation,” adds Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “A governmental endorsement of Christianity would have turned a large proportion of the Boston population into second-class citizens, and struck a blow at the secular foundation of our country.”
Unfortunately, Liberty Counsel, the Christian Nationalist legal outfit that brought this suit, is vowing to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. FFRF warns that Christian Nationalism remains a major threat in the country, given previous President Trump’s appointment of three Supreme Court justices and almost one-third of the federal judiciary. FFRF will continue to monitor this case and will work to uphold the constitutional separation between religion and government.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 33,000 members across the country, including over 600 in Massachusetts. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.
Photo via Shutterstock by railway fx
The Freedom From Religion Foundation hails a victory this morning (Jan. 26) for religious freedom and secular inclusion in a Florida county. David Williamson, a director and co-founder of the Central Florida Freethought Community (a chapter of FFRF), offered what is believed to be the first-ever secular (nonreligious) invocation to open a meeting of Brevard’s Board of County Commissioners.
Williamson’s invocation was noteworthy because the board previously had denied him and other nontheists the opportunity to offer secular invocations to open its meetings, while permitting a parade of religious invocations, thus sparking a nearly five-year-long legal battle. The case, in which FFRF was a major participant, ended successfully a year ago last February when commissioners agreed not to discriminate against nonreligious individuals or those who don’t belong to mainstream, monotheistic religions.
Williamson’s remarks reflect on the shared American ideals of public service, democracy, compassion, community and seeking common ground. (The text of Williamson’s invocation is available here.)
“The religious landscape of Brevard includes a fast-growing number of nonreligious people,” states Williamson. “It is an honor to begin the process of including atheists, humanists and others who claim no religion whatsoever as equal members of the community.”
Williamson was the lead plaintiff in Williamson v. Brevard County, which was filed in 2015 by FFRF, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Florida. Other plaintiffs included the Central Florida Freethought Community; the Space Coast Freethought Association and its former president, Chase Hansel; the Humanist Community of the Space Coast and its president, Keith Becher; and Brevard County resident Ronald Gordon.
The plaintiffs settled the case last year after the county agreed to implement a July 2019 decision of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which made clear that government officials must not engage in religious discrimination when selecting people to deliver opening invocations. As part of the settlement, the county agreed to pay nearly $500,000 in damages and legal fees to plaintiffs.
“This is an important step toward official recognition of the fast-growing numbers of the nonreligious — currently a significant presence in communities all over Florida and the United States,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We’re glad that legal action we were a part of helped bring this about.”
The case litigation team included Legal Director Rebecca S. Markert and Director of Strategic Response Andrew L. Seidel of FFRF; Associate Legal Director Alex J. Luchenitser, Vice President and Legal Director Richard B. Katskee, Litigation Counsel Bradley Girard and Legal Fellow Alexander Gouzoules at Americans United; Legal Director Daniel Tilley of the ACLU of Florida; and ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief Director Daniel Mach.
“David set a high standard that we hope is emulated by future invocation speakers, in Brevard County and throughout America: He offered words of encouragement by focusing on the shared values that unite our communities,” comments Luchenitser, lead counsel in the case. “Elected officials across the country should follow the wise example Brevard County has now set by ensuring that no one is denied an opportunity to solemnize governmental meetings because of their beliefs about religion.”
Mach adds, “Today’s invocation was a welcome celebration of the fundamental right to equal participation in local government.”
Comments co-plaintiff Becher, “The Humanist Community of the Space Coast is happy that the county is practicing inclusiveness with its new policy, and we are excited to participate in this new invocation forum. We were pleased to see our friend David Williamson offer the first of what we hope are many inclusive invocations from the Humanist/Atheist communities.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a Madison, Wis.-based national organization dedicated to the separation of state and church, with more than 33,000 nonreligious members and several chapters all around the country, including over 1,600 members and a chapter in Florida.
Americans United is a religious freedom advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, AU educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.
For more than 100 years, the ACLU has worked in courts, legislatures, and communities to protect the constitutional rights of all people. With a nationwide network of offices and millions of members and supporters, the ACLU takes on the toughest civil liberties fights in pursuit of liberty and justice for all.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation and Black Nonbelievers are appealing to a congressional leader and civil rights activist to drop his recent proposal for a “national hymn.”
The freethought groups are asking House Majority Whip James Clyburn to reconsider his suggestion that Congress adopt a “national hymn of the United States” — a contradiction in terms in a secular democracy.
There are significant constitutional problems with declaring a “national hymn” for a government that is based on a separation between state and church, the organizations contend. Many of these concerns are rooted in the alienation that inevitably flows from the government declaring one religion or one religious belief to be more worthy of recognition.
“Avoiding that alienation and divisiveness is precisely why the Supreme Court has said time and again that the First Amendment ‘mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion,’” Black Nonbelievers President Mandisa Thomas and FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor write to Rep. Clyburn.
There is also the simple fact that our secular government does not have the authority to adopt a particular holy song as its official song, any more than it has the power to adopt a particular holy book or translation as its official holy book, they add.
The final stanza of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (which Clyburn has in mind for the “national hymn”) is purely devotional, the three point out:
God of our weary years
God of our silent tears
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way
Thou who has by Thy might Led us into the light
Keep us forever in the path, we pray
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee
Shadowed beneath Thy hand
May we forever stand
True to our God
True to our native land
Our native land
Clyburn has stated that this proposal is an “act of healing,” which may be true for a civil rights activist and the son of a minister but wouldn’t be so for many Americans. Healing must include all Americans, not just believers, the heads of the two nontheistic groups emphasize.
Nonreligious Americans are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population by religious identification — 35 percent of Americans are non-Christians, and this includes the more than one in four Americans who now identify as religiously unaffiliated, including 9 percent of Black Americans. The ranks of the civil rights movement has boasted many prominent nonbelievers or skeptics, including James Baldwin, W.E.B. Du Bois, Julian Bond, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Frederick Douglass, Lorraine Hansberry, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, A. Philip Randolph and Paul Robeson.
And Martin Luther King Jr. actually defended the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that halted organized prayer:
“I endorse it. I think it was correct. Contrary to what many have said, it sought to outlaw neither prayer nor belief in God. In a pluralistic society such as ours, who is to determine what prayer shall be spoken and by whom? Legally, constitutionally or otherwise, the state certainly has no such right.”
This same rationale applies to adopting a prayerful national hymn, FFRF and Black Nonbelievers conclude, urging instead more meaningful action to remediate the legacy of slavery and institutional racism.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 33,000 nonreligious members across the country. It works to protect and defend the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public about nontheism.
Black Nonbelievers is a national 501c3 nonprofit organization that provides a caring, friendly and informative community for Blacks (and allies) who are living free of religion and might otherwise be shunned by family and friends. Instead of embracing dogma, members determine truth and morality through reason and evidence.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation continues to uncover and amplify the role of Christian Nationalism in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. As part of this effort, two experts on religious nationalism have appeared on recent episodes of our show “Ask an Atheist,” which streams weekly on Facebook Live.
Journalist Katherine Stewart joined FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert and Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel to discuss the lies, myths and misinformation that incited the violent insurrection. Stewart, who tirelessly covers Christian Nationalism in America, explained the religious and white nationalist roots of the militia groups that led the insurrection, her recent New York Times op-ed on Religious Right darling Sen. Josh Hawley, and how we may begin to deflate the hyperviolent, anti-democratic worldview of these religious footsoldiers.
“Religious nationalism is really central to the explanation of this crisis,” Stewart said. “You can't explain how Trump came to power and how so many leaders in the Republican Party today, unfortunately, and also Religious Right leaders are so hostile to democracy unless you understand something about Christian Nationalism and how it functions.”
Last week, Seidel, FFRF’s in-house Christian Nationalist expert and author of The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism is Un-American, hosted activist and author Chrissy Stroop. The two examined how mainstream coverage of the Capitol attack has finally started to identify religious nationalism as an organizing principle for these militia groups. Stroop lent a rich historical and sociological perspective to understanding the events surrounding the presidential transfer of power and how we can resist the religious machinery that continues to radicalize vast swaths of the American public.
“Long before Fox News, the Christian Right was doing alternative facts in it’s own parallel information ecosystem, which indeed I grew up in,” said Stroop. “We were taught from a very early age we have to make our national obedient to God or God will punish our nation.”
“Ask An Atheist” is on hiatus this week, but will return next Wednesday at noon Central. FFRF Associate Counsel Elizabeth Cavell will be joined by Lena Zwarensteyn from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights to discuss the way forward for rebalancing the federal courts that have been captured by extremist Trump nominees. Join us Wednesday, Feb. 3, on Facebook Live!
The Kansas Legislature is advancing a dangerous bill to amend the state Constitution to say that there is no constitutional right to an abortion. This bill is moving quickly — and we need you to take action now.
If passed, this bill (HCR 5003) would place a constitutional amendment on the 2022 primary ballot that would overturn a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court decision declaring abortion a fundamental right under the state’s Bill of Rights. This bill would ultimately make it easier for more abortion restrictions and for the state to ban abortion outright if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned, which many fear may be in the near future. Read more.
The bill codifies into law beliefs not based on science or morality, but on religion and so-called holy books. The Christian Right has been and remains the primary opponent to women’s reproductive rights.
The past Friday (Jan. 22), the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Kansas House passed this bill 86-33. It is now headed to the Senate for a vote TODAY, Jan. 25, at 2:30 p.m. Please use our simple, automated system to contact your senator and urge them to oppose this dangerous bill. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided. Personalized messages are always the most effective!
The New Mexico Legislature is currently considering a good bill that would repeal an archaic abortion ban in the state. Please take a few moments to tell your lawmakers to support this bill!
On Monday, Jan. 25, the New Mexico Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee will consider SB 10, which would repeal an existing 1969 law banning abortion except for in very limited circumstances.
As it stands, New Mexico law requires women to go to a “special hospital board” for permission to get an abortion, and doctors performing an unauthorized abortion would be guilty of a felony. The hospital board can only grant permission if the woman files “an affidavit that she has been raped and that the rape has been or will be reported” to police; continuation of the pregnancy would put the woman at grave risk; the pregnancy resulted from incest; or “the child probably will have a grave physical or mental defect.” Read more.
While this law is currently unenforceable under Roe v. Wade, if the Supreme Court removes this federal protection, as many are predicting it may soon do, this law would stand in New Mexico.
Please use our simple, automated system to contact the members of the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee and urge them to support this bill. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided. Personalized messages are always the most effective!
Please share this link on social media. Consider writing your own online post or letter to the editor on this topic to further influence public opinion.
FFRF heard from many of its members on Inauguration Day. Like you, we watched the Inaugural with hope in our hearts. The intent was a ceremonial moment of national healing and unity. But we were often left out — and left wondering about what happened to the American principle that religion and our government should be separate. FFRF’s Director of Strategic Response Andrew L. Seidel put his feelings down in an op-ed for Religion Dispatches, “The Inauguration’s beautiful call for unity was undermined by the invocation of religion”:
There’s a reason religion and politics are forbidden topics in polite conversation: they’re divisive. Mixing the two is doubly so. President Joe Biden is a deeply religious man who turns to his faith in dark times. But 85 million Americans do not. Those nonreligious Americans were left out of yesterday’s moment of national healing.
The Inauguration was beautiful. I cried when Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina on the high court, swore in Vice President Kamala Harris, the first female, first Black and first Asian-American to hold such a high office. But religion is divisive, and every time the people on that stage turned to the Christian god, or to prayer, or to religion, millions of Americans were left alone, a catch in their throat, a flush in their face, a feeling of exclusion growing with each appeal to the divine. And yes, some of the religious language was intended to be ecumenical or more inclusive than that which might be heard in a church on a Sunday morning, but the religion was impossible to ignore and it wasn’t just nonbelievers left feeling like outsiders in their own country.
Seidel also addressed the tendency to shake this religion off as merely ceremonial, noting that it is precisely for that reason that it is harmful:
An inauguration isn’t work or policy, but ceremony and symbolism. So that language matters more, not less. President Biden’s speech was powerful overall, and magnanimous. But also divisive. When it came time to address the pandemic scything across the country leaving 400,000 dead Americans in its wake, what could have been a moment of silence including everyone, Biden instead called for a moment of silent prayer for the believers. It was disappointing. And alienating.
The article captured what many of us were thinking and feeling, and Seidel concluded the piece on just the right note. To see how, please read the whole column on Religion Dispatches and then share it on your social media.