Enabled by Donald Trump as president, white nationalists descended on Charlottesville, Va., staged armed anti-mask protests in state capitols, devised a plot to kidnap and murder Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and burned a Black Lives Matter sign at a historically Black church here in D.C. — culminating in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
All of these protests had another element besides white supremacy in common: Christian nationalism.
As Kimberley Ross noted in an op-ed in the conservative Washington Examiner, the environment that created the attack was “a noxious political atmosphere [that] didn't happen overnight. In this case, it has been brewing for quite some time, long before Trump emerged on the scene . . . Christians in the U.S. embraced him [Trump] as an unapologetic fighter and defender of their beliefs. It didn’t matter if Trump was not devout because God would use him to turn the country back to Christianity and right many wrongs.”
The assault on the Capitol made it clear: Christian nationalism is a cataclysmic threat to America.
Hearings on the attack
After this second impeachment is over, Congress is likely to investigate the attack as it did 9/11. We’ll be working with our allies in Congress to include a solid line of investigation that explores how Christian nationalism influenced the attack.
We hope the investigation will shed light on how Christian nationalism influences domestic terror, militia groups, white supremacist groups and law enforcement; how law enforcement needs to be reformed so it can protect against domestic Christian nationalist terror; and how particular members of Congress and the Trump administration stoked Christian nationalist fears and used Christian nationalist rhetoric to incite the insurrection.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has been able to bring together leading voices opposing Christian nationalism. We’ve interviewed Rep. Jared Huffman, who discussed the Jan. 6 attack and what was happening around him; author and journalist Katherine Stewart, who discussed the lies, myths and misinformation that incited the assault; Chrissy Stroop, writer, scholar, ex-evangelical; Robert P. Jones, the founder of Public Religion Research Institute who has authored the new book White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity; Andrew Whitehead and Sam Perry, who wrote a sociological study of Christian nationalism called Taking America Back for God; and FFRF’s own Andrew L. Seidel, who has written The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism is Un-American, which has been proven prescient by the Capitol assault. We also issued a unique survey of the Christian nationalist views of many, if not most, of the 147 members of Congress who, after the Jan. 6 putsch, went on to side with the insurrectionists by voting to deny the will of the U.S. electorate. Look for Congressional Freethought Caucus member Rep. Jerry McNerney on an upcoming episode of "Freethought Matters." He’ll talk with Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker about being the only member in Congress with a Ph.D. in mathematics and offer his take on the Capitol insurrection and Christian nationalism.
Executive action from the Biden administration
The Biden administration has taken quick executive action that has pushed back against Christian nationalism: repealing the Muslim ban, rejoining the Paris climate change accord, ordering mask-wearing on federal property, advancing a science-minded response to the Covid pandemic, ending the transgender military ban, eliminating the global gag rule on abortion, enhancing scientific integrity, and banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
We’re working with our secular and religious allies to revoke Trump executive orders EO 13798, Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty and EO 13831, Establishment of a White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative. These two key executive orders empowered the federal government to pursue excessive religious exemptions and directed that these activities would be coordinated from the White House as a top administration priority. We will lobby for a Biden executive order to clearly define religious freedom and strongly uphold the separation of state and church.
Executive orders are strong tools to help to give direction and orient the priorities of the federal government. They outline what the federal government will prioritize and what it will not. However, for real and lasting change that safeguards us against Christian nationalism and theocratic inroads, we will need to pass new legislation. I am proud that in the last Congress, we were able to get the STOP FGM Act, which prohibits Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on minors, signed into law. It passed both houses unanimously and was signed by the president.
We’re looking forward to advancing with you:
• The Do No Harm Act, to ensure that no one can seek religious exemption from laws guaranteeing fundamental civil and legal rights.
• The Scientific Integrity Act, which prevents political appointees from meddling in publicly funded scientific research.
• The Equality Act, which adds LGBTQ as a protected class to the Civil Rights Acts and prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity.
• The Every Child Deserves a Family Act, which prevents discrimination in adoption.
• The No BAN Act, which eliminates the Muslim ban and makes sure it cannot return, limits presidential authority to suspend or restrict immigration and prohibits religious discrimination in immigration-related decisions.
• The Women’s Health Protection Act, which eliminates barriers to reproductive health.
FFRF has worked with other organizations of the Secular Coalition for America to develop a strategy designed to thwart Christian nationalism. There’s a lot to do and no single organization can cover it all, especially when we’re up against well-funded and organized religious extremists. Out of this common secular agenda, FFRF has developed plans on what it will concentrate on for the 117th Congress.
The next 100 days in Washington are going to be eventful, with impeachment, the Covid package and the Build Back Better plan, which appears to be an infrastructure bill focusing heavily on climate change. It’s up to us to make sure the Hill does not forget Jan. 6 and that those who instigated the attack are held responsible. Only with full accountability can we move forward as a nation.
All the best,
Director of Governmental Affairs
Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.