Christian nationalism was on full display at the just-concluded Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla.
“We were dismayed but not surprised by the lies and Christian nationalist rhetoric spouted on stage this weekend,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. The stage itself appeared to be shaped like a Nazi rune.
The Christian nationalism paraded at the conference broke the irony meter when a widely circulated video showed organizers wheeling around a golden idol representation of a cartoonish Donald Trump wearing American flag shorts, a bizarre reference to the biblical golden calf. And almost all the members of Congress who addressed the gathering were featured in FFRF’s recent report on Christian nationalism and the Capitol insurrection.
Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, who helped foment the Capitol riot, both spoke on Friday. Hawley claimed that the Declaration of Independence shows that “our rights come from God, not government” and that “our rights come from God, not Google.” The declaration actually says that rights come from the “laws of nature and of nature’s god,” an invocation of natural law, not supernatural law. When Hawley spoke of his objection to the free and fair election and his vote to overturn it, he received a standing ovation that was nothing short of chilling.
Cruz’s speech smacked of desperation and hit common themes with shocking hyperbole: “You can French kiss the guy next to you yelling, ‘Abolish the police,’ and no one will get infected. But if you go to church and say, ‘Amazing grace,’ everyone’s going to die.” He ended his speech by hoarsely screaming “freedom.”
Common fearmongering themes at the conference included:
• Attacks on public health orders applying to all gatherings, including churches.
• Attacks on wokeness, political correctness, critical race theory and cancel culture.
• Demonization of LGBTQ people, especially transpeople.
• Assertions that God is in control of America.
• Promotion of the Big Lie that Donald Trump won the 2020 election, which was perhaps the most repeated falsehood.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn read out the First Amendment, pausing occasionally to pontificate. She did not spend any extra words on the Establishment Clause or separation of state and church, but fearmongered over “cancel culture.” Rep. Matt Gaetz called for a “new patriotic nationalism.”
Twice-impeached former President Trump spoke on Sunday. He tapped into the same Christian nationalism that carried him into office in 2016: “We are committed to defending innocent life and to upholding the Judeo-Christian values of our founders and our founding.” This line, a nearly perfect encapsulation of Christian nationalism, received a standing ovation. It’s also untrue.
These twin attacks — on reproductive rights and on our secular founding — are a direct threat to the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s mission. Trump went further, claiming that America “is an exceptional nation blessed by God.” And he ended his speech, as did every speaker, with “God bless you and God bless America,” a Christian nationalist concluding trope that dates to President Nixon’s first address on the Watergate scandal, explains FFRF’s Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel.
“It’s doubly wrong,” says Seidel. “The ‘Judeo-’ in ‘Judeo-Christian values’ is meant to blunt the edge of a deliberately exclusionary movement, one that seeks special privileges and status for conservative Christians. And Judeo-Christian values are fundamentally opposed to America’s founding principles,” Seidel adds, an argument he makes in his recent book, The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism is Un-American.
CPAC was not the only Christian nationalist conference in Orlando last weekend. Former member of congress and noted white nationalist Steve King and Rep. Paul Gosar both spoke at the America First Political Action Conference. FFRF documented Gosar’s role in the Jan. 6 insurrection. Reports of this conference, which heavily featured white nationalism, are deeply disturbing.
These conferences unfortunately signal that Christian nationalism remains a serious political threat in the United States.
Image Via C-Span