Stop maligning Politico, FFRF chides Tony Perkins and Catholic Vote

headshot of Tony Perkins in a suit

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is strenuously defending Politico from charges by Christian nationalist leaders that the media outlet has been recently engaging in biased reporting.

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and Brian Burch of Catholic Vote sent Politico’s top management a letter a few days ago in which they “slammed Politico national investigative correspondent Heidi Przybyla’s ‘disqualifying lack of knowledge of the United States of America’s founding documents and a profoundly prejudicial view toward American religious groups,’” as Fox News reports. In the letter, they claim that “our own republic was founded on the belief that our rights come from God, not earthly kings or government,” which is “clearly articulated in the Declaration of Independence” because it mentions that all men are “endowed by their Creator.” They then claim that “it has been reiterated and embraced by every President of the United States since George Washington.” There are no citations provided, or evidence to back up these assertions.

Perkins and Burch contend that Przybyla has been “manifestly trying to demonize the Christian community and sow fear through propaganda.” They then ludicrously imply that her comments on the very real dangers of Christian nationalism are connected to violence against places of worship, including “attacks on the Jewish community.”

Perkins’ and Burch’s letter, like a lot of disinformation spread by Christian nationalists, is a blatant attempt to rewrite our nation’s history to claim that we’re Christian, FFRF asserts. The letter is intended to goad Politico into reducing coverage of Christian nationalism, lest it be condemned as attacking Christianity, which, as Przybyla correctly explained, is different from Christian nationalism.

“Contrary to the assertions in the letter that ‘our rights come from God,’ the United States was founded by Enlightenment-inspired thinkers who valued reason and skepticism,” FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor write to Politico. “If the Framers had wanted to establish the United States based on Christian principles, they would have said so in the Constitution, the founding document of our nation. Instead they did the opposite. Our Founders made the United States the first among nations to adopt a godless and entirely secular Constitution, one that invested sovereignty not in a divinity but in ‘We the People’ and whose only references to religion are exclusionary.”

In 1791, America famously signed a treaty with Tripoli declaring that the “government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,” FFRF writes. This treaty — drafted during George Washington’s presidency, approved unanimously by the Senate, and signed by John Adams — is a reminder that the Founders explicitly held out the United States as a government that separated state from church. It is pure misinformation to suggest that our nation is founded on biblical principles. The Bill of Rights was adopted the same year, with its First Amendment barring any establishment of religion by government and protecting rights of conscience.

The proscription against religion in government has served our nation well, with the U.S. Constitution now the longest-living constitution in history, and our nation spared the constant religious wars afflicting theocratic regions around the world, FFRF asserts.

“Keeping religion out of government has in fact allowed religion to flourish on our continent, because it protects freedom of conscience,” Barker and Gaylor write. “Keeping divisive religion out of the government is a fundamental American ideal, is essential for true religious freedom, and has been a tremendous asset to our society. This is a principle to revere, not tarnish or destroy.”

Pryzbyla and Politico do not owe an apology to anyone, FFRF concludes, and should continue covering Christian nationalism — the greatest current threat to our democracy.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 40,000 members across the country. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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