Those who believe America was founded as a white Christian nation are working to “restore” America to what they see as its founding roots. Events such as the Christian nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 get reported, but their connections with the Jan. 6 insurrection, the anti-abortion movement, and state-funded Christian education don’t.

The Jan. 6 insurrection was primarily the work of white Christian nationalists. Rep. Jared Huffman, D-California, said, “Many Americans look at that day and think: ‘A lot of crazy people acted out,’” and, “What tied many unconnected (groups) together was a worldview that Christianity should be fused with civic life. That true Americans are white, culturally conservative, and natural-born citizens.”

Rep. Huffman founded the Congressional Freethought Caucus to “protect the secular character of our government.” The caucus recently held a forum, “God Is On Our Side: White Christian Nationalism and the Capitol Insurrection,” to bring awareness that white Christian nationalism “is the most important piece of this insurrection people don’t yet understand fully” and expose the “implications for the future of Democracy” Christian nationalism represents.

The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and the Freedom From Religion Foundation authored a report exposing Christian nationalism in the Capitol attack. Andrew Seidel, a report author, said he believes Jan. 6 was “the culmination but not the end” and “Insurrectionists were given moral license for the attack, and since then, a growing slice of Americans are justifying it.”

“I look at what’s happening now, the rhetoric leading up to the midterms, and am more worried, not less,” he said. “We have more brazen nationalism. The Republican Party said that day was ‘legitimate discourse.’ We are going to see something like this again.”

It’s likely that the Supreme Court ultimately will leave the question of abortion to the states, a states-rights ruling white Christian nationalists are drooling over. Once Roe v. Wade is abandoned, Christian nationalists will move on to other state-rights issues, such as contraception, same-sex marriage, interracial marriage, and state-funded religious education.

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“Right on cue,” wrote Maine-based historian Heather Cox Richardson, “Senator Mike Braun (R-Indiana) told a reporter that states not only should decide the issue of abortion but should also be able to decide the issues of whether interracial marriage should be legal and whether couples should have access to contraception.” Sen. Braun summed up his point of view: ” … we’re better off having states manifest their points of view rather than homogenizing it across the country as Roe v. Wade did.”

Sen. Braun’s position means people are only entitled to all the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution depending on which state they live in.

White Christian nationalists have tried for decades to get the “science” of creationism taught in public schools but, having primarily failed that, have refocused their efforts on state-funded religious (Christian) education. The Supreme Court has ruled on several cases where plaintiffs sued to force the state to support churches with public taxes; the court has consistently ruled in favor of the plaintiff.

However, the court has routinely avoided ruling on the central question: Is it permissible for states to violate the Establishment Clause to fund religion and religious education? In June, the court will rule in Casey v. Makin, the Maine religious privilege case that asks that central question. The court is likely to decide Maine cannot “discriminate” against private religious schools by not paying for religious education if it elects to fund private secular school tuition for students who choose that route.

However, forcing Maine to pay for religious education is not the Christian Nationalists’ most important agenda; establishing America as a Christian nation through a constitutional amendment is.

Most Christians are not white, racist, Christian nationalists; far from it. On the contrary, most people who identify as Christian follow Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, where he proclaimed the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” However, the Christian right has taken a sharp right turn in recent years.

White Christian nationalism represents a grave threat to American democracy. In his book, “The Flag and the Cross: White Christian Nationalism and the Threat to American Democracy,” Yale sociologist Phil Gorski writes, “White Christian nationalism is a dangerous threat because it’s incredibly well-organized and powerful. There’s absolutely nothing like it on the left.”

Their notion of freedom is a solid libertarian “don’t tread on me” mentality, a worldview “that places white men on the top of society with everyone else below them. Anything that threatens that order is seen as a justification for violence.”

Tom Waddell is president of the Maine Chapter of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. He welcomes comments at [email protected] and ffrfmaine.org.


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