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A week full of hope, fear- and surreal Christian nationalism

7f66dd39 ef3e 115f dd3d 054323739c27 A week full of hope, fear- and surreal Christian nationalism

By Annie Laurie Gaylor
Co-President
Freedom From Religion Foundation

It’s not even Halloween, but there are some scary developments afoot — and some hopeful signs as well in the past week of news. Here’s what has caught my attention:

A majority of Republicans support declaring America a Christian nation.

A new University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll released this week suggests that most Republicans are Christian nationalists.

First, the good news: 70 percent of Americans — including 57 percent of Republicans and 81 percent of Democrats — say the Constitution would not permit the U.S. government to declare the United States a “Christian nation.”

Then, the national poll asked, “Would you favor or oppose the United States officially declaring the United States to be a Christian Nation.” Again, good news that 62 percent of respondents, including 83 percent of Democrats and 39 percent of Republicans, would oppose it. But it’s downright scary (not to mention un-American) that 61 percent of Republicans said they would support declaring the United States a Christian nation.

In other words, more than half of Republicans, knowing that such a move would be unconstitutional, would support such a declaration. Clearly they’re willing to shred the Constitution in the name of Jesus. We need to beware the growing interest in a constitutional convention. If the extremists ever succeed in holding one, and they’re close to having state ratification, we would lose our country and our liberty.

The pollsters do provide some comfort. They warn that a political strategy to push Christian nationalism might be “short-sighted” because of the strong opposition to Christian nationalism from young Americans, including young Republicans.

Speaking of Christian nationalists . . .

Did you know that U.S. Sen. James Lankford (representing Oklahoma) claimed last week at the Pray Vote Stand Summit, put on by the Family Research Council, that God blessed his state with rain after it passed an extreme abortion law? “We’ve experienced a big drought in Oklahoma. The week after — the week after — we passed this law to be able to protect the lives of children, we had the most overwhelming rainstorm that came across the state,” he declared.

I would agree with Lankford on one thing: The rain was certainly “overwhelming.” According to “Friendly Atheist” blogger Hemant Mehta, it flooded several cities and destroyed crops. Thank you, Jesus.

Lankford was referring to the gross law that Oklahoma enacted on May 25 banning almost all abortion at conception, and also encouraging individuals to sue anyone involved in an abortion. By the way, Al Mohler, who is president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told attendees at the event Lankford spoke at that Christians would be “unfaithful” if they “vote wrongly” (clearly code for Democrat, since he’s a Republican).

Does atheism need to be explained?

Several researchers think so, and they just nabbed £2.7 million in funding from the John Templeton Foundation for a three-year study of “the causes of atheism and agnosticism” in Brazil, China, Denmark, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. While the rise of the “Nones” certainly deserves academic attention, I must insert a cautionary note here. The Templeton Foundation, founded by a liberal religionist, is famous for giving grants to study the so-called connection between religion, spirituality and health. But it’s good to know that one of the researchers involved did a recent study looking “beyond the stereotypes and helped to document some of the world’s rich diversity in atheism and agnosticism.” Here’s hoping for a helpful study.

Reason prevails in San Francisco?

We at FFRF are delighted to see that the San Francisco school district is rethinking plans to close schools for two Muslim holidays. FFRF Attorney Chris Line wrote a strong letter condemning the plan, pointing out the current policy already accommodates students who miss school for major religious holidays. Well-known attorney Paul Scott warned the district that the board change violates open meeting laws, as well as the Establishment Clause. As FFRF had pointed out, “Rather than fostering inclusivity, the San Francisco resolution appears to elevate Muslim holidays above all other religious holidays.” Let’s hope the district scuttles these plans permanently.

Kudos on Kennedy exposé.

“The story of the praying Bremerton coach keeps getting more surreal,” as the Seattle Times puts it in a piece exposing Coach Joe Kennedy’s bizarre lack of interest in returning to the coaching job he sued to get reinstated in. After the parody of a decision handed down by the extremist Supreme Court majority this summer, the school district in Washington was forced to offer to reinstate Kennedy (even though it had never fired him in the first place).

Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat reports that the school district sent Coach Joe the paperwork to reinstate him on Aug. 8, but hasn’t heard a peep. Kennedy instead has been traveling the Christian nationalist circuit: to Alaska to meet evangelist Franklin Graham and former Vice President Mike Pence, and to Milwaukee to receive “an engraved .22-caliber rifle” at an American Legion convention. Kennedy recently showed up at the Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey to witness Donald Trump getting a religious award. Be sure to read the rest of this enlightening article about the real story behind Coach Joe, a darling of Christian nationalist media.

Off with the hijabs.

Since FFRF condemned the horrifying death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini because she wasn’t wearing a hijab, there have been major developments in Iran. The “One Nation Under God” country has erupted in days and nights of protest. At least seven people have reportedly been killed. But, exhilaratingly, the people — with women in the forefront — are marching and demonstrating against Iran’s Islamist authoritarian regime, chanting “Justice, liberty, no to mandatory hijab.” Videos are showing women bravely ripping off their headscarves.

It is simultaneously poignant and glorious to behold. But along with the rest of the world, I am holding my breath. Can the people possibly prevail or will there be a worse crackdown? Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who spoke this week at the United Nations insisting his nation is a model of justice and human rights, canceled an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour . . . because she refused to wear a headscarf. What a model of human rights.

Saving the bizarrest for last.

As I keep warning: The inflamed anti-abortion rhetoric can’t keep talking about abortion “killing unborn babies” without turning women who have them into “murderers.” It’s inevitable. The legislative drive to treat them like criminals is happening already.

In Louisiana, a Baptist minister is working with a state representative to promote a bill making the criminal consequences the same for a woman who has an abortion — even if raped or necessary to save her life — as for a woman who drowns her baby.

These so-called “pro-lifers” would even lock up physicians who use in-vitro fertilization to help couples conceive, if they destroy embryos in the process, as invariably occurs. CNN reports that only four people, all women, spoke against the bill during the recent committee hearing. And the bill, frighteningly, has moved out of committee.

Even more frightening, such self-described “abolitionists” are not confined to Louisiana. Read the rest of this report showing how far male religious zealots are prepared to take their religious crusade against women’s autonomy — to execute them, the ultimate denial of bodily autonomy. How’s that for pro-life?

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