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Why does white Christian nationalism now define the Republican Party?
The Supreme Court, red states, and Trump
On June 30, the six Republican appointees to the Supreme Court ruled that a graphic artist who designs wedding websites can refuse to design a website for same-sex weddings, despite a Colorado law that bars discrimination based on sexual orientation, race, gender, and other characteristics. They said that forcing her to create the website would violate her free speech rights under the First Amendment.
But where and how to draw the line between protected expression and illegal discrimination? What about wedding planners, photographers, florists, caterers, decorators, musicians, or dressmakers who consider their work to be artistic expressions and also believe that forcing them to offer their services to gay couples violates their free speech rights?
The point is, there is no clear line. Instead, the Supreme Court’s Republican majority is prioritizing religious beliefs over all other values.
Over the past three years, the court has sided with a public school football coach who insisted on praying at midfield after games, on some accounts causing students to feel pressure to participate. A religious foster-care agency that refused to certify same-sex couples as foster parents. Religious schools in Maine that sought public subsidies. A religious group that wished to fly a Christian flag over Boston’s City Hall. Religious organizations that challenged early Covid restrictions on gathering in large groups. And, of course, those who oppose abortions, largely because of their religion, which they prioritize over the rights of women to control their bodies.
Unlike the court’s older important religious freedom rulings that protected members of minority religions from discrimination, the recent cases have protected practitioners of mainstream Christianity.
It is not just the court. All over America, the wall separating church and state is getting hit with a Republican battering ram.
A few weeks ago, Oklahoma Republicans approved the nation’s first religious charter school — St. Isidore — offering Catholic religious instruction and financed by taxpayers. They claimed that excluding religious schools from charter funding would violate the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom.
Texas lawmakers have pushed bills requiring the Ten Commandments be posted in every classroom in the state, allowing chaplains to replace counselors in schools, and letting school districts set time for staff and students to pray and read religious texts.
Montana’s House recently passed a requirement that schools accept “without question” a “conscience exemption” for immunizations for school attendance — thereby doing away with required vaccinations for measles, rubella, mumps, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, and influenza type B.
Idaho and Kentucky have signed into law measures allowing teachers and public school employees to pray in front of and with students while on duty.
Republican state lawmakers are falling over themselves to pass book bans, abortion prohibitions, and anti-trans laws — and justify them with scripture.
“Put on the full armor of God. Stand firm against the left’s schemes,” Florida governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis proclaimed at the Christian Hillsdale College (substituting “left’s schemes” for the “devil’s schemes” of Ephesians 6:11).
And it’s not just any religion. It’s Christianity. As former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn (whom Trump has promised to bring back for a second Trump term) put it at a recent ReAwaken America event, “If we are going to have one nation under God, which we must, we have to have one religion.”
The paradox is that religious observance has shown a steep decline over the past quarter century. In 1999, Gallup found that 70 percent of Americans belonged to a church, a synagogue, or a mosque. In 2020, the number was 47 percent. For the first time in nearly a century of polling, worshippers were the minority in America.
Does this precipitous decline help explain the militance of white Christian nationalism? A fierce minority religious movement has taken over the Republican Party — giving the GOP fervor and purpose that are now being championed by Republican appointees to the Supreme Court, Republican state legislators, and Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump.
What do you think?