I’ve heard there are three topics never to be discussed among friends: politics, sex, and religion. So before I begin and lose a bunch of friends- a caveat-the following blog is not meant to disparage Christianity. Rather, it describes how a certain element on the right are using (some would say distorting) their faith to further political agendas.
It never fails to amaze me as each new salacious scandal involving Trump erupts, that the choir of the religious right raises its voice even louder in his defense. Franklin Graham is one who comes to mind. I shouldn’t be surprised. Trump got the support of 81% of evangelical Christians during the 2016 election and his favorability ratings among that group remain high. The reasons behind this could fill pages, but to me it seems the overarching theme is a “fear of the other” and a desire to keep our country from evolving away from a predominantly white, Judeo-Christian nation.
One term for this paradigm of society is “Christian nationalism”. Sociologist Andrew Whitehead defines Christian nationalism as “an Old Testament-based worldview fusing Christian and American identities”. But when we’re talking politics, this viewpoint can’t simply be described as Christian nationalism but also as “dominionist”, meaning that a particular sectarian view of God should control all aspects of life and human institutions.
Again when we’re talking politics, there’s a particular element that aren’t just being hypocritical-they’re putting their money where their mouth is. Welcome to “Project Blitz”. The term “Project Blitz” is no accident. It’s intended to invoke war connotations, because this is a religious war in the minds of the people fighting it. Project Blitz is no joke. It’s a major legislative initiative with the goal of passing a package of Christian-right bills at the state level across the country. Its main organizers are groups like Wallbuilders, the National Legal Foundation, and the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, which is the principal “bill mill”. On the surface the bills seem to be unrelated and vary widely in content, but the underlying agenda is the same.
So far this year 71 bills have been introduced nationwide, and this only counts the bills being tracked by Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Some examples are the National Motto Display Act, the Bible Literacy Act, and the Clergy Protection Act. The strategy is to follow the approach of pro-corporate ALEC. (See my August 2017 blog, “You Don’t Know ALEC!”)
Project Blitz has a 116 page playbook. Bills are organized in 3 tiers “according to the degree of opposition they anticipate”.
Tier 1: Legislation Regarding Our Country’s Religious Heritage (Let’s stop right there. 1. The title says it all-it assumes we have one religious heritage. 2. Many historians argue that the notion America at its founding was intended to be a Christian nation is a fallacy. It’s a distorted view and historically inaccurate that America is a Christian nation-just because most Americans have been Christian. The founding fathers wanted a nation where all faiths were defended according to historian John Fea. You can’t argue religious liberty but only Christian religious liberty.)
The strategy with Tier 1 bills is to go for soft targets and begin with “small victories”. These focus on less controversial issues with the intent of getting legislators comfortable with the concept. The initial bills will be built upon later. One example is “The Motto Bill” that has been passed in some states and requires the motto “In God We Trust” to be placed in public schools.
At the launch of Project Blitz on February 16, 2016, pseudo-historian and mastermind behind the strategy, David Barton, explained to state legislators that the bills in Category 1 are, “kinda like whack-a-mole for the other side. It’ll drive them crazy that they will have to divide their resources out in opposing this… they won’t know what to do with this and it’ll be great!”
Tier 2: Resolutions and Proclamations Recognizing the Importance of Religious History and Freedom. This seeks to make government a partner in the Christianizing of America. One example is the Proclamation Recognizing Religious Freedom Day or the Establishment of a Whitehouse Faith and Opportunity Initiative that Trump signed on Thursday. Barton said the bills in Category 2 ought to be “probably pretty easy to pass,” although “[the opposition is] gonna be a lot more virulent in their attacks. A lot more mean in their attacks. They’ll talk about theocracies and Christian nation and whatever.” According to the Project Blitz playbook legislators should worry much, because these arguments usually aren’t harmful in general elections.
Tier 3: Religious Liberty Protection Legislation. Tier 3 has 3 subcategories: public policy resolutions and two dealing with protections for religious practices. These types of issues are being framed as protecting the rights of the right. Examples include anti-gay adoption bills and exemptions for professional licensing. How that works is that pharmacists, mental health professionals, and other medical personnel could cite religious reasons for not providing care to LGBTQ persons, dispensing contraceptives, or performing abortions. According to the playbook, the model bills in Category 3 may “have the greatest immediate impact on protecting religious liberties.” However, “some of them also are the most hotly contested,” and opposition “will often be well-organized and well-financed, and the arguments made are more dangerous because they will often play the same inside and outside the statehouse.”
You may have noticed that many of the bills being promoted by Project Blitz are geared toward denigrating the LGBTQ community and advancing the right to discriminate. The playbook says that they seek “not to let those who want to run roughshod over religious liberty dictate the terms of the discussion, but to be ready to engage them with facts and figures and research that challenge their assumptions.” Project Blitz proponents claim that “their model public policy resolutions ‘rely heavily on the research that demonstrates the deleterious physical and mental health effects of same-sex intercourse and gender identity ‘transformation’.” And they don’t try to hide their agenda. The goal is to “define public policies of the state in favor of biblical values concerning marriage and sexuality.” Project Blitz offers “data” they suggest shows “that LGBTQ people tend to be diseased, dysfunctional or both—and that they pose a threat to children and to society. “
What happens in Washington gets all the attention, but much of the time when we’re looking over there the worst damage is being done at the state level. Under this administration and without a change in the balance of power at all levels of government, Project Blitz is on course to be a modern day Crusade. Science, reason, the right to choose, the right to love whom you want, and ironically enough, real Christian values will be the casualties of this war.
posted by Amy Levengood