Unveiling Christian Nationalism: Examining its Influence Through Current Legislative Trends The Humanist TheHumanist.com

We’re on the brink of one of the most consequential elections in recent memory. The separation of church and state is a cornerstone of the United States, ensuring the preservation of democracy and the protection of civil liberties. However, in recent years, a growing ideology has threatened this foundational principle: Christian nationalism. With each passing day, the discourse surrounding Christian nationalism gains momentum, prompting a crucial question: What lies at the heart of Christian nationalism, and why should humanists sound the alarm?

Christian nationalism, separate from the Christian religion, is a political ideology that seeks to merge Christian beliefs and symbols with national identity and public policy. Christian nationalists believe that the United States was founded as a Christian nation and Christianity should be infused in all aspects of American society. They believe that their god is the only thing that should influence laws and determine our rights, and as such, any laws and any governing body that is not based on the authority of their god, is essentially meaningless.  For Christian nationalists, our government, the television shows we watch, the music we consume, how we structure our family life, how we engage with one another, and more, should be informed by their god. The true danger of this ideology lies not in that they believe this (although plenty could be said on that), but in that they are actively trying to enact it into our policies.

The bedrock of the United States Constitution lies in its establishment of the clear demarcation between church and state, ensuring that no single religion dictates governmental policies and that the government refrains from endorsing any particular faith. This safeguard guarantees that citizens are free to exercise their own beliefs without fear of persecution or discrimination, promotes equality among citizens regardless of their religious beliefs, fosters an environment where individuals are free to engage in interfaith dialogue and exchange ideas without government interference, and ideally prevents religious institutions from gaining too much power and potentially imposing their beliefs on the population through governmental means.

Despite these foundational principles, a concerted effort by Christian nationalists threatens to undermine the integrity of this separation. While the historical encroachment of Christian nationalists could fill volumes, the urgent focus lies in what they are doing right now to subvert our rights and democracy.

Here’s just some of what they’ve been up to in the past few months alone:

Ruling that Embryos Are Children

In February, the Supreme Court of Alabama declared that frozen embryos are to be legally regarded as “minor children,” a verdict with profound implications. Chief Justice Tom Parker, in authoring the opinion, emphasized the sanctity of human life, invoking a divine perspective, stating, “Human life cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God, who views the destruction of His image as an affront to Himself…Even before birth, all human beings bear the image of God, and their lives cannot be destroyed without effacing his glory.” The ruling sparked a contentious debate, not only challenging the separation of church and state but also prompting certain providers to suspend in vitro fertilization (IVF) services. While recent legislation aimed to provide immunity to both providers and patients, it has failed to assuage all concerns. Indeed, at least one center in the state has opted not to resume care, citing insufficient protection within the new legal framework.

Classroom Indoctrination

For years, advocates of Christian nationalism have sought to infiltrate primary school classrooms, coercing students into religious participation and penalizing dissenters. The American Humanist Association, in its tireless pursuit of safeguarding children’s rights to freedom of and from religion, has waged countless legal battles and issued numerous warnings to protect against such encroachments. Despite these efforts, Christian nationalists persist, exemplified by a recent unconstitutional initiative in West Virginia. Here, a bill mandating the display of the motto “In God We Trust” in all classrooms sailed through both the Senate and House, showcasing the ongoing struggle to maintain secular education standards in the face of religious pressure.

Teaching Students that Life Begins at Conception

In Kentucky, the legislature is considering a bill that would compel schools to incorporate a video on fetal development into health curricula. The catch is that the bill names a video created by an anti-abortion nonprofit that teaches that life begins at conception. State Rep. Nancy Tate defended the bill, asserting, “This bill acknowledges that the item in the womb is and was a baby even before week 11, when it is medically referred to as a fetus.” Such legislative maneuvers undermines accurate health education and reproductive rights, taking advantage of the role of education in shaping public opinion. Similar bills are under consideration in three other states.

Allowing Anti-LGBTQ+ Individuals to Foster and Adopt Children

In Tennessee, recent legislation has stirred controversy by proposing to prohibit the state’s child services from rejecting prospective foster or adoptive parents based on their religious beliefs regarding the LGBTQ+ community. Such measures jeopardize the well-being of children, particularly LGBTQ+ youth already overrepresented in the foster care system. Many LGBTQ+ children already find themselves in state custody due to familial intolerance of their gender identity, expression, or sexual orientation. Allowing placement with families not obliged to affirm or accept their identities risks compounding their trauma, highlighting the ongoing struggle for LGBTQ+ rights within the child welfare system.

These legislative examples offer just a glimpse into the ongoing efforts on the local level to intertwine religion with government, and unfortunately, this trend shows no signs of abating. America’s pluralistic society is slowly being jeopardized, one bill and election at a time.

For humanists, the rise of Christian nationalism poses a direct threat to the principles we hold dear. Humanism celebrates the inherent dignity and worth of every individual, regardless of religious belief or lack thereof. Humanists champion reason, compassion, and ethical living, advocating for a society where everyone can flourish irrespective of their religious background. By contrast, Christian nationalism promotes a narrow, exclusionary worldview that seeks to impose a singular religious perspective on public life, marginalizing those who do not conform to its dictates.

The American Humanist Association has long stood against the Religious Right and Christian nationalists, securing numerous legal and policy victories to protect our secular democracy. However, Christian nationalism is gaining momentum, with three in ten Americans believing that America is a Christian nation, and a growing number of Christian nationalists in powerful positions. Notably, the composition of our Supreme Court, with three highly politicized Trump appointees, has tilted the balance towards ultra-conservatism. Justices such as Amy Coney Barrett openly cite religious beliefs as guiding principles in their legal decisions. Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House of Representative and second in line to the presidency, Mike Johnson, unabashedly derives his worldview from religious doctrine.

Given these developments, it is imperative that humanists stand firm and united. Christian nationalists have ambitious plans for 2025, and with their allies entrenched in key positions of influence, they pose a significant threat to our liberties. The decisions made this year will reverberate for years, if not decades, to come. We must continue to advocate for our secular democracy and rights, because we may just have no choice not to.

The post Unveiling Christian Nationalism: Examining its Influence Through Current Legislative Trends appeared first on TheHumanist.com.

What lies at the heart of Christian nationalism, and why should humanists sound the alarm?
The post Unveiling Christian Nationalism: Examining its Influence Through Current Legislative Trends appeared first on TheHumanist.com.