Christian nationalist pandering was the order of the day at two very scary political gatherings last weekend featuring Republican presidential candidates eager to please their base.
These political figures groveled at the feet of attendees at two religious get-togethers: the Pray Vote Stand Summit, put on by the radical Family Research Council, and the Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee Summit, hosted by the far-right evangelical group whose mission is to “promote biblical values and constitutional principles.”
The headliners at each of these events, Republican presidential primary front-runners, spouted Christian extremist talking points that played well with the crowds.
Quadice-indicted former President Donald Trump first catered to the Concerned Women of America as its summit’s keynote speaker. Trump was introduced by the longtime president of Family Research Council, Tony Perkins, who said Trump is “a man who fights for what he believes in.” In rambling remarks, Trump did his best to stoke fear by claiming that the only way to save this country is through “God-fearing patriots.”
Saying that elections can be won on the abortion issue, Trump defamed Democrats, alleging that they are willing to “kill babies … after birth.” He touted his revamping of the federal judiciary to include three Supreme Court justices who made it possible to overturn Roe v. Wade. However, Trump added that elections also can be lost by “pro-life” candidates who aren’t careful — adding that he supports abortion bans with exceptions for rape, incest and to save the life of the woman. This position was “met coolly by the crowd,” according to Reuters, but even so, Trump holds a 35 percentage-point lead over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy among evangelical Christians polled last week by Reuters/Ipsos.
Later that day, in an address to the Pray Vote Stand rally across town, Trump averred that his role as president was to stand up to “the communists, the Marxists, the atheists, and the evil and demonic forces that want to destroy our country. They’re destroying our country.” It is clear that this is the message he believes will win him the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
DeSantis, who is a distant second in the polls to Trump, bragged about passing a six-week abortion ban in Florida at the Pray Vote Stand Summit. Promising to “put on the full armor of God” in his fantasy fight for Christian nationalism, DeSantis regurgitated his disdain for the “woke agenda” while also promising more targeted action like repealing the Johnson Amendment that bars churches and tax-exempt groups from electioneering. He also promoted so-called “school choice.” DeSantis insisted that “reviving the spirit of America” begins with “religious institutions.”
But it wasn’t just the top presidential candidates touting this message: Former Vice President Mike Pence was also in the mix spouting Christian nationalist talking points. Not surprisingly, his message focused on abortion rights and the need to uphold “traditional” families. He warned that “there’s no greater threat to America’s future than the collapse of the traditional family.” This collapse he attributed in part to “transgenderism” and abortion rights. Pence predictably repeated his shopworn vow that he’s “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.”
Ramaswamy, a businessman with no prior political background who bears the oxymoron of being a Hindu Christian nationalist, likewise gave the requisite criticism of “secular religions” such as racial and gender ideologies, warning that they reflect a “national identity crisis.”
Additionally, lesser-known political figures also emphasized their theocratic message. Three members of the House Freedom Caucus — Reps. Mary Miller, Chip Roy and Byron Donalds (not Bryon, as it is advertised on the event’s website) — embraced the outright lie that America is a Christian nation.
As the country moves into the federal election season over the next year, the FFRF Action Fund will continue to monitor radical religious candidates who promise Christian nationalist policies. During a time when ever more Americans are becoming religiously unaffiliated, the message that our elected officials need to send is one of unity, not religious division.
FFRF Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that develops and advocates for legislation, regulations, and government programs to preserve the constitutional principle of separation between state and church. It also advocates for the rights and views of nonbelievers, endorses candidates for political office, and publicizes the views of elected officials concerning religious liberty issues. FFRF Action Fund serves as the advocacy arm of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which has more than 40,000 members and works to keep religion out of government and educate the public about nontheism.