Two portraits. One is labeled "secularist of the week" and is a photo of Sean Bagnieswski. The second portrait is labeled "theocrat of the week" and is a photo of Josh Hawley.

Iowa state rep. earns “Secularist” award while Sen. Hawley is named repeat “Theocrat”  

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FFRF Action Fund’s “Secularist of the Week” is Iowa state Rep. Sean Bagniewski for his work documenting how much support is being drained from public schools in order to subsidize private religious schools under Iowa’s voucher program. Such vouchers are but one example of how Christian nationalists, such as our “Theocrat of the Week” Sen. Josh Hawley, are injecting religion into public programs. Hawley recently published a 4,334-word Christian nationalist manifesto in an ecumenical academic journal, earning him his second “Theocrat” title. 

Bagniewski for instance has filed a new bill that would require personalized notes on tax statements telling people how much of their money subsidize private (usually religious) school voucher programs each year. The bill addresses the dire influx of voucher programs in Iowa

“Bagniewski’s bill ought to become a piece of model legislation emulated and adopted around the nation,” commends Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF Action Fund president.

Voucher programs notoriously rob funding from public schools and eliminate public oversight.  Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds made school voucher programs a key point in her re-election and in her plans for this legislative session. She signed legislation a year ago to funnel more than $340 million in taxpayer dollars to private, mostly religious, schools. Nearly 19,000 educational savings accounts were approved under Iowa’s voucher program in 2023, raising concerns on the impact on rural counties without any private schools and on the public schools losing funding to cover the budget of Iowa’s vouchers. 

Bagniewski introduced another laudable bill in mid-January to require Iowa’s attorney general to resume payments for emergency contraception for victims of sexual assault. “These are both practical solutions to hopefully restore just a little common sense in our state again,” he wrote

Common sense is not as common as we could hope for. FFRF Action Fund’s “Theocrat of the Week” has shown this with his recent diatribe against the  the “atheist left” and the separation of church and state.

Hawley published an article this month titled “Our Christian Nation” in First Things, a leading conservative religious journal. He wrote the lengthy piece on the supposed Christian history of the United States and why Christianity is needed for a common “moral order.” 

“America’s ideal has been the religion of the Bible, Christianity in particular,” Hawley writes. “That is changing now, obviously, and not for the better. . . . Isn’t the real culprit the loss of our ‘common religious ideal,’ the demise of Christianity as America’s cultural and moral anchor? . . . Because America as we know it cannot survive without biblical Christianity. The rights we cherish, thefreedoms we enjoy, the ideals we love together — all are rooted in and sustained by the tradition of the Bible.”

Hawley claims that Americans “must re-Christianize the great institutions of our society by rearticulating the gospel’s meaning for every aspect of life. Step one: Dismantle the legal regime of secularism the left has tried for decades to impose. Children should be able to pray in public-school classrooms. . . . Christian business people should be free to incorporate their faith into their enterprises. . . . Christians must stoutly defend the seminal Christian influence in our history.”

Hawley wants to impose Christianity onto every sector of U.S. government and life, and to give a green light to religiously based discrimination. Hawley falsely asserts that the Founders based their ideas on Christian doctrines and that Christianity can unite Americans. 

Hawley infamously gave the mob outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 a fist salute and is a known election denier. He was named FFRF Action Fund’s “Theocrat of the Week” last July for tweeting a fake Christian nationalist quote. It is clear Hawley has still not learned to fact-check his sources, and that his views pose a danger to America’s secular democracy and to our liberties.

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.