Freethought Caucus’ Huffman invitations Christian nationalism critic to State of the Union

WASHINGTON (RNS) — Amanda Tyler, lead organizer of Christians Towards Christian Nationalism, will attend the State of the Union deal with Thursday (March 7) as a visitor of U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman, co-founder of the Congressional Freethought Caucus.

Tyler has develop into one of many loudest voices in Washington and within the nation talking in opposition to the Christian nationalist motion, a decentralized however insistent assortment of preachers, politicians and self-appointed champions of concepts that fuse church and state, with many typically insisting that the USA is ordained by God to be ruled by Christian ideas with Christians in cost.

The chief director of the Baptist Joint Committee, a corporation that helps non secular freedom, Tyler, a Texan who previously labored for U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, started opposing Christian nationalism even earlier than she helped to discovered Christians Towards Christian Nationalism in 2019. Since then she has testified to Congress repeatedly to boost issues in regards to the risks of the motion, which she frames as harmful each to non secular liberty and to American democracy.

in October she instructed the U.S. Home Oversight Committee’s Subcommittee on Nationwide Safety, the Border and Overseas Affairs, “The one biggest menace to non secular liberty in the USA as we speak, and thus our repute as leaders within the struggle for non secular liberty to the remainder of the world, is Christian nationalism.”

Tyler’s presence at President Joe Biden’s speech to each homes of Congress is a sign that the Freethought Caucus, whose management Huffman shares with U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, is in search of to develop its function as a watchdog in how faith and politics are combined in Washington.

President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union deal with to a joint session of Congress on the U.S. Capitol, Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photograph/Patrick Semansky)

The caucus emerged following debates that sprung up within the wake of Huffman declaring himself a humanist — a primary for a sitting member of Congress — and was introduced at a Secular Coalition for America occasion.

“It needs to be OK for somebody who’s nonreligious — for humanists or agnostics or atheists — to serve in the USA Congress,” Huffman mentioned in a speech asserting the caucus.

Whereas saying that the group’s mission could be to oppose discrimination in opposition to “agnostics, humanists, seekers and nonreligious people,” the California congressman additionally mentioned it could be devoted to selling broader targets, resembling “public coverage fashioned on the idea of purpose, science and ethical values” in addition to defending the “secular character of our authorities by adhering to the strict constitutional precept of the separation of church and state.”

Within the years since, the caucus has grown to incorporate greater than 20 declared members of varied non secular identities, together with Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Eric Swalwell of California, Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois. 

In November of 2020, Huffman and Raskin introduced a 28-page doc written by the Secular Democrats of America PAC asking then President-elect Biden to contemplate coverage proposals designed to stymie the affect of Christian nationalism, and inspiring fellow lawmakers to keep away from phrases resembling “God and nation.”

The group escalated its criticism of Christian nationalism after the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. Members of the caucus invited students and activists, together with Tyler and figures from the Freedom From Faith Basis, to temporary them in regards to the function Christian nationalism performed within the assault.

Quickly after, Huffman made a speech on the Home ground, crediting the specialists’ briefing, saying Christian nationalism “is infecting our authorities — from members of Congress and high officers within the earlier administration, to the spouse of a Supreme Courtroom justice.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., speaks as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds its final meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Dec. 19, 2022. From left are Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., Raskin. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., speaks because the Home choose committee investigating the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol holds its ultimate assembly on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 19, 2022. From left are Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.; Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.; Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-In poor health.; and Raskin. (AP Photograph/J. Scott Applewhite)

Simply earlier than the report of the Home choose committee investigating the Jan. 6 assault was to be issued, Raskin, who sat on the committee, introduced Tyler to testify earlier than the Home Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which Raskin chaired. “Christian nationalism helped gasoline the assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, uniting disparate actors and infusing their political trigger with non secular fervor,” Tyler instructed the panel.

Some religion leaders have been upset when the choose committee’s report made solely spare point out of Christian nationalism.

Whereas comparatively quiet most of final 12 months, the caucus has been energetic since Mike Johnson, a U.S. consultant from Louisiana and an evangelical Christian, turned speaker of the Home in October. The caucus launched a white paper accusing him of being “deeply linked in political observe and philosophy to Christian Nationalism.”

In February, the group joined with different Democratic lawmakers in sending a letter to Johnson voicing frustration that California megapastor Jack Hibbs had been allowed to function a visitor chaplain to present the opening prayer within the Home. Hibbs, the letter contended, is a “radical Christian Nationalist who helped gasoline the January sixth riot and has a protracted report of spewing hateful vitriol towards non-Christians, immigrants, and members of the LGBTQ neighborhood.”

In a press release asserting Tyler’s look on the State of the Union, Huffman mentioned, “The political local weather surrounding this 12 months’s State of the Union Handle is in contrast to something we’ve skilled,” citing “Christian Nationalists in search of their ‘Seven Mountains’ domination of each stage of presidency, from native college boards to state courts like Alabama’s, all the way in which to the halls of Congress,” referring to a motion of far-fight Christians who purpose to regulate the seven most influential social establishments: household, faith, training, media, leisure, enterprise and authorities.

He added: “Regardless of the intense menace the present Speaker of the Home poses to true non secular freedom, most People are unfamiliar with the damaging agenda of Christian nationalism, and don’t notice how shut we’re to shedding church-state separation and democracy as we all know it. Amanda Tyler will get it.”

Tyler in return lauded the Freethought Caucus, calling the group of lawmakers “a powerful ally in our work advancing religion freedom for all.”

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