One of the most unfortunate features of Christian nationalism is the tendency of its adherents to attack modern science.

This often plays out in the longstanding effort to water down or remove instruction about Darwinian evolution in public school science classes, but that’s far from the only way the Religious Right’s anti-science attitude manifests itself. Many of them also deny climate change and, as we’ve seen during the coronavirus pandemic, growing numbers have signed up with conspiracy theorists who either believe the virus isn’t a real threat or that the country is overreacting to it (despite the U.S. death toll, which has now topped 209,000).

This attitude led many Christian nationalists to insist that their churches should be able to remain open even in the face of public health orders curbing all large gatherings. Many derided recommendations from medical professionals such as wearing masks and maintaining social distance, and some extremist pastors went so far as to simply ignore these orders.

Such reckless behavior threatens all of us. Around the country, several events that took place in houses of worship have been identified as “superspreader” incidents. (Last month, authorities in Maine reported that seven people had died after a couple held a wedding reception and did not follow health guidelines. None of the seven had attended the reception.)

Most recently, President Donald Trump’s decision to hold a large event at the White House to introduce Amy Coney Barrett, his nominee to the Supreme Court, resulted in Trump and several others being infected with coronavirus. His most committed followers remain unfazed. Yesterday, many of them rallied – maskless – outside of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where an infectious Trump was briefly driven around in a car to wave to them. 

The decision by Christian nationalists to reject clear and compelling scientific evidence has consequences. When people attend huge religious gatherings without taking any sensible precautions such as wearing masks and engaging in social distancing, they can become infected and then later spread the sickness in their larger communities. That’s why Americans United continues its work to ensure that houses of worship don’t receive preferential exemptions from reasonable public health orders that are intended to protect us all.

People are free to make poor decisions for themselves – but not others. That means Christian nationalists are free to reject overwhelming scientific and medical evidence if they choose, but this attitude is not something our government at any level should encourage. As recent events have shown, reality has a way of asserting itself in the end.