Government-Supported Religion

Christian Nationalist Candidates Come Up Short In Midterm Elections

  Rob Boston

The picture remains a little murky in the wake of yesterday’s midterm elections. Several races have yet to be called, but one thing is clear: Christian nationalists didn’t have a good night.

Here’s a rundown on some key races:

Pennsylvania: Doug Mastriano, the most prominent Christian nationalist seeking office this year, lost his bid to become Pennsylvania’s governor. Mastriano was defeated by Democrat Josh Shapiro, who captured 55% of the vote to Mastriano’s 42%.

Mastriano’s campaign was heavily anchored in culture war issues and was accused of antisemitic rhetoric (Shapiro is Jewish). Mastriano is an ally of former President Donald Trump who denies that Joe Biden is the legitimate president. Mastriano was in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, and urged his followers to join him, telling them, “I’m really praying that God will pour His Spirit upon Washington, D.C., like we’ve never seen before.” A recent New Yorker profile asserted that Mastriano “has come to embody a set of beliefs characterized as Christian nationalism, which center on the idea that God intended America to be a Christian nation, and which, when mingled with conspiracy theory and white nationalism, helped to fuel the [Jan. 6] insurrection.”

In a U.S. Senate race from Pennsylvania, Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman defeated celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz, 50% to 47%. During the campaign, Oz endorsed private school vouchers.

Maryland: Two Christian nationalist candidates seeking statewide office were soundly defeated. State Del. Dan Cox, who was endorsed by Trump and who peddled conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, lost the governor’s race to Wes Moore, a former nonprofit executive and author, 60% to 37%.

In the race for attorney general, former Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown defeated Michael Peroutka, 69% to 31%. During the race, Peroutka vowed to make abortion illegal in Maryland, said he would ignore the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing marriage equality and opined that public schools teach communism.

Michigan: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer won a second term, fending off a challenge by far-right business leader and pundit Tudor Dixon. Dixon stressed culture war issues during the race and vowed to stop transgender athletes from competing in public school sports programs. The result was 53% to 45%.

Colorado: U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, who this year said she was tired of hearing about “this separation of church and state junk,” is locked in an unexpectedly tight race with Democrat Adam Frisch. As of this writing, a winner has not been called.

Abortion rights were on the ballot in five states, and in each case, voters upheld reproductive freedom.

Voters in California added the right to abortion and birth control to the state constitution, 65.2% to 34.8%. In Michigan, voters added abortion rights to the state constitution, 56% to 44%. In Vermont, voters added a “Reproductive Liberty Amendment” to the state constitution that will protect abortion rights and access to contraceptives. The vote was 77.5% for to 22.5% against.

Two conservative states also voted for choice. In Kentucky, voters rejected a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would have declared that nothing in that document protects a right to abortion and would also prohibit taxpayer funding for abortions. The Associated Press reported that the measure was rejected, 53% to 47%. Montana voters appear to have rejected a so-called “born alive” amendment that would have imposed a 20-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $50,000 on any health care worker who doesn’t try to save a “born-alive infant.” Unofficial results show the measure losing, 52.4% to 47.6%.

In other issues, residents of Arkansas were voting on adding a problematic “religious freedom amendment” to the state constitution. Results are currently too close to call. In Tennessee, a proposal to remove an antiquated provision from the state constitutions that bans members of the clergy from holding public office appeared to be headed to an easy win.

In Jamestown Township, Mich., residents in August voted to essentially defund their public library over the presence of a small number of LGBTQ-themed books in the collection. Yesterday they had an opportunity to restore the funding but didn’t do it, with 55.8% voting against the funding. The vote means the Patmos Library will lose 85% of its funding, and officials say it will have to close.

Of course, plenty of far-right candidates who hew to Christian nationalism won election or reelection yesterday. But many of the most high-profile races didn’t go the way the far right had hoped. That’s cause for at least a little celebration.

An American Original

Is the separation of church and state in the Constitution?

Absolutely. The separation of church and state is baked into our founding documents and our system of government.

The “wall of separation between church and state” is an American original. It’s an American invention. We should be proud of that fact. And we should fight any disinformation that threatens this ideal.

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