Andrew L. Seidel, Americans United’s vice president of strategic communications, spoke at the iconic Chautauqua Institution in New York last month, warning a packed hall that Christian Nationalism threatens to undermine American values.
“A billion-dollar shadow network” of Christian Nationalist organizations is attacking separation of church and state, Seidel told the crowd, estimated at 1,200.
“They are seeking to conquer our Constitution and remake it in their image,” Seidel said. “America is not a Christian nation, but they would make it so.”
Added Seidel, “These deeply conservative Christians, accustomed to deference and privilege, feel that expansions of freedom and changing demographics violate their rights. But we know that’s not true. Parity is not oppression. Equality, even when it means the erosion of privilege, is not discrimination. We’re actually not expanding rights or giving new rights. We are recognizing rights that have always existed under the law but were never enforced. We are affirming the humanity of our brothers and sisters and siblings and admitting that we’ve been wrong.”
Seidel’s Aug. 16 speech came nearly a year after author Salman Rushdie was attacked by an Islamic extremist while speaking at Chautauqua. Seidel condemned the attack and told attendees, “Gathering together, in community, in this place, to celebrate freedom in the shadow of authoritarian religious violence is a tribute to the freedom of the human mind.”
The Chautauquan Daily reported that Seidel concluded his remarks by exhorting the audience to commit for a long fight to shore up the wall of separation between church and state.
“We have to shatter the myth that the judicial system will fix this for us or that there’s a silver bullet on our side — that there’s some brilliant legal case we can craft that’s going to convince these Crusaders that they’re wrong,” he said. “Above all, we must organize and message in ways that build power and fight to realize the aspirational ideals of freedom, equality and democracy.”
Seidel, who joined the AU staff in March 2022, is the author of two books: The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism In Un-American (2019) and American Crusade: How the Supreme Court Is Weaponizing Religious Freedom (2022).