June 2018 Church & State Magazine - June 2018

Religious Right Coalition Blitzes States With Far-Right Agenda

  Liz Hayes

An April report by the news site Religion Dispatches that featured research by Americans United outlined how Religious Right groups are drafting model legislation to inundate states with proposals to promote Christianity in public schools and to permit religion to be used to discriminate.

Dubbed “Project Blitz,” the initiative was launched in 2015 by a coalition of Religious Right groups and relies on the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation as its primary bill mill – producing sample legislation that lawmakers can introduce in their states.

AU Legislative Associate Samantha Sokol told researcher Frederick Clarkson that she had identified 71 bills introduced this year or carried over from 2017 that are similar to Project Blitz’s model bills. They include legislation to have “In God We Trust” displayed and Bible literacy courses taught in public schools; First Amendment Defense Acts and Religious Freedom Restoration Acts that could allow broad discrimination in the name of religion; and bills to allow adoption and foster-care agencies to use religion to justify denying children homes and discriminating against prospective parents.

“The model bills are grouped into three categories according to the degree of opposition they anticipate – 1 being the least,” wrote Clarkson. “The general plan is to begin with the less controversial measures to get legislators comfortable with the subject matter; to seek small victories first.”

Among those “small victories” are bills to display “In God We Trust” in public schools and buildings; such legislation was signed into law in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida and Tennessee so far this year, and in four other states last year.

David Barton, a Religious Right pseudo-historian who leads the Wall­builders organization and is part of Project Blitz’s steering team, explained these bills in 2016 as “kinda like whack-a-mole for the other side. It’ll drive them crazy that they will have to divide their resources out in opposing this … they won’t know what to do with this and it’ll be great!”

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