Though Democrats have regained significant ground on the state level since the 2016 election, state legislation is still largely a Republican game, with the GOP in charge of 21 trifectas, in addition to eight more GOP-controlled legislatures. Within this red empire, Christian nationalists — who believe the United States was founded as a Christian nation and consider the separation of church and state to be a fraud — are exerting substantial pressure by drafting legislation for friendly lawmakers, according to Sludge, an investigative outlet covering lobbying and money in politics.
According to the report, Christian nationalist groups have concocted a legal strategy called Project Blitz designed to get anti-LGBTQ, anti-choice bills before state legislatures. In the 2018 legislative session, state lawmakers proposed 74 bills similar to Project Blitz draft legislation, ranging from measures designed to restrict same-sex marriage to allowing adoption agencies to deny placements because of religion. “It gets beyond the specifics of religious exemptions into an ever-expanding theocratic vision, where you can not only pick and choose which laws you’re going to honor, but you expand the extent to which you’re going to dishonor them, all the while stepping on the rights and interests of your fellow citizens,” Fred Clarkson, an analyst at the Political Research Associates think tank, told Sludge.
The Project Blitz handbook is split into three categories, based on the level of pushback a prospective bill might place:
The first category, intended to appear the most innocuous, included bills to promote “In God We Trust” license plates (now offered in at least 20 states) and the display of the “In God We Trust” motto in public schools. (Some version of the display legislation has passed in at least 10 states.) The next batch of bills centered on emphasizing “Christian heritage” and “the importance of the Bible in history” to promote the notion that the U.S. is a Christian nation. The third category, which organizers noted might be “the most hotly contested,” sought to empower licensed professionals to deny health care and other services based on religious beliefs and to enable adoption agencies to reject adoptive families on religious grounds. (At least 10 states have laws that allow discrimination by child welfare agencies, most of which have been passed since Project Blitz launched in 2015.)
All this is minor — though more effective in the long haul effort of turning the U.S. into a theocracy — compared to the rhetoric of Matt Shea, the former chair of the Republican caucus in Washington’s state legislature. A far-right legislator, Shea developed a plan for Eastern Washington to secede and become a conservative theocracy known as “Liberty State,” and helped plot and promote “a total of three armed conflicts of political violence against the United States Government in three states outside the state of Washington over a three-year period,” according to a report commissioned by Washington’s House of Representatives.
Though Shea is an outlying example, members of the Trump administration are doing their part through official channels to theocratize the federal government with a level of influence Project Blitz could only dream of. Last year, Pompeo’s State Department founded an affinity group featuring evangelical speakers and focusing on “how being a disciple of Christ impacts your professional experience at the State Department.” Meanwhile, Vice-President Mike Pence has worked to undermine the Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for the government funding of Planned Parenthood. Together, they are a formidable team aligning American foreign policy with evangelical eschatology.