House Dems Use Global Persecution Hearing to Decry ‘Christian Nationalism’ in the U.S.
At a congressional hearing about global religious persecution on October 25, some House Democrats hijacked the event to fearmonger about a small school of political thought that espouses a position its proponents call “Christian nationalism.” This hearing was held by the House Oversight Committee’s Subcommittee on National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs. Yet, rather than remain focused on the many urgent crises facing religious believers around the world — in Armenia, Nigeria, North Korea, and China to name a few — House Democrats chose to highlight the contrived problem of Christian nationalism in the United States.
Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee, an organization known for supporting unconstitutional bans on public symbols of faith such as the Bladensburg Peace Cross, a WWI Veterans Memorial in Maryland, was the minority witness at last week’s hearing. According to Taylor, “The single greatest threat to religious liberty in the United States today” is “Christian nationalism” which she defines as “a political ideology and cultural framework that seeks to fuse American and Christian identities.”
Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) ignored the topic of global persecution entirely in his questioning of witnesses, instead pointing the finger at Christians in the United States. He stated, “Christian nationalism is a form of religious extremism making its way into our policies and undermining our democracy. These extremist actors are co-opting the language of Christianity and religious freedom to push an undemocratic agenda that seeks the very opposite of what they claim to do.” Who are these “extremists,” according to Democrats? Well, if you’re a faithful Christian with a biblical worldview, you might just be one yourself.
Gillian Richards, a researcher at the Heritage Foundation, wrote in “The American Mind” that “the term is mostly used as a smear against conservative Christians who defend the role of religion in American public life.” One need only look at the actions that progressives claim represents “Christian nationalism” to see that this is accurate. Currently, Speaker Mike Johnson has been labeled a “Christian nationalist” for such commonplace actions as looking to the Bible to shape his personal worldview, quoting the bible in his first speech as speaker, or working at the Christian legal group that is now called Alliance Defending Freedom. If these sound like things that any Christian working in politics would say or do, that’s because they are.
Family Research Council’s Joseph Backholm argues that progressives are not genuinely concerned about the supposed threat of Christian nationalism, because they are perfectly happy to accept Democratic politicians who invoke Bible verses to promote their agenda. Rather, progressives are stirring fear about Christian nationalism to shame Christians into “silence, fear, and retreat.”
At the hearing, Frost went on to suggest that Christian nationalists are making a “coordinated attempt” to “co-opt the right of religious freedom to try and justify stripping rights away from people.” Now, this line of argument is par for the course these days among progressives. The only “religious freedom” that many progressives will accept is actually freedom from religion. Any display of religion in the public square is increasingly seen as provocative in a culture dominated by radical secularism.
It is slanderous for Frost to suggest that those who promote a true understanding of religious freedom are doing so for corrupt motives. Unfortunately, the confusion surrounding what Chrisian nationalism actually is and how Democrats are using the term lends itself to false accusations and misunderstandings. Later in the hearing, Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.) appeared to link violent attacks on synagogues or grocery stores to Christian nationalism without offering evidence of specific incidents, all while accusing Republicans of “silence” on the issue.
With so many pressing and widespread issues of religious persecution around the world, it is unfortunate that some House Democrats diverted the hearing’s attention from actual victims of persecution. Sadly, this is not an isolated instance. The Biden administration’s foreign policy has routinely overlooked international religious freedom issues. Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wisc.), who chaired the hearing, told Tony Perkins on “Washington Watch” last Thursday that the Biden administration has not been prioritizing religious freedom in foreign policy. Grothman stated, “The United States does not appear to be weighing in. … And that’s very concerning.”
Grothman said, “Maybe the reason the U.S. government is not that concerned about Christians being persecuted is they themselves are weighing in on other countries with their LGBT agenda, their Planned Parenthood agenda, as we try to use our financial muscle or our foreign aid to make these countries less Christian.” It is shameful for Democrats to ignore the suffering of religious believers around the world, instead wasting time accusing political opponents of Christian nationalism and steering our foreign policy resources toward progressive political agenda items such as LGBT activism or pro-abortion expansionism.
While Democrats in Congress fight the exaggerated threat of Christian nationalism, the U.S. government continues to neglect the promotion of international religious freedom. The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 formally elevated the importance of international religious freedom in our foreign policy. Democrats — especially those on congressional committees that deal with foreign affairs — should look back at that bipartisan law to be reminded of just how important it is to fight global persecution, and why it’s in America’s interest in the long run.
Arielle Del Turco is Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council, and co-author of "Heroic Faith: Hope Amid Global Persecution."