Last year, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said she wanted to consign the separation of church and state to “the ash heap of history“; with a flurry of Bible class bills a radical Christian nationalist group aims to do just that.
The hardline extremist endeavor called Project Blitz has been true to its name. Starting just days in to the 2019 legislative session, Project Blitz pushed its particular brand of religious fanaticism nationwide. And this fanaticism isn’t just a Republican invention.
Florida Democrat and former exorcist Kimberly “the Demonbuster” Daniels introduced legislation that would require all Florida schools begin teaching Bible study courses. In her legislation, Florida schools would be required to offer not just one, but three, Bible study courses — “a course on the Hebrew Scriptures and Old Testament of the Bible, a course on the New Testament of the Bible,” and a combination course on both.
In fairness to the Florida Democrats, Daniels is likely not indicative of the party — she tried to exorcise gay demons from queer people and proclaimed in a speech that “Jews own everything.” But Daniels is indicative of Project Blitz.
Florida is just one of eleven states Project Blitz has already pushed Bible class legislation on, after successfully passing legislation to require schools post “In God We Trust” in six states last year.
“Project Blitz is one of the foremost organised efforts to infiltrate state legislatures with religion,” said Rachel Laser, president of the watchdog Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. “When a lot of state legislators see ‘In God We Trust’ they think that is harmless patriotism, but it is part of an intentional plan to build momentum for establishing a Christian America.”
Americans United has been following the Blitz closely since its first rise to prominence last year.
But the Blitz isn’t limiting its efforts to schools. Its public manifesto includes measures to favor sex only between married heterosexual couples, restoring the place of conversion therapy to torture queer Americans and extending the Trump trend of literally denying transgender people exist. It frames the focus on public policy measures opposing queer people as a “prime focus”.
Blitz lays out a clear roadmap to its goals of weaponizing religion against queer Americans. It’s first wave of bills focus on legislation like the “In God We Trust” bills passed last year — small wins with small opposition that get their ball rolling. Next come proclamations like establishing “Christian heritage week” to get Christian nationalist identity into schools.
Many of its anti-gay policies come next, including denying same-sex adoption and resistance to transgender identity as a whole. This stage also includes the expansion of “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts” that allow denial of public services to queer Americans. This stage is one they expect to be the hardest to fight.
Finally, they plan to erase civil rights protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity and restoring the prominence of conversion therapy.
“It’s very rare that you come across a major primary source document that changes the way you view everything, and this is one of those times,” said research analyst Frederick Clarkson of Political Research Associates. “This is a 116-page strategy manual hidden away on a website explaining at least what a section of the religious right are doing in the United States. To me that’s astounding.”
The Christian nationalist agenda isn’t just supporting Betsy DeVos’ holy war in education, but ultimately opposing the existence of queer America on a fundamental level.
“We are built on the principles of freedom of and freedom from religion in the United States,” said Clarkson, “and we shouldn’t let the far-right activists that are pushing these efforts like Project Blitz undermine that reality.”
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.