FLORIDA — In March 2018, Governor Rick Scott signed into law an education bill that mandates that all public schools display a sign with the words “In God We Trust” (IGWT) on it. Florida state representative Kimberly Daniels introduced the legislation, which she considered a response to the Florida school massacre in February. Daniels argued that [the Abrahamic] god is the light and “our schools need light in them like never before.”Unlike most so-called Christian right activists, Kimberly Daniels is a Democrat. She has her own Christian ministry program and has written many Christian books. She titled one book Clean House, Strong House: A Practical Guide to Understanding Spiritual Warfare, Demonic Strongholds and Deliverance.
Florida is not alone in passing such legislation. In 2017, Arkansas passed a similar IGWT display bill, and in 2018 Alabama, Louisiana, and Tennessee did the same.
Project Blitz and its strategy
The growing push within individual states for IGWT legislation is not a coincidence, and it can be linked to Project Blitz. Founded in 2005, the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation (CPCF) recently developed what it named Project Blitz. According to the CPCF website, the project’s mission is to: protect traditional Judeo-Christian religious values in the public square and develop state and federal legislation to frame a “religious liberty” narrative.
Samantha Sokol of American United for the Separation of Church and State reported on the increase in IGWT display laws. In 2017 only three state legislatures debated IGWT display laws. In 2018, that number had risen to 26. Project Blitz has claimed credit for this 766 percent increase. Sokol said that CPCF links conservative state legislators in 30 states with each other. It also links them with conservatives in Congress. However, Sokol did note that “CPCF is not directly related to The Fellowship Foundation, the group that organizes the annual National Prayer Breakfast.”
The CPCF has published a 116-page booklet, titled, “Report and Analysis on Religious Freedom Measures Impacting Prayer and Faith in America. It contains 20 model bills. These bills have the strategic goal of expanding Christian hegemony and are organized into three categories in a strategic campaign. The expected level of opposition to a bill determines its category.
The CPCF expects the least opposition to the model bills in Category One. They have titled Category One, “Legislation Regarding Our Country’s Religious Heritage.”
The model bills in Category Two are expected to generate a moderate amount of opposition. It has the title, “Resolutions and Proclamations Recognizing the Importance of Religious History and Freedom.”
The CPCF expects the model bills in Category Three to generate the most opposition. It has the title “Religious Liberty Protection Legislation.” Category Three has three subparts: Public Policy, Protection for Individuals and Professionals, and Protecting Teachers and Students.
IGWT display laws fall into category one along with three others. One is titled the “Civic Literacy Act.” It concentrates on documents of “the founding fathers” and the colonial era. The most recent document mentioned is the Gettysburg address, disregarding any historic documents or speeches after that point. The second model bill in category one is called, “Religion in Legal History Act,” and focuses on public displays of religious influence on U.S. history. Similar to the previous model, it emphasizes the colonial and founding eras. The third model bill, “The Bible Literacy Act” would allow schools to offer electives in Bible study.
Sokol described the strategy as follows. “Project Blitz contains 20 model pieces of legislation. Its goal is to bombard state legislatures with these bills that undermine religious freedom and redefine the U.S. as a Christian nation. They intend to start with bills that some might consider trivial.” IGWT display laws exemplify a seemingly ‘trivial” issue. Sokol continued, “They plan to move on to the most extreme bills that allow religion to be used an excuse to discriminate against LGBTQ people, women, nonbelievers, and people of minority faiths.”
Backers of Project Blitz
Three groups contributed to the development of the project’s development and the coinciding “Report and Analysis.” These include The Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, the National Legal Foundation, and WallBuilders ProFamily Legislative Network.
The Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation defines itself as having a three-fold mission. First, it seeks to protect “religious liberties.” Second, it advocates for public prayers and faith in the Abrahamic god. Third, it seeks to “restore“ Judeo-Christian principles to their “rightful” place.
The National Legal Foundation defines itself as a “Christian public interest law firm.” It defines its mission as promoting public policy that reflects “God’s purpose for America.”
WallBuilders ProFamily Legislative Network defines itself as “a national pro-family organization that presents America’s forgotten history and heroes.” It focuses on moral, religious, and constitutional heritage.
How this strategy threatens religious freedom
Frederick Clarkson of Political Research Associates argued that IGWT display laws promote “a certain god, the god of Christianity, and perhaps Judaism. This slogan is openly about religious supremacy.” He contrasted the motto “In God We Trust” with the other motto, “E Pluribus Unum,” (out of many, one). “E Pluribus Unum” emphasizes, as Clarkson notes, diversity and inclusion, while IGWT promotes an exclusivist message.
Clarkson has argued that Project Blitz contributes to a Dominionist narrative. Clarkson has defined Dominionism as “the theocratic idea that regardless of theological view, means, or timetable, Christians are called by God to exercise dominion over every aspect of society by taking control of political and cultural institutions.”
Minerva of Lady Liberty League, a Pagan civil rights organization, beleives that IGWT display laws threaten not just Pagan children but all children. She said that IGWT display laws send “the message that Christianity is more important than any other faith (or non-faith) group.” Minerva considers Project Blitz to be a real threat. She said, “It can give Christians a false sense of entitlement and diminish the amazing diversity that we have in our country.”
Minerva acknowledged Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and the American Civil Liberties Union for their help in Pagan civil rights cases. She also urged Pagans to beware, “It is insidious movements such as this [Project Blitz] that serve to erode our hard-fought rights. We must be ever aware and vigilant. We must remember to use our voices – for if we don’t, who will?”