Texas lawmaker slams 'blasphemous' Christian nationalist legislation

James Talarico, a Democratic lawmaker from the northern suburbs of Austin, slammed Republican efforts to enshrine Christian symbols and prayer into schools in conversation with Religion News Service — calling it "blasphemous," and urging real Christians to stand up and fight it.

Some of the bills, inspired by the "Christian nationalist" movement, would require public schools to erect monuments to the Ten Commandments, and allow public schools to hire chaplains in place of secular counselors.

Talarico, a former teacher and a Presbyterian seminarian, is having none of it.

"It’s not just a perversion of our Constitution, it’s a perversion of my faith," said Talarico. "Jesus, when he was in the wilderness, was tempted by Satan with, among other things, political power — with all the kingdoms of the world. That should go to show us Christian nationalism is kind of an oxymoron. The idea that this universal faith, based on radical universal love, could be confined to one political subdivision is just contrary to the entire gospel. Furthermore, to use political power to hurt marginalized people — whether it’s folks from other faith traditions like Hindus and Buddhists and Muslims, or whether it’s to hurt LGBTQ people, or women seeking reproductive health care — (is) blasphemous, according to my reading of the New Testament."

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Christian nationalists believe that the United States was built for Christians and should be based on Christian law — an idea completely at odds with the First Amendment's mandate of secular government, and the historical record of the founding fathers governing America secularly. The movement has sought new political power in recent years, with one group, the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, seeking to draft model legislation to help state lawmakers impose Christian nationalist law in their state.

Talarico took to the Texas House floor to condemn the Ten Commandments bill — and, he told RNS he has received an "almost universal" outpouring of support over it — from people on both sides.

"I’ve had Republicans calling my legislative office and thanking me for speaking from a Christian perspective," wrote Talarico. "In fact, I’ve been confused for a Republican by people who just see the clip and don’t know anything about me. I’ve had a lot of posts saying, 'We’re so thankful to have Republicans standing up to this thing,' and, you know, 'Glad that a Republican is finally speaking out.' So, I guess that just goes to show how unusual it is for Democrats to be speaking about faith in that kind of way."