Democracy vs. Christian Nationalism with Andrew Seidel, #SeAcabó, COVID Mini Wave
A non-consensual kiss at the World Cup has led to calls for a resignation, an investigation, and a mom on a hunger strike. We’ll look into Spain’s #MeToo reckoning. Back-to-school season is unluckily coinciding with a late-summer wave of coronavirus infections. And V chats with constitutional attorney Andrew Seidel about how the Supreme Court is weaponizing religious freedom and how and why we must win the fight against Christian Nationalism.
For a list of current sponsors and discount codes for this and every other Lemonada show, go to lemonadamedia.com/sponsors.
Joining Lemonada Premium is a great way to support our show and get bonus content. Subscribe today at bit.ly/lemonadapremium.
V Spehar, Andrew Seidel
V Spehar 00:01
Hey friends, it’s Friday, September 1. Welcome to V INTERESTING, where we break down the viral and very interesting news you may have missed. I’m V Spehar and today, your next Ford or Chevy may take a little while to get if more than 100,000 Auto Workers decided to go on strike this month, an unwanted kiss at the World Cup has led to calls for resignation and a mom on a hunger strike. We’ll look into Spain’s hashtag me too reckoning. Then I’m joined by writer and constitutional attorney Andrew Seidel. He and I get into how the Supreme Court is weaponizing religious freedom and how you can fight Christian nationalism. All that more on today’s V INTERESTING from Lemonada Media. Let’s be smart together.
V Spehar 01:09
And now for some headlines. It is still hot strike summer here in the United States as yet another big union may be gearing up to join the picket line. The members of the United Auto Workers Union voted nearly unanimously to call a stop work order if contract negotiations don’t succeed. If that happens roughly 150,000 People who work at Detroit, three largest automakers will walk off the job on September 14. The Big Three includes General Motors, Ford and still Lantis, which is the parent company of Jeep and Chrysler. These three companies account for nearly half of the cars and trucks manufactured in the United States. According to Global Data. ABC News reports that the union is demanding a 40% pay increase over four years. They also want the companies to increase the retiree benefits and give more paid time off. The union’s new president Shawn fain shows no signs of backing down, which is why many industry experts are betting on a strike this time. Wages for full time workers at the three companies currently range from about 18 to $32 an hour, but the manufacturers argue it’s more like $64 an hour when you factor in health care coverage and other benefits. They have pledged to negotiate a fair deal with workers, but claimed they can only give so much as heavy costs and competition from foreign and non unionized automakers is heating up, especially during this transition to E vehicles. Even President Biden is getting involved. He told The Washington Post that he’s talking with the union and remains concerned about the risk of a strike. So what are the Big Three automakers saying? In a statement Ford said it is quote proud to build more vehicles in America and employ more UAW represented hourly workers than any other automaker. And we’ll work towards creative solutions with the union. GM said it will, quote continue to work hard with the UAW every day and bargain in good faith to ensure we get this agreement right for our team members, our customers, suppliers, the community and the business. And still Anta said negotiations quote, continued to be constructive, and aimed at balancing the concerns of our employees with our vision for the future. So they kind of reach an agreement or will we see a UAW strike? I guess we’re gonna find out two weeks from now.
V Spehar 03:36
Well, while auto workers are very vocally calling for change, the folks at Fox News are quietly taking down an article they had no business publishing in the first place. The news giant deleted a completely false story it published back in July. In it they claimed the family of a fallen marine was forced to pay $60,000 to ship her remains home from Afghanistan. The story relied on claims from Florida GOP congressman Cory Mills, he met with the family of Marine Sergeant Nicole gi who was killed in a suicide attack along with 12 other service members in 2021. And then told Fox that GIS next of kin were strapped with the $60,000 charge. Fox News took Mills for his word, they did not request comment from geese family or from the Marine Corps. The end of the original piece said that Fox contacted the Pentagon, but that they did not immediately comment. Well, it turns out geese family never paid $1 to transport her remains. It was paid for by a not for profit called honoring our fallen, which was reimbursed by the Pentagon. According to an investigative report by military.com. The Marine Corps and the family of the Fallen Soldiers spent the last month trying to convince Fox News to retract the article. email exchanges between Fox and the marine corps were released through a Freedom of Information request. In them the Marine Corps notified fox that it was pushing an incorrect story and accused it of using the grief of geese family to draw in readers. It requested a full retraction of the story and apology to the family from Fox News and a public explanation for any corrections. Fox made major changes to the story and then finally removed it altogether without a hint of disclosure to the public. So it’s just gone now the article has been wiped from the Fox News website. And according to GIS family the outlet never even contacted them with an explanation or apology. Now I live and breathe the news y’all trust me to tell you what’s going on. And if I get something wrong, I promise to own my shit and I have in the past before foxes tactic to just delete a factually untrue story and not take responsibility for the misinformation spread is gross and that’s why people think they do this kind of stuff on purpose. You don’t want a friend or partner to gaslight you right by let your news organization do it. responsible media organizations a verify that their sources are telling them the truth. That’s just like basic that’s journalism one on one right? But be take responsibility when they get it wrong. Issue a retraction. Apologize to your readers and those hurt by the false report. Write a new article correcting the record, own your shit. Don’t just hit delete and be like what article What do you guys have been talking about? We never said that. I mean, it’s not like I’ve used Fox News as a trusted source before this story. But here’s yet another reminder to choose your news wisely, especially as we head into the 2024 presidential election. Speaking of people who don’t know how to act responsibly, have y’all been watching the story play out in Spain after they won the Women’s World Cup. The president of the Spanish Soccer Federation still won’t own up to forcefully kissing a member of Spain’s women’s team as she was receiving her winner’s medal in a televised ceremony in Sydney. 46 year old Luis Rubio Ali’s was showing on video kissing star player Jenny Hermoza. He apologized the day after but then surprise surprise decided it would be a way better idea to blame the woman he he blamed her for the guests. The New York Times reports that he accused her moto of lifting him off his beat and moving him closer to her body. He then accused his critics of quote false feminism, saying he was the victim of social assassination and insisting that her moto had initiated the exchange. In your dreams fella. Go ahead and watch the video. He literally grips both sides of her head in his hands and draws her in for the kiss. She can’t go anywhere and I did not see her like I don’t know he woman him up to her either. I think that’s it that that’s a dream. And now his mother has gotten involved in the weirdest way. Because of course she did. Anytime an immature or narcissistic man gets called out it takes but a beat for us to find out. He’s got a maternal enabler. His mother locked herself in a church and went on a hunger strike in protest of her son’s treatment. And then she went to the hospital for it. Once. I am telling you all I went to Catholic school for years and one of the 10 commandments is literally don’t lie. So I don’t know why this woman thinks that like God would be on her son’s side. I seem to have missed the part where Jesus was forcefully kissing anyone. Spanish Prosecutors say they have opened an investigation into whether Ruby Alice could be charged with committing an act of sexual aggression. And Spain’s Soccer Federation has asked for his immediate resignation. Dozens of players including all 23 World Cup winners have said that they will not play for the team again, while he remains in position. Many in the global soccer world are also rallying behind her Mo. So we saw public displays of support from men’s and women’s players and leagues like this last weekend, as of taping this, he is still the head of the Spanish football association. But that could very well change. By the time you’re hearing this. The kiss has come to embody the generational and cultural shift between traditions of machismo and Spain, and more progressive thoughts on issues like feminism and equality. Some commentators have taken to calling it Spain’s me to moment and listen, at the end of the day, this just isn’t cool. And it’s improper behavior. Blaming societal or cultural norms won’t cut it anymore. I mean, can we all just agree to not kiss anyone who doesn’t explicitly consent to being kissed? Can we all just do that? I mean, it’s such a like small thing to ask you a thing. And if it does happen to you fight back, I’m going to tell you a true story that I have never told on the air before. There was a personal issue with the former head of the theater department at my college, where this man just walked up to me and kissed me fall on the lips. And my dad ended up seeing it. And then he went to the dean and he chatted with her and I don’t know what they said in there. But I ended up with free grad school over the kiss. I mean, it was the early 2000s The economy was not great. I kiss for free grad school seemed like Good idea at that time, but I’m telling you this is just one of many incredibly strange things that happen in the theatre arts and sports community. When somebody can’t draw the line between acting or celebrating and real life and abuse. It’s like the number one rule of soccer. Keep your hands to yourself off the balls, and now apparently off your players faces.
V Spehar 10:23
It is back to school season around the country and unluckily that is coinciding with a late summer wave of Coronavirus infections. And I know we hate to talk about COVID. But please stick with me, there is so much misinformation going around. So I just want to do a little COVID update, so that we make sure that we’re on the same page. Now in my world, I am seeing a lot more people testing positive, you may be feeling that in your world as well. But the first thing to stress here is that while we’re seeing this uptick, it is relatively small compared to when we were you know, first experiencing COVID. And the vast majority of those testing positive or getting mild symptoms. Now some people are getting super sick. COVID hospitalizations have increased by 24% in the last two weeks, according to the most recent data from the CDC. But that still comes out to just about 15 hospital visits per 100,000 people. It’s not zero, but it’s not like crazy like it was, you know, another thing to stress, no one is going to shut down anything. There is no shutdown. Absolutely no one wants it. And I can promise you that Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. will not especially during an election year be shutting down. And it’s not just the anti Vax mob that’s keeping him from doing it. It’s the fact that we have incredible science teams that have more tools to help combat this variant than we did when COVID was this brand new thing that we didn’t know how to handle right now. We have vaccines, we have masks, there’s social distancing, and other cultural norms that help us to lead relatively normal lives while staying COVID safe. So now that we’ve got that out of the way, and we can dispel all of the rumors on tick tock that there’s going to be some big government shutdown in a couple of weeks. There’s not I promise you there’s not. Let’s talk about the variant causing the summer wave. It’s called eg point five or its nickname. Eris is a descendant of Omicron. And according to Yale medicine, it is currently the dominant Coronavirus sub variant in the United States. Although it is extremely transmissible experts aren’t setting off any alarms about its severity. Health authorities are keeping a close eye on another variant, though that’s been spotted spreading in other countries and a few states here in the United States. It’s called be a dot two dot 86 or nicknamed perola. The CDC says it’s concerning because it has multiple genetic differences from previous versions of SARS Cove too. But it is still too early to know for sure whether that means it will cause new or worse symptoms. So those are the variants. Now for the booster information. The CDC is expected to sign off on the new COVID boosters in mid September. Will I be getting it? Yes, I will. I’ll be first in line. But that’s me. And we’re hoping that this will protect people for the fall in winter variants that are sure to come. I know. It feels like we’re on a merry go round. Every time we talk about a summer wave a fall wave a winter wave what vaccine is out there, get the right Stop already. But learning to live with this virus is the new normal. So you might as well Buckle up for the ride and ride as best you can. Something else that feels like a never ending roller coaster, American politics and especially the presidential election cycle. I mean, didn’t we just have one of those like a few years ago? How was it time for another one already. And with last week’s Republican presidential debate, there is no turning back do not pass go do not collect $200. It’s here, it is time to pay attention because there is some wacky stuff going on. Even if you take away the fact that the front runner has been indicted four times. So I invited on my friend Andrew Seidel, to join me this week and kind of talk through everything that’s happening in that realm, especially as it pertains to Christian nationalism. Andrew is Vice President of Strategic Communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He is an author and an attorney who’s defended the first amendment for more than a decade. This is a fascinating conversation. You won’t want to miss stick around. We’ll be right back.
V Spehar 14:30
And we’re back. As I mentioned, today, I’m talking with Andrew Seidel and author and attorney who has dedicated his career to challenging religious privilege and battling Christian nationalism. I talked with him the day after the Republican debate. So we really got into the strong Christian nationalist messages that we heard that night, including from Vivek Ramaswamy who says he practices Hinduism but shares the quote, same values as Christians. Yeah, Andrew and I get into all of that. Today, sorry, the vague, but you were just wrong about a lot of stuff. But that in particular, here’s my conversation with Andrew. Andrew, welcome to be interesting. I’m so glad to finally have you on the show, how’s it going?
Andrew Seidel 15:15
It’s going well, it’s a pleasure to be with you.
V Spehar 15:17
And before we get into your book, and Christian nationalism, and all the things you’re an expert on, I kind of want us to just get your hot takes on some of the things that are happening in the news this month. Okay, let’s do it. First up, the GOP presidential debates have started, how do you expect religion to shape the debates and political agenda from these candidates?
Andrew Seidel 15:37
I think Christian nationalism is gonna play a big role in this election. I mean, and Christian nationalism is the melding of conservative Christianity and conservative politics. And it’s hard to know sometimes which one drives the other. And I think you did get a taste of some of that starting on the debate stage. I mean, they actually said a prayer before the debate, Fox News cut away from it, which is a little bit of an interesting choice. You certainly saw some of it from Mike Pence. During the abortion section of the debate it, it plays played a big significant role, it is going to be one of the things that they come back to and I think you’re gonna see it exacerbated once we’re out of the primaries, especially.
V Spehar 16:21
I can say like, I was raised Catholic for a while, and I know a lot of Christians, and I feel is this new? Or am I just sort of like, I wasn’t into extreme Christianity, because when Mike Pence was talking about abortion, and he was saying, Well, Jesus knows you before you were formed. So in fact, life begins when you’re like, an egg when you’re when you’re a sperm. So today, I I’ve been trying to like wrack my brain to make the logic work, and it’s not working. Is this something that comes actually from religion? Or is this something that is just like leveraged for power? And it’s not like, actually like scripture text like that?
Andrew Seidel 17:01
That’s such a good question. And it’s one of the sort of central questions for us who are studying and fighting Christian nationalism. It’s like, it’s the way the what came first, the the politics or the Christianity? And I think it depends on what you’re talking about. So if you think back to COVID, the Trump administration’s just utterly failed response to COVID drove the Christian nationalism response to it as well. So it was a political failure, that then became sort of a theological subject. So the Trump administration failed to respond politically. And then you have the churches and stuff jumping on the bandwagon. And I mean, it’s not like there was some new dead sea scrolls that was discovered that said, wearing masks is wrong, right, like, but it became this, this this article of political faith that if you were conservative Christian, you had to oppose basically every public health measure that was out there. So in that case, we could see in real time the politics driving the religion. And we actually know historically that that’s the same thing that happened with abortion. And I talked about this in American crusade a little bit I tell the story that abortion when Roe vs. Wade was decided it was not that big an issue for many conservatives and many Christians out there. Catholics being the Catholic church being the large exception to that abortion was chosen as the wedge issue by Jerry Falwell and a few of these other folks on the far right, what would become the Moral Majority it and essentially the precursors to what we’re calling this modern wave of Christian nationalism, they chose abortion as a wedge issue, because segregation in desegregation in the in the wake of Brown versus Board of Education was no longer palatable to a good chunk of the population they needed something else. So we know that they we know that the politics and that that desire for power drove the theology in that instance to but in a lot of other cases, you see it going the other way you have the theology driving the politics so it really I mean, it’s it’s a fascinating discussion, and you can see it happening in both ways in real time and throughout our history.
V Spehar 19:10
So they legit just are picking something to be against instead of picking something too before they pick something to be against. And they’re gonna say like, I don’t agree with this, but like Tammy Faye Baker was charismatic, right? There was a little bit of charisma a little bit of raise to the you gotta have risk, you know, who doesn’t have risk? Mike Pence, it was like still trying to hold this banner. And like, bro, I’m not sure you’re selling it with all of this, like, I’m gonna stop before I make every single decision and like pray to God. Which, which like, I get that I get why when we make big decisions we like look to whatever God or universe or spirit or for signs or for validation from our friends and family, but for him to be like, No, my thoughts are a direct quote from God who is the god of all Gods whether you like it or not, was was spooky to me? Do you think it’s working? Do you think people are like, is pence the Christian nationalist leader or no?
Andrew Seidel 20:06
I don’t think it’s I don’t think it’s working for parents. No. I mean, this is this is the really remarkable thing about about Donald Trump. Donald Trump is still like, was not on that stage. But it’s still obviously far and away the front runner. I mean, that was, you know, table scraps debate. And Trump in 2016, tapped in to this undercurrent of Christian nationalism that had been rising in American society and culture for a long time. And he did it in a way that I think nobody was really prepared for it. One of the best indicators, if not the best indicator of a Trump voter in the 2016 election, was believing that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, right? I mean, that that is like one of the central tenants of Christian nationalism. Christian nationalism, gets that label because these people think we are a Christian nation. We are founded on Judeo Christian principles, and that we need to get back to that foundation right that we strayed from that founding. And so Trump really captured this this Christian nationalist vote and tapped into it in a way that we had never seen, in fact, like white evangelicals supporting him. That was the big story that came out of the 2016 election. But really, the better descriptor is not why evangelicals, but Christian nationalists
V Spehar 21:23
To the point that we even have a practicing vegetarian Hindu candidate, the veck, Rama Swami, who is also he went hard Christian nationalists last night, too. He was talking about everything from like having faith based prisons for the mentally ill to like, talking about how the Christian God was going to rule his presidency. And I’m like, you’re not. You’re Hindu, though. So is it part grift? Part real? Are some of the people who are the best at Christian nationalists? The ones who don’t really believe it, but No, it’ll like get them power. It seems like there’s no stopping you if you have no morality and yours, and you’re spouting for Christian nationalism?
Andrew Seidel 22:08
I think that’s absolutely right. I mean, it because at its most basic level, Christian nationalism really is an authoritarian system. It is fundamentally opposed to American democracy. In fact, those Christian nationalism and American democracy really cannot coexist. We’re on a we are on a course where one or the other of those things is going to try off. Either we’re going to push this Christian nationalism way that we’re facing right now back to the fringe, or it’s going to subsume American democracy, and we’re going to be unrecognizable as a country. And I do think I mean, Trump is another again, going back to him like he’s at least nominally a Christian, but does not really know anything. This This was so obvious, it turned around to the 2016 election, does not really know that much about his religion, you know, ask for a favorite Bible verse. He couldn’t name one. You know, it. This is a man who is I mean, that that may describe a good chunk of American Christians not to not to cast aspersions. But, you know, most American Christians, the majority that can’t actually name the four Gospels, for instance. So there’s often a sort of surface level familiarity with it, and what’s more, I’m gonna adopt that label. But I do think, lacking principles or morals, the way Trump does, and the way that the that may, certainly makes it easier for them to tap into that undercurrent of Christian nationalism that exists in our society.
V Spehar 23:38
I will never forget when Trump was autographing Bibles, and then they had like the Bible of the United States come out, there’s always something for sale. Yeah, I mean, I was excited about but I also was concerned about is there was no talk of like gay and trans issues in the first RNC debate for them for the last year or two years being so hard, just massive, hundreds of pieces of legislation being passed to make the lives of queer and trans people just intolerable and strike fear into their hearts and ruin lives and ruin families. Not one question last night really had to do with LGBTQ issues. They didn’t ask them about marriage equality. They didn’t ask them about trans SNESs. Couple times, Tim Scott and Nikki Haley dropped in their point of like, well, I think men should play men’s sports, which is, you know, thinly veiled. transphobia. Why do you think they left out the LGBTQ community from the questions?
Andrew Seidel 24:34
That’s a really interesting question. And I’m not sure why Fox chose to leave it out. I mean, it’s possible maybe that they lost it on time because that debate devolved quite a bit. The moderator said just zero control over what was happening. So maybe they intended to get through it and didn’t, but I, I’m not entirely sure and it is, of course, central to Whew, what the Republican Party is trying to do, I mean, to demonize the entire LGBTQ community. And actually, right before the debate, I was doing a book talk with Brandon Wolf, who is, you know, this nationally known advocate for sensible gun control. He is a survivor of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. And he’s got a memoir out right now called a place of our own. And it was a really remarkable conversation. And we talked a lot about how the very existence of LGBTQ people is a threat to Christian nationalism in their eyes. Because Christian nationalists, it’s a very black and white view of the world, it’s your either you either are a conservative, Christian, heterosexual, white dude, man, that is worthy of protection under the law or not. And if if you’re not, then you’re not worthy of protection under the law in their eyes, and anything that doesn’t fit into their black and white categories, into their binary is a threat to that entire worldview. And Brandon’s memoirs, I mean, it’s really remarkable. It’s not just a story of an LGBTQ kid trying to find his way in America, but also a multiracial kid trying to find his way. And he talks about how his existence is kind of this threat to that that binary label and that those binary labels can’t really apply to it. And I was I was thinking about I had just finished that conversation with him. So of course, I was thinking about a lot as that debate was going going on. It was a really interesting collision. For me personally, anyway.
V Spehar 26:40
We know that America can lead when it comes to trending things around the country, and I’m worried that we are maybe exporting quite a bit of Christian nationalism. Right now. We, we practice this hate through organizations that are based here in the United States in places like Uganda and Brazil, and try to export and test out how far humanity will accept hate. Do we see Christian fascism on the rise across the world? Or is this sort of just popping up in little factions?
Andrew Seidel 27:13
I mean, I don’t know how much it’s popping. Christian nationalism is not a grassroots movement. That’s part of part of what I’m struggling with with no question. It is, it is very much a top down movement that has taken advantage of a lot of disinformation and myths about the founding of the United States that have existed in our society for a long time. So for instance, we treated you know, the idea like or the question, where we found that as a Christian nation as sort of this historical question that could be answered, but there’s no evidence to suggest that we really were founded in that way. It’s a question that historians have answered that that question was always a mask for this sinister, exclusionary movement that was lying underneath. And Christian nationalism is fundamentally a top down movement. And Catherine Stewart in her book, The Power worshipers doesn’t really kind of great job exposing this. I mean, there, there are a few billionaires and millionaires out there who are funding, you know, this kind of this. We call it at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, we call it this shadow network. And it these are the groups that make up this kind of this billion dollar shadow network like Alliance Defending Freedom and the American Center for Law and Justice and Becket Fund for Religious liberty and Liberty Counsel and First Liberty Institute. It’s like this, this Orwellian word salad, right. And they exist to not just promote Christian nationalism here at home and to warp and torture our law to favor conservative white Christian America, but also they have been exporting that hate abroad. And Alliance Defending Freedom is one of the groups that’s been doing that they’re labeled as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. They are the group that was behind the 303 creative decision at the Supreme Court this past term. They were behind the masterpiece cake shop case a few years ago, that’s the gay wedding cake case out of Colorado, people may remember it was that they were actually involved in the Hobby Lobby case, too. They took the partner case to the Hobby Lobby decision that also went up to the Supreme Court at the exact same time. They’re arguing the myth of Chris Stone case right now. In fact, Josh, Josh Holly’s wife, Senator Josh Hawley, he of the raised fist and they’re running through the halls of Congress. His wife is arguing that case through the courts for the Alliance Defending Freedom, and they actually both met while they were clerking for Chief Justice John Roberts.
V Spehar 29:34
God, John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, we’ll get into those yet. Maybe start us at the beginning here, if you could explain, like how Christian nationalism started and who benefits most from it?
Andrew Seidel 29:58
Sure. So you know, First thing people need to know is that what we’re going through is not new. We have survived as a country and as a people, waves of Christian nationalism throughout American history. There was one in the 1830s. There was one right in the lead up to and really kind of during the Civil War. There was one in the 1950s, which a lot of people may be more familiar with in every one of those ways that we survived leaves us with these sort of disfiguring scars that the next wave of Christian nationalists can point to, to make their argument that yes, we were founded as a Christian nation. Yes, we were based on Judeo Christian principles. So for instance, the first time you get In God We Trust on money on is on our coins is in the height of the Civil War. 1863 1864. And then you get Christian nationalist today, pointing to that as one of the reasons we were founded as a Christian nation, even though it doesn’t date to the founding. Same thing within God, we trust on our on our coins, so help me God, or excuse me, under God in the Pledge of Allegiance, which we didn’t get till the 1950s, we have the National Day of Prayer, the National Prayer Breakfast, the prayer room in the Capitol, right, all of those things are from the 1950s, when we survived this previous wave of Christian nationalism, but they all support this this current wave. And the end goal of Christian nationalists, what they’re what white Christian nationalists really want to do is they are looking to re, they’re basically looking to conquer the Constitution, in what they are fighting is a war of conquest. And they want to remake the Constitution in their image so that conservative white heterosexual Christian men are protected by the law, but not bound by it. And everybody else is bound by the law but not protected. Right. So they want to create this this country where there’s there’s just two classes of people, the special favorite few, the white Christian nationalists, and everybody else, and the law serves them and it opposes everything else. That is the goal. And that’s what they’re working really, really hard towards. And they’re doing a remarkable job of that by weaponizing, the First Amendment weaponizing, that founding principle of religious freedom, you know, turning to things like the January 6 insurrection, I mean, there’s there’s a whole lot that they’re doing to drag our country down that road right now.
V Spehar 32:20
I’ve read that there’s the patriarchy, and there’s the Christian nationalists and the people who will most benefit. And then there are the white women who really are the foot soldiers of the mission, because they’re so aligned with protecting the rights of their men as somehow keeping them adjacent to power. How do women factor into this fight?
Andrew Seidel 32:39
I mean, I think they certainly do. I mean, you know, I mean, moms for liberty is kind of a great example of both that question that you just asked, and sort of what we’ve been talking about before, right, like, not, portrays itself as a grassroots movement. But but absolutely not. We’ve we’ve seen some great reporting, tracing the finances of this group, showing that it really is this kind of top down down funding. And this is the thing Christian, Christian nationalists, and especially they understand that what they are trying to do is unpopular, and is going to be opposed by a lot of people and they make, they go out of their way to attempt to see more ecumenical or more inclusive than they are, for instance, they know being labeled white Christian nationalists is a problem. And so they go out of their way to kind of try to see more racially inclusive at certain events and in the media. And the same thing for women trying to bring women into the face of the movement. But at its most basic level, Christian nationalism is going to come for everybody who does not fit into that Chosen Few category. Christian, Christian nationalism is an existential threat to the American public, it is fundamentally opposed to democracy and to pluralism and if we don’t relegate it back to that fringe, the America that we aspire to the America were we the people means all of the people were equal justice, under law, which are the words that are carved into the Supreme Court like actually mean something that America will always be a dream.
V Spehar 34:16
What flavor of Christianity is most in charge here, right? Because you’ve got Christianity, the umbrella then you’ve got, like, kind of the Catholics kind of fall into that kind of the Mormons kind of the whatever. Like, is there any particular faction that is most driving of this or is it the collective White maleness?
Andrew Seidel 34:34
Yeah, so that’s such a fascinating question. And it goes back to what we were talking about at the beginning a little bit too of like, does the theology drive this movement or the politics drive this movement? And how it’s chicken and egg and they kind of drag each other? And the answer is that we are seeing those sectarian differences, those divides fall in favor of Christian nationalists. Islam itself. And that really goes to the why the underlying why of why are they turning to Christian nationalism? Why are they seeking to weaponize religious freedom? And and the answer to that is that everything else so much of what we’re seeing is a backlash against equality realized that conservative white Christian Americans that is the patriarchy status as the dominant group in our society is threatened and it has been for a long time. They’re losing the culture wars, which I think is a terrible phrase that masks Attack On Human Rights. Their benighted ideas and their hate filled ideology are just they’re unpopular. And because of that, they are losing the privilege and deference which they believe they are do. So the why is because every day we are closer to racial, racial and gender and LGBTQ equality, and because they are so used to seeing a narrow world which reflects only their straight white conservative Christian patriarchy, that the existence, let alone equality of other people’s threatens them. And we know we know this like sociologically, we know that when a dominant group or caste in a society feels threatened, or feels left behind by circumstances that it reacts or overreacts by seeking a way to retain that status. Right. So that is why we are seeing them turn to Christian nationalism. That’s why we’re seeing them tear down democratic norms. That’s why we’re seeing them turn to violent insurrection on January 6 to the so called strong men like Trump and DeSantis. And that’s why we’re seeing them try to weaponize religious freedom because of equality.
V Spehar 36:44
Your book American crusade how the Supreme Court is weaponizing religious freedom I’m very excited about because this book dives into the debates on religious liberty, and the attempts to weaponize religious freedom. I feel like I’m talking about the Supreme Court and Clarence Thomas, almost every single day and every day it gets darker and spookier. How did you decide to write this book? Tell me Tell me about the book.
Andrew Seidel 37:08
I mean, basically, I this is my career, right? I, I’m a constitutional attorney, I have lived these cases, this fight has basically been my entire career. I’ve litigated some of the cases that are in the book, I’ve briefed others. I’ve been on the front lines defending our country from the assault that we’ve been talking about. And, and what I do in American crusade is I tell the true stories behind the Supreme Court cases that make up the push that we’ve seen over the last 1015 years to weaponize religious freedom. And the thing that I that I think what I really wanted to do is that as I’m having these conversations, and as I’m speaking with people, what I’m really realizing is that whatever people think they know about these cases, and our Supreme Court, there is so much more to the story. And you just you don’t know what you think, you know, the legal media tends to prize balance over truth. And it tends to treat all players in this game as though they are genuine and honest and fair minded. And these Christian nationalist organizations are they’re simply not they are on a religious mission to secure supremacy under the law for their narrow conservative strain of Christianity, and they’re willing to capture the courts to do that. And, you know, one of the cases that really pushed me to want to tell this story was masterpiece cake shop case that that gay wedding cake case out of Colorado, because that case was fundamentally about the civil rights of an LGBTQ couple. Right, this was they went into a business, a limited liability corporation, and that business discriminated against them, because they were gay. That that was all that happened. And it’s that happens, unfortunately, quite a bit in this country to the point where Colorado has a Civil Rights Commission, which is set up to deal with complaints like this, this it’s it’s the bread and butter of what the Colorado Civil Rights Commission does is protect people from that kind of discrimination. We have every almost every state we have we in the country has civil rights laws that give people these rights and protect those rights. We have federal civil rights laws that do the same. That’s what this case was about, about a business discriminating against a couple that the business owner just didn’t like. And by the time it got to the Supreme Court, that narrative was gone. It was about a poor, persecuted Christian artist, who just wanted to practice his craft and wanted to be free to practice his craft and his religion. And the big bad government would wouldn’t let him do that. And the Alliance Defending Freedom, again, the group behind the ADF like they don’t We don’t know how much money they spent on that narrative. But if they were engaged in information warfare, and they want, they won that battle. Absolutely. I mean, you have this baker on the view spouting his soft spoken bigotry is very calm, gentle sounding man. But bigotry is still bigotry even when it’s soft spoken. And that was when I really kind of shifted my focus from litigating these cases in courts, especially as our courts became the Supreme Court in particular became captured, too, educating the public about what is really happening and the danger that we face right now.
V Spehar 40:25
My mom is my barometer for what’s going on with the Republicans in Florida. She’s not one but she listens to a lot of their conversations for me gives me the heads ups. And when that was going on with the cake, she I remember her calling and being like, the can you just tell Mommy, why did the gays want to go get a cake from a Christian Baker anyway? Wouldn’t you just not go to that place? Like my, you don’t always know, you’re going there? No, no gay person is going on purpose to try and like catch this Christian and make them bake them a cake. We’re just like existing in the world, assuming that everything’s okay. And then soon to be known to us. You know, we’re faced with this, like discrimination and hate that you wouldn’t maybe have expected from an artist because we, as queer people have been sort of like, you know, when you line up the things that threaten you, artists aren’t usually high on the list. And so somebody like a baker, you wouldn’t think would treat you that way. So I’m like my No. And that also factored into the narrative that was crafted that these like, evil, gay folks are going around and trying to catch the Christians and force them to do the devil’s work like, no lady, if I knew that you were like that, I would not be calling you. I don’t want to be bothered either. Like, we just want to live our lives. I did a tick tock the other day that was exploring the idea of who has the most first amendment right, because it feels like that’s what we’re getting into with a lot of these cases, you know, 303, creative, especially, where they were arguing a hypothetical case that women had never even been asked to make a graphic design for a gay person. She, she just didn’t, but they took this case anyway. And so it’s coming down to like, who has the most first amendment right? Is it? Is it people of color? Is it Christians? Is it freedom of religion? What about freedom of speech? What about, you know, all kinds of things? Do you think that that’s what they’re trying to do set the precedent that religion has the most first amendment right, and then everything else comes beneath that?
Andrew Seidel 42:16
Yes. So I talked about in American crusades, that what the Supreme Court is doing is creating a hierarchy of rights. And that’s not how our system is supposed to work, right? Like, in theory, rights are supposed to be equal across the board, constitutionally speaking, but what they’re doing is they are elevating the some rights above others. And it is this, this is not some genius insight I have, but I do have the data to back it up in the book. And I give people the case, right, like, Second Amendment rights, property rights, free exercise of religion, if you’re a Christian, and free speech, especially if you’re talking about conservative issues, or Christianity, right, those are the top level rights, and then you’re starting to see all these other rights kind of shake out below those. And this this is I mean, this is happening at our Supreme Court. And one of the a couple of the numbers that are included in the book, talk about this the weaponization of religious freedom, before and after John Roberts was put on the court and the court was packed. So before Roberts was put on the court, Supreme Court decided in favor of religion about half the time, which is about what you’d expect, right? Like a coin flip. That’s, that’s your options when you get to the court. Under Roberts, the win rate for religion jumps to 81%. And this is not a pro religion, but a pro Christian shift. Because in the early courts, Christianity was favored about 44% of the time in cases. And under Roberts, that nearly doubles up to 85% of the time. And this doesn’t include the two most recent terms, which were just banner years for Christian national, I mean, so the numbers are even more extreme now than when I included those. So what you’re really seeing is religious freedom becoming a weapon of Christian privilege, and American crusade works to put a face on those numbers and to show that the new guiding principle of this new Supreme Court that we have is not the Constitution, or the law, but simply this. Christianity wins. That’s where we are.
V Spehar 44:21
What is it about John Roberts that made this shift? You know, his, his legacy like it? I don’t? Is he super Christian nationalists? Do you like who was behind putting him in place?
Andrew Seidel 44:34
Yeah, so I’ll answer both of those. So first, let’s take a second one. Leonard Leo is universally recognized Federalist
V Spehar 44:45
Andrew Seidel 44:49
So he is the guy who orchestrated the hostile takeover of the Supreme Court and that’s what it was and that’s how we should talk about it. There was a former employee of Leo’s who described his Mission, Leo’s mission and he said this quote, he figured out 20 years ago that conservatives had lost the culture war, abortion, gay rights, contraception, conservatives didn’t have a chance if public opinion prevailed. So they needed to stack the courts. Okay, so first of all they did they stack the courts. But notice, notice the anti democratic admission and goal inherent in that quote, right, if they don’t stack the court, the majority is going to rule. If they don’t set the court, democracy would work. And this goes back to the to the y that we were talking about earlier, to the rising equality and the waning supremacy, motivating this crusade. And we know that Leo’s different groups, not just the Federalist Society, he’s got a whole bunch of front groups spent $540 million, packing the court from 2014 to 2020, at least. Alright, well, that’s what we know. And you just don’t spend that kind of money to put impartial judges on the bench, right? You don’t put spend that kind of money, half a billion dollars to put on judges we’re going to call balls and strikes. They bought a court. And Leo’s job was also described when it came to the nominees that actual individuals who are going to be put on the court. He was the monitor of the nominees ideological purity. Okay, that’s a quote he was the monitor of the nominees ideological purity. And we know that Leo is responsible for the confirmation of Roberts, Alito, Gorsuch, Cavanaugh and Barrett. Okay, Thomas is an old friend of Leo’s all six of them are or were members of the Federalist Society. There’s actually recent footage of Leo and Thomas onstage together at a Federalist Society event in Texas. And Thomas is joking about how Leo is the third most powerful man in America. Right. So that is six votes on the Supreme Court. And Leo personally chose five of them for their ideological purity. Okay, and so this guy, I know, who is this guy, I get into that in the book, I mean, who deeply conservative Catholic, a member of the Knights of Malta, I mean, he’s like a character ripped out of a Dan Brown book. Whenever you start talking to him, you feel like a conspiracy theorist. And to talk about love to answer your first question a little bit like John Roberts, like, he’s a good example of sort of this the ideology, this Crusader ideology that I talked about in the book, right. And he’s seen by some as more centrist or more moderate than the other conservatives. He’s absolutely not. He’s all in favor of deeply, deeply conservative change wants to check every box on that conservative wish list, but knows that to do it in a way that makes the changes stick, it has to be done more slowly. That’s the only thing he disagrees with the other conservatives about it’s a pace of change. But John Roberts argued that public schools can impose religion on children at graduation ceremonies and that Christian Bible clubs can use public schools to organize while he was in the Reagan White House. He supported a constitutional amendment that would allow public schools to impose Christian prayer on school children. And in a memo Roberts wrote, we still have a an uphill battle to return prayer to schools. We battle return prayer to schools, right? That is the language of a crusader of a Christian nationalist.
V Spehar 48:25
Joe Biden’s been around for this whole damn thing, Andrew, why don’t the Democrats pack the court back? Why don’t they fight fire with fire? Like, it feels like on this side? There’s a little bit too much gentlemanliness. You know, why aren’t why aren’t we stopping it? Why doesn’t Joe Biden pack the court?
Andrew Seidel 48:43
I think there’s a reverence for the institution that is getting in the way, I think. Yeah. And we talk about it as, as packing the court which the prop the other set, they already packed. The court, the court has happened, they’ve captured the court. The question is, what do we do about it? And the answer really can’t be nothing. I do mean, any progressive solution to any problem out there is going to go through this Supreme Court. So I mean, let’s take abortion, for example. Right? This Supreme Court overturned Roe versus Wade in the dobs decision. There are a number of really important ways we can get around that obviously states can protect the right to an abortion. Many are doing the exact opposite. There’s also you could pass a federal law national law that would protect the right to abortion enshrine that in the federal statute, okay. There’s a proposal in Congress right now to do that. Let’s say we do that. What happens that law is guaranteed to get challenged by one of these groups the Alliance Defending Freedom one of these other groups, right? It’s gonna get you alledged in Texas, it’s gonna go to one of the crazy judges in the North District of Texas probably either Matthew CACs Merrick, or there’s, there’s only two up there that they will bring all their cases in front of, then it’ll go to the Fifth Circuit, which is even more conservative than the Supreme Court, and then it’ll go to the Supreme Court, what is the Supreme Court gonna do? Of course, they’re gonna strike it down, of course, they’re gonna strike it down. This is not a Supreme Court that is motivated by law or principle or the constitution. So any solution that you have to something like the climate crisis, or to LGBTQ equality, or to abortion, like is going to go through the Supreme Court unless we fix this Supreme Court, unless we do something about the fact that this Court was captured that this Court was packed by this small group of special interests. We don’t have those solutions don’t really exist. They’re all temporary, their band aids, when really we need to be dealing with this sort of systemic issue.
V Spehar 51:02
First, something that was spooky about the Dobbs decision that we’re now seeing pop up in other cases where progressive policies are being, you know, squashed? Is they said that there was not a deeply held tradition and right to abortion, right, it was something like that. And they’ve used that language to say why gender affirming care is not a guarantee and why you don’t have to use the right pronouns for kids in schools, because this country doesn’t have a long held deeply rooted tradition in the right to XYZ thing. Is that That’s Christian nationalist land. That’s talking about still going back to this idea that if we’re founded on Christian principles, then the Constitution everything else doesn’t matter, unless it’s put through the lens of the Bible.
Andrew Seidel 51:48
That history and tradition is the phrase a strong tradition. It’s the new legal test, if you listen to a lot of these, these folks are some of the members of the Supreme Court right and, and the history and tradition itself doesn’t actually matter, because most of the history in the Dobbs opinion that Sam Alito wrote is is wrong. What really matters is he began and ended in the both the first paragraph and the last paragraph, he began and ended with morality, which is just in his world, thinly veiled religion. And its history and tradition test actually began in the fight to separate state and church. It began Marsh versus chambers in 1983 case that I talked about, in both my first book, The founding myth ended in American crusade a little bit. And it’s really become the central question in this fight for separation of church and state and religious freedom. And it’s bleeding into all these other areas. And, of course, the whole point behind it is, well, we don’t have a history and tradition of equality we don’t have a history and tradition of We the People, meaning all the people so it is a way for these justices and these Christian nationalists to drag this country back to a time when conservative white Christian men ruled and that is what they’re absolutely trying to do with this history and tradition nonsense.
V Spehar 53:08
It is spooky. I don’t like to leave people scared though. Andrew Domi but Well, I have a ton of we do. Let’s have hope. What’s hopeful?
Andrew Seidel 53:22
I actually I like, legitimately have a ton of hope. And, you know, I, as an author, I love hearing from people. And I hear from people all the time like, Hey, I bought your book. I can’t wait to read it. And I would always respond. Thank you happy reading. Yes. And I realized for like, American crusade is a little bit of a scarier book and like, maybe it doesn’t, that doesn’t land quite the same. But But despite everything, despite this whole conversation, I really, really do have hope. And the wellspring of my hope is this basic definitional truth. There are power hungry aggression is growing our movement, right, every time they win in the abortion case. In that case that were the Christian coach was imposing his prayer on other people’s children at the 50 yard line. In the masterpiece cake shop case and all of the cases I detail in American crusade and the 303 Creative Case right? There wins, swell our ranks. They are creating a feedback loop because remember why they are fighting this in the first place. Remember the why but the whole reason for this is their loss of status and the changing demographics. Right, white Christian nationalists are working to privilege the chosen few. So every legislative and legal victory that they notch alienates more people wakes more people up to the danger and drives people away from their movement. So they’re power hungry, aggression is growing our movement and this to me is just it’s so important for us to hold on to right there crusading because we are working to meet the unmet promise in the American Declaration of Independence in the US constitution, the self evident truth that all are equal and that we the people means all the people. And yes, of course, previous generations have failed to realize those aspirations, right. And they’ve left it to their children to contend with human tragedies like slavery and segregation and the subjugation of women and discrimination against LGBTQ people, and now the climate crisis. But as we continue to march toward progress, Christian nationalists fight ever harder against it, they’re not going to go gently, they’re going to rage against the dying of their privilege. But in the end, we will win. And that’s because they fight only for themselves. And where they are selfish. We can be selfless. They want supremacy, we want equality. And that is why in the end, that we will triumph not because our principal is inherently better than theirs, though, it definitely is. But because the math is on our side, we have the numbers. That’s what they’re fighting. That’s what they’re raging against that you can fight city hall, but you can’t fight math. And so I really do have hope. And this is the battle that I fight every single day. This is the battle that we fight it Americans United for Separation of church and state. So if you care about this stuff, please go visit a.org and join the fight.
V Spehar 56:12
Thank you so much, Andrew, for being here for giving us hope on the end. tell folks where they can find you. You just gave the website but are you on social media as well?
Andrew Seidel 56:20
I’m on all the socials. I’m Andrew l Seidel sei do on all of the things the YouTube, the Facebook, the tick tock, of course, where we where we met Yes. Which I’m it’s such a fun platform. But yes, and then the organization is Americans United you.org. And the books are the founding myth why Christian nationalism is unAmerican and American crusade how the Supreme Court is weaponizing religious freedom and I hope my publisher hates it when I say this, but I don’t care if you buy them. I just want you to read them. So go to your library.
V Spehar 56:50
Very good. Thank you so much, Andrew, I appreciate you being here. Thanks again to Andrew Seidel, for all the knowledge and for leaving us on a hopeful note. I don’t know about you, but I needed that especially today. I mean, when he said that the Supreme Court was purchased for like $511 million. I just about gave up then. But if you really dug what Andrew had to say, You got to check out his books. He’s got two of them. The founding myth why Christian nationalism is unAmerican, and American crusade how the Supreme Court is weaponizing religious freedom. And as he said, borrow them or buy them. He’s just happy if you read them. Be sure to tune into next week’s episode where we dig into the headlines you may have missed please leave us a five star rating on whatever platform you’re listening on. Follow me at underthedesknews on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube and now we even have a Patreon. It’s patreon.com/underthedesknews and guess what friends if all of that wasn’t enough for you? There is more V Interesting with Lemonada Premium. Subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content, like NPR pop culture critic Aisha Harris talking about the dark and dirty movies from the 1990s that shaped us millennial girlies. Subscribe now in Apple podcasts. V Interesting is a Lemonada Media Original. Our producers are Kryssy Pease, Kathryn Barnes and Martin Macias. Our VP of weekly programming is Steve Nelson. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittles Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. Mix and scoring is by James Farber. Music by Seth Applebaum. Please help others find the show by reading and reviewing wherever you listen and follow us across all social platforms at @VitusSpehar, @underthedesknews and @LemonadaMedia. If you want more V Interesting. Subscribe to Lemonada Premium only on Apple podcasts and follow the show where ever you get your podcasts or listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership.