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What American Jews should know about Project 2025 and its connection to Christian Nationalism

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Project 2025, a conservative policy agenda years in the making, has vaulted into American political consciousness in recent days. President Joe Biden wants you to think the mysterious project is the heart of his Republican rival’s platform, despite the fact that former President Donald Trump has denounced parts of it as “ridiculous and abysmal” and said that he has no idea who is behind it. 

There are a number of reasons that Jewish leaders are among those alarmed by Project 2025: They see it as a step toward authoritarianism, an erosion of freedom of religion, and the empowering of a Christian Nationalist movement they see is steeped in antisemitism.

What does Project 2025 mean for American Jews?

When people talk about Project 2025, they are generally referring to a 922-page policy document developed by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. The document lays out a plan for the drastic expansion of presidential power and reshaping of the federal government. 

It touches on nearly every hot-button issue imaginable — immigration, healthcare, foreign policy and civil rights, to name a few — and more than a few random ones. It would, for example, require overtime pay for employees who work on the Sabbath. (It’s referring to Sunday, not Saturday). 

Project 2025 also includes a database of conservatives — it’s unclear how many — imagined as a kind of recruiting roster, because a central part of the agenda is replacing thousands of government workers with political appointments.

The document does not address Jews or antisemitism directly,  and only references Israel in passing. And most of it is not about religion at all. But many elements of the plan would adversely affect both Orthodox Jews and liberal ones.

For example: Project 2025 seeks to reverse LGBTQ+ rights, including marriage equality, which is widely supported and practiced by Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist Jews. It also calls for a ban on abortion, which most rabbis of all denominations say is permitted under Jewish law and even required in some circumstances pertaining to the mother’s health. 

These social policies — and others outlined in the document, like a federal ban on pornography — are rooted in Christian Nationalism, an ideology that many scholars see as inherently antisemitic and that is behind recent headline-grabbing initiatives in red states.

What is Christian Nationalism?

Christian Nationalists believe that the United States is fundamentally Christian, that the country has strayed from Christian values, and that action must be taken to make those values the defining feature of government and public life.

Put another way, Christian Nationalists hope to use political power to break down the separation of church and state — the bedrock principle ensuring freedom of religion — and further align laws on social issues with Evangelical religious doctrine. That would mean ending abortion and same-sex marriages and prohibiting access to contraceptives, for starters. It could also mean more laws like Louisiana’s new one requiring the Ten Commandments be displayed in public school classrooms.

Other Christian Nationalist successes: The Supreme Court’s 2021 decision allowing taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to reject queer prospective parents, and Alabama’s recent banning of in-vitro fertilization.

Christian Nationalism is not an entirely new concept, according to Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, communications director for an advocacy group called Christians against Christian Nationalism. But it has experienced a resurgence in the Trump era. Its radicalizing influence burst into view on Jan. 6, 2021, when insurrectionists stormed the Capitol holding Bibles aloft, waving banners that read “Jesus 2020,” and praying inside the House chamber. 

“Christian nationalism gives a religious fervor to far-right activism,” Graves-Fitzsimmons said.

“Judeo-Christian values”

Adherents of Christian Nationalism often describe their political mission as advancing Judeo-Christian values in the public sphere. And there is a strong overlap between Christian Zionists and Christian Nationalists. But some say both are a cover for the antisemitism undergirding the movement.

Bradley Onishi, author of Preparing For War: The Extremist History of White Christian Nationalism, told the Forward’s Rob Eshman last week that antisemitic conspiracy theories and a general “disdain for Jewish people” are built into the movement.

And a 2021 Washington Post survey found a high correlation between Christian Nationalist principles — for example, “The federal government should declare the United States a Christian nation” — and antisemitic tropes, such as that the Jews killed Jesus, that Jews have too much power in the business world, and that American Jews have dual loyalty to the U.S. and Israel.

Amy Spitalnick, president of the Jewish Committee for Public Affairs, said in an interview that the term “Judeo-Christian” is “oftentimes used by some of the most extreme voices to give cover to some of the very ideas that are most at odds with Jewish values and Jewish rights.”

More important than that, Spitalnick said, at its root is an undermining of American religious freedom — “the democratic norms and values,” she said, “that have made the United States the safest place for Jews in much of our history.”

The post What American Jews should know about Project 2025 and its connection to Christian Nationalism appeared first on The Forward.

The post What American Jews should know about Project 2025 and its connection to Christian Nationalism first appeared on The News And Times.