Voter Suppression: Christian Nationalism's Attempts to Control Who Votes

Long before the 2020 election, Christian right leaders such as Phyllis Schlafly, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell were promoting legislation to limit voter access, insisting that voting must be controlled to prevent the “wrong people” from determining the outcome. Now the cause has been reframed as “election integrity” to crack down on so-called voter fraud.

Americans United has been reporting how Christian nationalist organizations are working with their allies to erect barriers to voting. A prime example is the Election Integrity Protection Act of 2021 (also known as SB1) enacted by the Texas legislature. Its passage was celebrated by religious conservatives, including a Texas state elected official who called it “a good paradigm for other states to follow”--an ominous threat to the future of our country.

Posner and Seidel have studied and written about Christian nationalism for years. In 2021 articles, Posner focused on Georgia and Texas in "How the Christian Right Embraced Voter Suppression," and Seidel noted how bold the movement has become in "Senator Spouts Christian Nationalism Defending Racist Voter Suppression." Posner and Seidel will shed light on Christian nationalism's involvement in voter suppression nationally and in Texas. Elfant will share some of his real-life experiences as Travis County's voter registrar since 2013.

"So many Christians ... want everybody to vote. I don't want everybody to vote ... As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up when the voting populace goes down." - Paul Weyrich

Sarah Posner

Journalist and Author

Bruce Elfant

Travis County Tax Assor-Collector and Voter Registrar

Andrew Seidel

Americans United Vice President of Strategic Communications

Non-Christian Americans in Elected Office: A Balancing Act?

Three public officials discussed their experiences as non-Christians elected in Houston. Former U.S. Congressman and Houston City Council member Chris Bell led the discussion and brought his perspective as a Christian officeholder. A brief annual meeting preceded the discussion.

Ellen Cohen -- Former Texas Representative, Houston City Council Member & Mayor Pro Tem

Rabeea Collier -- Harris Co. District Judge 113th Civil Court

Jon Rosenthal -- Texas Representative 135th House District

Real People, Real Stories, Real Harm: Religious Bigotry is Alive and Well

May 17, 2021

Recent events have poignantly reminded us that some members of our community have long been subjected to insults, rejection and threats because of their religious or nonreligious beliefs. Four individuals shared their experiences in contemporary America and opened a dialogue about what more we must do to stem the spread of this insidious cancer that's infecting our country.

Ashton Adair–-attorney born Ashraf Abadir in Cairo, Egypt

Kafah Bachari–-attorney and writer, born in Iran, raised in Texas

Eric Grimm–-atheist, attorney, former city council member in Michigan

Mustafaa Carroll--American-born Muslim and former Executive Director, Houston Chapter, Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)

Moderator, Jim Bankston–-retired Sr. Pastor at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, Member of AU Houston’s Religious Advisory Council

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Religious Liberty: A Sword or a Shield?

March 15, 2021, featuring Dr. Neal Jones, Chair, Board of Trustees of Americans United

In recent years, the Religious Right has resumed an old tactic–distorting the meaning of “religious freedom” in order to justify discrimination against groups they frown upon, including LGBTQ people, women, religious minorities, nonbelievers, and others. Dr. Jones discussed how religious extremists are asking state legislatures, Congress, and the courts to legalize their bigotry. He suggested how we can stand up to those who would harm others in the name of religion.

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Our Campaign Against Proposition 3

The Greater Houston chapter, working with the El Paso and San Antonio chapters of AU, led a vigorous campaign against Proposition 3, a proposed constitutional amendment on Texas' Nov. 2021 ballot. The amendment prohibited the state and local governments from limiting religious services of religious organizations without exception, even if public safety necessitates it.

We published letters to the editor and op-eds from faith leaders and other community members, discussed the issue on local radio, formulated detailed talking points that were used and distributed by media and individuals, created a dedicated website page, and more. The Houston Chronicle and most other urban newspapers in Texas endorsed our position, but the approximately 9% of registered voters who turned out approved it.

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