Nov. 21, 2016 – A key Donald Trump policy advisor is a threat to the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s core values and mission — and to the foundations of our secular republic.
President-elect Trump recently named Steve Bannon as his White House chief strategist. Bannon is the former executive chairman of the Breitbart News Network, which has been widely denounced as a hate site plagued with misogynist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, anti-Semitic, xenophobic and white nationalistic views.
Under Bannon’s guidance, Breitbart News published stories which promoted the dangerous myth that there is a “pure” American heritage that must be preserved. Part of this imagined national identity is rooted in the misconception of America as a Christian nation. The site’s stories have assaulted beliefs and values that do not align with Christianity.
Some of these news stories have been direct attacks on minority religions. Examples include anti-Muslim stories that have maligned Muslims as rapists, inherently un-American, integrally tied to ISIS and even as “whores in hijabs.”
Breitbart News has covered and assailed FFRF over our objections against the state and federal promotion of Christianity in public institutions. After publishing several stories about FFRF’s legal involvements in Texas over state advocacy of Christianity, a story on the site called FFRF a “Yankee foundation” that was sticking our nose in Texas’ business.
Some Breitbart News stories that have denounced FFRF’s mission and legal cases in Texas include:
■ FFRF’s letters to a Texas county to remove “In God We Trust” displays on patrol cars.
■ Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s demand that FFRF’s Founding Father “nativity” exhibit be removed from the state Capitol.
■ FFRF’s case against a Texas sheriff to remove Christian crosses from patrol cars.
Breitbart News was also critical of FFRF in our complaint against the Clemson football team for identifying itself with Christianity. The site also referred to FFRF members as “atheist grinches” over our lawsuit to stop an Indiana public school from using its students in a live nativity pageant.
By denouncing certain religious traditions and practices as a threat to American culture while defending the integration of Christianity into government institutions, Breitbart News has promoted a dangerous and false idea that those who align themselves with Christian beliefs and values are more “American” than those who subscribe to no religion or a minority religion. This is an outlook that goes beyond merging state and church and assumes Christianity to be a part of national identity.
In addition to assaults on groups which practice non-Christian faiths or no faith, Breitbart News has published derogatory stories against feminism, birth control, and the LGBTQ community. Under Bannon, Breitbart News became a platform for a radical political agenda that aligned itself with the same ideologies that Christian theocrats have used to oppress women, LGBTQ members and other minority groups.
Bannon himself has been quoted as saying that individuals who hold anti-Semitic and homophobic beliefs would “maybe” be attracted to the philosophy of Breitbart News. Bannon has also made offensive statements against female political leaders who do not fit into the narrow, Christian narrative of how women should behave.
It is deeply disturbing to FFRF that the man who led a news site that has promoted ideologies antithetical to the First Amendment — and has condemned FFRF’s defense of First Amendment rights — has the ear of the next president and has been awarded with one of the most powerful positions for shaping federal government policy. As always, we are prepared to defend against all forms of religious tyranny and preserve the wall of separation between state and church.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation’s largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate. www.ffrf.org