How Montana Took a Hard Right Turn Toward Christian Nationalism

As the Montana Republican Party has strengthened its hold on power, the coalition’s existing fissures have widened. Over the course of the three-day platform convention in Billings this summer, numerous speakers appeared to be trying to outdo one another in their performative anger, and it was apparent that the enemies were not limited to the left. Even Skees, the provocative party treasurer, seemed to be watching his right flank. At the time of the convention, he was awaiting the results of a recount of a tight primary race for a seat on the public-service commission, which regulates utilities. “Derek Skees was always a hard-right guy,” said one state Republican official, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal. “But now he’s being called a RINO!”

The Republicans unveiled their official party platform on the last day of the convention. The fieriest debate surrounded the abortion plank, which contained no exceptions for incest or rape. “We support the preservation of innocent human life at every stage of life, in all circumstances, beginning at conception through natural death,” it read. A young proxy delegate suggested removing the phrase “beginning at conception.” She was met with boos; Skees shouted the idea down. (Shortly after the convention, Skees conceded his primary to his even more conservative opponent.)

In conversations during the convention, several Republicans were open about their embrace of Christian nationalist ideology. Steven Galloway, a state representative from Great Falls, told me that he and his wife, who is also a legislator, had taken what are called “biblical citizenship classes,” developed by a former Texas legislator, who argues that the founding fathers drew heavily from the Bible when writing the Constitution and that the strict separation of church and state is a revisionist idea. “If you want to live here,” Karla Johnson, a chapter president of the Montana Federation of Republican Women, said, “be a Christian.” Keith Regier, an influential state senator, said all laws should be based on Judeo-Christian principles. “The Ten Commandments were a good foundation for any country to live by,” he told me. He was upset by what he perceived to be a censorious cultural moment — especially when it came to people speaking out against gay and transgender rights. “There is an open war on Christianity in this country.”

I told him that I’d heard other Montanans voice feelings of persecution because of the imposition of Christian doctrine. Was there a middle ground to be found? “There probably isn’t a middle,” he said. “You can’t have both.”

Gianforte avoids such extreme language, sticking to economic messaging; while he might enable religious policy, a number of Democratic and Republican legislators said that he does not openly push it. But Alan Rassaby, the former general counsel of Gianforte’s company, RightNow Technologies, told me that he thought Gianforte would gladly take down the wall between church and state if he had the opportunity. “He’d see that as part of his reshaped destiny,” Rassaby said. “But at the same time, he’s pragmatic. So what can he get away with? Whatever he can get away with, he’ll get away with in shaping a Christian society. Because he believes that’s a true society.”

Sumber: www.nytimes.com

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