Tuesday, March 5, 2019

What about Project Blitz?

The Project Blitz I am writing about in this article is not the footwear company that goes by that name or the 2018 Tony Alderman album with that same name. Rather, this is about the Project Blitz that is being waged by a coalition of Christian Right groups.
What is Project Blitz?
The Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation (CPCF) was formed in 2005 with a vision statement that includes “restoring Judeo-Christian principles to their rightful place” in American society.
Now the CPCF, along with other similar groups, is seeking to do this partly by Project Blitz.
According to their website, the purpose of Project Blitz is “To protect the free exercise of traditional Judeo-Christian religious values and beliefs in the public square, and to reclaim and properly define the narrative which supports such beliefs.”
As Wikipedia adequately summarizes, Project Blitz “is best known for providing model legislation, proclamations, and talking points for state and local legislators who wish to introduce bills that support religious freedom and liberty as defined by the Project.”
Project Blitz has introduced recommended legislation in many states and such legislation has already been passed in at least five states.
One Major Activity of Project Blitz
On January 28, President Trump tweeted, “Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!”
DJT’s tweet was in support of the activities of Project Blitz. Already this year, six states have introduced legislation pushing for public schools to offer Bible literacy classes.
Missouri (where I live) is one of those states. On Feb. 28, House bill No. 267 was passed by a committee and is moving toward a vote of the entire House—where it will likely pass.
The Missouri bill, like those in most other states which have already passed or are currently considering similar legislation, stipulate that the Bible classes are elective and do not violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Still, there are serious doubts about such legislation and opposition by even many Christians and Christian organizations.
Opposition to Project Blitz
Recently, the Kansas City Star published an editorial declaring, “Bible classes don’t belong in Missouri’s public high schools.” The editors write, “Allowing taxpayer-funded religion classes—and teaching a course centered on the Bible amounts to a religion class—raises troubling questions about the separation of church and state.”
Accordingly, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, an organization I have supported for many years, has publicly announced opposition to Project Blitz. Soon after DJT’s 2/28 tweet, along with 43 other prominent organizations, they urged state lawmakers across the country to oppose Project Blitz.
They see the Project problematic because of their attempt to enshrine Christian nationalism into law.  
At the end of last year, Frederick Clarkson, an author who has long opposed the Christian Right, warned that Project Blitz was going to come on strong in 2019. I recommend the reading of his article (here) posted by Religion Dispatches.
Jonathan Davis is a youngish Baptist pastor in Virginia. On Feb. 25, Baptist News Global posted his opinion piece titled “Why I spoke out against Virginia’s ‘Bible bill,’ and why you should too when it comes to your state.”
The Virginia Senate passed SB1502 by a 22-18 vote, in spite of vocal opposition of Pastor Davis and other Baptists, among others, in the state.
Separation of church and state is a long-held principle of true Baptists, such as those of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, who are also actively seeking to counter the efforts of Project Blitz. (See this link.)
I heartily applaud all such efforts.


  1. Local Thinking Friend Phil Rhoads shares these comments:

    "Leroy, I generally support 'literacy' of every kind. If I were a state rep. I would have a hard time voting against this initiative, but would try to add some amendments, such as requiring 1) all classes to be taught by licensed/certified/paid teachers; 2) the study of the Koran, and some Buddhist literature, and ensure that Old Testament prophets are also included along with the New Testament; and 3) study of the process whereby the current canon was developed."

    1. Thanks, Phil, for your comments. I stick by what I wrote--and by the criticism of those I quoted. In response to your proposed amendments, here is my considered opinion:

      1) I would assume that the proposed Bible classes would be taught by licensed / certified / paid teachers. But I also assume that a large majority of the rural schools would find such teachers from among the membership of conservative evangelical churches. (This quite clearly, I think, is the vision of Project Blitz.) Thus, for example, the Bible classes could easily be used to teach how the Bible condemns homosexuality.

      (2) The bills that I have seen do call for teaching the Old Testament as well as the New Testament--but they make no provision at all for teaching the sacred scriptures of other religions, nor would Project Blitz want that to be done.

      (3) I would doubt that most of the courses would be designed to deal with questions of how the canon was developed--and that, I'm quite sure, is not something Project Blitz would want to have included in any detail.

    2. Here is Phil's response to my response:

      "Again, IF I were a state legislator, I would offer these amendments to further LITERACY, not to advance one particular religious perspective over another. The point would be to call their bluff that this is truly for literacy.

      "And even if the original proposed legislation were adopted, there could be legal challenges from all sorts, just as the prayer in schools conflict from years past.

      "And even if it passes legal challenges, with the current effort to stack the courts with conservatives, there is the future potential that students exposed to the Bible will find hidden teachings (love your neighbor, love your enemy, love the Samaritan, forgive the prodigal son, etc.) which would backfire for anyone expecting Christian Nationalism to dominate public debate . . ."

    3. and don't forget Christ's final command to his disciples - "Love One Another". This has been forgotten across Christendom.

    4. Yes! Love One Another! Doesn't sound like Christian Nationalism! Let literacy lead to good outcomes!

  2. I am honored to have retired Baptist (ABC) pastor Bruce Morgan as my newest Thinking Friend, and early this morning he sent me this email about this new blog article:

    "Excellent blog. I wholeheartedly support your statement."

  3. My stalwart Thinking Friend Eric Dollard in Chicago comments,

    "Thanks, Leroy, for bringing this up. I too belong to Citizens United and I had earlier read about these efforts to allow, or even mandate, Bible classes in the public schools.

    "I am not opposed to studying the Bible, as literature, in the context of a broader course in literary criticism, but I doubt that these efforts are motivated by concerns about how students study literature.

    "I also wonder why anyone would be willing to teach such a course. The Bible is understood and interpreted in many different ways. Whatever perspective a teacher adopts will be immediately challenged and, of course, students in other religions may demand that courses be offered on their holy books. It seems like a recipe for chaos, both legally and educationally."

  4. And then a few minutes ago I received these comments from Thinking Friend Glenn Hinson in Kentucky:

    "I do, too, Leroy. Baptists, above all, should be concerned. Our forebears fought mightily and paid a high price for the separation of church and state. Unfortunately, the largest body of Baptists—the Southern Baptist Convention—have ceased to hold to the Baptist tradition of voluntariness in religion."

    1. Not necessarily in promotion of the idea, but how is an elective not voluntary?

  5. I'm not Baptist (although I have been in the past), and I don't know anything about Blitz. I have also faced and been threatened by the wackos (both left and right) of Christianism. While at a Christian high school, I took a mandatory Bible class. It was very good for making one think. But the key premise was quite heretical - a concept condemned at the first Council of Nicaea - I don't know how he got away with it. One of my best classes in college was an introductory philosophy class at Missouri State, "The Problems of Philosophy", which included some religions. There are significant problems (and positives) about religions, including Christendom. I don't think and elective on religion would be detrimental to high school students. They are already introduced to a number of other challenging topics. There is good in religions as well. I have seen it - Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, paganism..., but each also has its set of evil-doers.

    One of my greatest regrets was breaking a friendship with a highly respected Christian teacher after she stood by one of her other students - a lawyer with the ACLU in Washington DC - who had threatened me (not my first unwarranted, negative encounter with that organization). Students need to be aware of religion, both its good and bad aspects in culture, as well as other drivers of good and evil, including politics (all sides), and tribalism... I am not opposed to a survey religion in high school. But it should be balanced - the evil of some, and goodwill of many. Both sides need to be known (and probably their origins as well).


    1. Appreciate your insights. Sorry about your negative experiences with ACLU, and with various wackos. Education can be used for indoctrination, but there is always a danger with educated minds that the indoctrination will not eliminate heretics. Isn't that why slaves were forbidden to learn to read? If we only expect our schools to turn out STEM graduates, we can expect more advanced nuclear weapons in our future. Will that be a good thing for advancing civilization? What if we expose our kids to religious writings and histories of religions, etc.? May that not lead to cautionary lessons about the origins of much misery and war, and the potential for mutually assured destruction? My hope is that religious literacy will well serve to advance civilization!

  6. I can imagine an introduction to religion class for high school that would be excellent, looking at several religions and sacred texts, without indoctrinating for any of them. Then there is the likelihood that many schools would offer fundamentalist indoctrination instead. Doing such a class correctly would be hard. Think about teaching the Ten Commandments. The first problem is, Jews, Catholics and Protestants have different ways to count to ten. So many chances to stumble.

    We are seeing in the news a story that both illustrates the need and problem in a slightly different setting. New Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has met fierce opposition twice for mild comments about Israeli/Palestinian issues. Perhaps if America had a better understanding of the difference between true (and widespread) anti-semitism and simple policy disagreements there would not have been such an uproar. Perhaps if she were not a person of color and a Muslim not much would have happened. As it is, Republicans are howling and Democrats are squirming, all while AIPAC dangles in the air as a mysterious question.

    Religious education, like comprehensive sex education, may be quite valuable for high schools, even as it appears in practice to be nearly impossible in many cases. The cautionary tail is that stats for the results of sex education show that while comprehensive sex education creates better outcomes for the students, when it gets watered down into abstinence-only training, the results in terms of unwanted pregnancies and STDs are actually worse than at schools that do no sex education at all. Anyone want to talk about measles vaccine?

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Craig.

      At this point I am planning on my March 15 blog article being about the issue you raised in the second paragraph of your comments.

  7. Thinking Friend Michael Olmsted, a retired Baptist pastor in Springfield, Missouri, yesterday sent the following pertinent comments:

    "What is so surprising is that so many modern Baptists know so little of our history … the persecution and legal barriers to our religious freedom … the idea that the soul of any person is not the business of government … that religious freedom does not exist if there is not equal freedom for ALL.

    "Our ancestors were locked in the jails during colonial times because they did not have a license from the government to preach. The USA is supposed to be a land of freedom for all of us, without fear that our faith will be forced or regulated by any government.

    "The support of Mr. Trump is a given since he plays the game of faith without the knowledge or life evidence that faith in God should shape our values and actions. This bill does not protect the Christian faith but makes it just another tool of politicians who want to appear devoted to their version of freedom.

    "I have lived overseas and preached outside the USA where Christians shared the stories of what it is like to live where faith is connected to politics … disaster!

    "Politicians, stay out of my religious independence!"

  8. The following comment, received two days ago, is by local Thinking Friend Ed Chasteen:

    "Government has NO BUSINESS making any statement regarding religion."

  9. My friend Brian Kaylor, editor of Word&Way, the history Missouri Baptist news journal, posted the following comments on Facebook:

    "Thanks for raising this issue! I was lone person testifying against the bill, trying to represent the historic Baptist perspective."

    To listen to Brian's powerful "testimony," darken and then right click on the following link:


    1. (Sorry for the error in the first line above: I meant the historic news journal.)

  10. A few minutes ago, Thinking Friend Truett Baker, who decades ago was pastor of Grant City [Mo.] Baptist Church (my home church), sent the following comments:

    "This is a subject near to my heart as you know. My book, 'Church-State Cooperation Without Domination,' makes the case for government and religion to cooperate in areas of mutual concern without either dominating the other.

    "I am troubled that text book writers have changed history to make it politically correct to ignore the place religion has had in history. There is absolute material support for the fact that Columbus and so many other immigrants came to America for religious reasons. That is a fact and I resent the attempt to shove the role religion has played in the founding of America aside and the continuing role the Supreme Court has played in supporting this effort. The problem is one of domination and not improper relationship.

    "The 'wall' symbol of Jefferson is out of character with history and good sense. Although horribly abused, church-state cooperation can benefit all of society Jesus made it very clear that government is to be respected as well as religion (Mark 12:17).

    "While I do not support the goal of the Religious Right to make this a 'Christian nation,' I do vigorously support the cause to recognize the role religion has had in American history."

  11. Thanks for your important comments, Truett. But as I am also writing in my email response to you, I hope you will listen to Brian Kaylor's powerful statement linked to above.

    1. The podcast played for 1:18 and ended abruptly... Attempts to start again ended the same way.

  12. I am back with an amendment to my remarks. An amazing story started on Ash Wednesday when a 9-year-old Catholic boy got his first ash cross on his forehead before going to public school. His family explained to him that he might get teased and asked odd questions, but what made it national news was that his teacher, after asking about the cross, told him it was inappropriate for school, and ordered him to wash it off. By the end of the day the teacher and the school were apologizing. The district called in their director of equity who counseled the boy, and as an ordained Catholic deacon reapplied the ash cross. Why do we have so much trouble just giving each other space to be? Project Blitz sounds like a misguided effort that will make a bad situation worse, but mass ignorance and prejudice is a bad situation. By the way, the boy looks forward to wearing his cross again next year!

    For the article, see this link: https://www.cnn.com/2019/03/08/us/4th-grader-ash-wednesday-trnd/index.html

    1. Thanks for sharing this, Craig. If the school had set aside a time and place for students to have ashes applied to their foreheads, that would be a problem perhaps. But I think the teacher was wrong to make the boy remove the ashes--especially in front of the whole class. But it seems like everyone else in the school system thought the teacher was out of line.

      I wonder about what would happen, or should happen, if a teacher came to class on Ash Wednesday with ashes on his/her forehead. Would this be a mild violation of the separation of church and state? Would the principal be correct in asking such a teacher to wipe off the ashes? What do you think, Craig?

  13. Or wear a hijab or yarmulke or anabaptist beard...

  14. The metaphor "melting pot" is fading away. America is more like a salad. As long as the person is making a quiet personal statement about themselves, rather than being aggressive at others, I see no essential problem with normal displays of religious and social identity. That goes for both teachers and students. I realize some schools have had problems with hate symbols and gang colors, but forcing everyone to be blandly generic in ways that diminish their self-worth is a steep price to pay. It is not even just religious emblems, as a number of black students with braids or dreadlocks have found at the hands of censorious teachers and administrators. Or maybe I am just remembering vice-principals back in the 60s who thought anything much longer than a crewcut was subversive! Instead of being creative and flexible, so many times modern education has been simply dumbed down to "zero tolerance." Personally, I say yes to "hijab or yarmulke or anabaptist beard..."

  15. Thanks, Leroy, for raising the issue. I don't respond often here, but I always read your blog with interest. To reiterate comments above, I too think that "biblical literacy" is a good thing, just like having a working knowledge of all religions is a good thing and should lead to understanding and making space for people. The issue here is the intent of the Bible classes in public schools. The intent is not to reclaim the importance of religion in society; it is rather to impose a certain religious bent on children with the express purpose of excluding non Judeo-Christian positions from having a public voice. Christian nationalism is not Christian, and we need to keep saying so and stand for the separation of religion and state. Christian education is what churches are for!