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The only decent thing I can say about this essay in the New York Post is that it’ll give people hope that any awful article they write can get published if they just aim low enough.

Sophia A. Nelson implies that the most persecuted religion in the country is… Christianity. It starts with the headline—”Christians are sick of being punished for their views in America”—and goes downhill from there.

There are plenty of problems with the piece, and I’ll get to them, but it all comes back to one idea: Being a Christian, to Nelson, means being a bigot. It’s telling that “Jesus” doesn’t make any appearance in the piece at all, because spreading the Gospel isn’t really what she’s talking about when it comes to practicing her faith.

But let’s start with the mistakes.

Nelson claims we’re a “nation founded on Judeo-Christian values” (without saying what those values are). And how does she defend that Christian nationalist attitude? By saying “Words from scripture are inscribed on our money and our most hallowed institutions…”

I assume she’s talking about “In God We Trust” when referring to money, but that phrase doesn’t come from scripture and, more importantly, it didn’t appear on our paper currency until the 1950s. It was a political move, not a history lesson.

Nelson also refers to Joe Kennedy, the former high school football coach who insisted on performing prayer rituals for a large audience at midfield after games, then whined when the school asked him to do his job. She writes that, like Kennedy, her public Christianity led to her being “cut off. Thrown out. Removed. As if we are these hateful, bigoted religious cultists who just want to push our faith on others. That is simply not true.” But that’s precisely what the argument was against Kennedy! By using his position and authority to coerce students into praying with him after games—whether or not he openly asked them to join him—he was pushing his faith on others.

Nelson also invokes Title IX: “Academics need to read Title IX more closely: religion is a protected class, just like race, gender and sexual orientation (including heterosexuals).” Ignoring that last parenthetical for a moment, the Department of Education says Title IX “protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.” Religion isn’t mentioned. (I guess Nelson didn’t read Title IX more closely.)

But all of that is a prelude to the bigger question: How did Nelson get punished for being a Christian?

She tells us the answer… and notice how she was never punished for reading the Bible, or praying, or letting people know she believed in Jesus, or anything like that.

When I was the scholar-in-residence at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va., I proudly and openly identified as a Christian woman of color. In October 2021, I criticized DC Comics for making Superman’s son bisexual, saying in a tweet, “I don’t get why this is necessary. I don’t! What if Christian parents of children reading comic books don’t want their kids exposed to bi-sexual characters? This is being pushed on kids.”

Straight away, my private tweet was brought into my public university workplace, and my Christian faith was attacked as a “cover for my homophobic views.” I was deemed “homophobic,” “unsafe” and “violent” by an openly bisexual faculty member, who then incited colleagues, university officials and students against me. Students at my college protested and demanded I be removed from my post, and despite the fact I deleted my tweet, wanted to hold a campus forum to discuss the matter, and twice expressed regret for causing offense, I was sidelined for the remainder of my tenure, and was told I would not be invited back to teach or otherwise. 

I don’t have a particularly strong view about the backlash or the punishment. But if your role is to be a mentor to students, and you’ve publicized your anti-LGBTQ views, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when the school isn’t interested in bringing you back.

What stands out is how Nelson’s public display of Christianity was whining about the existence of a bisexual character, as if being “exposed” to an LGBTQ person would corrupt kids. As if a same-sex relationship is a problem while opposite-sex romance is just fine. As if reading about a bisexual character might turn kids gay. It’s just mindless panic over nothing.

And now Nelson is doing exactly what her critics said: She’s using her Christianity as cover for her bigotry. In her mind, the pushback against her open display of homophobia is really an attack on her religion, even though there’s no reason to think any of her critics gave a shit about her Christianity at all. (It’s likely many of her critics were Christian, too.)

Nelson says people like her are “punished, facing ‘consequences’ if we simply express a faith view.” But no one criticized her for being a Christian. Just like no one would’ve been upset with Joe Kennedy had he just prayed privately on his own.

Christian nationalists like Sophia Nelson think any opinion that’s connected to their religion should be inherently shielded from condemnation. Would faith-based racism be acceptable in the same way? Who knows. Nelson also ignores the fact that a lot of the anger from the left has to do with how Christian nationalists are literally forcing their religious views on the entire country, like with the overturning of Roe. We’re so far beyond merely expressing opinions.

While we’re at it, if she thinks Christians are under attack, then what religious group would she like Christians to trade places with? Does she think atheists have it easy? Muslims? Jews? For some reason, she never says who has it better than her own crowd.

It’s just an irresponsible essay from a privileged Christian who’s finally coming to grips with the fact that beliefs that may be taken for granted in her church bubble come across as hateful and prejudiced to everyone else. That message still hasn’t gotten through, apparently, since she decided to publish this essay in the Post, highlighting her ignorance for a wider audience.

No one in her life has the heart to tell her that her Christianity isn’t the issue. It’s the hate that stems from it, at least in her case, that’s the problem.

Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.