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Next Thursday, two Christian nationalists are hosting a discussion about whether Pennsylvania ought to be an “explicitly Christian state.” An advertisement for the event asked, “Can it be accomplished today? If so, should it be attempted?”

This isn’t just some hypothetical discussion, though. The conversation is happening because both men explicitly fantasize about a state (and country) where conservative Christians always have the upper hand while everyone else is subject to their policy preferences. And it comes at a time when Doug Mastriano, a Christian nationalist who attended the January 6 rally, could be the state’s next governor.

The two men hosting the event in question are Joel Saint, a pastor and Executive Director of the Mid-Atlantic Reformation Society, and Chris Hume, Managing Editor at the Lancaster Patriot.

As Lancaster Online notes, the two men have a long history of promoting theocracy and overturning democracy:

Hume published a book last year, titled “Vote Christian: Biblical Principles for Voting,” in which he sought to make “the biblical case for why we should elect men who fear God to be civil magistrates.” In a promotional video for the book, he said, “God has instituted government, and he has instituted government to execute his wrath on Earth.”

The book received an endorsement from John Bingaman, an elder at Independence Reformed Bible Church in Morgantown, where Saint is the pastor.

Saint… participated in protests outside Rep. Bryan Cutler’s Quarryville office and Peach Bottom home on Dec. 30, 2020, where protesters urged Cutler to illegally overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the state.

That’s why this isn’t some lazy attempt at censoring free speech. You have two men who explicitly oppose non-Christians in office, one of whom has actively tried to overturn elections, aiming to have a public event to justify their batshit crazy views. (Hume has also called homosexuality “evil” and denounced Pride.)

You can see in the ad that it refers to the state’s “original constitution.” That’s because that document originally included an oath that forced officials to say, “I do believe in one God, the creator and governor of the universe, the rewarder of the good and the punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration.” While that oath was removed in 1968, the current constitution still says that no one in public office can be “disqualified” as long as they believe in God “and a future state of rewards and punishments” (i.e. Heaven and Hell). That provision is obviously unenforceable because of the whole “no religious test” bit in Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, but it’s a reminder that we’re not that far removed from religious relics.

Yet these guys want to bring those back. That’s concerning to advocates of church/state separation like Amanda Tyler, the executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty:

What concerns her, she said, is the effort to advance the narrative that the United States was founded as a Christian nation.

“I think this ideology attacks the foundational values of religious freedom for all in this country,” she said “Christian nationalism sends a signal that to belong in the United States you have to be Christian. That sentiment is un-American.”

Neither Hume nor Saint have publicly addressed that criticism. They have nothing to say to Muslims or atheists or other non-Christians who believe in actual religious freedom. Keep in mind these guys could easily have said our country would be better off with Christian values (whatever they think those are), but they chose not to. They specifically want to limit public office to people who literally share their faith, as if that’s what’s truly important for any public official.

The event was slated to take place at the Tied House Restaurant in Lititz, but perhaps after public backlash, or “overwhelming response and interest” (according to Hume and Saint), it’ll happen somewhere else. That alone is a different kind of drama. The company that owns the restaurant, St. Boniface Craft Brewing Co., defended the decision to host the event via a Facebook post. They said that while they believed in inclusivity and rejected “white supremacy, racism, bigotry and homophobia,” they didn’t see the problem in the topic of dicsussion:

… I am sure that many have noticed that Pennsylvania itself has strong Christian roots that extend back to its founding. Indeed many people in our community would even consider themselves to be Christians who believe and live by what are considered to be “Biblical principles.” Being that the county itself has hundreds of churches, we were woefully unaware that living by and promoting that standard of living is considered to be “extremist behavior,” please forgive us for that oversight.

I can’t decide if the person who wrote that is ignorant or a troll. The problem isn’t Christianity. The problem is Christian nationalism and what it means for people living under it.

Lancaster Online notes that the co-owner of Tied House no longer works there as of Tuesday (a reason wasn’t given), another bar owner said he’d be removing St. Boniface beers from his selection, and the Facebook post written by the company hosting the event was quickly deleted. Just chaos everywhere.

No one associated with this event is coming out of it looking good… and it hasn’t even happened yet. But that’s a good thing. We need more people—especially Christians—pushing back against the scourge of conservative Christian rule. We know what that looks like in practice and how many people suffer as a result of it. Calling for a literal Christian state isn’t some harmless debate; it’s the Republican platform these days and it’s bad news for every single person who doesn’t accept conservative Christian propaganda.

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.