A coalition of far-right groups, led by the Heritage Foundation, is planning for the next Republican administration. Project 2025 has received considerable media attention for its $22 million budget, for its plans to expand presidential power over federal agencies, and for specific policies, like rolling back environmental protections.
However, the plan’s theocratic elements have gone unscrutinized.
Project 2025 published a book of policy proposals, titled “Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise,” for the next Republican administration. Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts opens the book by prioritizing the securing of “our God-given individual rights to live freely” against a “woke” threat. “Today the Left is threatening the tax-exempt status of churches and charities that reject woke progressivism,” he claims without evidence. “They will soon turn to Christian schools and clubs with the same totalitarian intent.”
Roberts’ view that progressives are out to get Christians sets the tone for individual chapters on various federal agencies. While anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ policies run throughout the book, several policy areas stand out.
This is about the next Republican president, whoever it may be, who pushes Christian nationalism.
Roger Severino’s chapter on the Department of Health and Human Services urges the next conservative president to “maintain a biblically based, social science–reinforced definition of marriage and family.” Severino is concerned that federal programs will be subjected to “nonreligious definitions of marriage and family as put forward by the recently enacted Respect for Marriage Act.”
The Respect for Marriage Act, passed last year by Congress with strong bipartisan support, requires the federal government and states to recognize same-sex and interracial marriages. The law is not religious or nonreligious; it is a constitutionally enacted law of the United States.
Project 2025 appears to call on the next Republican president to draw distinctions between parts of the law as “religious” and “nonreligious.” The Bible is not a higher authority than laws passed by Congress, and far-right groups do not have to like American laws to respect that those laws are not overruled by their personal interpretation of the Bible.
Another startling section by Severino concerns Covid-19 policies, opposition to which has galvanized conservative Christians. He criticizes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s actions and wonders “how much risk mitigation is worth the price of shutting down churches on the holiest day of the Christian calendar and far beyond as happened in 2020? What is the proper balance of lives saved versus souls saved?”
That’s not a tough question to answer: The federal government does not need to worry about saving souls.
Meanwhile in his chapter on the U.S. Department of Labor, Jonathan Berry frames his proposals as part of divine history. “The Judeo-Christian tradition, stretching back to Genesis, has always recognized fruitful work as integral to human dignity, as service to God, neighbor, and family,” he writes, while claiming the Biden administration “has been hostile to people of faith.”
Berry worries that “God ordained the Sabbath as a day of rest, and until very recently the Judeo-Christian tradition sought to honor that mandate by moral and legal regulation of work on that day” and blames consumerism and secularism for the decline in Sabbath observance.
But he’s not content to reminisce about the good ol’ days when Americans went to church. He wants the federal government to push people back to church, and calls on Congress to “encourage communal rest by amending the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to require that workers be paid time and a half for hours worked on the Sabbath.” Berry argues this would lead to higher costs that would reduce work on the Sabbath.
Conservatives often frame their policy crusades as part of an effort to expand “religious freedom,” a narrative deployed across the Trump administration to gut civil rights protections. But now “Project 2025” is saying the quiet part out loud: Right-wing groups do not want to ensure all Americans have religious freedom, but want to impose conservative Christian views on our religiously-diverse country.
The federal government does not need to worry about saving souls.
Instituting “biblically based” policies, saving souls and inducing Sabbath observance constitute a direct attack on religious freedom, a freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment, which keeps the government out of religion.
In the chapter on the U.S. Department of State, Kiron K. Skinner writes: “Special attention must be paid to challenges of religious freedom, especially the status of Middle Eastern Christians and other religious minorities, as well as the human trafficking endemic to the region.”
There are certainly international religious freedom issues that the president should pay attention to, but our ability to advocate for religious freedom abroad is enabled by our respect for people of all faiths — and nonreligious people — at home. A U.S. president who enacts “biblically based” domestic policies has little to say to heads of government abroad who pursue their own religion-based policies.
Concerns about policies of this kind aren’t only about the possible return of former President Donald Trump to office — this is about the next Republican president, whoever it may be, who pushes Christian nationalism. Project 2025 is providing a blueprint for any Republican administration.
It shouldn’t need to be said that the Bible shouldn’t trump American law, but this campaign season it needs to be repeated, over and over again.