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Wealthy Donors Bankroll Christian Nationalists to Sustain Unregulated Capitalism

Funded by a 1 percent of megadonors and corporations, the religious right has grown to a grotesque size.

Anti-abortion marchers take a break by the U.S. Capitol during the March for Life on January 24, 2011, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

“They’re just going to let me die?” Madison Anderson asked. Her doctor had decided it was too legally risky to perform an abortion. Anderson told The New York Times she’d been informed the fetus would not live after birth — and carrying it could kill her.

Many in the United States now face multiple, life-wrenching crises due to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. The first is how to access safe abortion. The next is a possible national abortion ban if Republicans take the House and Senate in the 2022 midterms. Justice Clarence Thomas even wrote that the court’s rulings on things like contraception and gay marriage may be overturned.

Why has the GOP carried out a draconian assault on the right to abortion, a right that a majority of people in the U.S. support? At least part of the reason is that the Republican drive for power has found Christian nationalism a useful tool. Funded by a 1 percent of megadonors and corporations, the religious right, like Frankenstein’s monster, has grown to a grotesque size. The reality is that some of the richest people and corporations in the world bankroll Christian nationalists who, in turn, attack the already limited freedoms of poor people, people of color, women and LGBTQ people in the name of God. Yet the wealthy and the politicians they pay often break the very biblical codes they make into law. Now the danger has intensified. A Republican White House, Senate, House and Supreme Court can overturn democracy and replace it with a Christian nationalist state, fueled by ultra-wealthy donors who see attacks on fundamental rights as handy tools in securing their power.

Personal Jesus

A cruel irony is in the U.S., wealthy individuals and rich corporations bankroll Christian nationalists, even when they don’t believe in religious extremism themselves. They reap the benefits of supporting Republicans in the forms of lower taxes, unregulated capitalism or promoting libertarian ideas. Depriving millions of their bodily autonomy is a small price to pay.

“I’m basically a libertarian,” David Koch told Barbara Walters in a 2014 interview. “And I’m a conservative on economic matters and I’m a social liberal.” He died that year but his and his brother Charles’s political legacy is that since the 1970s, they have donated $100 million to conservatives. The main vehicle the Koch brothers use to bankroll pet causes is the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, an organization that in 2014 gave $885,000 to CitizenLink, which itself was founded by Focus on the Family, an extremist Christian organization that opposes abortion and gay marriage. CitizenLink used part of the money for direct mail support for Republicans like Tom Cotton, who wants to restrict immigration and called for the military to patrol the streets during the George Floyd protests.

Since 2010, the Koch brothers’ nonprofit network has poured $24 million into Catholic and right-wing Christian groups like Concerned Women for America (which got $11 million) and the Susan B. Anthony List (which received $1.5 million). Both groups specifically target abortion rights. At a 1999 meeting with conservative leaders, Charles Koch said the money was intended to “rally the troops” for his economic goals.

The Kochs are just one family in a network of Republican megadonors that include the Mercer family, the Uihleins and recently deceased Sheldon Adelson. Alongside them are multinational corporations like Amazon and CVS, Charles Schwab and AT&T. They in turn fund politicians or groups that aim to gut reproductive rights. The largest anti-abortion groups like National Right to Life and the Susan B. Anthony List coordinate or work with dozens of smaller groups like The Alabama Policy Institute or The Family Policy Alliance to attack reproductive rights.

Some megadonors are driven by religion, like Texas fracking magnates Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks, who shelled out $11 million to far right politicians over the past decade. In Pennsylvania, the Martin family, owners of Martin’s Pastry Shop, are proud Christian nationalists who funded the campaign of far right Republican Doug Mastriano, to the tune of $100,000.

More often, megadonors fund reactionary social forces to secure other goals. Take, for example, Sheldon Adelson, who donated over $426 million to the Republican Party and super PACS from 2016. Yet he claimed to be pro-choice, for socialized health care and a path to citizenship for undocumented migrants, but held a hardline support for Israel. “Look I’m basically a social liberal,” Adelson told the Wall Street Journal. “I know no one would believe that.”

Aside from megadonors, large corporations give to both political parties in order to lobby them later. As reported by Truthout’s Sharon Zhang, many companies that publicly support reproductive and LGBTQ rights underhandedly fund the most reactionary politics. Zhang writes, “Amazon, AT&T, Citigroup, Coca-Cola, Comcast, CVS, General Motors, Google, T-Mobile, Walgreens, Walmart, Wells Fargo and Verizon have spent at least $15.2 million to support anti-abortion politicians.”

The sum of this double-dealing is simple. The 1% are more than willing to throw people’s rights under the bus in order to protect their profits. They fed Christian nationalism until it became an uncontrollable monster on the verge of ripping apart nearly every progressive legal victory of the 21st century.

Faith No More

“I know what it’s like to see children growing up in poverty,” Miriah Mark said to CNN. “I know what it’s like to be a young Black girl not having a father, or the mom not being able to be home because they have to work.” At 15 weeks pregnant, Mark decided to have an abortion because her partner walked out. Plus, the sky-rocketing cost of child care and housing was too much.

When asked about the overturning of Roe v. Wade, she said, “it makes you feel like you’re going back to a time where women didn’t have rights or women couldn’t vote.”

She is exactly right. The Republican Party is trying to turn back time. It is a party that wins on a rigged political playing field. The Senate structurally tilts Republican since each state, regardless of population, gets two senators. They often gerrymander districts, practically guaranteeing GOP victories. Most importantly, they stacked the Supreme Court by stealing a vacancy from President Obama, and under Trump, put in Justices Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh. By locking in minoritarian rule, the GOP can pay back the players in their base, the religious right being first in line.

Until recently, the religious right was clearly losing the culture war and corresponding legal rights. Feminism and gay liberation, abortion and contraception freed people to explore their authentic selves. The legal victories of Roe v. Wade, Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell v. Hodges — which legalized, respectively, abortion, same-sex privacy and gay marriage — cemented the sexual revolution. Americans were leaving establishment religion behind in large numbers.

Unable to halt the decline of religious attendance, the religious right has ongoingly used courts to force secular America to bow down. The Republican Party solidified a judicial pipeline from the Federalist Society, a conservative organization that incubates lawyers and judges with a budget of nearly $20 million. Take a wild guess where that money comes from? On Democracy Now!, journalist Eric Lipton said, “Google and Microsoft are donors to the Federalist Society, and as well as major energy companies like Chevron or Devon [Energy] … you have also a lot of very conservative family foundations that — you know, like the Mercer foundation or the Koch brothers’ foundation, that see their giving, if you look at their donor patterns, as a way to try to influence American society.”

To understand the impacts of all this strategic spending by the wealthy and powerful, remember what Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said about the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. Poor women of color are going to pay the price for rich people’s incredibly selfish funding of Christian nationalism. “People will die,” she tweeted.

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