Christian Nationalists Played A Key Role In Drafting The GOP Platform

Prominent members of the Christian nationalist movement have maneuvered their way into former President Donald Trump’s inner circle in recent years — and their influence is remarkably clear in the draft Republican Party platform unveiled this week.

Russell Vought, a close Trump ally, served as the platform’s policy director. A former Trump administration official, Vought has since taken on a magnified role in Trump world and now runs the Center for Renewing America, a think tank that is angling to infuse a second Trump White House with Christian nationalist policies, as Politico previously reported

Christian nationalists espouse a belief that America was founded as a Christian nation and that a far-right interpretation of the Bible ought to dictate politics and public life. 

Signs of ideological influence from Christian nationalists were all over a 16-page draft of the GOP platform that circulated this week. The document, which is being finalized for the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee next week, embraces common refrains about devout Christians in America facing persecution. Christianity even infuses the foreign policy section, which calls for “protecting the American Homeland, our People, our Borders, our Great American Flag, and our Rights under God.” 

The platform largely echoes Trump’s core reelection messages. Unlike in previous years, it is not a detailed recitation of all the policies Republicans hope to achieve in the White House, but a more specifics-free collection of slogans and promises written in Trump’s voice.

The Trump campaign reportedly handpicked the authors in part to freeze out groups that would insist on including extremely unpopular policies, such as an explicit call for a nationwide abortion ban, and to consolidate support for Trump’s trademark messages instead.

But even the pared-down platform embraces many tenets of Christian nationalism. The draft says immigration laws would be used “to keep foreign Christian-hating Communists, Marxists, and Socialists out of America.” Another plank pledged to support homeschooling, once a fringe cause of the Christian right, “equally,” and to protect the practice of religion in public schools.

“Republicans will champion the First Amendment Right to Pray and Read the Bible in school,” the education section reads, “and stand up to those who violate the Religious Freedoms of American students.”

Vought is also advising Project 2025, a conservative policy proposal that, over the course of nearly 1,000 pages, presents a blueprint for radically remaking nearly every aspect of the federal government and significantly decreasing the rights of millions of Americans. 

Russell Vought, a former Trump administration official, is behind both Project 2025 and the Republican Party's draft platform.
Russell Vought, a former Trump administration official, is behind both Project 2025 and the Republican Party's draft platform. Tom Williams via Getty Images

The Christian nationalist movement has deep roots in anti-communism, antisemitism, white supremacy and isolationism. Since Trump’s presidency, its agenda has married religious right hobbyhorses like ending same-sex marriage, banning abortion, and denying the existence of trans people with MAGA world dog whistles about the dangers of immigration and diversity, conspiracism, and apocalyptic descriptions of Democratic opponents and leftists.

Vought, for example, has previously advocated for limiting immigration to those who have “accept[ed] Israel’s God, laws and understanding of history.”

The most radical adherents of the movement, which has gained influence on the right, see pluralistic democracy as a roadblock to be dismantled and consider their political standard-bearers, such as Trump, to be divinely inspired. 

The draft platform does not outright call for an abortion ban — using oblique language instead to signal support of fetal personhood — or a reversal of same-sex marriage rights. But it does not mince words in its opposition to trans people in public life, promising to “End Left-wing Gender Insanity” by punishing schools that allow children to transition and banning trans athletes from competition. 

The draft also promises Republicans will “promote a Culture that values the Sanctity of Marriage,” swapping a definition of marriage as between a man and a woman for a softer euphemism. 

And the Christian nationalist credo that Christians in America face widespread persecution is the animating belief behind one of the platform’s few concrete policy promises: to appoint a federal task force on “Anti-Christian Bias” that “will investigate all forms of illegal discrimination, harassment, and persecution against Christians in America.”

Vought and the Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Other members of the platform committee who have embraced Christian nationalist beliefs include David Barton, an amateur historian who has helped popularize the belief among conservatives that America’s founders envisioned the country as a Christian nation. Barton has derided the separation between church and state as “a myth invented by progressives” and argued the “first purpose” of public education is “to teach students to love and serve God.”

The platform committee also includes Tony Perkins, the president of the anti-LGBTQ+ advocacy group Family Research Council, LaDonna Ryggs, a South Carolina politician who has helped raise funds for the Christian nationalist Palmetto Family Council, and Lori Hinz, a Republican fixture in North Dakota.

Hinz, in reaction to being chosen for the committee, told a right-wing conference in May: “I’m thrilled to be chosen, because with my theological background, I put everything through the lens of the Bible, and that, on the platform committee, I think, is going to be integral and very important.” Hinz and Perkins did not respond to a request for comment.

Since the platform became public, Barton and Perkins have both complained that the Trump campaign reduced campaign outsiders’ influence on the platform ― particularly by deemphasizing abortion ― although Barton still endorsed the results.

“The 2024 platform is a decent statement of campaign priorities, but not necessarily the enduring principles of a party,” Perkins said in a statement to The New York Times.

“It has many excellent provisions and is strong in areas related to protecting gender distinctions, border security, combating crime, and defederalizing education,” he said in a statement to HuffPost. Although it takes “the weakest position on protecting unborn life” in recent memory, he said, “People of faith still have a clear choice in this election cycle.”