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Religion News Service awarded grant from Stiefel Freethought Foundation

Stiefel Freethought Foundation

Religion News Service is pleased to announce a $300,000 grant from the Stiefel Freethought Foundation to fund a three-year reporting project that will delve into the origins and aims of the white Christian nationalist movement and the dangers it poses to democracy.

The grant will allow RNS to produce investigative stories exploring the movement’s aspirations and the threat it poses to democratic rule, settled law and the social order. It will also fund a website featuring sources and experts for journalists to expand their coverage of white Christian nationalism. Stories will be distributed to RNS’ subscribing and partner news outlets, including The Associated Press and The Washington Post, for republication.

“The link between religion and the recent threats to an open and inclusive democracy in the United States is one of the most urgent stories of our times, and one Religion News Service reporters are passionate about,” said RNS Editor-in-Chief Paul O’Donnell. “This grant gives us the ability to continue to pursue this topic wherever it leads.”

American history took a sharp turn last year when a mob including many white Christian nationalists, invoking God, attacked the U.S. Capitol to try to thwart the certification of President Joseph Biden’s electoral victory.

But that was just the beginning.

The religious fervor of white Christian supremacy was on display in the manifesto written by an 18-year old shooter who murdered 10 Black people in a Buffalo supermarket in May. It is on display in FOX TV host Tucker Carlson’s monologues about the “Great Replacement.” And it has taken root among a number of Republican Party candidates running for office in the 2022 midterms.

This project will explore the foundations of Christian nationalist history in law and politics, its views on gun control measures and minority voting rights; the escalating violence among some of its adherents, including in the Jan. 6 insurrection; other acts of domestic terrorism; and the movement’s growing ties to the nativism of the Russian Orthodox Church and admiration for Vladimir Putin.

More broadly, the Stiefel Freethought Foundation grant will allow RNS reporters to develop a comprehensive picture of how white Christian nationalists seek to impose their beliefs on American society at the expense of minority faiths or people of no faith. It will look at ways white Christian nationalism has become part of a broader right-wing movement that includes white supremacists without an explicit Christian identity, and how all these groups are committed to instituting an ethno-culture that deems others as “un-American,” as Christian nationalists understand that term.

“Last fall I drove by a house flying an American flag and a Confederate flag, with a Trump yard sign saying ‘God, Guns & Country.’ It clearly summarized white Christian nationalism’s dangerous fusion of religion, militancy, and nationalism,” said Todd Stiefel, president of the Stiefel Freethought Foundation. “This donation to RNS will help reveal the threat posed by those who believe they have the divine right to rule over the rest of us.”

Deborah Caldwell, CEO of Religion News Foundation and publisher of Religion News Service, said: “We are grateful to the Stiefel Freethought Foundation for allowing us to expand critical and important coverage of white Christian nationalism that will help readers understand one of the most complex and consequential issues of our time. The partnership aligns with RNS’ mission to inform, illuminate and inspire public discourse on matters of faith and belief.”


Religion News Service is an independent, nonprofit source of global news on religion, spirituality, culture and ethics, reported by a staff of professional journalists. Founded in 1934, RNS informs readers with objective reporting and insightful commentary, and is relied upon by readers, listeners and viewers in the United States and around the world. Visit

The Stiefel Freethought Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit private foundation that fosters a world based on love and reason. Its mission is to secure humanity’s future by ensuring public policy decisions are based on love and reason rather than bias and dogma.

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