Monday, March 27, 2023

"Statue of Liberty Wears Chains and Shackles Honoring Freed Slaves" by Sharon Kyle | The LA Progressive

This is a largely unknown story about Lady Liberty's shackles and the cover up that's ensued since 1865. This is the first that I learn that the Statue of Liberty was, I quote:  "given to the U.S. as a monument to acknowledge the end of one of its biggest mistakes  — slavery."  It's really interesting that the original depiction of Lady Liberty had her "holding broken chains in her left hand, with more broken chains and broken shackles at her feet."

But, what most people don’t know, even today, is that Bartholdi left the broken shackles and chains that were at her feet (my emphasis).  These symbols of state-sponsored bondage, human chattel and the hypocrisy of American exceptionalism remain there on the Statue of Liberty as a permanent reminder of the slaves that contributed to the building of the United States.

This project was the brainchild of Edouard de Laboulaye, a French person behind on of our nation's most important icons.  Laboulaye was an abolitionist from France and co-founder of the French Anti-Slavery Society.  The sculptor, also French, was named Frederic Bartholdi.  The two planned all of this in 1865, the very year the U.S. passed the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution officially abolishing slavery.  However, due primarily to financing issuesand possibly, ideological ones, as well, as this story intimates, the actual installation on Liberty Island occurred 21 years later in 1886. Bartholdi ultimately had to compromise on this or jeopardize the financing of the project.

As the author muses, perhaps the financiers of this project themselves profited from slavery and were thus resistant to this representation.  Or maybe they were just exercising their privilege—and thusly, their power over representation and—much like many folks do today to appear as less racist than they really are, thinking, I suppose, that this detail would get lost over the generations.  Only more research can tell.  

In any case, a new book by Yasmin Sabina Kahn titled, Enlightening the World: The Creation of the Statue of Liberty, delves into this story which is deserving of our attention. Kahn refers to
Bartholdi's original depiction where she held broken chains on her left hand, and broken shackles at her feet, symbolizing the end of slavery in the U.S.

This history is totally buried in American lore about Lady Liberty. Geez, what we are not taught or ever told and that our legislatures want to keep us from learning.

-Angela Valenzuela



Khan, Y. S. (2010). Enlightening the world: the creation of the Statue of Liberty. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Statue of Liberty Wears Chains and Shackles Honoring Freed Slaves

The LA Progressive ran a story in the spring of 2011 that began with a
video of Sarah Palin being interviewed at Liberty Island. In it she is
asked about the symbolism of the Statue of Liberty, she responded:

“It is, of course, the symbol for
Americans to be reminded of other countries because this was gifted us,
of course by the French—other countries warning us to never make the
mistakes that some of them had made.”

Paraphrased, Palin was saying that France gave the United States the
statue to warn the U.S. not to commit the mistakes other countries 

The problem with her response –American exceptionalism and word salad aside
— is that it has no basis in fact. In other words, it is WRONG.

Historians tell us that the Statue of Liberty represents the OPPOSITE of
what Palin suggests. Instead of reminding the United States not to make
mistakes made by other countries, the Statue of Liberty was given to
the U.S. as a monument to acknowledge the end of one of its biggest
mistakes  — slavery.

When we ran the story in 2011, we got lots of feedback from readers
who were surprised to learn that our Statue of Liberty was in any way
connected to American slavery. However, several of our readers did some
checking on their own and commented that they couldn’t find information
corroborating our story. Some mentioned that the U.S. National Park
Service (the federal agency responsible for the Statue of Liberty)
offered information on their site that did not line up with what we were

In 2011, the U.S. Park Service made no mention of the chains or the
connection between the emancipation of the American slaves and the gift
from France — the Statue of Liberty.  Even though the U.S. Parks Service
was fully aware of the story, they did not mention it on their website
or any of the pamphlets given to tourists when visiting Lady Liberty.
But sometime between 2011 and 2014 the U.S. Parks Service made a
dramatic change. Today, the National Park Service website tells
the story of how the Statue of Liberty came to be in New York’s harbor
and its relationship to slavery. Following is an abbreviated version.

Statue of Liberty Wears Chains and Shackles

The statue on the left is a copy of an early version of the statue with chains in hand. The one on the right is the way she appears today. The Statue of Liberty that today sits on Liberty Island in New York harbor is known to have been the brainchild of noted Frenchmen and abolitionist Edouard de Laboulayea man so dedicated to the eradication of slavery that he co-founded the French Anti-Slavery Society. The idea for establishing a monument
specifically to honor the emancipation of slaves in America was
discussed between Laboulaye and Frederic Bartholdi, a French sculptor in 1865, the year the U.S. abolished slavery.

In addition to his abolition work, Laboulaye was also a U.S.
Constitution expert. Although we cannot know this for sure, one can only
imagine that the 1865 signing of the 13th amendment to the U.S.
Constitution would be very important to an abolitionist and likely
fueled Laboulaye’s desire to have the monument built. So, in 1865 he
shared this idea with Bartholdi, who later became the designer of the
statue, working closely with Laboulaye to make Laboulaye’s vision a

The connection between the Statue of Liberty and the abolition of
slavery is one that has been denied for 125 years. Almost from the start
of the project, the American financiers wanted no mention of slavery
and for 125 yrs they got their wish.

Although Laboulaye and Batholdi had envisioned a statue holding
broken chains and shackles (as shown in the image above on the left),
the early financiers that funded the project did not want chains on the
monument. It was the American backers who were most opposed to the
notion that the statue should in anyway acknowledge slavery. Because the
French, who were paying for the statue, were facing difficult economic
times, Laboulaye and Bartholdi relied on Americans to pay for and build
the pedestal where the statue would stand. This was an essential part of
the monument. Without American financial backing, the project could not
be completed, but the American financiers were adamant that Laboulaye
lose the chains and shackles. One can only surmise that some of the
backers may have made their fortunes directly or indirectly
through slavery.

In her book, Enlightening the World: The Creation of the Statue of Liberty,
Yasmin Sabina Kahn explained that although Laboulaye came upon the idea
and communicated it to Bartholdi in 1865, the political climate in
France at the time and a lack of funding made it impossible to raise
enough money to get the project off the ground for several years.
Indeed, it took the sculptor years to raise the funds. According to
Kahn, “Bartholdi’s original depiction of Lady Liberty had her holding
broken chains in her left hand, with more broken chains and broken
shackles at her feet. The chains were symbolic of the end of slavery in
the United States.”

Feet of the Statue of Liberty with chains
In lectures and on speaking tours, noted professor Dr. Joy DeGruy,
frequently talks about the chains that were part of the original
renderings of the Statue of Liberty. DeGruy explains that Bartholdi
intended the statue to represent democracy and to symbolize the end of
all types of oppression. However, according to DeGruy, the American
decision-makers of the day rebuffed Bartholdi for including the chains
and shackles and insisted that he remove them. Bartholdi was adamant
that they remain, although he eventually was forced to compromise
because he didn’t want to risk losing the financial support that was
making the project possible. Finally, he removed the chains from Lady
Liberty’s hand, replacing them with a book.

But, what most people don’t know, even today, is that Bartholdi left
the broken shackles and chains that were at her feet. These symbols of
state-sponsored bondage, human chattel and the hypocrisy of American
exceptionalism remain there on the Statue of Liberty as a permanent
reminder of the slaves that contributed to the building of the United

Because the height of the pedestal built to support the statue makes
it impossible to see the chains and shackles from the ground, most
people visiting Liberty Island remain unaware of them. This is where the
U. S. Parks Service plays a pivotal role.

While it is not surprising that Sarah Palin got it wrong, it should be noted
that if asked, most of us would likely get it wrong too.

Clearly, the chains were obvious when the statue was delivered and installed 125 years ago but that knowledge quickly faded from memory. Aided by the fact that the height of the
pedestal made the chains and shackles impossible to see unless one were
viewing the statue from a helicopter, the wishes of the original funders
were fulfilled. No one need know the true meaning of the Statue of
Liberty. For most of the years since the statue’s installation at
Liberty Island, its true meaning has been kept in the dark. Even the
U.S. agency tasked with the responsibility of caring for and educating
the public about the statue had a hand in keeping the true meaning

One contention of those in opposition to the idea that the statue
celebrated the end of slavery was the date the statue was proposed. Due
to lack of funding, more than 20 years passed between the time the
statue was first proposed in 1865 and the actual installation on Liberty
Island in 1886. Those who wanted to downplay the connection between the
statue and slavery insist that the year 1865 played no role in the idea
to build the monument.  In a report released by the U.S. Park Service
in 2000, the Park Service claimed that noted abolitionist Edouard de
Laboulaye did not propose the idea of constructing a monument in 1865.
Their report states:

sharon-kyle-moreThis story is a legend. All available evidence points to its conception in 1870 or 1871. The dinner party legend is traceable to a single source —
an 1885 fund-raising pamphlet written by the statue’s sculptor, Auguste
Bartholdi, after the death of Laboulaye.

But somewhere along the way, the U.S. Parks Service changed its position. They now admit that

  • the year 1865 was a key element of the story;
  • Laboulaye is the father of the idea for the monument; and
  • he was an abolitionist who wanted to honor the emancipation of the slaves.
Perhaps pressure was brought to bear on the agency forcing them to
change their literature and their website but today they devote pages to
the history of the statue and prominently state that the statue was a
gift to the United States from the people of France to celebrate “the
Union’s victory in the American Civil War and the abolition of slavery.”
You can find this and more at The National Parks Service website.

sharon kylestarted this piece with the video of Sarah Palin partly because any mention of Sarah somehow catches people’s attention but mostly because Sarah Palin’s understanding of the symbolism of the Statue of Liberty is probably not very different from most Americans. So while it is not surprising that Sarah Palin got it wrong, it should be noted that if
asked, most of us would likely get it wrong too.

As an American who is a decendent of slaves, I find it all the more shameful that this country continues to have countless monuments honoring men known to have been slaveholders but nothing honoring the millions whose blood, sweat and tears built this country. 

From that perspective, the story of the Statue of Liberty and how it came to be a part of our national landscape is as important as the story of Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride and should be as widely known. The National Park Service took an important step towards that end when it changed its position. And people like Dr. Joy DeGruy and others likely had a hand in making that happen.

To all who made that happen, I say thank you.

Sharon Kyle

Publisher, LA Progressive

(Dr. Joy DeGruy can be seen in the video below. She talks about the
statue at about 43 seconds into the video. She’s a great storyteller.
Watch it – you won’t be disappointed.)

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Educational Equity, Politics & Policy in Texas featured in Feedspot Top 30 Texas Education Blogs!

I'm so very honored and happy to tell you that this Texas Education blog is holding strong from when it made the Top 50 in 2020. It is clearly in the Top 30.  

Abundant thanks to Anuj Agarwal, the founder of Feedspot who determines this. 

I take this responsibility seriously and always in the service of social justice and all of humanity to the extent that I can and am able.

MuchĂ­simas gracias! Many thank-yous, Anuj! 

You made my day and week! 😊

-Angela Valenzuela


Hi Angela,

My name is Anuj Agarwal, I'm the Founder of Feedspot.

I would like to personally congratulate you as your blog 
Educational Equity, Politics & Policy in Texas has been selected by our panelist as one of the Top 30 Texas Education Blogs on the web.

You can change logo or profile pic of your blog or edit its description 
from this page.

I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world. This is the most comprehensive list of Top 30 Texas Education Blogs on the internet and I'm honored to have you as part of this!

We'd be grateful if you can help us spread the word by briefly mentioning about the Top 30 Texas Education Blogs list in any of your upcoming post.

Please feel free to reach out with any questions.



Gen Z Demand Racial Justice-Not just Diversity Equity and Inclusion from Brands by Kian Bakhtiari in Forbes Magazine

This piece provides a great counterweight to the one I just posted to this blog. The more I learn and read about Gen Z, the more convinced I am that all these terrible anti-diversity and DEI bills that amount to what folks call the "Culture Wars," are literally an attack on Gen Z (and younger Millennials) by Boomer and Gen X-ers.

Why? Because due to technology, the Internet, and the Cloud—and the world our society has intentionally crafted for them—they are "digital natives" and as a consequence, largely "see" themselves—unlike prior age-generational cohorts—as a generation. And that's powerful. 

Republicans are terrified of them—specifically in the sense of wanting to hold on, as long as they can, to their incumbencies. Hence, the legislative animus.

I read these news and my heart grows large and warm. In contrast, the deeply concerning piece I just posted on The New Children's Crusade by Josephine Lee in the Texas Observer, is spiteful and hateful. These youth really do need to wake up to the love, beauty and power for good of Gen Z. 

These are my kids and our students. I can't ever love them enough or too much. Most importantly, they're hip to creating a new world where diversity and social justice, as the piece below expresses, go hand-in-hand.

These contrasts expose how religion and Christianity are caught up with power. What they may not notice is how this posturing neutralizes their presumed moral authority.

One can never separate knowledge from the idea of its ethical production and secondly, how this ethical knowledge, by definition, is at the service of both social justice and a wondrously diverse humanity.

Stay with it, Gen Z. Hang in there. These misguided leaders and legislators won't inspire another generation. They manifest no high-sounding rhetoric or any inspiring vision for the future. 

My Bible teaches me that the concept of freedom is akin to social justice, basic fairness and equity in a world where loving your neighbor as yourself is the highest ideal next to loving God. 

In all of my upbringing, this had never gotten labeled before as a "woke" ideology, so I guess it is now, rendering Christian nationalists, a big white club—not of skin color, but of being.

Jesus Christ wants you back, my friend. If what you're reading here speaks to you, I highly recommend listening to Arnold Schwarzenegger who has a powerful message on this very topic of manipulation and the lifelong pain and struggle it causes. Again, this could honestly be otherwise. 

Pay attention to your greatest and highest good. 

Life is too short to be messing it up in this way, heading or letting yourself get directed toward the path of anger, hate, a false sense of entitlement, an accusatory posture toward "the other" and at its worst, an indifference to human suffering.

Consider the Mayan philosophical understanding contained within the concept of "In Lak Ech," meaning that whatever you do to another, you do to yourself.  This is a restatement of the Golden Rule, no less.

Make this your moment. Make this your inheritance. 

Love is the answer. It always has been. It always will be. 🧡

-Angela Valenzuela

#TheShift #LoveNotHate

Gen-Z Demand Racial Justice, Not Just Diversity, Equity And Inclusion From Brands

 June 5, 2022 | Forbes Magazine

In 2022, every company is expected to have a diversity and inclusion strategy. The murder of George Floyd has catapulted corporate DEI commitments into the public spotlight. Many companies have made bold statements on diversity and inclusion in response to consumer demand. And now they have to deliver. There is nowhere to hide.

Gen-Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in U.S. history. More than 48% are non-white. In the U.K., 40% of the population is estimated to be non-white by 2061. Meanwhile, in Brazil, most of the population identifies as Black or mixed race. The world population is becoming increasingly multicultural. In simple terms, young people are growing up exposed to different cultures. Thus, living in more diverse communities compared to their parents.

Unsurprisingly, most young people demand equal access to opportunities and social justice. Progress is measured through collective achievement, not only individual gains. Many will only work and buy from brands that contribute to a more inclusive world.

It starts with the business

Historically, companies have taken the most convenient option when tackling diversity and inclusion. But the easy route isn’t always the best. The quick win for brands comes from showcasing diverse talent in advertising campaigns. Of course, representation matters. But onscreen diversity doesn’t always translate into a more inclusive and equitable company.

Consumers and employees won’t hesitate to call brands out for performative activism. Young people can now research and investigate words against actions. A quick Google search can reveal the disparity between your marketing communications and internal leadership team. If your advertising is more diverse than your company, more focus and investment need to be placed on internal action. The best place to start is identifying and removing all the barriers that prevent marginalized groups from having equal access to opportunities.

Diverse partners and suppliers

Once the internal work has been done to make the business more inclusive and equitable, brands can begin to diversify their list of suppliers. Around the world, there is an incredible number of so-called minority-owned businesses. Instead of working with the same legacy partners and suppliers, brands should actively seek out and collaborate with a diverse roster of agencies, consultancies and partners. After all, marketing should reflect the diverse needs and cultural values of consumers. The journey begins with procurement. Similar to nature, monocultures stunt creativity and growth. In contrast, diverse suppliers make supply chains more competitive and agile.

A supplier diversity program should be at the heart of diversity and inclusion policies. Being an equitable business includes every aspect of the supply chain, not only employees. Global brands have the platform and resources to support minority-owned businesses—facing systematic barriers. Inclusive procurement means creating new policies and KPIs. For example, make sure at least 20% of suppliers invited to your Request for Proposal (RFP) are diverse. Despite being harder to implement than a brand campaign. The impact on underrepresented communities is long term and structural. Unless we address financial inclusion for underrepresented communities, nothing will change.

Amplify community voices

For multinational corporations armed with big marketing budgets and global reach. It can be easy to position your brand as the hero of the story. But in truth, movements and organizations already exist in small pockets. The role of brands should be to listen to their stories, amplify their voices and accelerate their impact.

A top-down approach won’t be accepted or respected by local communities. If brands want to play a credible role in building an inclusive future. They need to collaborate with people with lived experience throughout the creative process. In other words, don’t create work for the community without the community. Besides, championing existing movements can be more effective than building your own from scratch. Young people have the answers but not the platform. Co-creation with relevant communities can create original and powerful results. But community members need to be credited and remunerated.

For a long time, the case for diversity and equity was centred around the business case. Most diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) projects appealed to business leaders and shareholders’ desire to increase profits. Now the conversation shifts to social justice and equal access to opportunities. The brands that make inclusivity part of their core mission—not a PR statement—will win the hearts and minds of a new generation of citizens. Not consumers.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedInCheck out my website

 I am the founder of The People, a next-gen marketing consultancy. I was formerly Head of Strategy at Dentsu, one of the largest media and advertising groups in the world. For my contributions to marketing, I have been named as one of the Top 20 Future Leaders by the Financial Times. I’m also a Global Judge for the Festival of Media, a One Young World Ambassador, and an Agenda Contributor to the World Economic Forum. I'm passionate about bridging the gap between brands and young people. And using the power of creativity for good.

The New Children’s Crusade: Recruiting for America’s Culture War: Powerful interests are sending Texas youth out to do battle against LGBTQ+ people, abortion, and progressive causes

Everybody needs to read this eye-opening piece authored by journalist Josephine Lee in the Texas Observer.

What's amazing to consider is just how divergent these youth are from their Gen Z age-generational cohort that as a group, trends liberal, if not progressive. That is clearly the very reason that these youth are targeted. They'll convince a few and make a lot of trouble, but I don't see a lot of Gen Z youth buying this, particularly since Gen Z youth are the most diverse age-generational cohort in the history of our country. If my own children and our students are any clue, they further love and appreciate this diversity. 

Heck, we got pronouns from Gen Z. It's not at all about political correctness, but about being respectful toward diversity and referring to people how they want to get called.

In contrast, Christian nationalism is anti-diversity and misguided as this piece clearly demonstrates. It's such a hateful agenda with rhetoric to match on race and gender in a way that is not at all consistent with Jesus Christ whom they presumably worship. Christian nationalism is absolutely the biggest threat to religious freedom in our nation today.

Here is a critical paragraph from within that's quite telling of how Christian Baptists, in particular have trended:

"Unlike the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), BJC maintains what Executive Director Amanda Tyler calls the historic Baptist principle of separation between church and state. Since the 1980s, the SBC has turned toward a fundamentalist reading of the Bible and toward Christian nationalism. Its increasingly incendiary rhetoric on race and gender since the convention’s embrace of Trump in 2016 has caused many Black and female Baptists to split with the SBC."

So the SBC doesn't believe in the separation of church and state? That's good to know. I'm sure they support vouchers.  Moreover, they "embrace" Trump? So shameful. Sounds like a big, right-wing club. So unfortunate.

This tells it all. Eyes wide open, my friends.

-Angela Valenzuela

Wearing a blue America First cap, 19-year-old Max White stood among a dozen protesters, softly mouthing the Hail Mary prayers over and over: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.” 

Around White flew the flags of right-wing extremist groups, including the American Nationalist Initiative and the New Columbia Movement, carried by men who looked to be in their 20s, strapped with rosaries or assault rifles or both. On a cloudless January day in Dallas, they faced off against a group of nearly 100 community members who showed up to support the drag show performance that White and his peers were protesting. 

“I started going to these events last year, starting with the Pride event in Oak Lawn. … I was like, ‘If these people are going to go and protest this kind of stuff, just perverse sexual stuff for kids, I’m going,’” he said. 

Since he was 16, White has been following young white-supremacist agitator Nick Fuentes and groups like Protect Texas Kids, which has been targeting drag shows in North Texas, including the one that day in Dallas. The organization was founded and is directed by recent college graduate Kelly Neidert, who achieved notoriety by calling for transgender people to be criminalized and Pride event participants to be “rounded up” while she was the chapter chair of the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) at the University of North Texas in Denton. Now she is using the activism skills she learned from YCT to lead other young conservatives like White, a freshman political science major who hopes to become a lawyer one day.



“You have all these groups that are weaponizing young people in ways that we really haven’t seen before,” conservative political consultant Micah Bock told a group of teenagers and younger children to thunderous applause at last fall’s Texas Youth Summit. As he spoke, young girls at the front of the crowd took notes with their pom-pom pens bobbing. 

It’s all part of a nationwide effort by multiple well-funded groups, many of which originated or are based in Texas, to mobilize young people, mainly Christian youth, to engage in right-wing politics. These groups and their leaders are part of a roll-call of Christian nationalist power players who defend the January 6 riots, promote hate speech, and aim to build their economic and political power by instilling Christian and constitutional “originalism” in the public sphere. To achieve their goals, they are increasingly defending the use of violence, particularly anti-LGBTQ+ violence, which has shot up in frequency since the start of 2022. 

What’s more, the leaders of the movement are set on convincing young people, starting even before high school, that they are the underdogs in this fight—the under-funded rebels fighting a rich, powerful leftist establishment–and that what they’re engaged in is a holy war for America’s soul. 

The movement is meeting opposition from more progressive Christian leaders. 

“What I think they really are concerned about is their loss of a privileged place in terms of influence and power. I think Christian nationalism is being used as a tool to maintain and to galvanize that power,” said Fort Worth Pastor Michael Mills, an outspoken critic of that movement. 

“It feels a little bit like a form of indoctrination [in which] these poisonous ideas are passed from one generation to the next,” he said. “If there are no checks on that, it’s almost like, [as] each generation gets older, they get more and more dangerous, in a sense. And that’s the scary part.”

At the Texas Youth Summit, podcaster Allie Beth Stuckey had called on her audience of about 500, some as young as elementary-school age, to stand up “for God and freedom” and against “the evil people who hate our country and Constitution.” They shouldn’t be afraid of being alienated for their beliefs, she said.

“You absolutely are a threat to secular progressivism. You are a threat to abortion,” she said. Today’s Christians in the United States “are simply carrying the torch that Christians have carried for thousands of years” by fighting evil, she said, to a standing ovation.

Klein Oak High School student Meredith Carrasco, 17, said she felt more emboldened to post political messages on social media after listening to Stuckey and other speakers at the Texas Youth Summit. 

“The main lesson is you can’t be afraid, like the way we see a lot of conservatives are. … We don’t speak up and we kind of just let everyone walk all over us,” Carrasco said. 

Another YCT alumnus who’s been in the news is Kelly’s brother, Jake Neidert, who had previously posted on social media: “You want to force kids to see drag shows, I want to ‘drag’ you to the town square to be publicly executed for grooming kids.” His efforts caught the attention of Texas state Representative Tony Tinderholt, who recently hired Jake as his new legislative director.

YCT now has 24 chapters across Texas, many of them formed in the past year, according to former Sam Houston State University chapter chair Johnny Uribe. His YCT chapter and others, Uribe said, receive funding from national right-wing youth groups like Turning Point USA (TPUSA) and the Leadership Institute to train young right-wing activists on how to take up the gauntlet for conservative causes. 


For students who sign up online to join Turning Point USA, the organization offers “activism kits” that include not only handbooks and posters but also buttons that read: “All guns matter,” “9mm beats 9-11,” “Stay Strapped,” and “Yeah, Rights”—with a target as the dot of the “i” and an assault rifle slashing through the rest of the word. The group’s website claims it has more than 3,000 chapters on school campuses, including more than 100 in Texas. 

Turning Point also offers students training to expose teachers and professors with “radical and anti-American agendas.” Chapters that recruit more students earn “Patriot Points,” which can then be cashed in for things like AirPods or sneakers—or be put toward airfare to go meet the group’s executive director and founder, Charlie Kirk, the man who recently called for an “amazing patriot” to bail out the attacker of Paul Pelosi, husband of then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. A day before the January 6 riots, Kirk tweeted that two of his organizations—Trump Students and Turning Point Action—were sending more than 80 buses full of young people to “fight for the president.” 

In January, the Texas Observer reported on how students of the University of Texas at Arlington chapter of TPUSA were promoting transphobic and homophobic ideas, as well as ideas about the racist “great replacement theory” on the chapter’s Discord chatroom.  


Kirk created TPUSA in 2012 as a conservative youth organization to promote free market capitalism and limited government. But in recent years, the organization has increasingly espoused Christian nationalism, the belief that the U.S. government was founded on and should be governed by Biblical principles. Kirk publicly promoted Christian nationalism with radio and TV host Jack Hibbs, pastor of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills in California. Hibbs has defended the January 6 riots as a consequence of “eject[ing] God from the courts and from the schools.” After that, Kirk jumped on the religious education bandwagon, creating the Turning Point Academy to offer a “Christian, classical, conservative, church-based” curriculum designed “to glorify God and preserve the founding principles of the United States.” 

Another organization the Texas Youth Summit promoted is Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), part of a network of conservative think tanks including those in the Koch network. YAF has been around since 1960, but its program called Standing Up for Faith and Freedom was organized only about two years ago to train Catholic school students to advance right-wing politics on campus.  

In 2016, college chapters of the Austin-based Young Americans for Liberty (YAL ) hosted alt-right former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos’ “Dangerous Faggot Tour,” during which he told audiences, “I don’t know whether they [sexual assault victims] want men to rape more simply to have something to complain about.” The group provides legal representation for students who challenge campus hate speech bans, free speech zones, or gun-free zones in the name of “restoring the right to non-lethal self-defense on campus and to our notorious fight for Free Speech.” 

The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), whose research has been used by humanitarian agencies and the United Nations, reports that acts of anti-LGBTQ+ political violence tripled from 2021 to 2022 and anti-LGBTQ+ demonstrations have more than doubled in the same period. 

Despite the growing violence and the reported growth in the number of student chapters and members of right-wing youth groups, their efforts haven’t appreciably affected the Texas youth vote. Here, voters aged 18 to 29 made up 15 percent of the total vote during the 2022 midterms—a larger share than the national average of 12 percent. But the percentage of Texas youths voting for conservative candidates has dropped. In 2014, 49 percent of voters aged 18 to 29 voted for Governor Greg Abbott. In 2018, that number decreased to 36 percent and then 33 percent this past election. 

As Christian nationalists have become more vocal and aggressive in recruiting young people, religious opposition to their efforts has grown.

In 2019, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC) formed the Christians Against Christian Nationalism campaign after a series of violent attacks, including the one at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, were carried out in the name of Christian nationalism. BJC’s recent report details the Christian nationalist rhetoric and symbols rioters used during the January 6 insurrection. 

Unlike the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), BJC maintains what Executive Director Amanda Tyler calls the historic Baptist principle of separation between church and state. Since the 1980s, the SBC has turned toward a fundamentalist reading of the Bible and toward Christian nationalism. Its increasingly incendiary rhetoric on race and gender since the convention’s embrace of Trump in 2016 has caused many Black and female Baptists to split with the SBC.

BJC has organized nearly 30,000 faith leaders across the country to endorse the Christians Against Christian Nationalism campaign. More than 2,000 faith leaders from Texas have signed the Christians Against Christian Nationalism Statement, and many are speaking out

“We can’t have Christian nationalism and religious freedom at the same time. … Christian nationalism is not only incompatible with religious freedom but it is in combat with it. I think Christian nationalism is the single biggest threat to religious freedom in America today,” Tyler said. 

BJC has also created resources for faith leaders to confront Christian nationalist thinking among their members. 

Mills, the pastor at Agape Baptist Church in Fort Worth, said faith leaders need to be more vigilant in addressing Christian nationalist thinking among their congregations. “If some kind of Christian nationalist ideology kind of rears its head, even just in passing, you know, I do feel some responsibility to name it and to call it out and say, ‘Actually, that’s not really what we’re about,’” Mills said.  

Southern Baptist ministers and other conservative Texas church leaders have helped give the state one of the highest Christian nationalism “scores” in the country, according to the Baylor Religion Survey, which measures the degree of Christian nationalist beliefs among respondents across the nation. From firebrand First Baptist Church Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress to David Barton, leader of Project Blitz and founder of Wallbuilders, Texas Southern Baptists have actively challenged the boundaries of the Johnson Amendment, the tax law that prohibits religious organizations from endorsing political candidates. 

Steve Riggle, pastor of the nondenominational Grace Woodlands Church that hosted last year’s Texas Youth Summit, is an executive member of the Houston-based U.S. Pastor Council, which claims to represent 1,000 Texan pastors and whose “AMERICA Plan” encourages them to distribute election guides, register congregants to vote, and discuss political issues from the pulpit. The organization has campaigned to repeal the federal marriage equality act. In 2015, the council led the opposition that succeeded in killing the proposed Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, which would have banned discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity by municipal and private entities. 

Since Trump, the Christian nationalist movement is “in many ways, more upfront than before, even [more than] during the Bush administration in the 2000s,” said Andrew Whitehead, author of Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States

Lance Aksamit, 35, grew up in a Christian nationalist family and church but has since repudiated those beliefs. He narrates his experience growing up as a young Christian nationalist in the early 2000s in his forthcoming book, Youth Group: Coming of age in the church of Christian Nationalism. Aksamit agrees that right-wing youth organizations are now more aggressively promoting Christian nationalism, particularly the Christian nationalist dominionist ideology. The dominionist Seven Mountain Mandate posits that Christianity should dictate all aspects of society, from family, religion, and education to media, entertainment, business, and government. In a 2020 speech, Kirk suggested that Trump was a dominionist. “Finally, we have a president that understands the seven mountains of cultural influence,” the Turning Point leader said.

Aksamit said some churches are now openly pushing Christian nationalist ideology on younger and younger kids. 


“The more that they can immerse these kids in it at a very young age, the more they can get them to accept the simple tenets of Christian evangelicalism … then they have huge amounts of these kids who have already been inundated with these ideas. So they don’t have to recruit them.” Such groups, he said, offer free events with “music and bright lights” and time away from parents—“the same things they used to [attract] all of us when I was a kid.”

At the youth summit, Woodlands High School student Tino Russell said he has become convinced that the main problem for right-wing organizations is a lack of money. He referred to Christian nationalists as “the poor side” of the debate.

The left has “all these huge corporations with millions of dollars. So they pretty much can do anything,” Russell said. 

One particular national organization is part of the DNA of many groups involved in the right-wing children’s crusade. Leaders of Turning Point USA, Leadership Institute, Young Americans for Freedom, Students for Life, and funders of the Texas Youth Summit all belong to the Council for National Policy (CNP), a secretive group of right-wing elites who have driven conservative politics from behind the scenes. That group’s membership rolls, as revealed by the investigative journalism project Documented and the Southern Poverty Law Center, include or have included TPUSA’s Charlie Kirk; Leadership Institute founder and president Morton Blackwell; former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, now president of the Young America’s Foundation; and Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins.

Another CNP member is Chris Wilson, former advisor to U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and a founder of WPA Intelligence and Patriot Mobile. The last is a “Christian cell phone company” that has been bankrolling activities ranging from the Texas Youth Summit to the placement of “In God We Trust” posters in Texas schools and the campaigns of right-wing candidates for Texas school board races. 

Either directly or through CNP’s network, these youth organizations have been funded by CNP-affiliated foundations. Those include the Charles Koch Foundation and the Koch-funded DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund. According to 2020 tax records, DonorsTrust contributed more than $3 million to Christian nationalist youth groups. The Prince Foundation, the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, and the National Christian Foundation are also major contributors to the CNP and have contributed to these youth organizations. 

Back at the Texas Youth Summit, the young audience rose to applaud as Stuckey concluded her speech with a vision of what Christian youth, involved in right-wing politics, could accomplish for the nation. 

“One day there will be no more politics … or elections,” she said, “because every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

Aksamit said people who are recruited to Christian nationalism as youngsters may not be able to free themselves from it until they get out in the world. It didn’t happen for him, he said, until he left his hometown, traveled, and was challenged by differing viewpoints.

“I had very much connected American exceptionalism with my religious identity. Those two things came hand in hand,” he said. When he started traveling, his experiences made those ideas crumble like a house of cards: “Once it started cracking, it just had no choice but to crumble.”