Investigative Reporter & Author
Religious Liberty, Politics, Education
- An Evening with Katherine Stewart
“Lucid, alarming, and very important.”―Michelle Goldberg
“Required reading.” ―The Washington Post
Katherine Stewart is an investigative reporter and author who has covered politics, extremism, and the rise of Christian nationalism for over 15 years. Her latest book, The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2020) won First Place for Excellence in Nonfiction Books from the Religion News Association. The Power Worshippers also won a Morris D. Forkosch Best Book award. Stewart’s previous book, The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children (Public Affairs, 2012) was a look at the religious right’s efforts to infiltrate and undermine public education. In 2022 The Power Worshippers was optioned by Warner Media and Castle Rock and formed the basis of the forthcoming documentary God & Country, produced by Rob Reiner.
The Power Worshippers is a rare look inside the machinery of the movement that brought Donald Trump to power. In her deeply reported investigation, Katherine Stewart reveals a disturbing truth: this is a political movement that seeks to gain power and to impose its vision on all of society. Stewart pulls back the curtain on the inner workings and leading personalities of a movement that has turned religion into a tool for domination.
The Texas Observer says of this exposé, “With more than a decade of experience covering conservative Christianity, Stewart is adept at conveying the gravity of its aims. She goes deeper than any facile culture-wars discourse, digging into the evangelical right’s fervor to gain political power and privilege in the name of religious liberty.” William Barber, President of Repairers of the Breach & Co-Chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, notes: “Read The Power Worshippers and you will understand why nothing is more important to the health of our common life than challenging the false moral narrative of religious nationalism.”
Stewart started her career in journalism working for investigative reporter Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times op ed, the Atlantic, the Guardian, Washington Post, The New Republic, and The New York Review of Books.
Katherine Stewart is an investigative reporter and author who has covered religious liberty, politics, policy, and education for over a decade. She is the author of The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children (Public Affairs, 2012); and The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2022). Her writing has appeared in The New York Times op ed, the Atlantic, the Guardian, Washington Post, The New Republic, and The New York Review of Books.
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The Power Workshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism
For too long the Religious Right has masqueraded as a social movement preoccupied with a number of cultural issues, such as abortion and same-sex marriage. In her deeply reported investigation, Katherine Stewart reveals a disturbing truth: this is a political movement that seeks to gain power and to impose its vision on all of society. America’s religious nationalists aren’t just fighting a culture war, they are waging a political war on the norms and institutions of American democracy.
Stewart pulls back the curtain on the inner workings and leading personalities of a movement that has turned religion into a tool for domination. She exposes a dense network of think tanks, advocacy groups, and pastoral organizations embedded in a rapidly expanding community of international alliances and united not by any central command but by a shared, anti-democratic vision and a common will to power. She follows the money that fuels this movement, tracing much of it to a cadre of super-wealthy, ultraconservative donors and family foundations. She shows that today’s Christian nationalism is the fruit of a longstanding antidemocratic, reactionary strain of American thought that draws on some of the most troubling episodes in America’s past. It forms common cause with a globe-spanning movement that seeks to destroy liberal democracy and replace it with nationalist, theocratic and autocratic forms of government around the world. Religious nationalism is far more organized and better funded than most people realize. It seeks to control all aspects of government and society. Its successes have been stunning, and its influence now extends to every aspect of American life, from the White House to state capitols, from our schools to our hospitals.
The Power Worshippers is a brilliantly reported book of warning and a wake-up call. Stewart’s probing examination demands that Christian nationalism be taken seriously as a significant threat to the American republic and our democratic freedoms.
The Good News Club: The Christian Right's Stealth Assault on America's Children
In 2009, the Good News Club came to the public elementary school where journalist Katherine Stewart sent her children. The Club, which is sponsored by the Child Evangelism Fellowship, bills itself as an after-school program of “Bible study.” But Stewart soon discovered that the Club’s real mission is to convert children to fundamentalist Christianity and encourage them to proselytize to their “unchurched” peers, all the while promoting the natural but false impression among the children that its activities are endorsed by the school. Astonished to discover that the U.S. Supreme Court has deemed this — and other forms of religious activity in public schools — legal, Stewart set off on an investigative journey to dozens of cities and towns across the nation to document the impact. In this book she demonstrates that there is more religion in America’s public schools today than there has been for the past 100 years. The movement driving this agenda is stealthy. It is aggressive. It has our children in its sights. And its ultimate aim is to destroy the system of public education as we know it.
Articles & Audio
Read What’s In Print
• Review of The Power Worshippers by Katherine Stewart – Foreign Affairs
• Why Christian nationalists think Trump is heaven-sent – Washington Post
• Review: The Power Worshippers by Katherine Stewart – Publishers Weekly
Listen to Audio
• The Religious Right’s Rise to Power – The Brian Lehrer Show
• Interview with Katherine Stewart, Author of The Power Worshippers – The Mindshift Podcast
• Read: “Trump or No Trump, Religious Authoritarianism Is Here to Stay” – New York Times
• Read: “Coronavirus home schooling highlights the religious right’s influence” – NBC
“The Real Meaning of ‘Religious Liberty’: A License to Discriminate” (an excerpt)
This past January, on national Religious Freedom Day, President Trump announced a new set of recommended regulations that will make it possible for essential care providers receiving government funds to discriminate on the basis of religion. Under the new regulations, a nonprofit religious organization that accepts government grants will potentially exclude gay people from receiving certain benefits. Counseling organizations that receive vouchers or other forms of “indirect aid” from the government may be allowed to tell their patients that submission to God will solve their problems. Food pantries receiving government aid in a similar fashion may require that clients attend religious services in order to receive benefits.
All of them will be allowed to exercise faith-based discrimination in hiring. None of them will henceforth be under any obligation to inform the people receiving their services about secular alternatives, nor will the government be required to provide them. This is what “religious freedom” has come to mean in Trump’s America.
Religious nationalists have succeeded in framing the issue of religious freedom as one that involves wedding service providers, such as cake bakers, florists, and other sensitive people performing personal but also hardly life-saving or essential services. Setting aside the question of principle—Is it ever right to grant business a license to discriminate against law-abiding citizens in this way?—the implication of these narratives is that the stakes are small: Why not take your business over to a baker who will actually find some pleasure in helping you celebrate your happy day?
But to see what’s truly at issue in the Trump administration’s focus in the area of health care, it is illuminating to understand the consequences of religious exemptions that have long been in place within the Catholic health care system. This type of “religious freedom” for essential care providers has already become a matter of life and death for patients across the country.