Project Blitz and the Texas Lege

What? You don’t know what Project Blitz is? It doesn’t have anything to do with Friday night lights or football, but the idea of flooding into an area to catch the other side unaware is right on point.

Here are links to two articles on Rewire.News (one and two) that go into a lot of detail on Project Blitz, but here are the basics:

  • Since 2015, groups with a Christian Nationalist / Dominionist focus have published a legislative playbook (referred to as Project Blitz) with very defined legislative goals and language, all designed to go into right into bills and achieve their agenda.
  • According to Michelle Goldberg, Christian Nationalism is a “political ideology that posits a Christian right to rule. Christian nationalists believe in a revisionist history, which holds that the founders were devout Christians who never intended to create a secular republic; separation of church and state, according to this history, is a fraud perpetrated by God-hating subversives. It’s important, I think, to separate [the faith of deeply committed Christians] from the authoritarian impulses of the Christian nationalist movement. Christianity is a religion. Christian nationalism is a political program, and there is nothing sacred about it.” Keep this in mind as you read the various sections of the playbook.
  • Three groups are behind Project Blitz: Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, National Legal Foundation, and WallBuilders. David Barton, from Aledo, TX, is the founder of WallBuilders and sits on the board of the National Legal Foundation, so helps directly position two of the organizations. Barton, via his WallBuilders organization, has created many Christian Nationalist books and videos, and is a former vice-chairman of the Texas Republican party.
  • The Project Blitz playbook suggests starting with “Legislation Regarding Our Country’s Religious Heritage” as these are likely to be the easiest to get passed and get a foot in the door. This is referred to as Category 1.
  • Category 2 are “Resolutions and Proclamations Recognizing the Importance of Religious History and Freedom”. Since these aren’t bills that require passage, these resolutions and proclamations simply advance the narrative. Category 1 & 2 pave the way for the real focus.
  • Legislation that provides the ability to discriminate against LGBTQ persons and inject religion into public schools are the real focus, which becomes clear in Category 3 “Religious Liberty Protection Legislation”.
  • The final element is Category 4 “Talking Points to Counter Anti-Religious Freedom Legislation”. This is where things like transgender conversion therapy are AOK and LGBTQ persons can be demonized as bad for society.

If you would like to read the full 2019 Project Blitz playbook, here is the link. It’s official title is the “Report and Analysis on Religious Freedom Measures Impacting Prayer and Faith in America”. It’s 148 pages long, with “legislation, proclamations, talking points, notes, and fact sheets”.

Project Blitz is a 50 state strategy. With the 86th Session of the Texas Legislature in full swing, and with the bill filing deadline having just passed (on 03/08), we can see which members of the Texas legislature are following the Christian Nationalist playbook.

Category 1 — Legislation Regarding Our Country’s Religious Heritage

Here is the Project Blitz recommendation

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And now compare HB 2216 filed by Kyle Biedermann, from House District 73, and it’s companion filed in the Senate by Bob Hall, from Senate District 2, SB 679.

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The next place that Project Blitz finds it’s way into a Texas Lege bill is from page 15, and the Civic Literacy Act.

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In SB 1776, from Donna Campbell, who represents Senate District 25 and Lois Kolkhorst, who represents Senate District 18, you see the parallels. The bill language isn’t quite as explicit with some of the references, but it captures the Project Blitz focus. (SB1776 was passed by the Texas Senate 31–0 on 04/23/19.)

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The last element in Category 1 that finds its way into a Texas Lege bill is the Bible Literacy Act

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Now take a look at SB 2090, filed by Bryan Hughes, State Senator representing District 1

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Category 2 — Resolutions and Proclamations Recognizing the Importance of Religious History and Freedom

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Category 3(a) — Religious Liberty Protection Legislation — Public Policy Resolutions

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Category 3(b) — Religious Liberty Protection Legislation — Protection for Professionals and Individuals

The bill that encompasses this goal for Project Blitz, and wades into several others at the same time, is HB 1035, filed by Bill Zedler, from House District 96, and co-authored by Kyle Biedermann, House District 73, Briscoe Cain, House District 128, Jonathan Stickland, House District 92, and James White, House District 19. (The bill added as co-authors Dan Flynn HD2, DeWayne Burns HD58, Travis Clardy HD11, Cody Harris HD8, Cole Hefner HD5, Justin Holland HD33, Phil King HD61, Mike Lang HD60, Mayes Middleton HD23, Rick Miller HD26, Tom Oliverson HD130, Jared Patterson HD106, Valoree Swanson HD150, Tony Tinderholt HD94, and Steve Toth HD15)

This is truly the kitchen sink approach to discrimination. Because this bill has SO MUCH content, I’m going to split it up differently from previous bills. I’m going to go section by section with the element from the Project Blitz playbook, and then the bill, toggling back and forth.

The definitions are how the bill opens, and are pretty much a direct copy from the Project Blitz playbook.

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And then we move to the focus from Blitz

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And the focus for HB 1035

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This is where Sincerely Held Religous Beliefs or Moral Convictions get defined. It’s just two things:

  1. Marriage is one man and one woman
  2. Man and woman are defined by your anatomy when you were born

Item (2) is a callback to one of the Blitz resolutions in Category 3(a), on birth gender.

Next up is the Interpretation

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Which HB 1035 refers to as “Construction of Chapter”

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Then it’s Prohibition and Enforcement

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Project Blitz takes a very high level approach, not calling out specific areas to which it applies. HB 1035 takes it MUCH farther, calling out very specific scenarios.

  • Activities Of Religious Organizations
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  • Sex Reassignment or Gender Identity
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  • Marriage-Related Goods and Services
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The element above borrows from Section 5 of the Clergy Protection Act (on page 98 of the playbook)

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  • Employee and Student Policies
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Before I continue, take a look at (2) above. Realize this is another way to get a “bathroom bill”.

  • Governmental Employee Speech or Conduct
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  • Recusal From Marriage Licensing
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  • Recusal From Marriage Performance
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Above is another element from the Clergy Protection Act (Page 98)

  • And Accreditation, Licensing, and Certification
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This is pulling an element from the Licensed Professionals Civil Rights Act (page 106)

Wow. There is a lot there. Maybe too much to get passed. So why not run a bit of a misdirection. Let HB 1035 take a lot of the flak, and push another bill with the same intent, just softer language. Stepping into fill the role, you have HB 3172 from Matt Krause, from House District 93. (Added as co-authors are Steve Allison, Charles Anderson, Trent Ashby, Cecil Bell, Keith Bell, Kyle Biedermann, Dwayne Bohac, Greg Bonnen, DeWayne Burns, Briscoe Cain, Gio Capriglione, Travis Clardy, John Cyrier, Jay Dean, Dan Flynn, James Frank, Cody Harris, Cole Hefner, Justin Holland, Kyle Kacal, Phil King, John Kuempel, Stan Lambert, Brooks Landgraf, Mike Lang, Jeff Leach, Ben Leman, Will Metcalf, Mayes Middleton, Rick Miller, Geanie Morrison, Jim Murphy, Candy Noble, Tom Oliverson, Tan Parker, Jared Patterson, Dennis Paul, Scott Sanford, Matt Schaefer, Matt Shaheen, Hugh Shine, John Smithee, Phil Stephenson, Jonathan Stickland, Lynn Stucky, Valoree Swanson, Ed Thompson, Tony Tinderholt, Steve Toth, Gary VanDeaver, James White, Terry Wilson, and Bill Zedler) The companion bill to HB3172 is SB1979, filed by Bryan Hughes (SD1), co-authored by Bob Hall (SD2).

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Krause’s bill leverages the same basic definitions, relief, and interpretations as HB 1035. But take a look at the Action Prohibited.

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Remember Section 5. This is the same as HB 1035. Just a more palatable way of saying it.

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Next up, is the previously mentioned Clergy Protection Act. And yes, we have bills filed here as well.

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SB 1009, filed by Brian Birdwell, State Senator from District 22, and mirrored by HB 2109 from Dan Flynn, House District 2 and Rick Miller, House District 26, uses fewer words than Section 4 above, but meets the intent. Notice it doesn’t call out what the sincerely held religious beliefs are. This opens it up to be leveraged much broader than just discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

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Project Blitz also calls for protection of Licensed Professionals

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State Senator Bob Hall, from Senate District 2 filed SB 85 to protect:

  • Psychologists (Chapter 501)
  • Marriage and Family Therapists (502)
  • Licensed Professional Counselors (503)
  • Chemical Dependency Counselors (504)
  • Social Workers (505)
  • Behavior Analysts (506)

This bill repeats the came core language, for each of the roles above, allowing providers to refuse service due to an undefined “sincerely held religious belief”.

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Following the same logic as Senator Hall but applying it to broader health care services and referring to “conscience” rather than sincerly held religious beliefs, SB 1107 from Lois Kolkhurst, State Senator from district 18 (adding as co-authors Bob Hall SD2 and Charles Perry SD28), and HB 2892 from Tom Oliverson, from House district 130 (adding as co-authors Charles Anderson, Kyle Biedermann, Greg Bonnen, DeWayne Burns, Briscoe Cain, Gio Capriglione, John Cyrier, Jay Dean, Cody Harris, Cole Hefner, Matt Krause, Mike Lang, Will Metcalf, Mayes Middleton, Rick Miller, Jim Murphy, Andrew Murr, Jared Patterson, Scott Sanford, Matt Schaefer, Matt Shaheen, Phil Stephenson, Jonathan Stickland, Lynn Stucky, Valoree Swanson, Tony Tinderholt, Steve Toth, James White and Bill Zedler) gives doctors the ability to refuse services unless the patient’s life is in danger.

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Broadening the definition to encompass both counselors and health care providers, here is HB4357, filed by Scott Sanford, from House District 70.

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Originally filed as SB444 by Charles Perry, from Senate District 28, Brian Birdwell, from Senate District 22, and Bryan Hughes, from Senate District 1, SB 17 was refiled with just Perry and Birdwell associated (added as co-authors Paul Bettencourt, Donna Campbell, Brandon Creighton, Bob Hall and Eddie Lucio) with HB 2827 providing the mirrored bill in the House, filed by Phil King, House District 61 (adding Tom Oliverson as co-author). This bill provides that a state agency cannot adopt a rule, regulation, or policy or impose a penalty due to “sincerely held religious beliefs”.

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Here is a list of the professions that the Texas Department Of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR), which would be covered by this bill, oversees:

  • Air Conditioning and Refrigeration
  • Athletic Trainers
  • Auctioneers
  • Barbering
  • Behavior Analysts
  • Boiler Safety
  • Code Enforcement Officers
  • Combative Sports (i.e., boxing and mixed martial arts)
  • Cosmetologists
  • Dietitians
  • Driver Education and Safety
  • Dyslexia Therapists and Practitioners
  • Electricians
  • Elevator / Escalator Safety
  • Hearing Instrument Fitters and Dispensers
  • Industrialized Housing and Buildings
  • Licensed Breeders
  • Massage Therapists
  • Midwives
  • Mold Assessors and Remediators
  • Offender Education Programs
  • Orthotists and Prosthetists
  • Podiatrists
  • Polygraph Examiners
  • Professional Employer Organizations
  • Property Tax Consultants
  • Property Tax Professionals
  • Responsible Pet Owner Education Providers
  • Sanitarians
  • Service Contract Providers
  • Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists
  • Temporary Common Worker Providers
  • Tow Trucks, Operators and Vehicle Storage Facilities
  • Transportation Network Companies
  • Used Automotive Parts Recyclers
  • Vehicle Protection Product Warrantors
  • Water Well Drillers and Pump Installers
  • Weather Modification

This bill allows all of these professions to maintain a license, as long as what they say, do, or refuse to do, is all because of an undefined “sincerely held religious belief”.

The Project Blitz Playbook is made up of two things:

  1. Injecting Christian Nationalist beliefs into our schools and government
  2. Allowing discrimination against the LGBTQ community, at times in veiled terms, and at other times explicitly stating it

Here is a reminder of the Project Blitz bills:

  • HB1035
  • HB1979
  • HB2109
  • HB2216
  • HB2827
  • HB2892
  • HB3172
  • HB4357
  • SB17
  • SB85
  • SB679
  • SB1009
  • SB1776
  • SB2090

We have legislators in Austin actively pushing this agenda forward. While many of the bills will not become law, it tells a larger story about who is being elected to represent our State. Here is a reminder of the legislators who have filed Project Blitz influenced bills:

  • Kyle Biedermann (HD73)
  • Brian Birdwell (SD22)
  • Briscoe Cain (HD128)
  • Donna Campbell (SD25)
  • Dan Flynn (HD2)
  • Bob Hall (SD2)
  • Bryan Hughes (SD1)
  • Phil King (HD61)
  • Lois Kolkhorst (SD18)
  • Matt Krause (HD93) Krause is also the Vice-Chairman of the Texas Prayer Caucus Network, a subset of the creators of the Project Blitz Playbook
  • Tom Oliverson (HD130)
  • Charles Perry (SD28)
  • Scott Sanford (HD70) Sanford is also the Chairman of the Texas Prayer Caucus Network, a subset of the creators of the Project Blitz Playbook
  • Jonathan Stickland (HD92)
  • James White (HD19)
  • Bill Zedler (HD96)

All of their co-authors are captured throughout the article above. Now you know what, why, and who. Let’s make some change happen.

This story was put together with a whole lot of input and collaboration with Mendi Tackett. You can follow her on twitter here.

I chart Texas Politics at christackettnow.com and write about things that matter (to me at least) whenever the muse hits.

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