Faith freedom across the country
My new home also allows me to be more directly involved in BJC’s first local organizing project for Christians Against Christian Nationalism in North Texas.
My column in this edition takes a more personal tone as I share with readers of this magazine a big move I made this summer. After more than a decade in Washington, D.C. — including the last six and a half years leading BJC — my husband, son and I have relocated to Dallas, Texas. It is a return home for us, since both my husband and I are Texas natives.
This move came first from a personal place. I shared with the BJC Executive Committee earlier this year that I was sensing a calling for my family to be closer to our extended family in Texas. I also told them that I felt a renewed sense of calling to my vocation of leading BJC, particularly during this critical time of welcoming the BJC Center for Faith, Justice and Reconciliation and the expansion of our leadership of the Christians Against Christian Nationalism campaign. I am grateful that the leaders of the BJC Board celebrated and affirmed both callings.
From an operational standpoint, our experience has shown that our team can work remotely and effectively. One innovation from the difficult years of the COVID-19 pandemic was the creation of new work structures that allow us to work even when we can’t be in the same physical space. In fact, our team was fully remote for more than two years. Since staff returned to our BJC headquarters in March 2022, we have continued with hybrid work schedules that allow the team to spend some of their time working from home or other locations across the country. Most of our team will continue to work from our headquarters on Capitol Hill in D.C., and I will return as needed to work in Washington with them. The Rev. Dr. Dan Hamil, director of strategic partnerships, and the Rev. Janna Louie, chief of staff, both work and reside in California. We have other team members contributing from Tennessee and North Carolina, and we will conduct nationwide recruiting efforts to fill future staff openings.
Having a national team helps us fulfill our mission. BJC is a truly national organization, with our advocacy and education in support of faith freedom for all happening not only in the halls of power in Washington, but from coast to coast. Our Christians Against Christian Nationalism campaign counts supporters in every congressional district in the country. We’re increasingly working with local partners across the country as threats to religious freedom arise.
As I have shifted my home and work location, Texas has become a major flashpoint in the resurgence of Christian nationalism today. While the two events are not causally related (Christian nationalism hasn’t surged because I moved!), my location provides new opportunities for BJC to be more directly involved in education and advocacy in a state that is pushing legislation infused with Christian nationalism. Last year, the Texas Legislature forced public schools to display “In God We Trust” posters; this year, it is deciding whether to require the display of the Ten Commandments in every public school classroom. One focus of BJC’s advocacy work is currently lobbying the state’s many school districts to reject the option the Texas Legislature has granted them to start school chaplain programs (see how you can help here). I’ll get a firsthand look at how Texas’ public schools have become a religious freedom battleground, as I am now the parent of a third-grader in one.
My new home also allows me to be more directly involved in BJC’s first local organizing project for Christians Against Christian Nationalism in North Texas. I’m excited to work with our partners — including Faith Commons, Texas Impact, Convención Bautista Hispana de Texas (the Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas), and many local churches — directly in on-the-ground community organizing.
In addition to the specific attacks on church-state separation in my home state, spending much more time outside the Beltway equips me to better understand religious freedom issues that play out in the lives of all Americans. The conversation in D.C. rarely reflects the reality of our diverse communities in the United States. More of our staff living and working across the country will strengthen our advocacy and education efforts.
With so much work to do in Washington and throughout the country, I am grateful for a team and BJC Board leadership that is working in new ways to achieve our mission.