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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

Other Papers Say: Secret boys club promotes Christian governance

By Boise Statesman
Published: March 23, 2024, 6:01am

The following editorial originally appeared in the Boise Statesman:

A pair of reports last week from Talking Points Memo and The Guardian outline the influence and membership of a previously secret group operating in Idaho, a Christian extremist group called the “Society for American Civic Renewal,” or SACR.

The invitation-only group, which excludes women, gay people and many others, aims “to recruit a Christian government that will form after the right achieves regime change in the United States, potentially via a ‘national divorce,’ ” TPM reported.

As The Guardian previously reported, the group was founded by Charles Haywood, a far-right Indiana hair product magnate who envisions himself as a future “warlord” employing a group of “shooters” as part of his “armed patronage network.”

In an emailed statement, Coeur d’Alene SACR lodge president Skyler Kressin described the group as an answer to the decline in male camaraderie and faltering social engagement.

“Our mission is to revive the spirit of civic engagement through close-knit groups of American Christian men, who share basic values and beliefs, and hold each other accountable to considering the common good at the local level in all that we do,” he wrote.

But TPM’s reporting, relying on a trove of internal emails they obtained, suggests something much darker: “The trove reveals SACR’s core mission: to create a mini-state within a state, composed entirely of Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Christian men. It’s explicitly patriarchal, demanding that group members assume a dominant role at home, and celebrates the use of force and existence of authority.”

Kressin emphasized that Christian nationalism is not the official stance of SACR, adding that his views were summed up well in an essay by member Andrew Beck, who argued the focus should instead to be Christianize the civilization.

For someone on the wrong end of that power, it may make little difference whether they are dealing with a Christian nationalist organization or a Christian “civilizationist” group using powerful people to seek whatever private aims it has.

The network of secret boys’ clubs came to light because of one Boise State professor’s likely misuse of public resources.

Scott Yenor, famous for his vile brand of misogyny, serves as a “an ideological and organizational leader” for the national movement and as the president of its Boise lodge, The Guardian reported.

SACR’s emails were obtained by TPM through a public records request because Yenor was using his Boise State email to correspond. (Isn’t that always the way? You try to build a cabal, and some bumbler goes and makes the whole conspiracy a public record.)

So you, dear taxpayer, were paying for Yenor to organize this absurd attempt to change your society.

Idahoans on the right who belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, by far Idaho’s largest Christian denomination, should take special note that they are not included in this vision of a Christian civilization. Kressin confirmed that Mormons, Jews and Muslims, among others, aren’t allowed to become members.

“We needed to draw the line for purposes of a truly common sense of deep belief and ethical commitments in our membership,” he said. “So, we do in fact exclude LDS among others just as they and others have their own groups.”

So don’t expect an invite to this combination. When SACR members talk about a Christian nation or a Christian civilization, remember that you would be excluded from it. Whatever local governance they’re building, they aren’t for you — much less for women, LGBTQ+ people, atheists, and thousands of other Idahoans who simply value freedom.