Connecting Alaska to the World And the World to Alaska
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

A look at the Christian Nationalist beliefs of Alabama's Supreme Court chief justice

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

It's been 10 days since Alabama's Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos are considered children. Since then, there have been revelations about the religious beliefs of the chief justice of that court. NPR domestic extremism correspondent Odette Yousef is here with more. Hey, Odette.

ODETTE YOUSEF, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: So the chief justice in Alabama, his name is Tom Parker. I mean, he's been pretty open about how his interpretation of Christianity is important to his job as a judge, right? But I know that in your reporting, you have found that it goes way beyond that. Can you tell us how?

YOUSEF: Sure, yeah. You know, Christian theology is very evident in Justice Parker's work. You know, if you read, for example, the concurring opinion on the IVF ruling, it's notable to see that he quotes extensively from sources like the Book of Genesis, from the Ten Commandments and from Western Christian thinkers of centuries ago like Thomas Aquinas. You know, and that's a contrast to, for example, citations from case study or legal precedent that, you know, one might expect when looking at the legal reasoning of a top judicial officer of a state.

CHANG: Right.

YOUSEF: But, you know, actually, this alone isn't what is drawing attention. On the very same day that the ruling came out, Parker was a guest on a podcast, and his remarks there suggest that his theology veers into what some experts consider Christian extremism.

CHANG: Wait, wait, what do you mean by Christian extremism?

YOUSEF: Well, here's a clip of Parker from that program.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TOM PARKER: God created government, and the fact that we have let it go into the possession of others is heartbreaking for those of us who understand. And we know it is for him, and that's why he is calling and equipping people to step back into these mountains right now.

YOUSEF: And the key thing here, Ailsa, is that reference to these mountains. This is a reference to a strategy called the Seven Mountains Mandate (ph) that has become a kind of call to action for a segment of nondenominational, charismatic Christians who were very influential in former President Donald Trump's base and where some leaders played a significant role in the events of January 6.

CHANG: Wow. This is the first I've heard of the Seven Mountains Mandate. Tell us more. What is it?

YOUSEF: So this is an idea that posits that Christians can restore what they consider to be God's kingdom on Earth by taking control of seven mountains or arenas in society, and those are family, religion, government, education, arts and entertainment, commerce and media. I spoke with an expert on this, Ailsa. His name is Matthew Taylor, and he's at the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies in Baltimore.

MATTHEW TAYLOR: The Seven Mountains is a structured outline for Christian supremacy. The idea is that Christians should try to either personally or support someone who can conquer that mountain, and then have Christian influence flow down from these high places in society into the rest of society.

YOUSEF: So this is a theology that rejects separation of church and state, as we heard in the earlier clip of Justice Parker on the podcast. And many see this as anti-democratic because it seeks to assert the control of a minority of people over society, even though most Americans don't embrace that way of thinking.

CHANG: But that may not be true in Alabama - right? - because wasn't Parker elected?

YOUSEF: He was. You know, and I did reach out to the Supreme Court of Alabama to speak with Justice Parker. He didn't respond. But, you know, it's interesting because Taylor found that Parker's connections with this movement go back at least two decades. Back then, people may not have made much of those connections because this wing of conservative Christians was really fringe. This is a different time now with the influence of Donald Trump and their support for him.

CHANG: That is NPR's Odette Yousef. Thank you, Odette.

YOUSEF: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Odette Yousef
Odette Yousef is a National Security correspondent focusing on extremism.