'War on white America': Influential Texas group hosting pro-Christian nationalism conference

True Texas Project has for years worked with Attorney General Ken Paxton, Sen. Ted Cruz and other prominent Republicans.

click to enlarge Julie McCarty, the founder of the True Texas Project, speaks at the Texas secessionist movement's conference in Waco on Nov. 11, 2023. - Texas Tribune / Evan L'Roy
Texas Tribune / Evan L'Roy
Julie McCarty, the founder of the True Texas Project, speaks at the Texas secessionist movement's conference in Waco on Nov. 11, 2023.
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An influential grassroots group with close ties to Texas Republican lawmakers is hosting a conference next month that encourages its attendees to embrace Christian nationalism and resist a Democratic campaign “to rid the earth of the white race.”

Billed as the 15th anniversary celebration for True Texas Project, a far-right activist group that got its start as a North Texas tea party organization, the agenda claims there is a “war on white America,” or elevate theories that white Americans are being intentionally replaced through immigration — a common belief among far-right extremists, including many mass shooters.

“It’s absolutely vital we remember that when they say ‘white supremacy’ or ‘white nationalism’ or whatever the most recent scare phrase is, they literally just mean your heritage and historical way of life,” reads the description for a session on “Multiculturalism & The War on White America.” “It’s a culture war, simple as that. Stop apologizing. Stop backing down. Start fighting back.”

The agenda for the event claims that “forced multiculturalism” and immigration are part of a global plot that has undermined American Christianity, and that xenophobia is “an imaginary social pathology” and term that has been used to discourage “love of one’s own people.” It also features a session that seeks to downplay the antisemitism and racism at the core of Great Replacement Theory, a once-fringe claim that there is an intentional, often Jewish-driven, effort to destroy white people through immigration, interracial marriage or the LGBTQ+ community.

The two-day event at the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens includes a birthday party for the organization complete with cake, a toast, music and a “meet-n-greet with some of our new, allied State Reps and elected officials.” It does not list which officials are scheduled to attend.

Speakers include prominent GOP donor and former state Sen. Don Huffines, retired U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, two prominent Christian nationalist authors, and Paul Gottfried, a far-right writer who has for years collaborated with white supremacists and mentored neo-Nazis such as Richard Spencer.

Experts on terrorism and extremism said the lineup is particularly concerning because it brings together mainstream conservative speakers with fringe figures who have close links to neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists.

“These are the type of people that I’m most concerned about from an extremism standpoint,” said Elizabeth Neumann, who served as a senior Department of Homeland Security official for three years under former President Donald Trump. “A number of them have been making arguments — some of them supposedly Biblical — that violence is okay, and that violence is justified by Scripture for the purposes of establishing a Christian nation.”

True Texas Project has for years been a key part of a powerful political network that two West Texas oil tycoons, Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks, have used to push the state GOP and Legislature to adopt their hardline opposition to immigration, LGBTQ+ rights and public education. Dunn and Wilks are by far the biggest donors to the Republican Party of Texas, and have used their influence to purge the party of more moderate lawmakers and survive a high-profile scandal last year over racists and antisemites employed by groups they fund.

Formerly known as the NE Tarrant Tea Party, True Texas Project was integral to the rise of the state’s ultraconservative movement throughout the 2010s, but rebranded after its founder, Julie McCarty, wrote on social media that they sympathized with the gunman who murdered 23 Hispanic people at an El Paso Walmart in 2019 — one of many mass shooters who have been motivated by a belief in Great Replacement Theory.

“I don’t condone the actions, but I certainly understand where they came from,” she wrote.

“You’re not going to demographically replace a once proud, strong people without getting blow-back," responded her husband, Fred McCarty, who is also a True Texas Project leader.

Despite the McCartys’ well-publicized comments, True Texas Project continues to work with prominent elected officials, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, Attorney General Ken Paxton, now-former Texas GOP chair Matt Rinaldi and U.S. Rep. Beth Van Duyne, R-Irving. Last week, the group also released a 90-minute podcast with a group of current and presumptive state lawmakers who are primarily funded by Dunn and Wilks, including Rep. Nate Schatzline, R-Fort Worth, and Mitch Little and Shelley Luther.

True Texas Project did not respond to a request for comment about the conference or some of the speakers' collaboration with far-right extremists. But in an email sent to supporters last week, Julie McCarty wrote that she was excited to talk about “edgy, controversial” subjects such as “white America and the Great Replacement Theory.”

“If you grew up in that wonderful America that you are now lamenting losing, what are YOU doing to curb the tide and bestow that blessing on others?” she wrote. “Much IS expected. Rise up.”

The conference was announced as Republicans continue to embrace once-fringe ideologies such as Great Replacement Theory and Christian nationalism, which claims that America’s founding was God ordained and that its laws and institutions should therefore be dictated by their fundamentalist religious views.

Recent polling from the Public Religion Research Institute found that more than half of Republicans adhere to or sympathize with pillars of Christian nationalism, including beliefs that the U.S. should be a strictly Christian nation. Of those respondents, PRRI found, roughly half supported having an authoritarian leader who maintains Christian dominance in society.

Neumann, the former DHS official and terrorism expert, said she was disturbed by the stated goals of some of the speakers listed for next month’s conference.

“This is not the version of Christian nationalism that wants to make change through votes and prayer,” she said of the conference lineup. “This is the version of Christian nationalism that wants to do it by force. … I don't see anything on [the schedule] about a legislative solution or a political solution. Everything is, ‘America is being invaded, and now what?”

She and other extremism experts noted that the conference schedule incorporates a variety of separate but overlapping ideologies that have been pushed by the far right, but rarely packaged together in one conference — let alone one that includes more establishment figures, and is being held by a group with direct ties to elected officials and influential donors. (True Texas Project is billing the event as “the first conference of this kind in America.”)

One of the sessions claims that there is a “war on white America” and that Democrats are trying to “rid the earth of the white race,” mirroring claims of a “white genocide” that have been cited for decades by overt neo-Nazis.

That session is followed by a discussion on immigration and questions such as: “Is the immigrant of today still arriving to tame the land and create something better, or are they just sucking off America’s teat?” The immigration session will be led by Todd Bensman, a Center for Immigration Studies fellow who was crucial to amplifying attention around Colony Ridge, the neighborhood outside of Houston that Texas lawmakers have argued is a hotbed for cartel and immigrant violence, despite pushback from local law enforcement. (The Center for Immigration Studies is designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of its amplification of white nationalists, though the group disputes that label).

Another session will focus entirely on Great Replacement Theory, and claim that critiques of it as racist are part of an effort by “the progressive Left” to deny that American birth rates are declining at the same time that the foreign-born population increases.

“By tying the Great Replacement Theory to white-nationalist and anti-Semetic violence, the establishment condemns any recognition of ongoing demographic transformation as racist,” the session's description reads. The theory has been cited by a litany of far-right terrorists, including the El Paso WalMart shooter; the gunman who killed 10 Black people at a Buffalo, New York grocery store in 2022; the New Zealand man who killed 51 Muslims at two mosques in 2019; the man who killed 11 Jews at a Pennsylvania synagogue in 2018; and Anders Brevik, a Norwegian man who killed eight people with a car bomb in 2011 before fatally shooting 69 people at a youth camp.

In an email exchange this week, the speaker for that session, Wade Miller, pushed back against claims that Great Replacement Theory is inherently antisemitic or racist, and said that he is “pretty vocal” in his “support for Israel and the right of Jews to defend themselves from terrorists and violent hate.”

Miller, a former chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, also provided a link to a paper he recently wrote for the Center For Renewing America, a group with close ties to former President Donald Trump where Miller is vice president. In it, Miller acknowledges and opposes the use of Great Replacement Theory as a tool for far-right extremists, but argues that liberals have linked the term to racism in order to distract from their attempts to “secure millions of new voters without any ties to the American constitutional order.”

Another session features the authors of two recent pro-Christian nationalism books, Stephen Wolfe and Andrew Isker. In Wolfe’s book — which has become a staple in Christian nationalist circles — he calls for America to have a "Christian prince" and laws that punish blasphemy and false religions, and claims that God is punishing the nation because of feminism — a “gynocracy,” as he calls it, that has destroyed traditional family values. He has previously written that Black people "are reliable sources for criminality” who need more "constraint" through policing, and that interracial marriage is sinful because "groups have a collective duty to be separate and marry among themselves.”

Isker, meanwhile, has for years maintained ties to antisemites. He co-authored his book on Christian nationalism with Andrew Torba, who founded the far-right social media platform Gab and has often collaborated with white supremacists such as Nick Fuentes. (Fuentes, an avowed Adolf Hitler fan who has called for a “holy war” and “total Aryan victory” against Jews, was at the center of a political maelstrom in Texas last year, after The Texas Tribune reported that he was hosted by the then-leader of Dunn and Wilks’ political action committee).

“Something changed after [World War II] where the love of home, hearth, and kin began to be denigrated and replaced with globalism,” reads the description of Isker's session at next month's conference. “This exchange has occurred in the context of mass immigration and forced multiculturalism. Now, love of one’s own people is regarded as xenophobia — an imaginary social pathology.”

In True Texas Project’s upcoming event, extremism experts see the culmination of a decadeslong push by fringe figures to mainstream their views by moving away from the overt racism and extremism that were espoused by their predecessors.

“They play a very long game, and we should not dismiss these groups because they are energetic and they are persistent, and that’s what’s required to move the narrative,” said Wendy Via of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism. “Some of these guys used to be fringe. But right now, what used to be fringe is about to run the country.”

Few people have been more instrumental in that push than Gottfried, a former humanities professor who has written dozens of books on political history. Gottfried is credited with coining the term “Alt-Right,” which describes a movement of far-right reactionaries, white nationalists and race scientists that sought to intellectualize their fringe views. Led by Spencer, the neo-Nazi who was mentored by Gottfried, the Alt-Right was crucial in mainstreaming extreme views in right-wing circles, but flamed out after its members played key roles in 2017’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where tiki-torch wielding neo-Nazis and fascists marched before killing one counterprotester and maiming countless others.

Gottfried is also the founder of the H.L. Mencken Club, which holds an annual conference that has included some of the world’s most prominent extremists, including Jared Taylor, a eugenicist who claims it is unnatural for white people to live alongside non-whites; and Peter Brimelow, whose group VDARE has been crucial to spreading white nationalist writings and propaganda.

In an email to the Tribune this week, Gottfried downplayed concerns about the conference, its embrace of Great Replacement Theory and the comments by True Texas Project’s leaders in the wake of the El Paso WalMart massacre.

“I am going because I was invited to speak, as an octogenarian scholar who has published multiple books on political movements and European and American intellectual history,” he wrote. “If opposing our wide-open borders and the influx of eleven million illegals, including drug dealers and violent criminals, makes me an advocate of the Great Replacement, then I shall have to plead guilty.”

Disclosure: Southern Poverty Law Center has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

This article originally appeared in the Texas Tribune.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

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