For FBI legend J. Edgar Hoover, Christian nationalism was the gospel truth, argues new book

by | Mar 10, 2023 | Religion

(RNS) — Lerone Martin’s new book began with a cup of coffee that led him to sue the FBI.While working on a book about religious broadcasters, a colleague suggested over coffee that Martin, a religion scholar, research the FBI to see if they had any related files. At the time, the colleague, scholar William J. Maxwell, author of “F.B. EYES,” had been studying the FBI’s surveillance of Black writers. Perhaps the FBI had been keeping an eye on religious broadcasters as well.
Martin, then living in St. Louis, began filing Freedom of Information requests. Around the same time, he was also hearing from local pastors in St Louis who had been contacted by the FBI in the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. The FBI, they told Martin, wanted to know what the pastors were going to do to calm protests in that city.
“That got me thinking,” said Martin. “This is not a surveillance story. This is a story of partnership.”
Martin began thinking about the kinds of pastors the FBI might want to partner with. Chief among them was the late evangelist Billy Graham, known for his crusades for Jesus and against communism and liberals.
Lerone Martin. Photo by Andrew Brodhead/Stanford University
When Graham died in 2018, Martin asked for his FBI file. The Department of Justice said no. So, Martin sued in federal court and three years later settled …

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