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What role did religion play in the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol?


The University of Alabama is teaming up with the Smithsonian to examine the role of faith in the January 6th Capitol riots. The digital project is called “Uncivil Religion.” It showcases videos, photos and academic essays that highlight religion’s role in the insurrection. Much of the website’s media came from outlets like Twitter and Facebook. Dr. Michael Altman directed the project at the University of Alabama. He says diverse spiritual traditions were represented at the riot.

“What does it mean to see people doing things that might look like what you do in your church or home, but doing it in the middle of a riot?” asks Altman. “I think we want to raise a lot of questions for people regardless of their background, regardless of their religious belief.”

The bipartisan committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol recently subpoenaed major social media companies for evidence related to the insurrection. Dr. Altman says social media is changing American politics.

“The number of times that people are speaking into their phone or addressing the audience of their livestream as if they’re a Youtuber or a Twitch streamer, it totally shapes the entire genre of the media that we have from this event,” said Altman. “You know, it’s not that the revolution was televised. The revolution was live streamed.”

Federal prosecutors charged members of the militia group “the Oath Keepers” with seditious conspiracy. Part of evidence in the Department of Justice case includes social media messages. The list of those under indictment includes Joshua James of Arab, Alabama.

Baillee Majors is the Morning Edition host and a reporter at Alabama Public Radio.
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