By: Troy Hill

Indiana has had a lot of attention recently regarding its religious activism. David Brody coined the term “Teavangelicals” [1] about “conservative Christians who strongly support the Tea Party agenda, or are active in the Tea Party movement.”

Before I left the Tea Party we had more than just Christian conservatives in the movement.

Back on April 15, 2009, the south lawn of Indiana’s State House was covered with a crowd that numbered anywhere from the 1,200 attendees as the media reported, to a more reasonable 4,000 or so which I estimated based my photographic evidence from the day.

On that day, those thousands gathered to protest how the past administration under Bush 43, and the new Obama administration was handling the fiscal crisis that decimated the US economy in 2008. I was part of the committee who organized the Rally in 2009.

TEA, for our group, stood for “Taxed Enough Already.”

Over the next two years, the TEA movement in Indiana spawned several candidates for state and federal offices. I volunteered with the most libertarian Tea Party candidate vying for the GOP nomination to challenge Evan Bayh for US Senate in 2010.  Former Senator Dan Coats eventually won the primary and the general election to reclaim his former seat.

While travelling the state with our candidate, I was surprised at the frequency of the social conservative questions that dominated the candidate Q&A sessions. The first questions asked were inevitably: “Are you a Christian?” and “Where do you stand on saving the unborn?” Our candidate learned to lead with his faith and social issue stances.

In hindsight, I should have seen the domination of the TEA movement as religious conservatives began to take hold at the time. But, this is Indiana. The conventional wisdom was that to win as a Republican in Indiana, you needed to 1: Be a Christian, and 2: oppose abortion and gay marriage. I was one of the few exceptions. I was looking for a way to limit the out of control spending in DC and get the government moving back toward a more Libertarian scope.

One moment on the campaign trail from 2010 sticks with me. We were at a church in the northern part of the state for a Tea Party sponsored debate among the 2010 GOP candidates for senate. Each candidate had a booth set up in the church’s gymnasium. I was sitting on the floor behind the booth, uploading photos to social media. I felt a tap on my shoulder. An elderly woman was bending over me.

“Are you a Christian?” she asked. I shook my head and returned to my job sorting photos. One of our team overheard her telling people in the hallway that our candidate “wasn’t saved.” They immediately went into damage control, and got the candidate, whom the woman had mistaken me for, to set her straight.

Two years later the Tea Party in Indiana was back in the political arena. This time, it was ready to oust Dick Lugar from his senate seat. I got involved again, sitting on the board of concerned Tea Party and other conservative groups looking for a replacement. Hoosiers for a Conservative Senate (HFCS) was the independent organization we formed. Somehow, the Tea Parties in my area decided to send me —the libertarian agnostic — to sit on the board.

I worked closely with several other TEA leaders, including the HFCS co-chair, Monica Boyer. HFCS was instrumental in pulling together about 90 of Indiana’s conservative and Tea-based grassroots groups. I didn’t realize then that Lugar was more libertarian, than the candidate HFCS would select to challenge him, Richard Mourdock.

I received a phone call which set in motion a chain of events that should have tipped me off to the Teavangelical nature of the Tea Party. In March of 2011, Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks hosted an event to present Governor Mitch Daniels with recognition for his work “to bring fiscal responsibility and a smaller state government” [2] to Indiana.

Boyer and some another Tea Party leaders were incensed about Daniels’ comments months earlier to “call a truce on social issues.”[3] Boyer called and asked me to write a press release calling out Daniels and Armey over their lack of support for social conservatives. I put on my journalism hat, got the bullet points from Boyer, and wrote it. But when Boyer released it, my press release caused a ruckus behind the scenes and almost cost HFCS its support from Armey’s FreedomWorks organization.

Two years later, I got another phone call from Boyer. I was working on editing her book on political activism, “Not on my Watch.” In one of our many calls discussing that work, she recommended Brody’s book, “The Teavangelicals: The Inside Story of How the Evangelicals and the Tea Party are Taking Back America.” She told me then, that even though she was known as a Tea Party leader, her group had “never been a Tea Party” and she had always prioritized religious conservatism over a Tea party fiscal agenda. Brody’s book, and the creation of the term “Teavangelical,” had finally allowed her to marry her political activism with her religious convictions.

I watched in 2014 as many Tea-based groups in Indiana, including Boyer’s, supported Indiana’s HJR3 [4] which would have put an anti-gay marriage amendment to Indiana’s constitution on the fall ballot. Following the defeat of HJR3, I attended one final Tea Party meeting at one of the groups who had supported the potential amendment. During that meeting, the leader of the group lamented the loss of HJR3. Several times throughout the meeting he issued the challenge that Tea groups needed to work harder to get “good Christian values” back into our state government.

As I left that meeting, I thought back to the road the Tea Party movement had traveled since our time of “Taxed Enough Already” in 2009.

Welcome to the Teavangelical Party of Indiana.


Troy Hill is a guest contributor to We Are Libertarians. If you would like to become a guest contributor, send your piece to Ruiz@wearelibertarians.com for consideration.