Far-right-wing podcaster Steve Turley has energetically thrown himself into the Pennsylvania gubernatorial campaign of Doug Mastriano, an election conspiracy theorist and Christian nationalism promoter who won the Republican primary in May. Turley has urged his followers to contribute to Mastriano’s campaign and is set to premiere a pro-Mastriano propaganda film—“The Return of the American Patriot: The Rise of Pennsylvania”—in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, this Saturday, July 16. Mastriano is scheduled to attend and hobnob with purchasers of VIP tickets.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Wednesday that two venues that had committed to show the movie canceled “amid community pushback.” Turley blamed the cancellations on the “woke mob” and “angry anti-Christian activists.” In a Thursday email to supporters, Turley announced that a new venue and bigger venue had been nailed down and would be announced “shortly.” Sorry, gun-rights absolutists, his announcement included a proviso: “no weapons permitted.” (Update: Turley announced Friday morning that the event will be held at a church in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, which is near Harrisburg.)
Turley, whose YouTube channel has 888,000 subscribers, is the author of “The Return of Christendom: Demography, Politics, and the Coming Christian Majority.” In a 2019 podcast titled “WHITES Projected to Become Dominant SUPERMAJORITY in U.S.,” Turley said that multiculturalism is “slowly and surely dissipating” and that it will be replaced by “the restoration of a distinctively American culture, custom, and tradition that will continue to define our nation for generations to come.” Secularism and multiculturalism are doomed, he says, by the fact that religious conservatives have so many more children than secularists. He told attendees at the World Congress of Families summit in 2019 that America’s future will be “evangelical, Mormon, and Amish.” Turley is based in Ephrata, a town in Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County.
Mastriano, a state senator who led the effort to challenge former President Donald Trump’s defeat in Pennsylvania and has pledged to require all 9 million Pennsylvania voters to reregister, has portrayed his run for governor as a call from God. At “Patriots Arise,” a Christian nationalist conference organized by QAnon conspiracy theorists, Mastriano told the crowd, “In November, we’re going to take our state back. Our God will make it so.” A group called Pennsylvania for Christ backed Mastriano’s candidacy as part of its mission to “reestablish the kingdom of God in Pennsylvania,” and said that his election would be a sign that “an awakening is coming.”
Mastriano has connections to the Rod of Iron ministries, an apocalyptic offshoot of the Unification Church that uses AR-15s in its worship services, and a Mastriano contingent at a Fourth of July parade in Glenside included a flag of the Three Percenters militia movement. Mastriano was part of the crowd outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Turley’s enthusiasm for Mastriano is not surprising. The excitable, self-promoting propagandist cheers the rise of religious nationalism around the world. The subject lines of his emails give you a sense of his intellectual seriousness: “Biden wants to STARVE our children!” read a June 6 alert. In Turley’s world, things are often “IMPLODING!”—including, supposedly, the House committee investigating the criminal conspiracy that led up to the Jan. 6, 2021 attack at the U.S. Capitol.
Turley’s energetic predictions have not always come to pass. Two days before Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, Turley anticipated “the throw down in DC on January 6” and declared that “Vice President Mike Pence is indeed signaling that he is going to stand with President Trump and make this a week that will live in history.” A few weeks earlier he breathlessly reported, “BREAKING! Huge Move to DECERTIFY Election Coming out of Georgia” and predicted that two other state legislatures were “on the verge of doing the same” and that “all three states could in fact completely overturn this election in just a matter of days.” Days before, he told supporters, “The Pentagon HALTS Biden Transition Briefings as Patriot Militias Are indeed INFILTRATING Government at all levels!”
Like many U.S. religious-right leaders, Turley is a huge fan of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin and his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban. Under the headline “RUSSIA STRIKES: The Neoliberal World Order Has Fallen,” a February 24 post by Conrad Franz on the Turley Talks blog cheered on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “decisive action.” Turley tweeted, “A new age is truly rising.”
In April, Turley celebrated the Hungarian president who has rolled back human rights in his country, writing, “The nationalist populist hero Viktor Orban wins a stunning landslide victory in Hungary all as pro-Russian forces dominate European elections!” Turley added that “it looks like the rise of nationalist populist Europe is just getting started.”
Last summer, Turley celebrated Trump’s “iron grip” on the Republican Party, claiming that “President Trump is in fact forming a de facto shadow government that is effectively directing the new Patriot-inspired GOP and the policies that they’re either advocating or enacting in their governments over the nation.” He has spoken at Trump-promoting “American Freedom Tour” events.
In late June, the Inquirer summed up Mastriano’s campaign strategy as “sticking to his MAGA playbook,” which includes snubbing mainstream media in favor of right-wing outlets and fringe productions like a podcast hosted by QAnon conspiracy theorists on which he has appeared repeatedly.
Mastriano has the backing of other Christian nationalist figures. Lance Wallnau, a promoter of Seven Mountains Dominionism, said in a July 3 Facebook live video that he would take his “Glorious Chaos” tour to Pennsylvania in August to boost Mastriano’s campaign, praying that God would “lay siege to the government in Pennsylvania.” Wallnau said he would be meeting with pastors in Lancaster, Harrisburg, and Reading. Andrew Torba, the Christian nationalist founder of Gab who has peddled the racist replacement theory, expressed his support for Mastriano in a post yesterday, declaring, “If You Are a Christian You Need To Be Supporting Doug Mastriano’s Campaign.” Torba previously wrote that his endorsement of Mastriano was part of an effort to build “a coalition of Christian nationalists at the local and state levels to help pioneer a grass-roots movement of Christians in PA to help take it back for the glory of God.”
Update: This story has been updated with the new location of the movie’s premiere.