Some secular Americans voted for Donald Trump because they thought his pandering to the Religious Right was nothing more than a campaign tactic, but what do Republican atheists think now that Trump is well into his presidency and still giving gift after gift to conservative Christians?
Since he was elected, Trump’s administration has repeatedly undermined the spirit of church/state separation. The man Trump chose to head the Office of Refugee Resettlement is an anti-choice activist who uses his position to deny safe abortion care to young immigrant women, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has quietly installed “Religious Freedom” monitors at U.S. Attorneys’ offices, and lesbians are being rejected as foster parents for not mirroring “the holy family.” Then you have the attempted repeal of the Johnson Amendment, re-instituting a rule that prohibits taxpayer dollars from supporting any family planning agencies that offer abortion-related services, and the nominations of a number of right-wing Christians to posts they’re not qualified to lead.
Time after time, we’ve seen this administration tear apart the secular fabric of our country.
So what does a group called “Republican Atheists” think about all this? Are they finally ready to admit they were wrong about Trump?
On the contrary. They’re doubling down on their support.
The group, which we profiled last year, says Trump has actually been good for atheists.
Lauren Ell, the president of Republican Atheists, told me in an email:
He has inspired many conservative atheists to speak up which is great for the American atheist community that is in need of more political balance. The general American atheist community is predominantly left leaning when it comes to politics, not only when it comes to religion, but even when it comes to other issues like national security, education, immigration, healthcare, etc. Trump has been a powerhouse for conservatives to voice their opinions.
Ell also said Trump has been good for the world:
… He has drawn awareness to the expansion of Islam and increasing crime in Europe which is a huge win in my book. He has also brought attention to business, trade and economics rather than promoting social welfare programs, which is great. His direct responses to issues has been interesting to observe compared to the more sugar-coated approach politicians and leaders tend to have that prevents in-depth discussion from occurring among individuals.
Here’s the remainder of our interview:
McAFEE: If anything, he’s gotten even closer to the Religious Right since last year. Does that bother you?
ELL: No, Trump has shown many progressive stances during the last year that are not what anyone expects from the “religious right.” He has appointed people with varying perspectives to work in his administration. Trump chose Ric Grenell, a gay Republican, to be ambassador to Germany, and chose Nikki Haley, a noted Republican woman, to serve as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations (and she has been amazing). I personally have not been pressured by the “religious right” as of yet for developing Republican Atheists. I’ve actually been more pressured by the “non-religious left.”
I am more concerned about the religious left, such as religious billionaire Tom Steyer, who dumped millions of dollars into anti-Trump campaigns (you may have seen his commercial on TV or Youtube telling you to support Trump’s impeachment). Additionally there are religious groups and churches in states like New York that have collaborated with atheist groups to challenge Trump. I find that more concerning.
McAFEE: Does your group understand the importance of separating church and state and how it benefits both sides of the debate?
ELL: We do support separation of theocracy and state, but we are not on a mission to scrub religious references out of every public institution or meeting or to eradicate from the US its Christian heritage. I personally have no problem if a coach participates in a prayer with his players or if “under God” is in the pledge of allegiance. I prefer to focus on extremism rather than casual religious reference, and currently religious extremism has drawn me to focus on other countries such as Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Sweden.
McAFEE: Will your group be supporting Trump in the upcoming election?
ELL: We have yet to discuss that. Personally I most likely will.
McAFEE: Does your group support Trump’s decision to try to ban transgender service people from the military?
ELL: For the time being we do. Our stance is not about disregard for the transgender community, but rather is about the security of our military. “Our military is not a social experiment” is a statement I strongly agree with. Admitting more genders puts more unnecessary responsibility on the military. Keep in mind Obama permitted transgender community to enter the military right at the very end of his final term, so this has not been a longstanding issue. Personally speaking, I would like to even see more discussion on level of involvement women have in the military, considering women typically do not meet the same physical requirements as men. To date, only one woman has made it through a rigorous infantry officer training course. [Link]
Considering this website is a daily reminder of how Trump is hurting our country when it comes to matters of religion, it seems fruitless to respond to every one of those comments I find confusing or misguided. There’s a lot of mental gymnastics in there, for sure.
Are we even talking about the same Trump? She praises his “direct responses to issues,” calls Sweden one of the most extremist countries, and defends his impulsive ban on transgender troops which wasn’t based at all on comments from military leaders or any scientific studies.
It just goes to show: Just because you can think rationally about God doesn’t mean you’re reasonable about everything else.
(Image via Facebook)