When it comes to the Religious Right’s influence on this administration, the results have been devastating.
Trump tried to repeal the Johnson Amendment, which would have allowed pastors to tell their congregations who to vote for and turned churches into dark money conduits for politicians. He’s tried to ban transgender troops from the military on the guidance of evangelicals. He has nominated a steady stream of judges who cater to conservative Christian interests. He acted like saying “Merry Christmas” was now permissible even though it was never a problem.
And, of course, we know why he does that. White evangelicals remain the core of Trump’s base.
So today, on the National Day of Prayer (which is, oddly enough, a Christian-only event), Trump is signing a new executive order designed to give those evangelicals even more power.
Adelle M. Banks of Religion News Service has the scoop:
President Trump plans to unveil a new initiative that aims to give faith groups a stronger voice within the federal government and serve as a watchdog for government overreach on religious liberty issues.
He is scheduled to sign an executive order on Thursday (May 3), the National Day of Prayer, “to ensure that the faith-based and community organizations that form the bedrock of our society have strong advocates in the White House and throughout the Federal Government,” a White House document reads.
To be fair, President Obama wasn’t terrific on these issues either. Instead of shutting down George W. Bush‘s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, Obama expanded it with his Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. It was well-intentioned but ultimately problematic.
Trump is now adding steroids to the mix with his White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative.
There’s a secular argument to be made in support of this office. Most Americans are religious, believers are involved in a lot of public service efforts, and this is a way to coordinate some of those projects.
But we’ve seen what happens when Trump and his Christian clique gets together. They discriminate against religious minorities. They use their connections to push legislation that has no secular purpose. They pretend to be victims just because (gasp) Christian business owners might have to sell the same product to a gay person as a straight one.
Just look at the stated purpose of this office:
The White House said those working on the initiative will provide policy recommendations from faith-based and community programs on “more effective solutions to poverty,” and inform the administration of “any failures of the executive branch to comply with religious liberty protections under law.”
How the hell will these Christians tackle “poverty” and “religious liberty” when they’re working under a president who supports a Muslim ban and a Republican Congress that passed a bill giving tax breaks to billionaires instead of using the money to help lower and middle class people?
At best, I hope this office is a symbol. Because if they actually get more power, non-evangelicals will be screwed. It’s telling that, in the RNS article, not a single non-Christian was even cited in the piece. Will there be Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, etc. working on this initiative? (Should we even bother asking?)
Or will we just get more of the same from this White House, where “religious liberty” is synonymous with “special perks for white evangelicals”?
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