January 12, 2017

What Did Trump Promise the Religious Right?

Jeff Sessions by Gage SkidmoreAmidst all the Trump-related outrage, there is at least one question that I don't think has received nearly enough attention: What did Trump offer evangelical fundamentalist Christians in exchange for their support, and what will it mean for the rest of us if he delivers on it? We know from exit polls and other surveys conducted since the election that evangelical fundamentalist Christians turned out to vote for Trump in large numbers. We also know that this happened in spite of his behavior. While I have no doubt that some would have turned out to vote for anyone who was not Clinton, the massive support Trump received from fundamentalist Christians does make me wonder what he offered them and whether he intends to deliver it.

My best guess is that Trump, like virtually every other Republican presidential candidate we've had since Reagan probably started with the Supreme Court. Vote for Trump, and he'll make sure to appoint extremely conservative justices who share your Christian values (e.g., opposition to same-sex marriage, reproductive rights, separation of church and state, and so on). Evangelical fundamentalist Christian leaders likely had some input into his list of persons under consideration to nominate. But would this have been enough? Could it have offset Trump's behavior? It seems clear that at least some of his cabinet picks were chosen to appeal to the Christian right. But again, would that have been enough?

I am curious about what else he may have promised the Christian right. I am particularly curious about any pledges to weaken the wall of separation between church and state. Of course, appointing federal judges is one of the more direct routes by which one could undermine church-state separation. I suspect there are many others too.

As Trump takes office on January 20, officially becoming your president, it will be important to keep this question in mind as we look for what sort of bones he may throw to the evangelical fundamentalist Christian community. If whatever he promised them ends up being the sort of thing we need to oppose, it will be important to support the secular groups who are prepared to fight on our behalf and effectively prioritize our outrage.
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