President Donald Trump is hardly a poster child for far-right Christian fundamentalism: he’s twice divorced, he has a long history of adultery, he was never known for being terribly religious, and he has had extramarital affairs with an adult film star and a Playboy model. Regardless, Trump is wildly popular with the Christian Right — perhaps even more so than President George W. Bush and President Ronald Reagan. But conservative activist Peter Wehner, in a July 10 article for The Atlantic, argues that the Christian Right sold its soul to a charlatan and has precious little to show for it.
“The closest thing social conservatives and evangelical supporters of President Donald Trump had to a conversation stopper — when pressed about their support for a president who is so manifestly corrupt, cruel, mendacious, and psychologically unwell — was a simple phrase: ‘but Gorsuch,’” explains Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. “Those two words were shorthand for their belief that their reverential devotion to Trump would result in great advances for their priorities and their policy agenda, and no priority was more important than the Supreme Court. Donald Trump may be a flawed character, they argued, but at least he appointed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.”
When Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, Wehner notes, it was “a crushing blow for the Religious Right.” The Bostock ruling, a 6-3 decision, was a major victory for LGBTQ rights in the workplace. And in June Medical Services v. Russo, the conservative-dominated U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana anti-abortion law — much to the Christian Right’s dismay.
“Legislatively, Trump, compared with other presidents, has not achieved all that much for the pro-life cause and religious-liberties protection,” Wehner notes. “For example, George W. Bush’s pro-life record is stronger, and Bill Clinton achieved more in the area of religious liberties, signing into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act…. And on issues that have traditionally concerned conservative evangelicals, such as fiscal responsibility and limited government, Trump has been awful: the deficit and the debt exploded under his watch, even pre-pandemic.”
Wehner acknowledges that Trump has brought a long list of right-wing judges to the lower federal courts, but all things considered, he argues, the “uncritical support given to Trump by evangelical Christians” has come at a major “cost.” The Christian Right, Wehner points out, has allied itself with a president who has had a “bromance” with North Korea’s communist dictator, Kim Jong Un, defended the public display of Confederate images, and promoted a “racist conspiracy theory that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States.”
“White evangelicals are the core of Trump’s political support, and while the overwhelming number of the president’s evangelical supporters may not be racist, they are willing to back a man who openly attempts to divide people by race,” Wehner asserts. “That would be enough of an indictment, but the situation is actually a good deal worse than that, since Trump’s eagerness to inflame ugly passions is only one thread in his depraved moral tapestry….. The Trump presidency, which has produced few significant legislative or governing achievements, has inflicted gaping wounds on the Republican Party, conservative causes and the evangelical movement.”
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