On Sunday President Donald Trump was interviewed by Chris Wallace of the Fox News Channel. During the interview, which was fairly tough by Fox standards, Trump made a number of inaccurate statements about the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic but also decided to toss some red meat to his base by asserting that if Joe Biden is elected, “religion will be gone.”
When Wallace asked Trump to further explain this remark, inquiring what he meant by “religion will be gone,” instead of fully answering the question, Trump began to immediately object to the closure of churches as a health response to the coronavirus.
Trump stated, “Well, look at what they’re doing to the churches. They won’t let the churches even open if they want to stand in a field six feet apart. We’ve had churches that wanted to stand in fields six feet apart.”
What Trump failed to mention during his rant is that during this pandemic, houses of worship have been treated no differently than many of their secular counterparts. In most states, all large gatherings were banned, religious and non-religious. Some religious leaders who didn’t like these restrictions challenged them but lost most of the cases, with multiple courts all over the country ruling in favor of stay-at-home orders and reasonable restrictions on public gatherings.
Furthermore, many houses of worship have moved services online or found other creative ways to bring people together that don’t involve in-person worship. Religion has, for the time being, been reimagined. It is hardly “gone.”
It’s clear that this is more of Trump’s pandering to his Christian nationalist base. That claim that “religion will be gone” is a fear-based message that’s outlandish on its face – but that doesn’t mean it won’t resonate with his most ardent conservative evangelical backers.
The Fox interview wasn’t the first time Trump has used this tactic, and it's likely it won't be the last.
Photo: President Trump being interviewed by Chris Wallace. Screenshot from Fox News Channel