The National Prayer Breakfast was this morning. It was pretty much what we’ve come to expect under President Donald Trump: a lot of gloating mixed with Christian nationalist rhetoric. Trump’s speech was also marked by claims that this administration is protecting religious freedom – an assertion that falls apart under even casual scrutiny.
Before he spoke, Trump waved newspapers proclaiming his Senate acquittal in his impeachment trial and later told the crowd that the country had been “put through a terrible ordeal by some very dishonest and corrupt people.” He praised Republican senators for doing “what everyone knows was right” and criticized political leaders who, as he put it, "use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong; nor do I like people who say, ‘I pray for you,’ when they know that that’s not so" – a not-so-subtle dig at U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who cited his faith when announcing he’d be the lone Republican to vote to impeach, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who was sitting a few chairs away from Trump on the prayer breakfast stage. (Pelosi, a Catholic, has said she prays for Trump regularly.)
From there, Trump went on to make his usual bombastic claims about religion, lauding “historic action” he has allegedly taken to protect our freedoms. He singled out his administration’s recent guidance on school prayer, once again falsely claimed to have made it possible for religious leaders to endorse candidates in partisan political campaigns and touted his administration’s anti-abortion record.
Although much of Trump’s speech was his usual braggadocio, one line stood out for its disingenuousness. “Together we are building the world’s most prosperous and inclusive society,” Trump said. “We are lifting up citizens of every race, color, religion and creed.”
Really? Are members of the LGBTQ community, whose rights have been under constant attack from this administration, being lifted up? How are millions of American women, whose reproductive health care is being steadily eroded, faring in this supposedly “inclusive” atmosphere? Are the Muslims who have been banned from traveling to this nation for no other reason than their religion included in Trump’s America? What about the growing number of non-Christians, especially nontheists (whose existence Trump never even bothers to acknowledge)? Are they feeling welcome by an administration that embraces Christian nationalism and assaults church-state separation at every turn?
Talk about civility, decency and the need to love one another marks the National Prayer Breakfast, but there’s reason to be skeptical. The event is sponsored by the Fellowship Foundation (aka “the Family”), a secretive and aggressive band of Christian nationalists whose theocratic vision for America excludes millions of people who are the “wrong” type of Christian, the “wrong” type of believer or simply don’t believe at all. Allied with groups like Project Blitz, the Family and a host of other Religious Right organizations seek to remake America in their own narrow image of what constitutes authentic faith.
Today they may speak nice words about all of us getting along. Tomorrow they’ll be right back in the state legislatures and in Congress working to pass legislation that elevates their religious privilege and forces all of us to live under and subsidize a version of fundamentalist Christianity that is far from kind, loving or inclusive.
Americans United will keep fighting them, every day, with all we’ve got. With your help, we’ll continue working toward a nation based on true inclusion, not the faux version proffered by Trump and his evangelical allies. We’ll build a nation where you’re free to practice a faith, or no faith at all, as long as you don’t harm others and where no one is compelled to live under the rule of someone else’s religion.
Photo: Screenshot from C-SPAN