American voters last night decided that Donald J. Trump, a real estate developer and reality TV star with no political experience, should be the next president of the United States.
What happens next? How will Americans United’s issues be affected?
Trump’s victory is extremely troubling because during the campaign, he was often dismissive of church-state separation and meaningful religious liberty. The issues that matter to Americans United seemed to mean little to Trump. He made several proposals that can charitably be described as reckless.
Consider the following:
Trump has vowed to overturn the federal law that bars tax-exempt groups, which includes houses of worship, from endorsing or opposing candidates. Prodded by Jerry Falwell Jr., Trump wants to do away with a 62-year-old law that prohibits churches from operating like political action committees. The ill-conceived proposal would politicize houses of worship and create a massive new loophole in the nation’s campaign finance laws.
Trump wants to create an expensive, nationwide school voucher program at a staggering price tag of $20 billion. A plan like this would force Americans to fund sectarian instruction against their will and threaten adequate funding for the public school system that serves 90 percent of our nation’s children.
Trump has traded in crude forms of Islamophobia and even proposed banning Muslims from entering the country. Trump’s insistence that refugees or others entering the country could somehow be quizzed on their religious beliefs and denied entry if they don’t measure up shows that he has an abysmal understanding of the First Amendment’s religious freedom protections.
Trump has proposed putting justices like Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. A list of potential high court justices that Trump released earlier this year was studded with conservatives. Since there is an opening on the court right now, a Trump appointment could have an immediate effect. And, given the advanced ages of some the justices, more vacancies are likely.
Much to the surprise of many Americans, Donald Trump will be living here come January.
Trump supports a bill pending in Congress that would allow people to use religion to discriminate against others. The mis-named “First Amendment Defense Act,” is nothing more than a license to take away the rights of and cause harm to LGBTQ Americans, non-believers, members of religious minorities and others.
Trump offered support to a Washington state public school football coach who has been told to stop praying with players. Trump told Coach Joe Kennedy of Bremerton High School that what happened to him was “absolutely outrageous. I think it’s outrageous. I think it’s very, very sad and outrageous.”
Trump looks to Religious Right figures for advice. His campaign’s Evangelical Advisory Board was salted with Religious Right zealots. When it came time to pick a running mate, Trump went with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a Religious Right favorite. Trump and Pence both spoke at this year’s Values Voter Summit, a Religious Right gathering sponsored by the Family Research Council.
Many people are undoubtedly feeling a sense of shock today. Just a few weeks ago, few people were predicting this outcome. Yet here we are. It’s our reality, and we have to deal with it.
We at Americans United can’t say for sure what the future will bring, but we do know this: The followers of the Religious Right are fired up. They’re feeling empowered by Trump’s victory. They will make audacious proposals. They will be more active than ever.
And Americans United will be there to meet them. We’re going to need your help, so suit up and strap in. The road ahead looks to be pretty rough.