Religious Right favorite Jerry Falwell Jr. recently spoke with white nationalist propaganda website, Breitbart, and made some comments that made it clear that the Religious Right’s relationship with the Republican Party is (unsurprisingly) about political power, not religious values.
Falwell, the president of the fundamentalist Liberty University his father founded in Virginia, criticized “fake Republicans” and said he supports President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist and now-chairman of Breitbart News Steve Bannon’s attack on establishment Republicans.
My colleague Liz Hayes reported earlier this month that at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit, Bannon declared “a season of war against a GOP establishment” and was met with approval from the crowd of right-wing evangelicals.
“I love it,” Falwell said of Bannon's “war” against establishment Republicans. “I knew when [Bannon] left the administration, he was doing it for a reason. A good reason. And now we all know what it was. He sees that for Trump to be successful, those guys got to go. I’m so proud of him for going after them and leading the effort and Laura Ingraham is out there helping the effort too.”
Falwell, who was among the first Religious Right leaders to publicly support Trump’s presidential campaign despite Trump being a thrice-married, religiously apathetic man who bragged about sexually assaulting women and getting away with it, said that evangelicals should support more candidates like Trump.
The Religious Right's support for Trump has always been about political power.
“Don’t look at a candidate on whether he has the same religious background as you do. Don’t look at whether he or she fit to be the pastor of your church. Look at who’s going to vote right on the issues. Look at who’s actually succeeded in real life outside of the political world,” Falwell said. “That’s who they need to vote for. It may not be the most conservative candidate. But it’s got to be somebody who’s not part of the establishment and has succeeded in real life.”
It’s ironic that Falwell and others within the Religious Right cite religious “values” as the reason for opposing the advancement of women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and more, but it’s not surprising. We’ve known for decades that the Religious Right’s marriage with the Republican Party is about political power, not religious beliefs.
The movement’s loyalty to Trump continues to prove that, and the Trump administration in return rewards them.
To name just a few significant attacks on religious freedom recently, the Trump administration released new birth control rules that will allow bosses and universities to cite religious beliefs as an excuse to deny women access to birth control coverage. The administration also released guidelines that are a blueprint for using religion as a license to discriminate against just about anyone and expanded the Muslim ban, which is currently on hold, to indefinitely ban people from six Muslim-majority countries.
While Falwell’s comments shows the true colors of Religious Right, they also serve as a reminder that the Religious Right does not represent the vast majority of religious people. An October Church & State article focused on how Trump’s church-state policies are spurring dissenting religious groups to stand up to the Religious Right.
Today’s Halloween, and if there’s anything spookier than zombies and monsters, it’s the Religious Right pushing an agenda that uses religion as an excuse to discriminate against and harm others.
If you are a member of the clergy who wants to get involved in protecting true religious freedom, join Faith Leaders United, a theologically diverse network of religious leaders that Americans United started to ensure that religion is not being used to harm people or take away their rights. Get involved.