Trump Has Already Appointed A Chief Strategist Who’s Horrible For Religious Minorities

Many religious minorities are rightfully fearful of what’s to come for them under President-Elect Donald J. Trump and his administration.

On Sunday, Trump did little to ease that fear after he named Steve Bannon, a man who has been accused of having ties to white nationalist groups, as his chief strategist. Bannon, the ex-chairman of Breitbart News, a propaganda site that publishes daily racist, xenophobic, misogynistic and homophobic content, has a disturbing history of attacking a variety of religious minorities.  

Bannon’s hateful rhetoric towards Jews, Muslims and Catholics should worry anyone who cares about the values Americans United cherishes. We support freedom of religion for all and welcome the country’s growing religious and philosophical diversity.  

Bannon doesn’t seem to agree. Some of his most disturbing anti-Semitic comments were made public through his ex-wife’s testimony as they went through a divorce, although he has denied them. In a 2007 sworn statement, his ex-wife said that Bannon had a problem with their kids attending school with Jews.

At one school, she said that he asked, “Why there were so many Hanukkah books in the library?” and at another, Bannon allegedly expressed concern that the school used to be a temple.

“[Bannon] went on to say the biggest problem he had with Archer [School for Girls] is the number of Jews that attend,” his ex-wife said in the 2007 statement. “He said that he doesn’t like Jews and that he doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiny brats’ and that he didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews.”

Will Steve Bannon's hateful views be amplified by the Trump White House?

This didn’t surprise me given that Bannon allowed so many anti-Semitic articles (not with his byline, but clearly with his approval) to be published on Breitbart. Bannon’s appointment to the Trump Administration disappoints many religious minority and pro-equality groups.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which battles anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry, released a statement strongly condemning Trump’s decision to appoint Bannon.

“It is a sad day when a man who presided over the premier website of the ‘alt-right’ – a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists – is slated to be a senior staff member in the ‘people’s house,’” the statement read.

The ADL’s statement is spot-on given how Bannon has been unapologetically hateful of various religious groups. A day after Bannon was named chief strategist, the American Jewish Committee and Islamic Society of North America launched the Muslim-Jewish Council.

Given the toxic political climate for religious minorities in the United States pending the Trump Administration, this alliance highlighted some of the strong solidarity efforts that have been happening post-election. We hope these efforts continue.

Under Bannon, Breitbart contributed to the fear-mongering that has driven many in the “alt-right” (or as I say, white supremacist nationalists) to be notoriously Islamophobic.

But Jews and Muslims haven’t been the only religious groups that Bannon has targeted.

His anti-Catholic rhetoric is often swept under the rug – even though one of his most recent anti-Catholic outbursts took the form of an attack on U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.). (I’m sure he’s just thrilled that he’ll be working with Ryan, who was nominated for re-election as House Speaker yesterday.)

“He’s [Ryan] rubbing his social-justice Catholicism in my nose every second,” Bannon said during a March 8 interview with Princeton law professor Robert P. George, a conservative Catholic. (Ryan and social justice in the same sentence… really?)

Bannon then added a dose of xenophobia, adding, “Catholics want as many Hispanics in this country as possible because the church is dying in this country, right, if it was not for the Hispanics.”

Will this hostility towards religious minorities continue with Bannon in the White House? Many are hoping Trump reconsiders his choice. The #StopBannon hashtag on Twitter became popular after Sunday, with many activists urging people to pressure congressional leaders to oppose Bannon’s appointment.

Many groups have condemned Trump’s decision, and I hope that if Bannon remains in Trump’s administration despite this backlash, he rids himself of his divisive rhetoric and acknowledges that religious freedom for all is a fundamental American value.