If there’s one consistent characteristic for his administration-related guests, advisors and appointees, it’s that many of them are horrible for religious minorities and religious freedom, as we’ve written before about Steve Bannon, Ben Carson and more.
The trend continued this week, with Islamophobe, Religious Right favorite and former U.S. Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) visiting the president-elect on Monday.
West, who is a former Army lieutenant colonel, had been at Trump Tower earlier this month to meet with Vice President-elect Mike Pence and Trump’s national security advisor appointee Gen. Michael Flynn (another islamophobe).
Many people have speculated that these meetings mean that West is advising Trump on national security, and when asked whether that was the case, West told reporters on Monday: “We’ll see when I get up there.”
As we’ve noted before, Trump has done nothing to ease the anxiety of religious minorities. With West as a possible advisor to Trump, the president-elect has thus far shown that he is not interested in stopping his toxic campaign rhetoric or becoming more inclusive.
Just Saturday, West posted a meme that hinted at his supporting genocide against Muslims. The post included a photo of Gen. James Mattis, who was appointed by Trump to serve as defense secretary, with the text: “Fired by Obama to please the Muslims. Hired by Trump to exterminate them.” in caps. Criticism was swift, and a member of West’s staff deleted the post and apologized, claiming it was posted without West’s consent.
AU will continue to oppose threats to religious freedom.
But even if West regrets having that meme posted after the backlash he received, his islamophobic history is well-documented. From torturing a Muslim prisoner while he was in the army (a crime that got him kicked out of the military) to complaining about “Coexist” bumper stickers because he felt unsafe around Muslims, his particularly bad treatment of Muslims is a threat to true religious freedom.
If West can’t differentiate between Muslims and terrorists – or if he can, chooses not to and still wants to “exterminate” Muslims – he is neither qualified nor has any business advising Trump on issues that often deal with extremist religious terrorism.
But these are the kinds of people Trump is allowing within his administration, or at the least, within his inner circle. People who don’t respect the separation of church and state, spread misinformation about religious minorities and promote intolerance and hostility towards religious minorities are in Trump’s ears. That should worry those who care about our issues.
I attended the 2016 Values Voter Summit (a Religious Right gathering where privileged American Christians complain about their nonexistent oppression) in September, and I heard West speak in person. As I wrote after the summit, West said that he’s “sick and tired of hearing separation of church and state.”
Quite frankly, we’re sick and tired of attacks on religious freedom, and we won’t back down. We continue to defend church and state separation, and we continue to fight for religious minorities’ rights in the United States.
With the increasing amount of post-election hostility towards Muslims and other religious minorities, Americans United staff members have been actively trying to combat this hate by joining in on anti-hate events, protests and promoting inclusion.
The same day West met with Trump, AU’s Field Associate Erin Hagen attended a march to the White House with activists from various allied organizations, including the ACLU, to say #NoMuslimRegistry. This is just one example in the many ways AU and its staff are promoting true religious freedom.
As Trump’s administration assembles, we’re keeping a close eye on his appointments and influences, and we are preparing to oppose any threat to religious freedom.