Editor’s Note: This week, “The Wall of Separation” blog continues its series of special posts examining the policy proposals in AU’s “Agenda to Restore & Protect Religious Freedom.” Developed by Americans United’s Public Policy Department, the agenda lists 10 proposals the incoming administration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris can take to undo the damage done to church-state separation during the Trump years.
Over the last four years, President Donald Trump has surrounded himself with mostly conservative evangelical Protestants. His link to this religious faction, which forms a large part of his base, has influenced his actions at every turn.
Many conservative evangelicals claim that God himself placed Trump in the White House, and in return for their support, Trump has pushed an agenda that serves to promote fallacious ideas of an officially “Christian America” that undercuts core values such as separation of church and state.
Trump has given the Religious Right unprecedented access to the White House. He has elevated their voices through his administration’s attacks on reproductive freedom and LGBTQ rights, as well as through his Evangelical Advisory Board, which bolsters the views of figures such as Paula White, Trump’s spiritual adviser. The Trump administration not only upholds right-wing evangelical values, but it has also criticized secular government and denigrated faiths such as Islam.
Therefore, as a part of AU’s Agenda to Restore & Protect Religious Freedom, we urge President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to prioritize establishing a government that reflects the religious diversity of this country.
AU has compiled action items to ensure that this new administration does its very best to represent the needs of all Americans, regardless of their religious or non-religious backgrounds. We want to elevate all voices, not a select few. This means choosing staff members and appointing people who mirror the religious and philosophical diversity of this country. It also means ensuring that Biden’s administration appoints experts in religious freedom who understand how that principle is undergirded by the separation of church and state. Furthermore, it is vital that the new administration acknowledge the wide array of faith communities in America and respect the right of people to be non-religious.
As we’ve noted on this blog, we’d also like to see a new approach in the delivery of social services to people in need. While AU has longstanding concerns about “faith-based” initiatives, if such partnerships are going to exist, the end goal must be helping people, not proselytizing. The rights of beneficiaries must be protected, and no one should ever feel compelled to take part in religious worship as a condition of receiving aid, especially when it is funded by taxpayers. In addition, the government should work equally with a variety of social service agencies, not just faith-based providers.
It is necessary that these agenda items are put in place and enforced under Biden’s administration so that all Americans can live in a country that upholds their right to freedom of religion and that maintains church-state separation. Your support will help make that possible.