March 2018 Church & State - March 2018

Religious Right Leader: Trump’s Politics Matter More Than His Morality

  Liz Hayes

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, recently said he and other evangelical Christians are willing to overlook President Donald Trump’s less-than-Chris­tian behavior as long as Trump delivers policy victories for the Religious Right.

Perkins’ remarks came during a Jan. 23 interview with Politico’s “Off Message” podcast in the wake of the revelations that Trump had allegedly bribed porn star Stormy Daniels with $130,000 to keep quiet about their 2006 affair, which allegedly occurred about a year into his marriage to Melania Trump.

“We kind of gave him – ‘All right, you get a mulligan. You get a do-over here,’” Perkins said.

Perkins told podcast host Edward-Isaac Dovere that conservative Christians felt persecuted under the Barack Obama administration and appreciate Trump’s “religious freedom” executive orders. Those include proclamations that signaled the Trump administration’s plans to allow religion to be used as an excuse to discriminate against women, the LGBTQ community and others, as well as signaling his intent to undermine the Johnson Amendment’s protections that ensure that houses of worship and other nonprofits don’t endorse or oppose partisan political candidates.

“It’s a developing relationship,” Perkins said of the symbiosis between Trump and evangelicals. “But I’ll have to say this: From a policy standpoint, he has delivered more than any other president in my lifetime.”

AU Communications Director Rob Boston, writing on AU’s “Wall of Separation” blog, said Perkins’ support for Trump smacks of hypocrisy: “What Perkins is saying is stunning because he’s essentially admitting that the Religious Right has decided to elevate politics over principle. It turns out that his movement doesn’t care about ‘morals’ after all – it just wants to score political points. (We at Americans United have known that for a long time, so it’s validating to hear Perkins admit it.)”

Perkins explained to Dovere what it would take for evangelicals to abandon Trump: “Whenever the policy stops, and his administration reverts to just personality, that’s where I believe the president will be in trouble.”

Americans United noted that Religious Right leaders have remained silent about other ethical lapses by Trump, mostly notably his boasts about sexually assaulting women that came to light during the 2016 campaign. They also said nothing after Trump failed not only to condemn the neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017 but actually declared that there were “good people on both sides …” The few prominent evangelicals who have been critical of Trump have reported being ostracized and attacked online.

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