June 2018 Church & State Magazine - June 2018

Religious Right Vows To Back Trump And GOP During Mid-term Elections

  Liz Hayes

Despite the sex scandal that continues to swirl around President Donald Trump, many powerful Religious Right leaders have signaled they’ll continue to support him and his agenda heading into November’s mid-term elections.

With an April poll from Public Religion Research Institute showing white evangelical Christian approval of Trump at 75 percent, “family values” voters don’t seem to be troubled by the ongoing revelations into the alleged affair Trump had with porn star Stormy Daniels 12 years ago and the $130,000 in hush money he admitted to paying her right before the November 2016 election.

Instead, evangelicals point to the political wins he has delivered to them since he took office: appointing Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and making other conservative judicial appointments; advancing an anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ agenda; pushing for the repeal of the Johnson Amendment so houses of worship can endorse political candidates; and moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

As a result, right-wing evangelical groups are pledging their support for Trump allies and the GOP platform in November.

The Faith and Freedom Coalition plans to spend four times the money it spent on the 2014 midterms, according to The New York Times. “I don’t know of anyone who has worked the evangelical community more effectively than Donald Trump,” said Ralph Reed, the coalition’s chairman.

The Times report noted that other Religious Right organizations like the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America are planning voter registration drives, or are mobilizing churches to sponsor “voter education” events. (Such forums are often, if not always, thinly disguised rallies for Religious Right-backed candidates.)

Hundreds of evangelicals are expected to gather this month at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., for a show of support for Trump and a planning session. It has been compared to the summer 2016 meeting of the group that became Trump’s evangelical advisory board that was used to shore up his support.

Despite the enthusiasm for Trump, some fissures in the Religious Right are showing. Religion News Service (RNS) reported that 50 evangelical leaders gathered at Wheaton College near Chicago in mid-April to air their concerns about their movement’s ties to Trump and how to square his questionable morals with their values.

“Yes, the reason we are getting together is the 2016 election and the role that white evangelicals played in electing Trump,” participant Katelyn Beaty, editor-at-large of Christianity Today, told RNS. “But the content of our time together was not about the president and really not about the president’s evangelical advisory council. It was really about, what does this mean for us and how have we gone wrong and how can we repair what’s clearly broken.”

 “That’s the sadness,” said Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family. “The next time a Democrat in the presidency has a moral failure, who’s going to be able to say anything?”

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