Paula White, a TV preacher who promotes the controversial theology of the “prosperity gospel,” has been given an official job in the administration of President Donald Trump.
White will work in the White House’s Office of Public Liaison, The New York Times reported Oct. 31. Her job, an anonymous administration official said, will be to offer advice on the administration’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative, Trump’s name for the faith-based initiative that allows religious organizations to get federal funding to provide government services. Although it was later reported that White will actually oversee the entire faith-based office, it’s likely her job will have a political dimension as well and that White, who has no experience working in government, will probably spend much of her time shoring up Trump’s conservative evangelical base in advance of the 2020 election.
White, a Florida-based minister, has been allied with Trump since the early 2000s. She’s a member of Trump’s secretive Evangelical Advisory Board, which Trump formed before the 2016 election to woo conservative evangelicals.
White has also been one of Trump’s most dependable apologists. Despite Trump’s frequent crass behavior, his tendency to lie and his seeming unfamiliarity with the basic doctrines of Christianity, White has stood by Trump, going so far as to insist that God put him in the White House and that opposing Trump is opposing God.
In August 2017, White told fellow televangelist Jim Bakker that God put Trump in office despite his flaws.
“They say about our president, ‘Well, he is not presidential.’ Thank goodness. Thank goodness. Thank goodness,” White said. “And I mean that with all due respect. Because in other words, he is not a polished politician. In other words, he is authentically – whether people like it or not – has been raised up by God. Because God says that he raises up and places all people in places of authority. It is God who raises up a king. It is God that sets one down. When you fight against the plan of God, you are fighting against the hand of God.”
More recently, White sparked controversy last year when she told her followers to give her ministry a month’s salary and implied that bad things would happen to them if they didn’t.
“It is the basis or underlying support for your success in 2018,” White wrote on her website. “It is GOD’S PRINCIPLE OF FIRST FRUITS. All Firsts belong to God. When you honor this principle it provides the foundation and structure for God’s blessings and promises in your life, it unlocks deep dimensions of spiritual truths that literally transform your life! When you apply this everything comes in divine alignment for His plan and promises for you. When you don’t honor it, whether through ignorance or direct disobedience there are consequences.”
White’s ministry has been the subject of scrutiny in the past. In 2007, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) launched an investigation into six large prosperity gospel ministries that he believed might have been violating federal law by using tax exemption to fund lavish lifestyles for ministry heads. Among the ministries Grassley examined was White’s Without Walls International Church in Tampa, which at the time she ran with her then-husband, Randy.
Grassley asked the ministry to provide a list of expense-account items “including, but not limited to, clothing expenses and any cosmetic surgery for years 2004 to present.” White provided some basic financial data about the ministry but refused the full request for information. Four years later, the Grassley inquiry collapsed under withering attacks from Religious Right activists. White claimed this as vindication.
Americans United criticized the appointment of White to a government post.
“Televangelist Paula White is unfit to serve in the position of advisor to the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative,” said Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United. “She has no experience in government or public service and no history of undertaking the kind of interfaith outreach necessary for this role. Instead, she has operated in the shadows to influence public policies that discriminate against women, LGBTQ people and religious minorities, and the nomination of partisan judges who will support those harmful policies.”