Trump’s catering worked: Why the Christian Right is head over heels about him becoming president
By the time the votes were tallied, 81 percent of white evangelical and born-again Christian voters had cast their ballots for Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States. Even though the real estate mogul is an adulterer now on his third marriage who has bragged about sexual assault, a large majority of the Christian right supported him.
Far-right Christian leaders also reflected this preference among their base, with some fervently backing Trump months ago or eventually coming around to the candidate as they feared an attack on their social values under a Hillary Clinton presidency. Now that Trump is the president-elect, most radical Christian leaders are on board.
“After eight years under the Obama administration, religious freedom has never been more endangered than it is today. Our nation has an opportunity over the next four years to make freedom mean something again,” said Tony Perkins, president of the far-right Family Research Council, the day after the election.
Knowing he would need to win over evangelicals in order to beat Clinton, Trump promised them much of what they wanted. He gave a well-received speech to hundreds of Christian conservatives in New York this summer and formed a 26-person “evangelical executive advisory board.” The board is almost all male, and according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “stacked with anti-LGBT activists.”
In Trump, right-wing evangelicals see someone who will protect them from what they view as liberal tyranny assaulting their religious freedom. Nonprofit churches want the right to engage in politics. Business owners want the right to discriminate against LGBT employees and customers. Religious private schools want states to fund voucher programs so low-income students can attend on the public dime. And perhaps most important to right-wing Christians is defunding Planned Parenthood, which Trump has pledged to do, and making abortion illegal, which he has signaled may happen. Trump told “60 Minutes” the Sunday after Election Day that he would appoint pro-life justices to the Supreme Court, and that if the court struck down Roe v. Wade, states could decide whether to allow abortion or not.
Perkins said that the election was “a rejection of a court that has acted as an oligarchy for the last four decades,” implying that a Supreme Court filled with Trump nominees could reverse women’s right to abortions and other laws his community opposes. The Family Research Council is labeled an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The American Family Association, which the Southern Poverty Law Center also considers an anti-LGBT hate group, put out a press release the day after the election titled “Trump Will Make America Great.” While calling both Trump and Hillary Clinton flawed candidates, president Tim Wildmon wrote that Trump “has promised to choose Supreme Court justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade,” in contrast to Clinton, who “promised to expand federally funded baby murder in the womb, continue failed Obama-era immigration policies and declared war on religious liberty.”
Right-wing evangelical leaders aren’t just happy Trump will be president — they’re thrilled Mike Pence will be second in command. “There is no politician whom I respect more,” said right-wing Christian leader James Dobson.
Pence is an evangelical Christian and a fierce opponent of abortion. As governor of Indiana he signed a law requiring fetal tissue from abortions to be buried or cremated, signed abortion restrictions and slashed funding for Planned Parenthood. He also holds bigoted views on LGBT individuals, opposing classifying attacks on LGBT people as hate crimes and supporting gay therapy.
The radical Christian right had a major victory in July when it took part in drafting the Republican Party platform. Perkins reportedly had a significant role in the process, having introduced amendments including one opposing the right of transgender people to use the bathroom matching their gender identity and another implying an endorsement of gay conversion therapy.
Now Trump’s transition team contains several members connected to the anti-LGBT Family Research Council.
Some right-wing evangelical leaders were behind Trump well before the general election. Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, the largest religious university in the country, was one of the first major right-wing Christian leaders to back Trump. He endorsed the candidate in January and stood by him through criticism from Liberty University students and after an Access Hollywood video surfaced in which Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women. On November 17, Falwell met personally with Trump and said that the president-elect had offered him the position of Secretary of Education, which Falwell declined.
Controversial televangelist Pat Robertson repeatedly defended Trump during the general election, brushing off Trump’s comments in the Access Hollywood tape as “macho talk.”
Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and chair of Trump’s evangelical advisory board, told The Washington Post that Trump “stated his shared commitment to [evangelical] issues, including life, religious freedom, judges and support for Israel.”