Donald Trump has long known that Christian fundamentalists could provide him the path to the presidency. That decision led him to curry the favor of religious right leaders who claimed for a short time that he had become a “born again Christian.” Since then, he is working to destroy the freedom of religion part of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
As Trump does with all his campaigning, he is now going over the edge in trying to woo conservative Christians. At a rally last week, he asked people in the crowd to raise their hands if they aren’t Christians. After a few brave people put their hands in the air, he said, “That’s alright. I think we’ll keep them, right? Shall we keep them in the room? I think so.” Trump’s method of identifying and shaming non-Christians wasn’t a one-time practice. He did it at another rally that day.
Trump may be winning with the evangelicals, but he lacks popularity with Roman Catholics. Hillary Clinton is ahead by 23 points with this demographic group at 55 percent to 32 percent. The last three GOP presidential candidates received over 40 percent of the Catholic vote.
Political scientist Michael J. New wrote in the conservative National Review that Trump lost support because of his attacks on Latino immigrants, considered the future of the Catholic church, and his attacks on Pope Francis. Christopher Hale, the executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, called the Trump-Pence ticket the “most anti-Catholic GOP presidential ticket in modern history.” In addition to Trump’s anti-immigration position, his running mate, Mike Pence, has a strong record of blocking the Catholic Church’s efforts to resettle Syrian refugees in Indiana.
Trump’s ratings with the Mormons are also so low that he could lose Utah, a state that hasn’t voted Democratic since Goldwater’s debacle in 1964. Trump is still seven points ahead of Hillary Clinton, but an independent run by Evan McMullin is gaining momentum. In addition to Trump’s immigration problem, Mormon Mitt Romney is a staunch Never Trumper, and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), whose Mormon pioneer ancestors settled in northern Arizona, refuses to vote for the GOP presidential candidate. Utah’s GOP Sen. Mike Lee has refused to support Trump because of his “religiously intolerant” statements in banning Muslims from the U.S. Utah GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz (a convert to Mormonism at Brigham Young University) told a group of 50 Utah Muslims that Trump’s call to ban Muslims is un-American, immoral, and does not represent “who we are as a people.”
Last May, former Sen. Bob Bennett, dying from a stroke, asked:
“Are there any Muslims in the hospital? I’d love to go up to every single one of them to thank them for being in this country and to apologize to them on behalf of the Republican Party for Donald Trump.”
Utah’s GOP governor, Gary Herbert, declared that Trump lacks “Utah values” because of his “bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third grade theatrics,” as Mitt Romney describes Trump. Herbert pointed out that Trump’s campaign is based almost exclusively on creating “scapegoats of Muslims and Mexican immigrants”—something that Mormons have faced all their lives through violence and state-sponsored persecution. Mormonism, like Catholicism, is also dependant on Latinos for its growth. With close to 1,400,000 church members, Mexico is second only to the U.S. as the nation with the largest Mormon population.
Mormons on the political left ask GOP Mormons to pray for anyone except Trump to become president. On the popular Mormon blog By Common Consent, Russell Fox, a political science professor at Friends University, wrote about how Trump, as president, “would apparently be comfortable with trashing the 1st, 4th, 5th, and 14th amendments.” He stated that it was up to the Mormons to save the country.
Recent polls show that 80 percent of white evangelicals intend to vote for Trump. It’s not because he’s a born-again; it shows how much their desire for political power has overcome their Christian principles. Trump has promised that he will allow non-profit, tax-exempt religious groups to endorse political candidates, destroying the separation of church and state. He has enflamed the religious right by falsely claiming that their religious institutions would lose their tax-exempt status “if they openly advocate their political views.” By spreading this lie, Trump hopes to get the votes of conservative Christians. He is the first presidential zealot who has advocated for overturning the law that was signed by GOP President Eisenhower.
After declaring his campaign, Trump used Christianity as an excuse for his decisions. In refusing to release his tax returns, he claimed that the IRS was persecuting him for his “strong Christian” beliefs. Christian leaders endorsing him had trouble justifying their position about a man who has bragged about his extramarital affairs. When Focus on the Family founder James C. Dobson personally endorsed Trump, he said that his conversion had made him “born again.” Trump has never made this claim, and Dobson shifted his statement to saying, “Only the Lord knows the condition of a person’s heart. I can only tell you what I’ve heard.”)
Evangelicals are a fertile field for an authoritarian candidate who praises the anti-LGBT leader of Russia who wants a “Christian civilization.” For example, Bryan Fischer called Vladimir Putin a “lion of Christianity” and called on legislators to eliminate free speech. Others have called Putin “the moral leader of the world” and champion of “traditional marriage and Christian values.” Franklin Graham, son of the great Billy Graham, puts Putin above President Obama and praised Russia’s actions in Syria, called a “holy battle” by the Russian Orthodox Church.
Trump’s other voting base comes from the white supremacy movement that believes in eliminating all except “the right kind of people.” Some of the “wrong kind of people” are non-Christians, including Jews. The candidate shows himself in accord with these groups such as the Alt-Right led by Jared Taylor. As shown in the Frontline documentary, “The Choice,” Trump’s father taught his son that success is genetic. Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio said:
“The family subscribes to a racehorse theory of human development. They believe that there are superior people and that if you put together the genes of a superior woman and a superior man, you get a superior offspring.”
Like other Trump ideas, this philosophy matches that of Adolf Hitler who murdered over six million people because they lacked the right genes, because they weren’t “the right kind of people.”
A religious conversion may work for Trump if it fits into his business value of fleecing people with his scams. Last summer he selected televangelist Paula White, his “spiritual leader” as his evangelical outreach leader. White has a resurrection seed that will bring the dead back to life—for only $1,144. Russell Moore, leader of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm, called White a “charlatan” and a “heretic” who preaches a “prosperity gospel” that falsely claims that “God’s favor is seen in increasing wealth and freedom from sickness.” [Below: White and other prosperity preachers lay hands on Donald Trump and pray for him at Trump Tower, from a video made September 2015.]
White’s advice complements Trump’s goal: “Find your passion in life and figure out a way to make money.” Before her divorce from her second husband, Congress investigated them for an abuse of the tax-exempt status of their church. Trump and White are a matched set: religion is a scam for both of them.