It is highly likely that most Americans understand that terrible Trump’s only regard for religion is pandering to his evangelical cult because they are dedicated to keeping him in the Oval Office.
When Trump made a big deal about opening up the country so the plague-infected faithful could celebrate a pagan holiday Christians changed to Easter, he was indulging his evangelical base and little else. In fact, it is almost certain that Trump was acting on the advice, and on behalf, of his evangelical sycophants posing as White House “faith” counselors.
It became fairly evident during Trump’s crusade to open churches for the Christian “resurrection” holiday that faith and worship had nothing to do with why he and his theocratic counselors wanted the faithful to spread, or contract, COVID-19 during in-person church services.
Those so-called “essential” meetings have emerged as one of the major “hotbeds” of COVID-19 transmission; a fact that is nothing more than an irritant to both Trump and the clergy. Neither Trump nor his evangelical advisors have any regard for the health of the faithful or the communities they live in. Trump needs the evangelical electoral support and the wealthy clergy can hardly fleece their congregants unless they are closely packed in the pews.
It was no different last week when Trump “ordered” governors to immediately “open up churches” because, he claimed, they were an “essential” part of making America great. The big clue Trump could not possibly care less about religion was when he showed up at one of his golf courses on a Sunday morning instead of singing psalms and praying in church with his deranged evangelical cult members waiting for some campaigning from the pulpit.
There was some commentary on Trump recreating on the links while the number of his plague victims grew closer to 100,000. However, there was very little, if any, outrage asking: Why, if in-person church attendance was so “essential” to people of faith, was Trump playing instead of praying? Even Trump’s evangelical sycophants were nonplussed that Trump was not indulging in an “essential” part of American life.
Of course anyone who has heard Trump speak knows he is a consummate sinner and no kind of Christian; not unlike a huge percentage of his so-called “followers of Christ” base. Trump’s drive to energize his evangelical support group is not a unilateral effort by any means. Besides the wealthy clergy complaining loudly that they are losing money, they are also aware of lost opportunities to campaign for Trump from the pulpit. This is particularly true since Trump made deleting the so-called “Johnson Amendment” out of existence a primary reason the evangelical faithful to vote for him in 2016.
Trump attempted to deliver on that hideous campaign promise a few months after his very poorly-attended inauguration. He told the wealthy evangelical clergy class that they are free to campaign from the pulpit to their vile hearts’ content because they enjoy religious freedom and immunity from the law.
The Johnson Amendment does not prevent clergy from openly campaigning for Republicans, but they cannot campaign from the pulpit and maintain their tax-free status. The Johnson Amendment is a constitutional provision in the tax code that bans churches and other houses of worship from campaigning for political candidates if they want to keep their tax-exempt status. Trump therefore issued an executive order to undermine that tax law so that his personal evangelical advisors can endorse, and promote Trump, from the pulpit without fear of repercussions.
Trump and his White House faith advisors have a powerful ally in the Justice Department in Attorney General Bill Barr who understands how crucial opening up churches is to Trump’s reelection. Shortly after several states’ governors made provisions banning in-person church services, Trump’s hit man issued a warning that he, like his sinful boss Trump, was not going to tolerate any governor’s attempt to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus by restricting in-person church services. In fact, just yesterday (Friday), the White House rejected the Center for Disease Control’s recommendations on limiting church choir activity because it is a giant vector for the virus.
Although Barr lacks the authority to punish mostly Democratic governors who attempt to protect the lives of their citizens, he made it abundantly clear that he would not tolerate evangelicals “being persecuted” by restrictions on in-person church services. His message to the faithful was that if they wanted to take legal action against Democratic governors, the Justice Department would join the battle on behalf of the poor persecuted evangelicals. Barr knows, like Trump knows, that a sure-fire method of currying favor with the faithful is to claim the Trump administration will open up churches quickly – to help the clergy maintain their wealthy lifestyles as recompense for free campaign assistance every Sunday.
It is remarkable that there are no small number of religious leaders opposed to opening up churches during a global pandemic; some have even sent strong messages to Trump making their case that the faithful are perfectly able to remain faithful without in-person church services. There are also just as many members of the clergy who attest that they have no interest in campaigning from the pulpit; they are religious leaders, not political activists.
It is worth noting that the faithful evangelicals worshipping Trump as their god-savior have never ever opened their mythological book of god-rules. If they had looked at their lord and savior’s commandments regarding “essential” worship, including instruction on appropriate prayer, they would be cognizant they do not need in-person services to be “faithful.” If they were genuinely faithful, they would know that Jesus told them to pray in private – such as in a closet. They are also supposed to donate to the poor, not churches and wealthy clergy. Nowhere in the Christian bible does Jesus Christ instruct “Christians” to donate to wealthy members of the clergy, or their filthy mega-churches violating their biblical command to “obey the government” and “pay taxes.”
Apparently, Trump, his evangelical acolytes, and Attorney General Barr will have their chance to elevate religion to a place only Trump enjoys – above the law. After a Federal Appeals Court slapped down a plea by a group of evangelical clergy in California, they instantly appealed to the Supreme Court. Now, if the High Court’s conservatives follow precedent from Antonin Scalia, they will slap down the evangelicals idea that because they are “religious,” they are above the law. Scalia made it quite clear in 1990 saying:
“We have never held that an individual’s religious beliefs excuse him from. Compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the State is free to regulate.”
In what is a surprising development late Friday, the Supreme Court rejected the California clergy’s argument that the COVID-19 restrictions violate the First Amendment. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that “those restrictions appear consistent with the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.” The other conservatives claimed that the poor beleaguered evangelicals simply “want to be treated equally to comparable secular businesses.”
If that is the case, it is time to strip tax exemption from churches and let them operate as the highly profitable businesses they really are.
It is more evident every day that neither Trump nor his evangelical malcontents are interested in worship, faith, or preserving life; the clergy want more money from congregants and taxpayers alike, and they desperately want to repay Trump with weekly campaign rallies in church. If their greed and lust for power result in transmitting Trump’s plague throughout their congregations and surrounding communities, then it is a price they are more than willing to make Americans pay. As for Trump, his only regard is manipulating the faithful to further his reelection to make their goal of an American theocracy reach fruition.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.