Trump steadily fulfills goals on religious right’s wish list

Free Press wire reports | 8/30/2019, 6 a.m.
When Donald Trump assumed the presidency, conservative religious leaders drew up “wish lists” of steps they hoped he’d take to ...
A sign conveys an anti-abortion message at a rally on Jan. 22, 2019, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. The event was part of annual “March for Life” events held in various states and Washington, D.C., on the Jan. 22, 1973, anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion. Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

NEW YORK When Donald Trump assumed the presidency, conservative religious leaders drew up “wish lists” of steps they hoped he’d take to oppose abortion and rein in the LGBTQ rights movement. With a flurry of recent actions, the Trump administration is winning their praise for aggressively fulfilling many of their goals.

Mat Staver, president of the legal advocacy organization Liberty Counsel, said President Trump has fulfilled about 90 percent of the goals on a list that Mr. Staver and other conservative leaders compiled.

“In the first two years of his administration, he’s achieved more than all of the presidents combined since Ronald Reagan,” Mr. Staver said. “He’s been the most pro-religious freedom and pro-life president in modern history.”

One of the most dramatic steps — hailed by conservatives and decried by liberals — came last week when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services implemented a new rule for the federal family planning program known as Title X. Planned Parenthood, long a target of religious conservatives because of its role as the leading U.S. abortion provider, quit the program — walking away from tens of millions of dollars in grants — rather than comply with a new rule prohibiting clinics from referring women for abortions.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Labor Department proposed a rule that is expected to shield federal contractors from discrimination complaints regarding hiring and firing decisions motivated by religious beliefs. Critics say the rule, if implemented, would enable employers to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

On Aug. 16, the federal Justice Department filed a brief telling the U.S. Supreme Court that federal law allows firing workers for being transgender. The brief is related to three cases that the high court will hear in its upcoming term related to LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace.

Earlier this year, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a waiver allowing a state-contracted foster care agency in South Carolina to deny services to same-sex and non-Christian families. HHS also moved to revoke newly won health care discrimination protections for transgender people.

These and other actions aimed at curtailing abortion rights and LGBTQ rights have helped many conserva- tive Christians overlook other aspects of the Trump presidency, such as his often-divisive rhetoric on Twitter and at rallies.

The Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of the Southern Baptist megachurch First Baptist Dallas and a frequent guest at the White House, predicted that President Trump would win more evangelical votes in 2020 than he did in 2016.

“When he ran in 2016 and promised pro-life, pro-religious freedom policies, most evangelicals who voted for him didn’t know whether he would or could fulfill those promises,” Rev. Jeffress said. “When they look back now, they see he checked off all of those goals. ... He’ll win by an even larger margin on the basis of promises kept.”

The same phenomenon being celebrated by religious conservatives is viewed with alarm by liberal activists.

For the religious right, “every day is Christmas,” said Rachel Laser, president and chief executive officer of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. She worries that the mantra of “religious freedom” is being used to protect some Americans while hurting others.