The Administration

The biggest victim under a President Trump? Freedom of religion


With the Trump administration taking shape, the world is getting a glimpse into the kind of government the U.S. will have for at least the next four years.

Minority groups across the country fear the impact such a Cabinet, made up of science denialists, white nationalists and Christian extremists, will have on their communities. Another important impact this administration will potentially have is on religious freedom, as Trump and his forming Cabinet have long had great disdain for the First Amendment.

{mosads}“We are about to be swamped with new and fierce assaults on the wall of separation. Everything from allowing churches to endorse political candidates and retain their tax-exemption, to legislating bible-based homophobia and rolling back LGBTQ rights, to destroying public schools and enriching religious schools with ineffective vouchers, to redefining religious freedom so that it becomes a license to discriminate,” said Freedom From Religion Foundation constitutional attorney Andrew Seidel. “We’ve got a fight ahead.”

This sentiment was shared among other secular leaders as well.

“During his campaign, President-elect Trump framed religious privilege as ‘religious freedom,’ twisting its definition to justify a host dangerous policy proposals,” said Larry T. Decker, executive director of the Secular Coalition for America. “This includes pledging to appoint a Supreme Court Justice who will ‘automatically’ overturn Roe v. Wade, allowing pastors to politick from the pulpit while maintaining their tax-exempt status, sending federal money to religious schools, and legalizing taxpayer-funded employment discrimination. In the week since his victory, we have yet to see any signs that the incoming Trump administration will not attempt to follow through on enacting these unconstitutional policies.”

On church endorsements, Trump made a point to include overturning the Johnson Amendment, a law that was passed in 1954 that that prohibits tax-exempt organizations from participating in political activities, in this acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.

During the speech, Trump argued that religious leaders have much to contribute to U.S. politics but are being silenced by the Johnson Amendment.

“An amendment, pushed by Lyndon Johnson many years ago, threatens religious institutions with a loss of their tax-exempt status if they openly advocate their political views. Their voice has been taken away,” Trump said. “I am going to work very hard to repeal that language and to protect free speech for all Americans.”

While Trump himself said in a “60 Minutes” interview he considered the 2015 same-sex marriage ruling by the Supreme Court law, his vice president, Mike Pence, and many members of the Republican-held Congress do not agree. It is also reasonable to assume his Supreme Court nominee or nominees will not agree.

In fact, Pence has long been an enemy of the LGBTQ community, advocating for the damaging practice of conversion therapy, as he discussed in at the 2008 Republican National Convention:

“Well, the fact is, you can choose to restrain that compulsion. And so I think in fact you don’t have to give in to the compulsion to be homosexual. I think that’s been proven in case after case after case. … I believe homosexuality is a compulsion that can be contained, repressed or changed. … [T]hat is what I’m saying in the clearest of terms.”

Pence has also voted against LGBTQ non-discrimination acts that would have protected LGBTQ individuals from job discrimination based on sexual orientation while he was a member of House of Representatives.

The truth is, the biggest issues facing the nation under a Trump presidency will stem from the erosion of secularism. Abortion rights, LGBTQ rights education — all stand to suffer greatly if religion is the driving force behind the decision-making on these issues.

Secularism is a staple of American society: It is the right of every American to practice the religion of his or her choice or to have no religion at all, all the while living under a government that protects that right and does not rely on any religion for its policy-making decisions.

The next four years will test the resiliency of the country and test the limits of the U.S. Constitution in ways it hasn’t seen in decades.


Dan Arel is a political activist, award-winning journalist, and author of The Secular Activist, and Parenting Without God. You can follow him on Twitter @danarel.

The views of Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Constitution Mike Pence Prayer Religion secular Separation of church and state

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