At a political rally in Waterloo, Iowa, on Dec. 21, the pandering former President Trump threw out every conceivable Christian nationalist trope. After accusing President Biden, a practicing Catholic, of persecuting people of faith, particularly Catholics, Trump vowed that if elected president again, he’ll “immediately end the war on Christians” and will create a “new federal taskforce on fighting anti-Christian bias.”
He claimed that under Biden, “Christians and Americans of faith are being persecuted and government has been weaponed against religion like never before.” In language reminiscent of the Cold War, the Putin-loving candidate claimed “communists, Marxists and fascists are going hard after Catholics, even plotting to send spies into Catholic churches . . . just like in the Soviet Union in days gone by.” Trump irresponsibly charged: “Biden and his corrupt Department of Injustice have sent SWAT teams to arrest pro-life activists.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland, in an interview with Newsweek, rebutted Trump’s remarks: “Any characterization that the FBI is targeting Catholics is false.”
Directing his rant to Catholics, Trump asked: “If you’re Catholic why would you vote for a Democrat? . . . A new report from the House Judiciary Committee proves that the Biden FBI actually targeted Catholics as potential domestic terrorists.” The latter charge refers to a memo since removed by the bureau finding some overlap between far-right white nationalists and a small minority of radical-traditionalist Catholics.
The FBI responded, saying: “The FBI is committed to upholding the constitutional rights of all Americans, and we do not conduct investigations based solely on First Amendment–protected activity, including religious practices.”
Pandering to his base, Trump said to audience applause that “evangelicals won’t be far behind [in being persecuted]. . . . When I’m back in the White House never again will your government be used to target Christians and other religious believers.”
Trump, after tarring Democrats as “fascists” who want to “take your children and do things that are not even speakable,” then promised, “Upon taking office I will create a new federal taskforce on fighting anti-Christian bias to be led by a fully reformed DOJ . . . Its mission will be to investigate all forms of illegal discrimination, harassment and the persecution against Christians in America …”
Calling Americans of faith “the soul of the country,” Trump said, “I will defend religion and I will defend In God We Trust. And you know that very important phrase is under siege.”
In his most pandering remarks, Trump castigated Biden for failing “to even mention the birth of Jesus Christ” when he was lighting the Christmas tree. Trump concluded by reminding evangelicals that “as president I kept every promise I made to Christians and more . . . we appointed nearly 300 federal judges and three Supreme Court justices. … I stood up for religious liberty at home and all around the world. I protected innocent life. . .”
After the speech, he posted a video making similar claims, with a caption saying “Stopping the Persecution of Christians!” His remarks are so clearly a cynical and calculated ploy to target his gullible base. As Newsweek points out, Pew Research Center surveys show that about 6 in 10 white Catholics who attended Mass supported Trump in the 2020 election, and more than 8 in 10 white evangelicals, church-going or not, supported Trump.
In Trump’s world, observing a constitutional separation between Christianity and government becomes “persecution.” Like many Christian nationalists, he cannot distinguish between neutrality and hostility. We can only imagine how Trump would use his taskforce to go after state/church watchdogs like the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Things could get very ugly indeed, and it’s vital that the American people repudiate this theocratic demagogue at the polls.
FFRF Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that develops and advocates for legislation, regulations and government programs to preserve the constitutional principle of separation between state and church. It also advocates for the rights and views of nonbelievers, endorses candidates for political office, and publicizes the views of elected officials concerning religious liberty issues.