Not since the religious right burst onto the national political scene four decades ago has an American president done more to cultivate its good will than Donald Trump. Let us count the ways.
- He assembled a Who’s Who of evangelical activists as his religious advisors.
- He pledged to do away with the Johnson Amendment barring religious organizations (and other non-profits) from engaging in partisan politics.
- He said he would restrict Muslims from entering the United States and issued executive orders doing just that.
- He has attached himself closely to Israel’s right-wing government and moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
- He has rolled back the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to cover contraceptive services for women.
- He promised to pick Supreme Court justices who would do away with Roe v. Wade, and has chosen two nominees who many think will do that.
- He has reversed the Obama Administration’s requirement that those who object to receiving social services from faith-based providers be given secular alternatives.
- He has signed on to a “religious liberty” agenda making it easier to obtain exemptions from laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination.
- He has embraced Russian president Vladimir Putin, whose hostility to Islam and opposition to gay rights have endeared him to leading social conservatives.
There’s no question that these positions have locked in Trump’s support among white evangelicals, who make up about a quarter of the electorate. Eighty percent voted for him, and his favorability rating with them remains in that neighborhood.
What about the rest of the GOP’s religious base? Will it be on board for the coming midterm elections, which are shaping up as a referendum on Trump and his policies?
Orthodox Jews no doubt will be. In stark contrast to their Conservative and Reform co-religionists, they vote Republican, and Trump’s pro-Israel posture has only made them more enthusiastic about doing so. Indeed, at 71 percent, the Orthodox are Trump’s most loyal religious supporters after evangelicals.
Mormons are a trickier case. A year after his inauguration, 61 percent gave Trump a favorable rating. This was the same percentage who voted for him—well below their usual level of support for Republican presidential candidates. Trump’s decidedly un-Mormon personal style rubs them the wrong way, and there is serious opposition to his immigration policy in a church with longstanding and increasingly strong ties to Latin America. Whether the mixed feelings will rub off on Republicans running for lesser offices in November is an open question.
The American Catholic community, increasingly Latino, is more opposed to Trump’s immigration policies, to such an extent that this has weakened the hierarchy’s support for the anti-abortion party. White Catholics, who chose Trump over Clinton 56 percent to 37 percent, are now evenly divided in viewing him favorably. As for white mainline Protestants, who also voted for him by a significant margin, they appear to be less enamored as well. There’s no question that the religious left, though much smaller than the religious right, has been roused to action by Trump policies in a way not seen since the Vietnam war.
Read the full story at Religion News Service