Donald Trump, the Religious Right’s Trojan Horse


resident Donald Trump, Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Karen Pence at the National Prayer Service on 21 January. (Photo: Al Drago / The New York Times)
President Donald Trump, Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Karen Pence at the National Prayer Service on 21 January. (Photo: Al Drago / The New York Times)
This time a year ago, leaders of the old guard religious right were determined to stop Donald J. Trump from winning the Iowa caucuses. James Dobson, the founder and former president of Focus on the Family, and Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, joined Senator Ted Cruz as he campaigned in the state.

By Michelle Goldberg | Church and State/New York Times

Prominent female anti-abortion activists released an open letter, “Pro-Life Women Sound the Alarm: Donald Trump Is Unacceptable.” It cited, among other things, Mr. Trump’s former ownership of a casino strip club.

Driving around Iowa that January, I heard Christian radio hosts rebuke Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, for giving his support to Mr. Trump.

“Mr. Falwell, in light of Mr. Trump’s attacks on those he happens to dislike at the moment,” asked one, Michael L. Brown, in a plaintive open letter, “How can you point to his Christlike character?”

What a difference a year makes.

Once Mr. Trump seized the Republican nomination, religious conservatives realized that their only path to federal influence lay in a bargain with this profane, thrice-married Manhattan sybarite. So they got in line, ultimately proving to be Mr. Trump’s most loyal backers.

When, last October, a recording emerged of Mr. Trump’s boasting to a TV host about grabbing women “by the pussy,” many secular conservatives urged him to step aside, but most of the religious right stayed true. Ralph Reed, the founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and head of Mr. Trump’s religious advisory board, argued that for people of faith, “a 10-year-old tape of a private conversation with a TV talk show host ranks pretty low on their hierarchy of their concerns.”

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