Donald Trump has kept few of his promises to average Americans. Indeed, it often seems that only the wealthy and large corporations have benefited from the slashing of safety and health regulations and the Trump tax bill scheduled to clear Congress today supported solely by Republican votes. But one other group has been showered with access and policy moves that threaten the religious freedom and civil rights of a majority of Americans: Religious Right extremists, those I call the Christofascists. Trump and his minions have basically declared war on LGBT Americans, seek to shutter the doors of Planned Parenthood , 97% of whose operations are for health services to the poor and uninsured (abortion services are only 3%), and attacks on public education, including protections for LGBT students and students with disabilities. And the Christofascists have cheered as all of this has transpired. A piece in Right Wing Watch looks at the frightening influence that the Christofascists now have under Trumpenführer. Here are highlights (I have omitted numerous measures listed in the article):[O]nce it became clear that Trump was going to win the GOP nomination, he started aggressively courting the evangelical Right, including holding a massive meeting for Religious Right leaders in New York that many cite as a turning point for their support.
On the day of that meeting, Trump announced the formation of an evangelical advisory board that included Religious Right leaders including James Dobson and Michele Bachmann. Trump’s selection of Mike Pence as his running mate sealed the deal for many on the Religious Right. Trump’s “amen corner” of prosperity gospel preachers and domininionists eventually expanded to include the large share of Religious Right leaders, who offered various theological explanations for their embrace of a morally flawed candidate.
Once he was elected—with 80 percent of the white evangelical vote—Trump kept his evangelical advisory board intact and promised to give it unprecedented access to the White House. He stacked his Cabinet with friends of the Religious Right, including Tom Price at Health and Human Services, Betsy DeVos at Education and Ben Carson at Housing and Urban Development. Far-right pastor Ralph Drollinger worked with Trump’s transition team to set up weekly Bible studies for Trump’s Cabinet members. The conservative Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society vetted potential judicial nominees.
The White House continues to hold weekly calls with evangelical advisory board members. Conservative leaders also receive a weekly email from the White House compiling “highlights for—and requests for action from—the conservative world.”
The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins [who has documented white supremacist ties] said in August, “I’ve been to the White House I don’t know how many more times in the first six months this year than I was during the entire Bush administration.” The Susan B. Anthony List’s Marjorie Dannenfelser said she visited the White House seven times in Trump’s first 100 days in office. Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America said in September, “I’m told from people before me that even under George W. Bush, we didn’t have this kind of access. It certainly is unprecedented and we’re very grateful.” Land gushed about evangelicals having “unprecedented access” to the White House, adding that there “are more evangelicals in this administration as personnel than any administration in my lifetime.”
This was the year the Religious Right moved into the White House. Below is a timeline of visits of Religious Right leaders to the White House, administration officials’ appearances at major Religious Right events, and policy decisions that were driven by or appeared to be gifts to the Religious Right. The list is, of course, incomplete. Because the White House is keeping its visitor logs secret, we could only track meetings that participants posted about on social media or which were made public to the press. There are also surely many more meetings, events and decisions that we have missed.
January 27: Trump sits down for an interview with David Brody, a political correspondent with Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, which has joined Fox News as a functional propaganda arm of the administration.
January 31: Trump nominates Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins is in attendance. The Religious Right is thrilled.
February 23: The departments of justice and education withdraw protections for transgender students in public schools that had been implemented by the Obama administration. Religious Right groups express their gratitude.
March 13: HHS announces its intention to eliminate “questions seeking to identify gay, lesbian and bisexual elders in a U.S. health survey.” The plan is later dropped.
March 24: ProPublica reports that the Trump administration has “quietly appointed” former Heritage Foundation official Roger Severino to head the HHS Office for Civil Rights.
April 13: Trump, flanked by Dannenfelser and Nance, signs a bill allowing states to withhold federal funds from Planned Parenthood clinics. The bill was passed thanks to a tiebreaking vote from Pence.
April 14: The Justice Department drops a lawsuit against North Carolina over its discriminatory anti-trans “bathroom bill.”
April 22: In a lengthy profile of Carson, New York magazine’s Alec MacGillis reports on HUD leaders’ “strong hang-up about all matters transgender-related,” including pulling back various efforts on LGBT homelessness and housing discrimination.
May 2: HHS confirms that former Family Research Council and National Right to Life Committee staffer Teresa Manning will take charge of its Title X family planning program.
May 3: Trump invites the members of his faith advisory board to a pre-National Day of Prayer dinner at the White House. Attendees include Jeffress, White, Graham, Jim Garlow, Metaxas, Land, Rodriguez, Dobson, former congresswoman and “pastor to the United Nations” Michele Bachmann, Mark Burns, Ralph Reed and others.
May 23: Trump releases a budget proposal that aims to slash spending on public education while pouring $1.4 billion into charter schools, private & religious school vouchers and other “school choice” programs.
May 25: Former anti-choice congresswoman Renee Ellmers takes over HHS’ Atlanta regional office. Politico reports that former Colorado lieutenant governor and Planned Parenthood opponent Jane Norton will be heading up the agency’s office of intergovernmental and external affairs while former Family Research Council chief of staff Shannon Royce will head the center for faith-based and neighborhood partnerships.
June 6: The Hill reports that abstinence-only sex-ed activist Valerie Huber has been appointed to a high-ranking position at HHS.
July 10: Conservative evangelical leaders, attending a day-long “listening session” at the White House, are invited to the Oval Office to meet with and pray over Trump. Some of the regulars are there—White, Jeffress, Reed, Bachmann, Harry Jackson, Gary Bauer, Garlow, Jack Graham, Land—and they’re also joined by Florida pastor and bizarre conspiracy theorist Rodney Howard-Browne. At the meeting, Tony Perkins reportedly broaches “the topic of banning transgender people from the military.”
July 14: The Center for Investigative Reporting reports that HHS “has quietly axed $213.6 million in teen pregnancy prevention programs and research at more than 80 institutions around the country.”
July 26: Trump announces on Twitter that the military will cease to allow “transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military.” FRC’s Perkins later says he had been “working with the White House” on the rollback, as well as on upcoming Justice Department “religious liberty” guidance.
July 26: The Justice Department goes “out of its way to file a friend-of-the court brief in a case to argue that federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in employment does not prohibit bias based on sexual orientation.”
September 7: Trump nominates Matthew Kacsmaryk, an attorney at the Religious Right legal group First Liberty Institute, and his former First Liberty colleague Jeff Mateer to federal judgeships in Texas. The White House is later forced to withdraw Mateer’s nomination after video surfaces of various controversial remarks, including calling transgender kids part of “Satan’s plan.”
September 7: The Justice Department files a brief in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, on the side of Alliance Defending Freedom and Religious Right groups that argue that certain private businesses should be allowed to refuse service to LGBTQ people.
September 28: Trump nominates Kyle Duncan, a former attorney for the Religious Right legal group Becket Fund and attorney for Hobby Lobby to a federal appeals court judgeship.
October 5: Sessions reverses “a federal government policy that said transgender workers were protected from discrimination under a 1964 civil rights law.”
December 7: Trump announces that he will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, a move long advocated by the Religious Right.