March 3, 2016

GOD’S OLD PARTY | I’m an Evangelical and I Don’t Support Donald Trump

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There was a time when the title of this piece stated the obvious (nonexistent) relationship between Donald Trump and evangelical Christians. To say it would be like declaring: “I’m a liberal, and I don’t support Fox News”.

Today, that man boasts of winning the evangelical vote. And strangely, it’s true.

Donald Trump won big on Super Tuesday, claiming decisive victories in seven out of 11 states. By delegate count, he has a formidable — although technically not insurmountable — lead over freshmen senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Looking at the polls on Wednesday morning, I imagined most people shaking their heads in disbelief: some angry, others alarmed, nearly all feeling that the looming cloud of a spectacular political coup was all but imminent.

While it appears to be the case that many self-identified evangelicals support Trump, many others don’t. Peter Wehner had a few choice words for the GOP frontrunner in his New York Times op-ed:

This visionary and inspiring man humiliated his first wife by tracducting a very public affair, chronically bullies and demeans people, and says he has never asked God for forgiveness. His name is emblazoned on a casino that features a strip club; he has discussed anal sex on the air with Howard Stern and, after complimenting his daughter Ivanka’s figure, pointed out that if she “weren’t my daughter, perhaps I would be dating her.” He once supported partial-birth abortion and to this day praises Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. He is a narcissist appealing to people whose faith declares that pride goes before a fall.

I don’t support Trump for many of the same reasons my religious and non-religious friends share with me. Among those reasons are my observations that Trump runs on his electrifying, larger-than-life personality to compensate for his lack of sensible, sustainable policies and his capricious ideological positions; that Trump is beholden not to monied interests but rather fixated by the specter of power which makes the presidency about one man and not the entire country; that Trump thinks signaling resolve through brute force is the cardinal trait of a good statesman.

What I find most outrageous about Trump is his pledge to ban all Muslim immigrants from coming to the United States. His declaration was telling in that the backing it received reveals the latent suspicion and discrimination many Americans harbor towards Muslims in this country. But it’s not unbelievable. An assault on the residency of Muslims in America is not so surprising when you consider that it follows a natural progression of nativist demonization of Muslims and their way of life.

I’m convinced that the freedom of religion enshrined in the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution applies to religious plurality today more than ever. That right is unconditional, as recent Supreme Court cases such as EEOC v. Abercrombie (2014) and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (2014) demonstrate.

In Abercrombie, the Court held that it was unconstitutional for Abercrombie to refuse to hire Samantha Elauf, a Muslim woman who wore a headscarf which violated the employee dress code. The Court also argued that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 “gives favored treatment to religious practices, rather than demanding that religious practices be treated no worse than other practices.”

In Hobby Lobby, the Court held that it was unconstitutional for Obamacare to force employers to provide employees with access to contraceptives insofar as doing so would violate the employer’s sincerely held religious belief that life begins at conception. Citing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Court stated that freedom of religion entails freedom to exercise religion, to “establish one’s religious (or nonreligious) self-definition in the political, civic, and economic life of our larger community.”

Freedom of Religion is relevant now more than ever as it faces intense scrutiny today by a largely dominant secular culture which sees it as parochial and backwards, or, worse, a license to bigotry. By targeting a religious group, Donald Trump would like to return America to the shameful age of the Alien and Sedition Acts that promulgated government censorship and deportation under the pretext of ensuring national security. Violating the Bill of Rights to preserve security is as misguided as it sounds.

From personal experience, some of my Muslim friends uphold the creeds of their faith with a reverence and conviction I deeply admire and seek to imitate in my own faith. They should be able to go to any mosque around the country without fear of harassment just as I take the bus down to Collegetown every weekend to attend church; they should feel free to petition our justice system for legal recourse when the government encroaches upon their religious freedom, as I know I have a right to as well. We are a government of laws, not of men, John Adams once said.

On this alone, I would not vote for Donald Trump: that a so-called visionary who miserably fails to recite a Bible verse about liberty dares to, in the same breath, spew all kinds of hatred towards an entire religious group. Pride does indeed go before a fall.

Andrew is a junior Government major in the College of Arts and Sciences. God’s Old Party appears on alternate Thursdays this semester. He can be reached at [email protected].