One of the curiosities of the presidential campaign was the evangelicals’ embrace of a man who has been married three times, runs casinos, and who lives a life of ostentation (not to mention the nude photos on the Internet of his third wife).
Now the evangelicals are getting the rewards they sought in Trump’s appointments.
Encouraged by Trump’s cabinet picks, conservative Christians want many of Obama’s social policies reversed
CHARLESTON, S.C.—After nearly a decade, the Christian right is emerging from the political wilderness.
Donald Trump’s victory is giving new life to socially conservative causes that have suffered a string of defeats in recent years, potentially reigniting culture wars that many liberals had hoped were all but over.
Conservative Christians who had despaired of the country’s direction under President Barack Obama—and of developments such as the legalization of same-sex marriage—now expect to wield influence in an administration that they helped bring to power.
They are pressing for a ban on late-term abortions; expanded accommodation for religion in the workplace, at hospitals and elsewhere; and, above all, the appointment of conservative judges.
Already, social conservatives are taking up positions in Mr. Trump’s cabinet. Tom Price, a forceful voice for expanding religious liberty and a vehement opponent of the Obamacare contraception mandates, was tapped last week to become secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Ben Carson, a Christian who has frequently spoken out against gay and transgender rights, was chosen to be secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“I hope we can restore our country to a God-fearing nation again,” Sindy Mills, 37, who voted for Mr. Trump, said outside of Charleston Baptist Church. She said America had turned away from God with “the same-sex marriage issue and abortion and taking God out of the schools.”
Despite these expectations, the religious right’s goals have shifted since the last time Republicans were in power—reflecting the difficulty of reversing social changes that occurred during the Obama years.
Few conservative Christians are calling for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, as they did during President George W. Bush’s tenure. Instead, their immediate goals are more incremental.
In interviews, social conservatives said they expect Mr. Trump to promptly rescind an Obama administration executive order that bans federal contractors from discriminating against gay, lesbian and transgender people. They also anticipate that health-care regulations that require Catholic hospitals to offer contraception will be reversed, something Vice President-elect Mike Pence, a staunch social conservative, promised during the campaign.
In the long term, many evangelicals are hoping that conservative judges will overturn rulings on social issues including gay marriage and Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that established a nationwide right to abortion access.
“There’s no question we are losing the culture war, but we haven’t lost it,” said Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary. “There’s been incalculable damage done by Mr. Obama, but much of it can be undone just by undoing his executive orders.”
Mr. Trump, who grew up in a Presbyterian church and has since attended a Reformed Church in America congregation, said in June: “Jesus to me is somebody I can think about for security and confidence.” He added, “I consider the Christian religion so important.”
Ultimately, more than 80% of white evangelical Christians voted for Mr. Trump, as did 52% of Catholics. Mr. Land said that evangelicals realize Mr. Trump isn’t “one of them,” but they have been encouraged by his defense of religious freedom and by appointments to the Trump administration, especially Mr. Pence.
Betsy DeVos, Mr. Trump’s choice for education secretary, said in the past that she wanted to work in education to “advance God’s kingdom,” according to a recording obtained by Politico.
Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University and one of Mr. Trump’s earliest and most steadfast evangelical backers, said he was initially offered the secretary of education post. He turned it down, he said, citing family concerns but continues to counsel Mr. Trump by phone.
“He’s going to end up being for conservatives another Ronald Reagan,” said Mr. Falwell, whose father of the same name founded in the late 1970s Moral Majority, an organization that helped launch the modern religious right.
“Probably better than Ronald Reagan in a lot of ways….”
“God gave our country a break,” said Alan Sears, chief executive officer of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal organization that advocates for religious liberty, in a video posted on the group’s website. As he asked for donations, he said: “We can either move ahead and halt evil, or we can flounder and think that somebody else will take care of the problem for us.”