Writing for Politico Magazine back in July, San Franciscan Laura Turner said “Trump needs the religious right to win this election. The religious right needs Trump in order for its agenda to move forward.” Her article appeared just days before the 2016 Republican National Convention was staged in Cleveland, Ohio, and it was there that Trump won the presidential nomination on the first ballot, and Indiana Governor Mike Pence won the nomination for vice president.
Surprisingly, Trump used the occasion to champion gay rights. During his 75-minute speech at the convention reportedly Trump reportedly looked genuinely surprised at the roar of applause when he said, “as your president, I will do everything in my power to protect LGBTQ citizens.”
Momentarily going off script, Trump added, “I have to say, as a Republican, it is so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said. Thank you.”
Since the Orlando gay nightclub shooting in June, which killed 49 people, Trump began portrayed himself as “a warrior” for gays, but, as Turner pointed out in her article, if Trump is to win he needs the support of Christian conservatives. As he was then way behind his rival Hillary Clinton in the polls, he began furiously backtracking, and in September, with Trump’s creation of a 35-member Catholic Advisory Council, it became clear that under his presidency the US would be a far less inclusive country for LGBT and other minorities.
The council Trump established includes US Senator Rick Santorum, a two-time presidential candidate with a lengthy anti-LGBT record.
In addition to Santorum, who in a 2003 interview infamously compared homosexuality to “man on child, man on dog” behaviour, his advisory council includes other individuals with anti-LGBT records.
“Religious liberty is enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution,” Trump said in a statement outlining “Issues of Importance to Catholics”.
“It is our first liberty and provides the most important protection in that it protects our right of conscience. Activist judges and executive orders issued by presidents who have no regard for the Constitution have put these protections in jeopardy. If I am elected president and Congress passes the First Amendment Defense Act, I will sign it to protect the deeply held religious beliefs of Catholics and the beliefs of Americans of all faiths.”
“Judicial nominations, particularly appointments to the United States Supreme Court, are one of the most critical issues of this election,” Trump added. “I will appoint Justices to the Supreme Court like the late and beloved great Catholic thinker and jurist, Justice Antonin Scalia, who will strictly interpret the Constitution and not legislate from the bench.”
His statement reiterated the position he outlined earlier this year when he told ABC’s This Week host George Stephanopoulos that he would appoint conservative Supreme Court justices to the bench that would “stand against” same-sex marriage if he were elected President. In January, Trump told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace that he wasn’t happy with the way the Supreme Court handled the same-sex marriage case and believes the issue of same-sex marriage should have been addressed at the state level and not by the federal government.
“If I’m elected I would be very strong on putting certain judges on the bench that I think maybe could change things. They’ve got a long way to go. At some point, we have to get back down to business but there is no question about it and most people feel this way,” Trump told Wallace when asked about the issue.
Another member of Trump’s advisory group is Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, who fought the ruling in favour of same-sex marriage in his state, rescinded an executive order prohibiting anti-LGBT discrimination against state employees and signed into law a “religious freedom” bill against LGBT students.
Trump’s Catholic Advisory Group is similar to the evangelical advisory group he created in June that gave top billing to former presidential candidate and Rep. Michele Bachmann, who also has an anti-LGBT reputation.
Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of the pro-LGBT Catholic group DignityUSA, said she doesn’t recognise all 35 names on the council, but “many whose presence among Trump’s chosen advisors on Catholicism raise grave concern.”
“It seems to be a group hand-picked by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops – anti-LGBTQ, anti-women’s rights, for the expansion of religious exemptions,” Duddy-Burke said. “Among them are people well known for anti-LGBTQ statements and actions, including Rick Santorum, Marjorie Dannensfelser, and Austin Ruse. Overall, this seems to be a blatant attempt to court conservative Catholics, to shore up Trump’s anti-choice credentials, and to show himself as aligned with Catholic doctrine.”
In another display of just how far he has backtracked, Trump confirmed he would sign a extreme Republican-backed law to directly permit homophobic discrimination.
In a statement, Trump confirmed he would sign the so-called First Amendment Defense Act, which bans the government from taking any “action against a person, wholly or partially on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognised as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”
The broadly written law would effectively legalise all discrimination against LGBT people in all sectors – from employment to retail to healthcare – as long as the person discriminating claims it was due to their religion.
He said in a statement: “Religious liberty is enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution. It is our first liberty and provides the most important protection in that it protects our right of conscience. Activist judges and executive orders issued by Presidents who have no regard for the Constitution have put these protections in jeopardy.
“If I am elected President and Congress passes the First Amendment Defense Act, I will sign it to protect the deeply held religious beliefs of Catholics and the beliefs of Americans of all faiths.”
In September, Trump also aligned himself with American Protestants. In a sickening display of faux piety, Trump allowed himself to be pawed by a clot of dimwitted evangelicals in Cleveland, Ohio, as “a protective measure against demonic attacks”.
Speaking at the Midwest Vision and Values Pastors Leadership Conference held at his church in Cleveland, Rev Darrell Scott, CEO of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump, revealed that a “nationally known” preacher had warned Trump prior to the launch of his presidential campaign that “if you choose to run for president, there’s going to be a concentrated Satanic attack against you.”
Scott added: “There’s going to be a demon, principalities and powers, that are going to war against you on a level that you’ve never seen before and I’m watching it every day.
Then Scott, his wife, Belinda, and others including Trump’s vice presidential running mate Mike Pence and campaign surrogates Ben Carson, Michael Cohen and Omarosa Manigault joined in the laying on of hands to ward off the alleged attack.
Said Belinda Scott: “We need someone that will honour our beliefs and our faith and our feelings and I really know for a fact that Mr Donald J Trump would do that. He’s a family man, he’s a business man, he’s got tremendous stamina, I don’t know anybody that could get up on a plane and do all this stuff … I appreciate this man.
Televangelist Frank Amedia, who leads Touch Heaven Ministries in Ohio and is described in Time as Trump’s new “liaison for Christian policy,” then led the audience into what he called the “Jericho shout”.
“We wanna tear the walls down of division in the country and the walls that have built themselves up to oppose a man that God has called to bring us to a new place. We are on a journey together and it is a movement even as Mr Trump says but this movement is also a kingdom movement that we know God has released.”
Trump’s cuddling up to the Catholics and evangelicals over the past few weeks appears to be working.
At the time of my writing this article, polls showed that Donald Trump was trailing Hillary Clinton by just two percentage points.