After jettisoning all of their rhetoric about public morality and personal character in order to help Donald Trump get elected, Religious Right activists are now hoping the president-elect fulfills the promises he made to the social conservative movement during his campaign.
Trump, who received the support of around eight in ten white evangelical voters, spent months boasting that he is a “great Christian” who will restore the long-lost holiday of Christmas and create “the strongest Christian lobby.”
While the media often portrayed Trump as a moderate on issues like abortion and LGBT rights, the Republican candidate vowed to support the major legislative and administrative goals of anti-choice and anti-equality activists and pledged to appoint only hard-right judges in the mold of Clarence Thomas and the late Antonin Scalia to the federal courts, where fights over reproductive and LGBT rights are often won or lost.
“Like President-elect Trump, we have much to celebrate this Christmas season,” the National Right to Life Committee declared in its December newsletter, rejoicing in Trump’s anti-choice policies and Cabinet picks.
As Christmas approaches, Religious Right activists are reminding Trump of the good deeds they did to help elect him and demanding that he, in turn, deliver on his promises. Here are just 12 of the gifts the Religious Right is expecting from Trump in the new year:
- Nominate conservatives to the Supreme Court
Trump helped shore up Religious Right support by declaring that he would nominate only ultraconservative justices to the Supreme Court, even going so far as to release two lists, created with input from the right-wing Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation, of potential court nominees.
Trump said that he would appoint “very conservative” justices, “as close to Scalia as you could find,” who would make sure that Roe v. Wade gets “unpassed” and who are skeptical of the “shocking” Obergefell marriage equality decision.
Many of Trump’s social conservative allies strongly supported the Senate GOP’s efforts to block President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the vacant seat on the Supreme Court, knowing that preserving and potentially expanding a conservative majority on the court is crucial to their political agenda. Now that they have Trump in the White House, they see a huge opportunity to reshape the court, knowing that it often hands down the final word on issues concerning LGBT equality, abortion and contraception access, immigration and more.
“No other GOP ticket in history has made such commitments to the Pro-life Movement,” Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman said of Trump’s vow to “appoint pro-life justices to the Supreme Court.”
Considering the possibility of Trump filling as many as three Supreme Court seats in his first term, March for Life’s Jeanne Mancini said “you just dream about what that would look like.”
- Repeal the Affordable Care Act
Repealing the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, has been a rallying cry for Religious Right activists who claim that the landmark law that has expanded health insurance coverage to tens of millions of Americans is actually a plot to finance abortion, undermine religious freedom and rapidly grow the size of government.
Trump said before the election that he would call on Congress “to convene a special session” to repeal the health reform act, which he warned “will destroy American healthcare forever.” He vowed that “if I’m president, there won’t be Obamacare.”
- Sign the First Amendment Defense Act
Gay rights opponents are itching for a legislative victory, and have made passage of the so-called First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) a top priority.
While Trump fashions himself as a defender of the LGBTQ community, the Human Rights Campaign notes that FADA “would allow individuals, many businesses, and nonprofit organizations—even those nonprofit organizations and businesses contracting with the federal government— to circumvent critical federal protections and allow blatant discrimination against LGBTQ families.”
Trump has actively courted some of the country’s most extreme anti-equality activists, promising to appoint judges in the mold of the zealously anti-gay Justice Scalia, picking the far-right Pence to be his running-mate and reversing his previous opposition to Kentucky clerk Kim Davis’ defiance of the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling and to North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law, HB2.
- Rescind Nondiscrimination Protections
The Obama administration has issued several executive actions and regulations protecting LGBT people from discrimination in areas including employment by federal contractors, hospital visitation, and housing. All of these have long been in the crosshairs of the Religious Right and are now under threat from a Trump White House.
In one example of how this could play out, Ben Carson, the anti-LGBT conspiracy theorist who Trump nominated to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development, could make it easier for landlords and shelters to discriminate against LGBT people by rescinding or failing to enforce Obama-era nondiscrimination rules.
The Departments of Education and Justice, set to be led by LGBT rights foes Betsy DeVos and Jeff Sessions, respectively, could weaken or roll back the strong guidelines on accommodations for transgender students that the departments issued this year.
Right-wing judges appointed by Trump could be more likely to rule against protections for LGBT people in schools and the workplace, and Trump appointees to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission could move the commission away from recognizing LGBT equality.
Repealing the Affordable Care Act would also do damage to the LGBT community. As Mark Joseph Stern writes, under the health care reform law, “insurers, public and private, are forbidden from discriminating against patients due to sexual orientation or gender identity,” companies cannot deny “coverage to same-sex spouses and their families where they offer such coverage to opposite-sex spouses” and people with HIV cannot be dropped from plans or denied coverage.
- Defund and Investigate Planned Parenthood
While Trump once praised Planned Parenthood for doing “very good work,” that didn’t stop him from promising to defund the women’s health provider unless it stops offering abortion services.
In a letter inviting anti-abortion activists to join his campaign’s Pro-Life Coalition, Trump said he was committed to “defunding Planned Parenthood as long as they continue to perform abortions.” While Planned Parenthood does provide abortion care, it does not use taxpayer dollars to cover the cost of those procedures.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence, a longtime Planned Parenthood antagonist, declared on the campaign trail that a “Trump-Pence administration will defund Planned Parenthood and redirect those dollars to women’s health care that doesn’t provide abortion services.” The new Trump-Pence administration will have willing allies in congressional Republican leaders, who have long been determined to defund the women’s health care provider, even to the point of shutting down the government.
Anti-choice groups applauded Trump’s announcement that he will tap Sen. Jeff Sessions to lead the Department of Justice, with Newman of Operation Rescue praising Sessions as “a principled pro-life advocate” who will not tolerate Planned Parenthood’s “illegal behavior.”
- Reinstate the Mexico City Policy
Pence declared that a Trump administration would begin its fight against abortion rights “from the first day we take office,” seeming to signal that Trump intends to reinstate the Mexico City Policy, a ban on funding to foreign NGOs that perform or promote abortion services. The gag rule on funding dates back to the Reagan era; President Clinton rescinded it just days after his swearing in, President Bush brought it back shortly after he took office, and President Obama rescinded it again.
One gag rule opponent told Lisa Ryan of New York magazine that under Trump, the policy will likely “be reinstated if not on Trump’s first day in office, then on his second day in office.” Ryan notes that the policy may end up increasing the abortion rate by undermining clinics that provide contraception:
A 2011 study from Stanford University looked at the effects that the policy had in sub-Saharan Africa after George W. Bush reinstated it. The study found that the policy led to increased abortion rates in the region, since women had reduced access to contraception and were thereby forced to seek abortions as a way to prevent unwanted births.
And a 2015 study from the International Food Policy Research Institute found that the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana had to close and consolidate many clinics because of the policy, particularly in rural areas. As a result, there was an increase in unwanted pregnancies in Ghana — and one in five of those pregnancies ended in abortion.
A rise in unsafe abortions can have serious health consequences: A PAI report found that 22,000 women die and 8.4 million suffer serious illness or injury after undergoing one. These deaths and injuries are preventable — all it takes is expanding family-planning services.
- Codify The Hyde Amendment
While Congress has for decades restricted abortion coverage in Medicaid via a prohibition known as the Hyde Amendment, Trump has said he plans on “making the Hyde Amendment permanent law to protect taxpayers from having to pay for abortions.”
Making the Hyde Amendment permanent has been a major focus of social conservatives; the Family Research Council calls the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act one of its “legislative and regulatory priorities for the Congress and the new administration.”
As the National Women’s Law Center points out, the Hyde Amendment disproportionately burdens low-income women and women of color.
- Sign a 20-week Abortion Ban
While the measure would limit abortion in only a tiny number of cases, anti-abortion activists hope that the federal bill or one of its state equivalents will set up a major challenge Roe v. Wade.
While some lower courts have struck down similar bans enacted on the state level, Trump has repeatedly vowed to appoint “pro-life” judges to the bench, emboldening anti-abortion activists to push for new restrictions.
- Sign The Conscience Protection Act
In a letter to the president of CatholicVote.org, Trump said that he would “do all I can to make sure” that Congress passes the Conscience Protection Act, a bill that a coalition of reproductive freedom groups warned “would allow employers, insurance companies, and hospitals to discriminate against women seeking reproductive health care, seriously undermining women’s ability to obtain safe, legal abortion care.”
The House passed a version of the bill earlier this year; Rewire notes that House Speaker Paul Ryan has incorporated language from the bill in his health care proposals.
- Repeal The Johnson Amendment
The 1954 amendment states that tax-exempt groups, which include houses of worship, cannot endorse or oppose political candidates for office if they want to retain their tax-exempt status. While pastors are free to endorse or oppose candidates, the church itself cannot and pastors cannot do so from the pulpit.
“Four out of five Americans (79 percent) do not believe it is appropriate for pastors to endorse candidates during a church service and three fourths (75 percent) do not believe churches should publicly endorse candidates for public office,” according to a poll from LifeWay Research, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
But according to Trump, the amendment makes Christians “less powerful than a man or woman walking up the street” and has barred Christians from having “a lobby,” a patently untrue claim.
In a meeting with more than a thousand conservative evangelical and Catholic leaders in June, Trump received a standing ovation for promising to repeal the Johnson Amendment, which he said would be his “greatest contribution to Christianity—and other religions.”
Further feeding into the Religious Right’s persecution rhetoric, Trump said during the campaign that while he was “met with furor” when he proposed a temporary ban on Muslims from entering the country, he probably wouldn’t have met any resistance if he had called for a ban on Christians.
- Federal Voucher Funding
In September, Trump called for allocating $20 billion in federal dollars to go towards vouchers for schoolchildren, a gift both to Religious Right activists who have long clamored to get more public funding for private religious schools and to small-government privatization advocates who seek to financially starve the public school system.
Trump’s pick of billionaire heiress and voucher activist Betsy DeVos to lead the Department of Education revealed his commitment to private school vouchers, which have been strongly supported by Religious Right groups for years.
Similar initiatives have been tried at the state level, with less than stellar results. A $135 million voucher program in Indiana “almost exclusively” benefited private religious schools, costing public school districts tens of millions of dollars and showing little academic improvement. As Stephanie Mencimer notes, a Notre Dame University study found “that in the first three years of the program, Indiana kids who left public schools to attend voucher schools saw their math scores decline in comparison with their peers who remained in regular public schools. The public school students saw improvements in their English skills, but the voucher kids’ results stayed flat.”
- Curb Immigration, Ban Muslims and Stop Refugee Resettlement
Despite their talk about religious liberty, Religious Right groups like the American Family Association and the Family Research Council have championed some of the same anti-Muslim sentiments that Trump expressed on the campaign trail.
Bryan Fischer, a radio host with the AFA and the group’s former spokesman, called for a ban on Muslim immigration long before Trump called for his temporary prohibition on Muslims from entering the U.S., and current AFA spokeswoman Sandy Rios hailed Trump’s proposed “moratorium” on Muslims as “common sense.” Tony Perkins and Jerry Boykin, the FRC’s president and vice president, respectively, have both suggested that the government can strip Muslim-Americans of their First Amendment rights. Boykin once even called for a ban on mosques.
Even as faith-based groups play a large part in refugee resettlement efforts, many Religious Right politicians and activists have strongly opposed the resettlement of refugees in the U.S. They share this view with Trump, who openly attacked Syrian and Somali refugees on the campaign trail and vowed to restrict the refugee program and expel Syrian refugees already legally settled here.
While some Religious Right activists have come out in favor of immigration reform, many others have rallied against it, describing it as a plot to reduce the GOP vote, invite crime, introduce socialism and weaken Christianity.
Religious Right activists were mocked, and rightfully so, for discarding their prior demands that those in public service conform to their definition of morality when they decided to support a candidate who is an admitted sexual predator, a pathological liar and someone so arrogant that he once boasted that he had never once asked God for forgiveness. They didn’t seem to mind the criticism, since Trump had vowed to support many of their most misguided, cold-hearted and shameful policies.
Now they just have to hope that Trump, who flip-flops with ease and seems to have no character at all, will live up to his promises.