President Donald Trump announced via Twitter Mar. 6 that acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney would be replaced by Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., known as a leader of the hard-right Freedom Caucus and a zealous defender of Trump throughout the impeachment process. But major news stories about the announcement missed a key point: Meadows’ new position will further strengthen religious-right influence in the White House.
Right-wing political leaders and activists were delighted by Trump’s Mar. 6 announcement, describing Meadows as a “fearless warrior,” “total killer,” “wartime consigliere,” and “massive win for the MAGA movement.”
Religious-right power in the Trump White House is already substantial through Vice President Mike Pence, adviser Paula White, cabinet secretaries allied with conservative evangelicals, and Ralph Drollinger, the Bible study leader who tells those cabinet members that the Bible mandates their support for right-wing economic, social, environmental, and criminal justice policies.
Meadows campaigned for office in 2011 claiming that there was a need to stop liberal judges from making decisions based on Sharia law. At political rallies in 2012, he said that voters were going to “send Mr. Obama home to Kenya or wherever it is.” Meadows is aggressively opposed to LGBTQ equality, reportedly playing a key role in pushing the Trump administration to enact a ban on transgender service members. In 2018, he and other Republicans urged Trump to drop protections for LGBTQ workers from the USMCA trade agreement. He is an anti-abortion hardliner who campaigned for the defunding of Planned Parenthood.
Meadows promotes religious-right claims of anti-Christian persecution and claimed in 2017 that there was an effort “to silence the pulpits and the pews across this country.”
Addressing members of Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition last year, Meadows portrayed politics as spiritual warfare against “the enemy”—Satan—and told conservative Christian activists that “we have work to do to take this city and return it to its rightful place to honor God and faith.” In his speech at the 2017 Values Voter Summit, Meadows suggested that Trump’s election was an answer to prayer and a sign that “God still reigns in the affairs of nations.”
Women, LGBTQ Americans, those who rely on safety net programs, and others are already being harmed by the Trump administration’s use of government to turn the religious right’s agenda into law and policy. Having Meadows at the top of the White House staff organizational chart certainly isn’t going to help.
Meadows, who was at the White House last week after emerging from self-quarantine following the Conservative Political Action Conference, has yet to resign his congressional seat and is apparently still on the House payroll more than 10 days after Trump announced that he would be taking over as chief of staff.