I wrote last week about the internal struggle within the White House over religious freedom and LGBT policy. For evangelicals and other religious conservatives, this struggle is perhaps the most important and relevant debate unfolding in our politics. But for some reason, it is not really getting enough attention. On his Facebook page, Robbie George weighs-in:
There are numerous media reports that Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner led the charge to persuade Donald Trump to retain Barack Obama’s “LGBT” executive order, despite the demands of religious freedom advocates to revoke it. Reportedly, the couple is also standing against the proposed religious freedom executive order that the President had promised social conservatives he would issue. It is well-known that Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner were supporters of same-sex marriage and contributed money to advancing that cause. The fact that Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner identify as orthodox Jews is neither here nor there. They do not subscribe to orthodox Jewish moral teachings on the nature of marriage as the union of husband and wife.
Social conservatives should not deceive themselves. Donald Trump is not a social conservative. I don’t know that he believes anything, but I know that he does not believe what we believe. Donald Trump is a deal maker. He will make deals when he perceives it as in his interest to do so and he will keep the terms of his bargains when he perceives it as it is in his interest to do so. He rightly perceived it to be in his interest to keep his promise to appoint a constitutionalist judge to the vacant seat on the Supreme Court. That’s how we got Neil Gorsuch. But it will take a lot of pressure from social conservatives to overcome the influence of the Kushners when it comes to the proposed religious freedom executive order.
An irony, of course, is that Mr. Trump, in upholding the Obama “LGBT” order and stalling on the religious freedom order, is serving the interests of the organized LGBT lobby—which loathes him and attacks him at every turn. Mr. Trump is notoriously thin skinned and ordinarily retaliates against anyone who criticizes or slights him. But perhaps because of the Kushners’ influence, Trump is rewarding, rather than retaliating against, the lobby. Or perhaps the deal maker still thinks he can make a deal with them.
I think George’s impressions are correct here. That means that it will require political pressure to induce Trump to take necessary steps to do the right thing. There are at least three things that Trump’s supporters should insist that he do to protect religious liberty:
- Repeal President Obama’s 2014 “LGBT” executive order
- Sign the religious liberty executive order that was leaked to news outlets last week
- Sign the “First Amendment Defense Act” when/if Congress passes it
President Trump could act on the first two items from this list right now if he wanted. But he hasn’t acted. Instead, he has put out a press release celebrating his decision to keep President Obama’s LGBT policy in place.
Religious conservatives need to take notice, especially those who supported Trump’s candidacy. Their voices will carry much more weight with the Trump administration than the voices of “Never Trumpers” like myself. President Trump appears to be under the impression that it will cost him nothing to fold on religious liberty. That is why evangelical Trump supporters have a special obligation to pressure their man to stand for religious liberty and to make sure that he understands what it will cost him politically if he folds.