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Analysis of Trump’s Claim That Christianity Is “Under Attack”

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At the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville, Tenn., last month, former President Donald Trump told the audience that Christianity is “under attack.” NRB is a trade association of radio and TV evangelists with millions of listeners.

FREDERICK CLARKSON; f.clarkson@politicalresearch.org 
    Clarkson is a senior research analyst at Political Research Associates, a progressive think tank. He has been researching and writing about religion and politics for four decades. He is the author of Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy and editor of Dispatches from the Religious Left: The Future of Faith and Politics in America.

Clarkson told the Institute for Public Accuracy: Trump’s premise is that “there is an attack on Christianity going on, allegedly from the ‘radical Left.’ He calls Joe Biden a ‘communist.’ This is 21st Century McCarthyism, acting as if Christianity is under attack by communism. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise, since Trump’s advisor was Roy Cohn [the McCarthy-era prosecutor]. He learned politics from Roy Cohn” in the 1970s and 1980s. “This is his default mode: sleazy, fact-free demagoguery. He says [Democrats] want to tear down crosses where they can and replace them with ‘social justice flags.’ I don’t know where that is happening anywhere in the country. It’s made-up stuff. You could arguably say it’s a metaphor for what [Democrats] want to do. But [Trump] is saying it’s real. ‘No one will touch the cross under the Trump administration,’ he swears.”

Trump is seeking to maximize support from evangelical Christians. His claim to be defending Christianity “suggests that their kind of Christianity is the Christianity—that it is Christianity. But there are plenty of [religious] sectors—Catholicism, mainline Protestantism—that don’t agree. There is no one Christianity. [Trump’s idea] is not just factually wrong, but it’s counter to the values of American constitutional democracy. Constitutional democracy is not [about] the defense of Christianity but the defense of religious freedom, by which the framers of the Constitution meant religious equality under the law, in which your religious or non-religious identity would have no bearing on your status as a citizen: neither an advantage or disadvantage. That’s a core piece of the American experiment… a constellation of freedom, respect for religious pluralism, and separation of church and state. If you’re not talking in those terms, you’re not talking about religious freedom but [rather] religious supremacy or bigotry. 

“This is best expressed in the red and white hats they were giving out at the [National Religious Broadcasters] convention, which said ‘Make America Pray Again.’

“The Democrats should be prepared to say how offensive this is. I would like to see Joe Biden, or anyone in the Democratic Party, say [what it means to defend religious freedom]. It doesn’t mean just protecting one sector of Christianity. If you’re going to deal with the religious right and the politicians who pander to them, you have to engage with this.”