I recently read in the November 13th issue of The New York Times Magazine that an evangelist named Ralph Drollinger has been conducting weekly “Bible study” meetings for the Trump Cabinet. To be fair, not all the cabinet members attend (the meetings are apparently not mandatory), and a number of the attendees aren’t even Cabinet members (notably, Jeff Sessions and Jim Bridenstine who leads NASA); however, a number of Trump insiders – like Pence and Pompeo – have publicly endorsed and “sponsored” Drollinger’s non-profit Capitol Ministries.
None of this information should be notable (isn’t the United States the foremost champion of religious freedom?) as long as the separation of church and state is maintained. That is the key element; those in government service should, in fact, hold and maintain personal religious beliefs, but those beliefs should not overshadow or impinge upon the public good or any constitutional guarantees. In short, if one’s religious beliefs conflict with or impose restrictions on the beliefs of others, they violate the principle of that separation of church and state.
Drollinger’s Capitol Ministries professes to stay out of politics but to simply “teach.” Yet, one often bears on the other, as outlined in the New York Times article:
…on issues like marriage (men lead, women submit), homosexuality (“an abomination” and “illegitimate in God’s eyes”), abortion (a slippery slope to infanticide), climate change (a radical belief promoted by “secular fad theorists”), and family separation at the Southern border (an appropriate punishment for “illegal immigrants”). To Drollinger, the Bible is more than the literal word of God. It is the only defensible basis for any rational thought.
How is any of this not an infringement on the rights of those who are not evangelical Christians? Of non-Christians? Of the American ideal? Trump may not attend the weekly Bible study sessions, but he enables them just as the participants in that enable him, excuse him, and hypocritically ignore or rationalize his worst acts and intentions because they derive benefit from them. I can hear the nun in Game of Thrones now: Shame! Shame!