President Trump promised that if he got to the White House, he would restore conservative Christians to the place of prominence in America that they believed had been lost during the Obama administration.
Months before 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump, he told attendees at the 2016 Values Voter Summit:
So let me say this right up front: A Trump administration, our Christian heritage will be cherished, protected, defended, like you’ve never seen before. Believe me. I believe it. And you believe it. And you know it. You know it.
And when he returned to the gathering this weekend, he told the group that in less than a year in the White House, he has delivered on that promise.
I pledged that in a Trump administration our nation’s religious heritage would be cherished, protected and defended like you have never seen before. That’s what’s happening. That’s what’s happening. You see it. Every day you’re reading it.
The president ticked off many of the campaign promises he had made:
- To protect the unborn, I have reinstated a policy first put in place by President Ronald Reagan: the Mexico City Policy.
- To protect religious liberty, including protecting groups like this one, I signed a new executive action in a beautiful ceremony at the White House on our National Day of Prayer, which day we made official.
- Among many historic steps, the executive order followed through on one of my most important campaign promises to so many of you: to prevent the horrendous Johnson amendment from interfering with your First Amendment rights.
- The Department of Justice issued a new guidance to all federal agencies to ensure that no religious group is ever targeted under my administration. Won’t happen.
But despite claiming to have accomplished his mission, Trump and Vice President Pence have yet to deliver on some actions that conservative Christians who were not supportive of the Obama administration's move to the left found attractive.
- In January 2016, Trump told Fox News anchor Chris Wallace that he would “strongly consider” appointing conservative Supreme Court justices who would overturn rulings that legalized same-sex marriage in the country.
- Trump vowed during the campaign to nominate a Supreme Court justice who would help overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 abortion rights decision.
- Trump campaigned to relocate the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, an issue some pro-Israel evangelicals rallied behind.
- The Trump-Pence campaign vowed to defund Planned Parenthood “as long as they continue to perform abortions.”
But one important part of the conversation about the relationship between Trump and Christians is that it does not factor in the diversity of the Christian faith. More often than not, when Trump says “Christian,” he's referring to white evangelicals.
Christianity is a diverse faith, with some of the fastest-growing segments in America coming from ethnic minorities, whose concerns are often left out of the political conversation when discussing priorities for Christians.
The Washington Post's Michelle Boorstein wrote about this diversity last month:
In popular lingo, the word “evangelical” has often — wrongly — been used interchangeably with “white evangelical.” That is due to pollsters often lumping together white evangelicals because of their statistical similarities — their shared views, beliefs, behaviors — and also doing the same with black Protestants, who could also be seen as “evangelical” based on their theological beliefs.
And the priorities of those Christians sometimes look different from many of the white evangelicals who initially backed Trump, as displayed by the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, an evangelical who is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
I am disappointed that these protections are ending and I’ve expressed that disappointment to the White House directly . . . We do not intend on letting a single member of Congress have a good night’s rest until they guarantee our young people can rest easy. We will not be silent until every Dream[er] can dream again.
Christian diversity — including various priorities — is also not reflected among the white Christian leaders who have regular communication with Trump. As The Post's Sarah Pulliam Bailey wrote:
While several evangelical leaders who were involved in Trump’s campaign say they have good access to the administration, Catholic bishops do not have “one sure avenue of contact” with White House officials, according to Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who said the bishops worked with the faith-based office in the past administration.
Some white evangelicals may agree with Trump aide Kellyanne Conway, who said Trump is “the most faith-centric, pro-life president in our lifetime,” but the president still has some issues to address in responding to the diversity of Christianity in America.