When Romney became the first lawmaker in American history to vote against his party’s president in an impeachment, he said his values as a Mormon led him to decide that Trump’s actions were immoral.
Romney told lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Wednesday:
As a senator juror, I swore an oath before God to exercise impartial justice. I am profoundly religious. My faith is at the heart of who I am. I take an oath before God as enormously consequential. I knew from the outset that being tasked with judging the president, the leader of my own party, would be the most difficult decision I have ever faced. I was not wrong.
But to Trump, who was not known for his deep religious faith before launching his presidential run, Romney sharing how his faith shaped his politics was aversive.
“I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong,” he said Thursday morning before leaders from various faith communities.
And in an apparent reference to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a Catholic who has repeatedly said she prays for the president despite their heated disagreements, Trump added, “Nor do I like people who say, ‘I pray for you’ when they know that that’s not so."
I previously wrote about Trump’s jabs at Pelosi for pointing to her Catholicism as the root of her disagreement with the president’s policies. His adding Romney to his hit list is an expansion on that worldview.
Trump likes people whose faith affirms his words and supports his actions, which is not surprising or uncommon. This is, in part, why his faith advisers largely come from one religion — Christianity — and mostly one wing of it — evangelical. Few groups of Americans have affirmed and supported the president more than white evangelical Christians, who gave him more than 80 percent of their vote in 2016 and continue to shower him with high approval ratings. And historically, many white evangelical Christians have called into question the authenticity of Christians who are Mormon or Catholic. In fact, Robert Jeffress, one of Trump’s most prominent evangelical advisers, discouraged his congregants from supporting Romney in 2012 because of his membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Mormonism is not Christianity,” Jeffress said at the 2011 Values Voter Summit.
And it is possible that view of Romney’s religion by a key Trump adviser is shaping the president’s perspective of the lawmaker’s faith. The fact that Trump also seems to believe that he was chosen by God to be president could also be influencing his take on the matter, something I previously wrote about.
However, in politics — especially when you are the most powerful and influential person in the world — leaders have to work with people who practice a different faith and even those who might share their faith but express it differently. Trump’s response to a lawmaker, who in some circles is arguably known as much for his faith as his politics, sent a signal to others in his party and those outside his tribe: If your faith and values lead you in a direction that does not honor me, there could be real consequences.
Shortly after sharing his dislike for how Romney and Pelosi expressed their faith, Trump told the audience Thursday: “So many people have been hurt, and we can’t let that go on. And I’ll be discussing that a little bit later at the White House.”
It is not clear how Trump will respond to the hurt he claims he and others endured in the impeachment process, but it appears that the biblical verse in the 12th chapter of the book of Romans advising Christians not to take vengeance into their own hands will not be the foundation on which his response will be built.