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FFRF: Trump’s pandering to ‘packed churches’ crosses the line

Trump Packed Church Comments

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is denouncing the White House for its continued pandering to churches — and for sending reckless mixed signals about resuming church services by Easter. FFRF also condemns President Trump’s opportunism in his overt electioneering with evangelicals under the auspices of discussing coronavirus precautions.

After announcing that he wants the U.S. economy to “open” back up by Easter Sunday, Trump told Fox News on Tuesday: “Wouldn’t it be great to have all of the churches full? You’ll have packed churches all over our country. I think it’ll be a beautiful time.” Trump noted what a “special time” Easter is.

Trump’s encouragement for citizens to pack churches by Easter irresponsibly goes against common-sense Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, FFRF emphasizes. It fits into a recent pattern among top Trump administration officials. FFRF earlier this week castigated Vice President Mike Pence’s public appeal to donate to churches during a March 21 Coronavirus Task Force press conference. Pence said he and Trump had “promised” to make this appeal to citizens to donate to churches because “all ministries are continuing to play a vital role in our communities and we encourage your continued support.”

In addition, Religion News Service has revealed that the White House held multiple calls last week with approximately 1,200 religious leaders regarding the coronavirus. The Thursday call was led by health professionals reiterating safety precautions directed at a variety of faith leaders.

But the Friday call was organized by Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, a Christian Nationalist outfit. During the hour-long discussion, 700 pastors were joined by Pence and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson. Trump participated briefly, remarking about Election Day: “It’s a big day, Nov. 3; that’s going to be one of the biggest dates in the history of religion, as far as I’m concerned. We have to keep aware of that ’cause as we fight this (virus), people are forgetting about anything else.”

Religion News Service reports that Steven Martin, communications director of the National Council of Churches, indicated that the call “seemed to be more like a time for Trump’s faith surrogates to praise Trump rather than to truly reach out to faith communities.” Perkins, for his part, commended in a write-up titled “President to Pastors: Pray for Strength” the “surprise” appearance of Trump during the call.

The Trump administration’s groveling before the Christian Nationalist crowd for cynical electoral gain is unconstitutional — and it is jeopardizing everyone’s health and safety.