I was going through my daily collection of emails from the various media on Friday when I noticed something on the Washington Post’s “Daily 202” email blast about the documents President Trump doesn’t want people to see him sign.
Then there was this. Does anyone else sense a religion ghost here, as your GetReligionistas would put it? Read on:
Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared, both top advisers, also tend to be extremely uneasy with the kinds of socially-divisive executive actions that will offend their 30-something liberal socialite friends in Manhattan, whose cocktail parties they want to continue getting invited to. They killed a draft executive order that would have dramatically expanded the rights of people, businesses and organizations of faith to opt out of laws or activities that violate their religion, such as same-sex wedding ceremonies.
We’ve been writing about the often unbalanced news coverage of the Baronelle Stutzmans and the Elaine Huguenins and the Melissa Kleins of this world –- all of them people who’ve declined to assist at weddings of gay clients because of their religious beliefs. A major reason why a lot of folks voted for President Donald Trump was to put an end to such lawsuits. Are all these folks’ hopes going to be washed down the river thanks to Ivanka and Jared?
Why is this duo all that powerful? They've recently been criticized for not stopping Trump's reversal of Obama's transgender bathroom bill.
Let’s back up a bit. There was a lot going on in early February (Justice Neil Gorsuch, the Superbowl, the National Prayer Breakfast) when all this broke. The Nation magazine described the draft executive order here.
A New York Times piece then explained how the order got killed:
WASHINGTON -- The two most influential social liberals in President Trump’s inner circle — daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner -- helped kill a proposed executive order that would have scrapped Obama-era L.G.B.T. protections, according to people familiar with the issue…
The executive order has exposed what is likely to be a persistent schism in Mr. Trump’s paradoxical presidency: He is a cosmopolitan New Yorker who has long operated in an environment where sexual orientation is often an afterthought, but is nonetheless beholden to the social conservatives who backed him overwhelmingly in 2016, despite reports of his crudeness and sexual misdeeds.
Mr. Kushner, a lifelong Democrat, and Ms. Trump, an independent, travel in liberal social circles and have long supported L.G.B.T. rights. Neither had seen the order before details were leaked. They expressed their dissatisfaction to Mr. Trump’s other advisers, and then weighed in directly with the president, who opposes same-sex marriage but has spoken out against discrimination.
Instead, the White House put out a statement about Trump being “respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights.” And Trump talked about repealing the Johnson Amendment, which we wrote about here. The Times continues:
The draft order, circulated by religious conservatives allied with Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, was one of about 250 edicts that have been sent to federal agencies for vetting.
Mr. Trump never seriously considered signing the order, and did not need much convincing, people close to him said.
Still, conservatives inside the Trump camp pressured the president to consider a version of a “religious freedom” measure, similar to one supported by Mr. Pence in 2015 while he was the governor of Indiana, according to two senior administration officials. Mr. Pence, however, did not personally push for the White House order, according to one of his allies.
Yes, there was some muted blowback.
Some conservative leaders warned Mr. Trump that his decision to retain former President Barack Obama’s order on L.G.B.T. rights could have far-reaching political implications. “Our base would want to know who is responsible for what we believe is an issue of religious liberty -- that would be of concern to us,” said Bob Vander Plaats, the chief executive of The Family Leader, a socially conservative organization.
“We have been consistent,” Mr. Vander Plaats added. “We’ve cheered President Trump a lot. But on this one, our base is wondering why Obama’s executive order would be allowed to stand?”
Tony Perkins, the president of the conservative Family Research Council, backed the draft order and said he believed Mr. Trump’s opposition was only temporary. He pointed out that evangelicals were supportive of Mr. Trump during the campaign, and that there would need to be reconciliation between his support for religious liberty and his decision to uphold the L.G.B.T. order.
“He gets it,” Mr. Perkins said of the president. “They will have to fix it and they will. I’m confident they will. Am I concerned? No. Not at this point.”
On the other side of the spectrum, one opinion writer for the Los Angeles Times doesn’t think for a moment that Trump is waffling on same-sex marriage and that he’ll come up with something just as damaging down the line.
No way. Religious freedom advocates who thought they got VE-Day with Trump’s election have yet to realize they are actually at D-Day and the battle may not go their way.
Rod "friend of this blog" Dreher succinctly outlined this threat here and asked why conservatives aren’t raising hell about it.
Meanwhile, I’m asking how this religion story got lost in the cracks.
What happened was a case of smoke and mirrors and although many of the political reporters got wind of it, the story was never about a betrayal of the Religious Right. I'm wondering if we're seeing the beginning of that here. At this point, it certainly appears that Trump's heart is not really in the social conservative camp and what’s important to religious folks on religious freedom is not important to him.
Because if it's the religious freedom folks against Ivanka and Jared, we all know who the Donald will side with, don't we? Journalists may also want to explore how all of this tension over social and moral issues does or does not fit in with this power duo's modern Orthodox Jewish faith.
A lot of Catholics, evangelicals and other social/religious conservatives are barely hanging in there with Trump. If the 45th president deserts them on this issue, there's going to be some mighty interesting religion news in the days to come.