Concerning Trump and the National Prayer Breakfast: Here's a byline you'll be glad to see again

I clicked the link and couldn’t help but smile at the byline.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey, an award-winning religion writer for the Washington Post, took several months off after the death of her baby girl.

Those on the GetReligion team have prayed often for our friend and former colleague, who was one of the regular contributors when I first started writing for this journalism-focused website back in 2010.

So I was pleased when I clicked the link to the Post’s coverage of today’s National Prayer Breakfast and saw Bailey’s byline again. The Godbeat has missed her exceptional reporting skills and insight.

Here is the lede from Bailey and fellow Post religion writer Julie Zauzmer:

Since his campaign, President Trump has taken a page from President Reagan’s playbook.

“I know you can’t endorse me,” Reagan famously told a room full of evangelicals in 1980. “But . . . I want you to know that I endorse you.”

Whenever he takes the stage in front of conservative Christians, Trump uses those opportunities to remind them of his promises, like appointing Supreme Court justices who could help overturn Roe v. Wade and making “Merry Christmas” a more common greeting during the holidays.

“We’re going to protect Christianity,” Trump said during a 2016 speech at Liberty University.

On Thursday morning, during an address to the National Prayer Breakfast, Trump was explicit. 

“I will never let you down. I can say that. Never," he told leaders from all over the globe, including clergy, diplomats and lobbyists. The annual event at the Washington Hilton especially attracts conservative evangelicals jockeying to rub shoulders with Washington’s elite. Every president since Dwight D. Eisenhower has attended the event that draws several thousand people, and this year’s event was co-chaired by Sen. James Lankford, (R-Okla.) and Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.).

Coons, by the way, was the focus of a recent Religion News Service profile by national correspondent Jack Jenkins. The headline: “In polarized Washington, a Democrat anchors bipartisan friendships in faith.” Earlier, I profiled Lankford, an ordained Southern Baptist pastor, for RNS.

Keep reading the Post story on the National Prayer Breakfast, and Bailey and Zauzmer offer helpful analysis from experts on Trump’s relationship with evangelicals and how his positions on certain issues resonate with them.

For example, the story mentions the president’s recent tweet concerning Bible literacy courses. See an earlier GetReligion post on that.

From the Post story:

As Trump’s approval ratings took a hit after the shutdown of the government, he tweeted praise of states that have proposed introducing Bible literacy classes in public schools.

“My sense is that when Trump needs a boost, he routinely turns to those issues he knows will resonate with the significant minority of Americans who want to see Christianity privileged in the public sphere,” said Andrew Whitehead, a sociologist at Clemson University who researches Christian nationalism, the idea that America is a distinctly Christian nation.

That Trump tweet, by the way, was one topic of discussion when I recently joined Zauzmer on a religion journalist roundtable on the Interfaith Voices radio show, hosted by Amber Khan. Listen to it here.

Speaking of the National Prayer Breakfast, we’re definitely interested in reading all the coverage that emerges.

If you see other stories from that event — good or bad — please share the link with us by commenting below or tweeting us at @GetReligion.

In the meantime, I’ll end where I started by saying: Welcome back, Sarah Pulliam Bailey!

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