The Trump administration is arguably one of the most far right governments in modern American history. His team are a gallery of far right activists, corporate lobbyists and evangelical Christian politicians. Although the constitution requires the separation of church and state this hasn’t stopped evangelicals of all flavours from trying to impose their religious moral judgements on society at large and for many radical evangelicals Trump is a blessing to this crusade.
His own Vice-President former Governor of Indiana Mike Pence is a staunch opponent of LGBT+ rights and has supported measures aimed at allowing people to discriminate against LGBTs based on their religious beliefs and also supported the idea of allocating state funding to so called ‘gay cure’ therapies. Pence is also a firm anti-abortion campaigner and politician who as governor made it harder for women to get abortions and attempted to defund planned parenthood. He also supports an abstinence based sex education and has previously asserted that condoms don’t protect against sexually transmitted infections. If that isn’t enough he is also a creationist and once said that he hoped scientists would one day embrace creationism/intelligent design as the only true way the world could have come into existence. Given Trump’s lack of experience and general incompetence it is feared that Mike Pence could be the most powerful and influential Vice-President in history certainly the Trump administration’s decision to ban state funding for NGOs that perform abortions in developing countries is something that Pence championed.
Pence isn’t alone in the cabinet however, several other members of the cabinet have hard conservative Christian positions on many issues. His nominee for Attorney-General, who heads the Justice Department, Jeff Sessions is both anti-LGBT and anti-abortion, his pick for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson is Seventh Day Adventist and thus a young-earth creationist who believes the Earth was made in six literal days whilst former governor of Texas Rick Perry is Trump’s pick for Secretary of Energy and is both anti-LGBT and a believer in intelligent design/creationism.
Betsy DeVos, his newly appointed Education Secretary, could prove disastrous to attempts by secularists to keep religion out of state schools in the US. She has spent her life using her family’s vast wealth to lobby on behalf of private charter schools, often religious ones, and in an speech to Christian activists in 2001 she stated her interest in education reform was to “..help advance God’s Kingdom”. DeVos and her family have donated millions of dollars to groups that teach intelligent design/creationism and it is feared by many she may use her new position to undermine the teaching of real science in schools.
The first attacks on secularism are already underway in the First Amendment Defence Act which is currently working its way through Congress and President Trump has already indicated support for it. The act will prohibit federal government from taking action against persons who act in accordance with the ‘moral conviction’ that marriage is between one man and one woman and that sexual relations should be reserved for such unions. In short it will make it illegal for the government to take action against people who discriminate against others on the basis of their sexual orientation since it is predominantly lesbian and gay people who cannot meet the requirements of being in a traditional heterosexual marriage. This would prevent the government from, for example, taking action against Kim Davis, the Rowen County Kentucky clerk who refused to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite this being part of her job.
Evangelical Christians in the US have long used religious freedom as a way of justifying their prejudice and bigotry and it is likely that similar measures to the FADA will appear over the coming years to target other groups conservative Christians want to discriminate against, women who have abortions or teachers who want to teach real science and not creationism for example.
There will of course be a fight back against this anti-secular tide however until the mid-term elections in 2018 this fight back will have to take place through the judiciary rather than Congress since the Republicans still control both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Instead those looking to stop such violations of secularism will turn to the judiciary who have the power to repeal such acts if they find them unconstitutional and thus illegal. Of course this is not guaranteed and the religious or political alignment of judges will always play a factor in their decision making. Needless to say it will be a harsh four years in the United States for secularists seeking to keep religion out of government.