On Saturday, AU’s Director of Communications Rob Boston wrote a blog post detailing the Religious Right’s reaction to videotape that exposed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump bragging about how he can commit sexual assault and harassment and get away with it because he’s famous.
In case you need a reminder:
“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful – I just start kissing them,” Trump said in the tape. “It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything… Grab them by the [expletive deleted]. You can do anything.”
As Rob noted, the early reaction from the Religious Right was a shrug. Religious Right honchos such as Tony Perkins, Ralph Reed, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell Jr. and others vowed to stick by the crass and coarse reality TV star – a stance that led AU Executive Director Barry W. Lynn to call them out for their “values void” in the pages of the conservative Washington Times.
And while the Religious Right is still supporting Trump, for the most part, a few cracks have appeared in the conservative evangelical façade. One came, surprisingly, from the students at Falwell’s own Liberty University.
In response to Falwell continuing support of Trump – Falwell even said he would back Trump if he committed sexual assault – Liberty United Against Trump, a student group, released a statement condemning Trump and criticizing Falwell for leading “the world to believe that Liberty University supports Donald Trump.”
The statement read, “Associating any politician with Christianity is damaging to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But Donald Trump is not just any politician. He has made his name by maligning others and bragging about his sins. Not only is Donald Trump a bad candidate for president, he is actively promoting the very things that we as Christians ought to oppose.”
It’s encouraging to see that some Liberty students distancing themselves from the hypocrisy of their school’s president. They seem to grasp the obvious: Falwell is giving a bad name to Christianity by defending comments that describe sexual assault.
It’s a different direction than what we have normally seen with the Religious Right this election season, although that might be gradually changing, among the rank and file, at least.
According to a new Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll, conducted after the second presidential debate, Trump’s support from evangelicals polled significantly decreased after the tape came to light. Trump now has merely a 1-point edge over Hillary Clinton among people who identify as evangelicals. He held a 12-point lead in July.
Valueless: Religious Right leaders standing by Trump despite recent tapes describing sexual assault.
In addition, Trump keeps losing support from Mormons, who are now the “most Republican religious group in America.” Mormon public figures have been among the most outspoken against Trump, including Religious Right favorite Glenn Beck.
“If the consequence of standing against Trump and for principles is indeed the election of Hillary Clinton, so be it,” Beck wrote in a Facebook post after the Trump tapes. “At least it is a moral, ethical choice.”
But while some Religious Right voters and favorites have shed their support for Trump, most of the biggest names in that movement haven’t budged at all. In fact, they’re making the oddest excuses for Trump’s inexcusable comments.
“I am ... more concerned about America’s future than Donald Trump’s past,” Dobson, who founded Focus on the Family back in 1977, told WorldNetDaily (WND), a right-wing site. “I wonder about how Bill Clinton’s language stands up in private.”
Let’s parse this a bit: Person A has been accused of doing bad things in the past, so that excuses Person B doing them today. Interesting. Does that concept appear anywhere in the Bible? (Also, memo to the Religious Right: Bill Clinton is not running this year; his wife is the candidate.)
Trump said during the second presidential debate Oct.9 that the comments on his tape were merely words and not action, but multiple women have since alleged that he groped them without consent. Trump’s response to this has been to posit a conspiracy theory.
Clearly, Trump has problems beyond how he articulates his words, and if people like Dobson, Falwell, Perkins, Reed, etc. want to willfully ignore his bragging about sexual assault and harassment, they can – they just can’t pose as “family values” champions while doing it.
If there’s one thing this election has taught us: The Religious Right doesn’t seem to care about its values being instilled into a candidate. Movement leaders will seemingly support just about any candidate as long as said candidate’s policy ideas include discrimination in the name of religion aimed at religious minorities, the LGBTQ community, women’s healthcare, etc.
Their embrace of hypocrisy means that these people have lost all right to judge anyone else – although I’m sure they’ll keep doing it.