Trump Promises ‘Task Force’ to Fight ‘anti-Christian Bias’ if He Wins Reelection in November 

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump’s promise follows his efforts to court evangelical voters in his presidential campaign. Political scientists have noted a heating up in religious rhetoric heading into the 2024 election and Trump’s success in courting Christian voters.

MSNBC columnist gives her take

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In his recent campaign stops and posts on social media, former president Donald Trump has accused the Biden administration of persecuting Christians. Sarah Posner, an MSNBC columnist, described the claims as: “Much like Trump’s lies about a stolen election, they are designed to immerse his loyalists in a grievance-laden alternative reality in which Trump alone can rescue them from an evil government threatening their freedom.”

Ramping up the rhetoric

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Employing religious rhetoric while campaigning isn’t new, but political scientists have told ABC News that how candidates talk about policy and “culture war” ideas to appeal to evangelical voters is novel.

Christians at war

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Some candidates, including Trump, are pushing back on what they say is a growing anti-Christian sentiment and overall hostility towards religion. At a December 19 speech in Iowa, Trump said, “As soon as I get back in the Oval Office, I’ll also immediately end the war on Christians. I don’t know if you feel it. You have a war. There’s a war.”

Biden vs religion

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In comments after the Colorado Supreme Court disqualified him from the state ballot for violating the 14th Amendment’s insurrection clause, Trump again cried religious persecution: “Under crooked Joe Biden, Christians and Americans of faith are being persecuted and government has been weaponized against religion like never before. ”

Trump deflects from legal woes

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Posner argues that Trump is increasing his promotion of Christian persecution as his legal issues mount. “His clear purpose is to deflect attention from his own criminal liabilities by insinuating that the same Biden administration he falsely claims is unfairly targeting him for prosecution is similarly persecuting religious Americans.”

Messiah Trump

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“Unsurprisingly, Trump’s ardent supporters see his and their “wars” as tied together. When he was indicted in a Manhattan court on charges that he illegally covered up hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels, his backers compared this supposed persecution to that of Jesus Christ. ”

Task force to protect Christians

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Trump later pledged in an Iowa speech to take action on his claims of Christian persecution. “Upon taking office, I will create a new federal task force on fighting anti-Christian bias to be led by a fully reformed Department of Justice that’s fair and equitable,” the former president promised. “Its mission will be to investigate all forms of illegal discrimination, harassment and persecution against Christians in America.”

Trump appealing to Christian nationalism

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Political observers and religious freedom activists have expressed concerns that Trump’s and others’ language, including claims that they will be fighters for Christians, appeal to those espousing Christian nationalism. Christian nationalists favor Christianity over other religions and conflate being Christian with being American.

DeSantis targets Christian voters

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Trump’s rival in the race to be the Republican presidential nominee, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, has been making similar promises to protect religion in the U.S.: “As your president, I’m going to get to work on restoring full religious freedom in this country. First step is to ensure that we nominate and place constitutionalist judges on the courts of appeal and on the U.S. Supreme Court. My nominees will reflect the jurisprudence of justices like Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito Jr.”

Sociology professor gives his take

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Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis associate professor of sociology Andrew Whitehead told ABC News, “With what we’ve seen with the Trump administration, and since then, it really has reshaped how the right talks about faith … pushing for some of those cultural war issues that they believe the evangelical voting bloc was interested in.”

Rallying Christian nationalists

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University of Oklahoma associate professor of political science Allyson Shortle said that candidates are speaking in a way “that only other religious Christians or Christian nationalists will pick up on the language of mobilization there to protect society for Christianity. ” She added that some policy proposals and campaign issues also implicitly support Christian nationalist messages.

Evangelicals on board with Trump’s message

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Evangelical voters in Iowa are responding to Trump’s pledges, with a recent Des Moines Register, NBC News, and Mediacom poll finding that 51 percent of white evangelical republican voters support Trump. DeSantis lags behind at 26 per cent.

Key to his success

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Trump’s successful courting of evangelical voters is down to his efforts to go “out of his way” to work on issues that matter to them, such as delivering on his promise to support anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court, argues Khyati Joshi, professor of education at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Their main priority

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“So many Americans really are one-issue voters … And this was their issue. And this is what he said he would do [in his previous campaign], in a way that was so plainspoken … The others weren’t saying it that way,” Joshi told ABC News.

Biden’s struggles to land with Evangelical votes

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Trump and other GOP candidates’ success with evangelical voters contrasts with President Biden’s difficulties getting them on board. Despite often speaking about his Catholic faith, Biden and the Democrats have struggled to attract evangelical voters. Exit polls for the 202 elections found that only 24 percent of white evangelicals and born-again Christian voters chose Biden, compared to 76 percent for Trump.

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