The Stew Reporting on government and politics

Pride and the president

Politics | What President Donald Trump has said about LGBT issues and religious liberty
by Harvest Prude
Posted 6/06/19, 04:46 pm

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump on May 31 became the first Republican president to voice his support for LGBT Pride Month, raising some skepticism and questions about his positions on sexuality and religious liberty.

“As we celebrate LGBT Pride Month and recognize the outstanding contributions LGBT people have made to our great Nation, let us also stand in solidarity with the many LGBT people who live in dozens of countries worldwide that punish, imprison, or even execute individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation,” he tweeted. “My Administration has launched a global campaign to decriminalize homosexuality and invite all nations to join us in this effort!”

Former Democratic Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both issued official proclamations for Pride Month, which hearkens back to the June 1969 Stonewall riots by patrons of a Manhattan LGBT bar protesting brutal police raids.

Trump noted his administration’s effort, launched in February, to end the criminalization of homosexuality in the more than 70 countries where homosexual acts can result in penalties ranging from prison to death. His reelection campaign now sells “Make America Great Again” hats with a rainbow font for Pride Month.

Many LGBT activists accused Trump of hypocrisy, citing policies such as his administration’s order that transgender troops in the military must serve as their biological sex and cannot have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

Trump’s tweet also raised concerns for people who hold a traditional Biblical interpretation of marriage as being between a man and a woman.

John Stonestreet, president of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, said LGBTQ proclamations often come with policies that attempt to force people with a Biblical view of marriage to affirm the homosexuality of employees, customers, and others: “This has been a zero-sum game between LGBT rights and religious freedom for so long that to advocate in any way, including in the way President Trump has, inevitably meant that religious freedom is going to be compromised.”

Trump’s comments on LGBTQ issues have varied wildly. On the campaign trail, he said that evangelicals could “trust me on traditional marriage” and said he disagreed with the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

However, he also said he was “fine with” same-sex marriage and considered Obergefell settled. Shortly before the election, Trump posed with a rainbow flag from an audience member at a Colorado rally that said “LGBTs for Trump.” He was the first Republican nominee to reference LGBTQ people in his Republican National Committee acceptance speech and elsewhere said he was a “better friend” to LGBTQ people than Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

The Trump administration’s policies, however, have generally supported religious freedom, Stonestreet noted. In October 2017, the Justice Department issued guidance to federal agencies, employees, and contractors on protecting the religious freedom and conscience rights of employers. In December 2017, the Justice Department filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Civil Rights Commission in support of baker Jack Phillips, who was sued for declining to bake a custom wedding cake for a homosexual couple. The administration is considering rolling back Obama-era guidance that prevented adoption and foster care agencies from receiving federal aid if they did not accept same-sex couples. Trump also said he does not support the Equality Act, which would elevate sexual orientation and gender identity to protected classes by adding them to the Civil Rights Act.

But there are some exceptions. In January 2017, the administration kept in place a 2014 Obama administration order that federal contractors must not consider sexuality or gender identity in hiring decisions. And in October 2018, Trump approved the new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico that includes nonbinding pledges to protect workers on the basis of their sexual orientation and to use the preferred pronouns of transgender individuals, a first for a multilateral trade agreement.

Trump’s stance may be unclear, Stonestreet said, but his leadership is a vast improvement over the Obama administration, which dictated “everyone must fully embrace the entirety of the [LGBTQ] agenda.” The recent tweet could mean, he added, that the president, “thinks it’s not a zero sum game … and that there’s a mutual existence to be found.”

Associated Press/Photo by Jacquelyn Martin Associated Press/Photo by Jacquelyn Martin Pastor David Platt prays for President Donald Trump at McLean Bible Church, in Vienna, Va., on Sunday

Platt’s prayer

After finishing up a sermon at McLean Bible Church in Vienna, Va., on Sunday afternoon, Pastor David Platt walked to the side of the stage to prepare for Communion. But instead of reflecting after another sermon, Platt was called backstage and told President Donald Trump was going to stop by the church.

“We in this city have a unique opportunity to pray for leaders who are part of this church and leaders who stop in unexpectedly to this church,” Platt said after he came back out, according to The Washington Post.

Trump emerged from backstage, Platt prayed for him in front of the whole congregation, and the president left without making any comments.

Afterward, the pastor published a letter to his congregation and shared it on social media. He explained that “some within our church, for a variety of valid reasons, are hurt that I made this decision.” As their teacher, he said, he wanted to tell them why he had done it.

Platt had dealt with the intersection of politics and faith before. In former Trump special assistant Cliff Sims’ book Team of Vipers and an interview with Christianity Today, Sims said that he wanted Platt to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast. When Sims mentioned it to the pastor, Platt struggled with the decision.

“When pastors get involved in the political space in a public way, there are drawbacks, and it can put pastors in a position where people suddenly view them through a political lens,” Sims said.

That type of attention is exactly what Platt received this week. Some Christians responded with disapproval, asking how could a pastor could lay hands on a controversial public figure and pray for him? In a since-deleted tweet, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. criticized Platt’s written explanation of the prayer by crudely questioning his masculinity.

In his letter, Platt referenced 1 Timothy 2:1-6, which contains Paul’s urge to Timothy and all Christians to pray for secular leaders.

“Based on this text, I know that it is good, and pleasing in the sight of God, to pray for the president,” Platt said. “My aim was in no way to endorse the president, his policies, or his party, but to obey God’s command to pray for our president and other leaders to govern in the way this passage portrays.”

Since then, many pastors and church leaders around the country have supported Platt’s prayer. The Gospel Coalition published an article with the headline, “David Platt Models How to Pray for a President.”

“Above all, Platt made it clear that our earthly leaders will benefit most when they follow ‘the one universal king over all’—King Jesus,” The Gospel Coalition’s Joe Carter wrote.

Platt made his ultimate hope clear in his letter.

“In the end, would you pray with me for gospel seed that was sown today to bear fruit in the president’s heart?” he asked. —Kyle Ziemnick

Associated Press/Photo by Alex Brandon Associated Press/Photo by Alex Brandon U.S. Capitol

This week in Congress

In the House

  • On Monday, Congress passed a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill and sent it for President Donald Trump’s signature.
  • The House Judiciary Committee launched a bipartisan antitrust probe against unspecified tech companies Monday.
  • Also Monday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., announced a June 11 vote on whether to hold former White House counsel Don McGahn and Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for not answering subpoenas.
  • On Tuesday, the House unanimously passed a resolution condemning China’s deadly suppression of pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square and elsewhere on June 4, 1989.
  • Also Tuesday, the House passed the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 by a vote of 237-187 to provide a pathway to citizenship for 2.5 million undocumented immigrants. It is unlikely to be considered in the Senate.
  • Meanwhile, the White House ordered former administration aides Hope Hicks and Annie Donaldson not to comply with House Judiciary Committee subpoenas seeking documents and testimony. They could face charges of contempt if they miss their hearings scheduled for later this month.

In the Senate

  • On Tuesday, lawmakers confirmed Andrew Saul as commissioner of Social Security by a 77-16 vote.
  • On Wednesday, Senate Republicans met with Trump administration officials and pushed back on Trump’s plan to implement tariffs on all Mexican goods.
  • Also Wednesday, the Senate confirmed David Schenker as assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs by a 83-11 vote, Heath Tarbert as chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission by a 85-9 vote, and Susan Combs as an assistant secretary of the interior by a 57-36 vote. —H.P.

Job change

President Donald Trump announced Sunday night that his top economic adviser, Kevin Hassett, will step down. Hassett, who was confirmed by the Senate in 2017, acted as chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. He denied to CNBC Monday that his departure had anything to do with the administration’s proposal of tariffs on Mexico.

“This is something that’s been in the works for a little while,” he said. “It’s very normal for the chair to move on after two years.” A former scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Hassett plans to depart at the end of June.

“Kevin Hassett, who has done such a great job for me and the Administration, will be leaving shortly,” Trump tweeted while on a European trip. “His very talented replacement will be named as soon as I get back to the U.S. I want to thank Kevin for all he has done - he is a true friend!” —H.P.

Investigations of investigations

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., sent letters Friday to multiple security agencies demanding they turn over to the House all the information the Justice Department requests in its investigation of the FBI probe into possible collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia. Schiff also asked for notification if the Justice Department tries to declassify any documents. 

Schiff’s letter to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said he worries over the politicization of the intelligence community. He also sent identical letters to the CIA, FBI, and NSA, The Hill reported.

The Justice Department began an investigation in May to find out whether the FBI’s methods of data collection on the Trump campaign were lawful. —K.Z.

Harvest Prude

Harvest is a reporter for WORLD based in Washington, D.C.

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  • WORLD User 188067
    Posted: Fri, 06/07/2019 12:30 pm

    Woah it's almost like he lied to Evangelicals on an important issue to get their votes and support!

    "On the campaign trail, he said that evangelicals could “trust me on traditional marriage” and said he disagreed with the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide."

    Call me old fashioned but when someone's words and actions don't match up that could be considered a lie? I'm not exactly sure though anymore because the Trump administration along with the media he loves to attack have successfully destabalized the notion of truth. 

  • Big Jim
    Posted: Sat, 06/08/2019 01:20 am

    That one made me laugh, OldMike.

  • Midwest preacher
    Posted: Sat, 06/08/2019 06:58 am

    I am preaching a sermon tomorrow on pride.  Interesting what the Bible has to say about it.  Interesting that any group of people would claim pride as part of their standard an important part of who they are.  I said interesting not surprising.  Trump is reacting in fear to what he perceives to be, if not the majority opinion, at least the power and money opinion.  I see trouble ahead.  Remember the fellow told about in the Civil War who wore gray pants and a blue coat and sat on the fence?  Both sides shot at him.