Trump's troubling evasion of basic religious liberty questions
Donald Trump gave non-committed and evasive answers to questions about religious discrimination in the workplace and tax-exempt status of religious organizations that were posed to him by a group of Orthodox Jewish reporters last Thursday at his office in Manhattan.
In the 20-minute session, Trump answered questions about a number of issues. When it came to whether religious employers should have the right to discriminate on the basis of religion when hiring, JTA reports his response:
“That’s the question that’s been asked and discussed very brilliantly on many different levels over the last short period of time,” Trump said. “And I’m going to really leave that decision to you. That’s your personal decision. What would your answer be to that question?”
In all fairness, the question itself is somewhat of a double-edged sword since many people who want the right to discriminate against others on the basis of religion do not want to be discriminated against themselves. But at least Trump should have been willing to state his support for Title VII non-discrimination standards.
Then Trump was asked about whether religious groups should be tax-exempt. Trump said.
“It’s really become a very big point of discussion and a very complex point of discussion and it’s something that I’m very interested in and I’m really forming policy on it and I’m actually going to be announcing something that I actually think you’re going to be very happy with. OK?”
That Trump even thinks that the tax-exempt status of religious groups "a very big point of discussion" is troubling since the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status of most religious organizations has been a given for decades. What does Trump want to change?
If anything, while Cruz may lean too far to the religious right when it comes to the issues of church and state, at least it is clear where he stands. Trump is uncommitted. Testing the waters is fine early in an election season but for a front-runner to keep the answers to these questions hidden, or simply not know the issues, is troubling.
Trump is either trying to be mysterious, or he simply doesn't have even a basic grasp of the issues and is trying to wing it by appearing mysterious, or he is being uncharacteristically diplomatic and non-committed. We should not have to wait until after Trump is elected to find out what he really thinks, or more importantly, what he plans to do.