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This opinion piece is authored by Keith Schnabel, a senior journalism student at Saginaw Valley State University located in central Michigan.  This article originally appeared in The Valley Vanguard on March 20, 2016 and is reprinted here with the permission of the author and publisher.  Opinions expressed belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ReligiousLiberty.TV, its editorial staff or the advisory panel. 

 

The Republican party proudly supports religious liberty, but its presidential frontrunner does not share that value. Donald Trump is an opponent of the First Amendment who mocks the faiths of millions of Americans and proposes policy after policy that would corrode our nation’s most central freedoms.

Religious liberty is one of the defining rights of the American Constitution. Established at the founding of our nation, this tradition is viewed by sociologists and historians as a leading reason why America has remained so excitedly spiritual while other Western nations have seen a major decline in religiosity. It is a liberty worth defending.

Sometimes, that liberty is at odds with other rights — refusing to bake cakes for a gay wedding can seem downright discriminatory, for example. But in our democratic system, every right needs its firm advocates. I am not a believer myself, a right guaranteed by our Constitution. Even though I often disagree with them, I think that religious groups working together in support of that freedom is one of the finest examples of American exceptionalism.

[pullquote align="left" cite="" link="" color="" class="" size=""]When Seventh-day Adventist Ben Carson started beating him, Trump made fun of his church.[/pullquote]Donald Trump disagrees. Since the beginning of his presidential campaign, he has divided religious groups and advocated policies that would erase religious liberty and the rest of the First Amendment from our Constitution.

Freedom of speech, press, assembly and religion are all covered by the First Amendment. Trump opposes every last one of them. He has proposed censoring the press to prevent them from reporting anything about him he finds unflattering (a thin-skinned, cowardly move taken straight from the Axis playbook), regularly asks his supporters to assault peaceful protestors and wants to regulate our faiths. Is Trump running for president of the United States, the nation that Adams, Jefferson, Paine and Franklin built, or the dictator of a third world country?

When Trump feels threatened, he lashes out at anything he fears. This seems to include the faiths of his opponents. When former presidential frontrunner and Seventh-day Adventist Ben Carson started beating him in the polls, Trump made fun of his church in his typically repetitive style: “…I’m Presbyterian. Can you believe it? Nobody believes I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian. Boy, that’s down the middle of the road folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh-day Adventist, I don’t know about. I just don’t know about.”

For the record, Adventism is a Christian denomination practiced by a million Americans. If Trump wishes to have his personal beliefs accepted, he might wish to stop making a public issue of his opponents’ beliefs. Since Trump has repeatedly expressed that he has never in his life engaged in the fundamental Christian ritual of asking forgiveness from God and shows no familiarity with the teachings of any Christian church, he may be best served by dropping the issue altogether.

Of course, he hasn’t. Trump has recently questioned the faith of former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Romney is a high-ranking member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and an outspoken critic of Trump’s hateful rhetoric. At a Salt Lake City rally on Saturday, Trump asked, “Are you sure he’s a Mormon? Are we sure?”[pullquote align="right" cite="" link="" color="" class="" size=""]Is Trump running for president of the United States, the nation that Adams, Jefferson, Paine and Franklin built, or the dictator of a third world country?[/pullquote]

Romney has made many questionable business and political decisions over his decades of public life. But one thing beyond question is his faith. Romney served many roles in the Mormon church as a young man, ultimately acting as the head of more than a dozen Boston area churches. In that position and since then, he has worked with impoverished, at-risk, and immigrant converts.

But don’t worry, Mormons, Trump loves you. We know this because he said so, sort of, right before bashing Mormon hero Romney.

“The Evangelicals have been so amazing. Everybody’s so amazing,” Trump said at a Salt Lake City rally on Saturday. “And do I love the Mormons? Do I love the Mormons? I have a lot of friends in Salt Lake City.”

Mormons don’t seem to be buying it. Trump has severely underperformed in the LDS-heavy states Wyoming, Idaho and, now, Utah in no small part due to his feud with Romney and his anti-immigrant stances.

Muslim Americans may not be included in every facet of American life, but they have been allowed to share in the new American tradition of getting yelled at by Trump. His campaign platform includes a ban on Muslim entry into the United States, including the ambassadors of our Middle Eastern allies and American citizens, as well as tightly regulating mosques. Trump’s claim that “Islam hates us” has given rise to other cowardly politicians saying much the same and his supporters spouting slurs at Muslim Americans.

[pullquote align="left" cite="" link="" color="" class="" size=""]Presidential candidates should not challenge each other’s faith or call each other names. It’s a despicable move that demonstrates terrible character. [/pullquote]Nate Terani, a Muslim Navy veteran, was ejected from a Trump rally this Saturday for carrying a sign that said “Stop hate speech v Muslims” while Trump supporters screamed at him to “get a job!” Terani works as the Veterans Coordinator at the non-profit organization Soldier’s Best Friend, giving service and therapy dogs to injured veterans. This is a real defender of liberty.

Presidential candidates should not challenge each other’s faith or call each other names. It’s a despicable move that demonstrates terrible character. So, since Trump’s opponents can’t do it and I have terrible character, I’ll do it for them: Donald Trump is a fake Christian who hates our faiths and opposes religious liberty.

 

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Illustration Credit:  Flikr / DonkeyHote – Licensed under Creative Commons

 

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