President Trump: Tips for covering religion in the new administration

On Jan. 20, 2017, Donald Trump took the oath of office to become the 45th president of the United States. Pundits say they cannot remember a time when U.S. citizens were more divided about an incoming president. Bizarrely, after a campaign in which religion often seemed sidelined (in that the candidates seldom spoke of their personal faith), religion appears likely to be a major factor in the Trump administration as the president-elect has chosen numerous evangelicals for top posts in the executive branch. He also faces high expectations from religious conservatives that he will make good on promises to appoint a Supreme Court justice in line with their beliefs on reproductive rights, marriage equality, transgender bathroom access and more. This edition of ReligionLink highlights issues dealing with religion for reporters covering the incoming administration.

Issues to watch/stories to follow

Trump and evangelicals

More than 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump. How will he repay their support? Evangelicals have voted as a bloc before in the belief that a candidate would advance their agenda of fighting marriage equality, banning abortion and protecting religious liberty, only to be disappointed. Will Trump surprise them?

Related stories/coverage:

Trump and Islam

As a candidate and as president-elect, Trump promised various policies that would single out Muslims, including a national registry and a ban on Muslim immigrants. Groups are organizing both for and against these ideas. How successful will Trump be in realizing those policies, and how will the support and opposition to them develop?

Related stories/coverage:

Trump, the Jews and Israel

Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, converted to Judaism when she married Jared Kushner in 2009. The couple adhere to Modern Orthodox Judaism. Yet Donald Trump’s relations with Jews have been rocky, with remarks by the candidate that many felt were anti-Semitic one week and the declaration of his solidarity with Israel the next. Jewish voters as a whole were split on the candidate, with  groups of Conservative and Orthodox voters supporting the candidate while others in the more liberal branches of Judaism spoke out against him. Now, as president-elect, Trump has indicated he will move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv, where it has been since 1966, to Jerusalem, a city claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians. And earlier this month, Trump appointed his son-in-law as a senior adviser, giving him an inside and intimate role in the Trump White House. Will that balance out Trump’s appointment of Steve Bannon, labeled an anti-Semite by many, including the Anti-Defamation League, as the new president’s chief strategist? Will Trump successfully move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, a move that would anger many in the Muslim world? To what extent are Jews and other Americans concerned about anti-Semitic white supremacist groups and individuals that support the Trump presidency?

Related stories/coverage:

Trump and religious liberty

On the campaign trail, Trump promised he would repeal the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 law that prohibits churches and other houses of worship from promoting political candidates from the pulpit because of their tax-exempt status. How will that develop?

Related stories/coverage:

Trump and the courts 

As a candidate, Trump promised he would seek out a conservative replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. Scalia, a Roman Catholic, was seen as a foe of marriage equality and full reproductive rights. Who will be Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, and how will that affect the court’s rulings in religion-related cases? And what of the lower-court judges Trump will select? Their decisions not only affect current law, but they are often considered for Supreme Court vacancies.

Related stories/coverage:

Trump and the environment

During the campaign, Trump described climate change as “a hoax” and said he would eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency. As president-elect, he has picked Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the EPA. Pruitt is a known climate change denier and has a long history of suing the EPA. Many religious organizations see protecting the environment as a religious obligation, while others believe humans’ “dominion” over the Earth means its resources are theirs to exploit. How will Trump’s environmental policies play out in and among religious organizations?

Related stories/coverage:

Trump and the aftermath of the 2016 election

Trump’s candidacy and his election uncovered a rift within American Christianity that goes beyond the mainline Protestant-evangelical or Protestant-Catholic divides. Many evangelicals have expressed concern about their brethren who supported Trump. Will the rifts heal under the new administration?

Related stories/coverage:

Relevant studies and other resources

MuckRock, an open-government non-profit watchdog, has added a Slack channel for journalists to share information about their coverage of Donald Trump and a project page that will highlight resulting coverage. MuckRock also has a list of and links to several resources to aid journalists in covering the Trump Administration.

The election:

Environmental issues:

Immigration issues:

Trump and Islam:

National sources

On Trump and evangelicals

  • James Dobson

    James Dobson is founder and former president and chairman of the board of Focus on the Family. In 2010, he founded a new ministry called Family Talk.

    During the 2016 presidential election, he was a member of Trump’s evangelical advisory board.

    Contact: 877-732-6825.
  • Richard Land

    Richard Land is president of the nondenominational Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, N.C., and previously served for 25 years as president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

    During the 2016 presidential election, he was a member of Trump’s evangelical advisory board.

  • Melissa Rogers

    Melissa Rogers served as special assistant to President Barack Obama and executive director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. She previously served as director of the Wake Forest University Divinity School’s Center for Religion and Public Affairs in Winston-Salem, N.C.; as founding executive director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life; and as general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs. Rogers is an expert on church-state issues and was a leader in the coalition that urged Congress to pass the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

  • Ron Sider

    Ron Sider is founder and president of Evangelicals for Social Action, which promotes Christian engagement, analysis and understanding of major social, cultural and public policy issues. He is also Distinguished Professor of Theology, Holistic Ministry and Public Policy at Palmer Theological Seminary in St. Davids, Pa. He is the author of Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger and Just Generosity: A New Vision for Overcoming Poverty in America.

  • Peter Wehner

    Peter Wehner is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a former deputy assistant to President George W. Bush. Wehner wrote a Dec. 31, 2007, National Review article titled “Among Evangelicals, a Transformation.

  • Paula White

    Paula White is senior pastor of New Destiny Christian Center in Orlando, Fla. She is considered by many to be a “prosperity gospel” minister and was among those televangelists investigated by U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley in 2007. Contact her through her website.

    She served on Trump’s evangelical executive advisory board and is slated to speak at his inauguration.

    Contact: 407-641-4136.
  • Alan Wolfe

    Alan Wolfe is the founding director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College and a frequent commentator on religion and politics. His books include The Transformation of American Religion: How We Actually Live Our Faith, which focuses on the impact of evangelicals on American religious culture. He has written widely on secularism.

On Trump and the environment

  • Joseph Bast

    Joseph Bast is president and CEO of the Chicago-based Heartland Institute, which is skeptical of man-made climate change. Bast’s research focuses on public policy, environmentalism, climate change, health care and economic issues. He has been critical of Pope Francis’ climate change campaign.

  • Ellen Bernstein

    Ellen Bernstein is founder of Shomrei Adamah, the first national Jewish environmental organization, founded in 1988.  She is author of The Splendor of Creation: A Biblical Ecology and numerous articles on Judaism and ecology.  She teaches at Hebrew College in Newton, Mass., and consults in the area of religion and ecology.

  • Mohamad A. Chakaki

    Mohamad A. Chakaki is an environmental consultant for the Baraka Group in Washington, D.C. He helped launch the environmental network Green Muslims. Contact through the Center for Whole Communities, where he is on the faculty.

    Contact: 802-496-5690.
  • Dan DiLeo

    Dan DiLeo is project manager for Catholic Climate Covenant. He helped coordinate the publication of “Environmental Justice and Climate Change: Assessing Pope Benedict XVI’s Ecological Vision for the Catholic Church in the United States” and is a doctoral student in theological ethics at Boston College. Contact via Catholic Climate Covenant’s Washington office.

  • Walter Grazer

    Walter Grazer is a Washington-based consultant for the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, the Evangelical Environmental Network and the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life. He served as director of the Environmental Justice Program for the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops from 1993 to 2007. Grazer is the author of Catholics Going Green: A Small Group Guide for Learning and Living Environmental Justice. Contact through his publisher, Ave Maria Press.

  • John Grim

    John Grim is a senior lecturer and senior research scholar at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. Grim earned his doctorate in the history of religions and is a co-author of Ecology and Religion.

  • George Handley

    George B. Handley is a professor of comparative studies and interdisciplinary humanities at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. He often writes, speaks and teaches on the intersection of faith, literature and the environment and has written many essays on Mormonism and the environment. Handley co-edited Stewardship and the Creation: LDS Perspectives on the Environment.

  • Christiana Peppard

    Christiana Peppard is an assistant professor of theology, science and ethics at Fordham University in New York City. Her focus is on clean water and ideas of nature and man. She is the author of Just Water: Theology, Ethics and the Global Water Crisis and teaches classes on human nature and Darwin, theology and science, American religiosity, religion and ecology, environmental ethics, and faith and critical reason.

On Trump and immigration

  • Silas W. Allard

    Silas W. Allard is a scholar of law and religious ethics with a focus on immigration and human rights. He is associate director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University in Atlanta and managing editor of the Journal of Law and Religion.

  • Minerva G. Carcano

    Minerva G. Carcano is bishop of the Phoenix Episcopal Area, Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church, which is based in Pasadena, Calif. She is spokeswoman for the Council of Bishops on the issue of immigration.

  • Muzaffar Chishti

    Muzaffar Chishti is director of the Migration Policy Institute at New York University’s School of Law. His work focuses on U.S. immigration policy, the intersection of labor and immigration law, civil liberties and immigrant integration. He has been critical of the New Sanctuary Movement for its failure to distinguish between civil and criminal immigration cases.

  • Katie Conway

    Katie Conway is an immigration and refugee policy analyst for the Episcopal Church in its Office of Government Relations in Washington, D.C. She can discuss the church’s work in the crisis involving unaccompanied children migrants.

    Contact: 202-547-7300.
  • Carmen M. Nanko-Fernández

    Carmen M. Nanko-Fernández is professor of Hispanic theology and ministry and director of the Hispanic Theology and Ministry Program at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago. She is a past president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States and has co-chaired the American Academy of Religion’s Latina/o Religion, Culture and Society Group. Her expertise includes pastoral theology, immigration/migration, public theology, language and popular culture.

  • Alberto Rodriguez

    Alberto Rodriguez is the founder of You Don’t Speak For Me!, a grass-roots collective of Latino activists who oppose illegal immigration. He has spoken against illegal immigrants and those who support them. He lives in Scottsdale, Ariz.

    Contact: 267-981-9017.
  • James A. Tolle

    The Rev. James A. Tolle is former senior pastor of the Church on the Way in Van Nuys, Calif., a congregation that includes many immigrants. Tolle has been active on the immigration reform issue, including testifying before a Senate subcommittee. He has been pastor of the Church on the Way’s Spanish-speaking congregation, La Iglesia en el Camino, and is now pastor of El Camino Metro in Los Angeles.

On Trump and Islam

  • Nihad Awad

    Nihad Awad is executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

    CAIR has been critical of Trump’s words, deeds and appointments. After the election Awad gave an interview to Time magazine outlining how his organization would continue to guard the rights of Muslim Americans and other minorities under a Trump administration.

On Trump, the Jews and Israel

  • David Algaze

    David Algaze is a rabbi at Havurat Yisrael in Forest Hills, N.Y. He is one of several Orthodox rabbis described as part of a nascent group of Orthodox rabbis who supported Trump’s election.

  • Marc Dollinger

    Marc Dollinger is a professor of Jewish studies at San Francisco State University. His interests include separation of church and state, and Jews and public policy. He contributed an article on Jews and the Democratic Party to the Encyclopedia of American Religion and Politics.

  • Lena Epstein

    Lena Epstein was the co-chair of Donald Trump’s campaign in Michigan. She wrote an essay describing why she is a Trump supporter in the Oct. 13, 2016, issue of The Washington Examiner and in the Nov. 7, 2016, issue of the Forward. She is the owner and general manager of Vesco Oil in Southfield, Mich.

    Contact: 248-557-1600.
  • Jonathan Greenblatt

    Jonathan Greenblatt is the CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, a civil rights watchdog organization with Jewish roots.

    He has been outspoken in his opposition of Donald Trump, his rhetoric, campaign and appointees.

    Contact: 212-885-7700.
  • Marvin Hier

    Rabbi Marvin Hier is the dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, one of the foremost advocates for Jewish causes and opponents of anti-Semitism.

    Hier’s acceptance of Trump’s invitation to speak at the inaugural prompted protest and outrage, including a call for him to step down from the Wiesenthal Center.

  • Jewish Voice for Peace

    Jewish Voice for Peace describes itself as a grass-roots organization opposed to anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim bigotry and for Palestinian self-determination and peace in the Middle East. It has multiple branches across the U.S. and lists many local activist leaders by city. Rebecca Vilkomerson is the executive director and Naomi Dann is the media coordinator.

    The group has been highly critical of Trump and Bannon and has organized protests, marches and petitions.

  • Jews for Racial and Economic Justice

    Jews for Racial and Economic Justice fights for racial and economic justice in New York City. M. Dove Kent is executive director.

    The organization helped organize an anti-Trump march in New York City over his appointment of Bannon to a White House post.

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