"Donald Trump's Vision of Religion and America," David L. Stebenne

January 25, 2017
Professor David Stebenne

In his latest post for The Huffington Post's blog on religion, Prof. David Stebenne explores Donald Trump's view of American religion. The post begins,

"Donald Trump’s inaugural address, delivered in the very direct and even pugnacious style for which he has become famous, revealed something interesting about his view of the how the USA and religion are related. Like so much of President Trump’s vision for the country, his view of religion’s relationship to it hearkens back to an earlier era. That time was the one in which he grew up, from Trump’s birth in 1946 (the first year of the baby boom) through end of the 1960’s, when be entered young adulthood. In those days, and especially during the 1950’s, the American establishment embraced religion in general even as it rejected government endorsement of any one faith in particular."

"The “non-preferentialist” position as constitutional scholars call it was supported then by American presidents, Congress and the Supreme Court. One clear sign of that came in 1954, when Congress passed and President Eisenhower approved a federal law officially inserting the words “under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance, which was being recited daily then by the largest cohort of young, school-age children in American history (including Donald Trump). That same sense of America as a land of religious people that did not endorse any one faith tradition but was friendly to religion in general was also supported then by rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court. Helping strengthen that official attitude was the ongoing pressure of the Cold War, because the leading countries on the other side (the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China) rejected religion in general as a false belief system. In President Trump’s childhood, the official view was that God was on our side, both historically and in that Cold-War struggle. It was a message that private military schools like the one he attended during his high school years especially emphasized. That vision of America’s relationship to religion tended to ignore, if not ostracize, non-believers. ..."