One passage of President Trump’s State of the Union address stood out for those of us who work to keep state and church separate. Trump claims to be defending religious liberty. Instead, he’s weaponizing it. Andrew L. Seidel, FFRF’s director of strategic response, has written an op-ed for Religion Dispatches upbraiding Trump’s Christian Nationalist speech. Seidel begins:
Amid the ripping paper and misbegotten medals, Trump’s State of the Union address promised nationalism with a distinctly Christian bent.
Trump wants to steal $5 billion from public schools (which he decried as “failing government schools”) to give to private, i.e., Christian, schools. Trump wants to roll back reproductive rights and ban abortion. But more than anything, Trump wants to weaponize religious freedom. If he is successful there, it will be a win for his war against abortion and public schools too. He said:
"My administration is also defending religious liberty, and that includes the constitutional right to pray in public schools. In America, we don’t punish prayer. We don’t tear down crosses. We don’t ban symbols of faith. We don’t muzzle preachers and pastors. In America, we celebrate faith, we cherish religion, we lift our voices in prayer, and we raise our sights to the Glory of God."
The Constitution already protects students’ right to pray in public schools. What Trump actually wants is to use the machinery of the state to impose religion on students.
Seidel explains that the placement of this passage in the speech, between Trump touting his judges and warning of radical Islamic terrorism, is significant and warns of more Christian Nationalist rhetoric.