S5, Ep. 13: ‘God Made Trump,’ Biden campaigns at a church, and more news from the campaign trail

Religion continues to be a powerful force for many individuals and communities, so of course it’s going to come up during campaign season. 

Jan 25, 2024

Now that the first votes have been cast in the presidential primaries, Amanda Tyler and Holly Hollman look at some of the troubling statements and activities on the campaign trail concerning the role of religion and religious freedom – from both Democrats and Republicans. While candidates are – and should be – free to talk about the ways their faith inspires them, there are some red lines when it comes to politicking in houses of worship with tax-exempt resources or using political power as a way to impose religion on others. 

SHOW NOTES
Segment 1 (starting at 00:38): What makes someone “religious” according to voters?

Amanda and Holly mentioned the following articles:

Amanda and Holly discussed the “God Made a Fighter” video for the 2022 gubernatorial campaign of Ron DeSantis in episode 6 of season 4: Evaluating Christian nationalism as a campaign strategy.

Amanda and Holly discussed the ReAwaken America tour in episode 22 of season 4.

Read more about Speaker Mike Johnson and Steve Bannon debating “God’s will” in this article by Mark Wingfield for Baptist News Global: Mike Johnson and Steve Bannon spar over whether it is ‘God’s will’ that Joe Biden is president

 

Segment 2 (starting at 23:05): A war on Christians? Trump’s promises if he returns to office

Holly mentioned this piece by Meryl Kornfield, Colby Itkowitz, Hannah Knowles and Marianne LeVine for The Washington Post: Ordained by God: Trump’s legal problems galvanize Iowa evangelicals

Read more about former President Donald Trump’s promises if he returns to office in this pice by Sarah Posner for MSNBC.com: Trump just promised an authoritarian ‘task force’ to impose Christian ideology

 

Segment 3 (starting at 31:47): President Biden at Mother Emanuel Church

Amanda mentioned this piece by Ken Macon for MSNBC.com on President Biden’s appearance at Mother Emanuel AME Church: It’s protesters, not politicians, who keep the history of Mother Emanuel AME alive

BJC has a one-page explainer of how houses of worship and other religious nonprofits can how to use their prophetic voice in the political process while maintaining their 501(c)(3) tax status. Click here to access the PDF, called “Advocates, not partisans.”

Respecting Religion is made possible by BJC’s generous donors. You can support these conversations with a gift to BJC.

 

Season 5, Episode 13: ‘God Made Trump,’ Biden campaigns at a church, and more from the campaign trail (some parts of this transcript have been edited for clarity)

Segment 1: What makes someone “religious” according to voters? (starting at 00:23)

AMANDA: Welcome to Respecting Religion, a BJC podcast   series where we look at religion, the law, and what’s at stake for faith freedom today. I’m Amanda Tyler, executive director of BJC.

HOLLY: And I’m general counsel Holly Hollman. We’re near the end of the first month of 2024, and the first votes have now been cast in the presidential primaries. For the Republicans, it’s now a two-person race for the nomination, at least at the time of this recording.

In Iowa, former president Donald Trump won handily, with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley coming in second and third. And as we know, soon after, Governor DeSantis dropped out of the race before the primary in New Hampshire.

For the Democrats, President Joe Biden is expected to win the party’s nomination, so this episode is just a reflection on religion in this campaign season at this point in time.

AMANDA: That’s right, Holly. Today we’re going to look at some of the statements from the campaign trail that captured our attention because they concerned the role of religion and religious freedom in American politics. And we know that the U.S. presidential election is likely to dominate the news and conversations this year in this country, and so we’ll talk about how religion is at play at various points on our podcast this year.

Now, to be clear — just to kind of set a frame of how we approach these questions of religion in presidential politics: We believe that candidates should be free and, indeed, are free to talk about the ways that their faiths inspire them to run for office. But there are some red lines that we believe shouldn’t be crossed when it comes to politicking in houses of worship with tax-exempt resources. And so, we’ll talk about some troubling statements and also some troubling appearances for both the Democrats and the Republicans.

HOLLY: And for us, as our friends and listeners know, it’s not just about the candidates that we’re concerned with. It’s about the voters. We care about Americans of all faiths and those who aren’t religious being involved in this political season. All of them have every right to make decisions at the ballot box, based on their own personal convictions.

And though much can be said about the changes in Americans’ views about religion and tendencies toward or away from religious affiliations, we know that religion continues to be a very powerful force for many individuals and communities and American society as a whole, so the topic is going to come up in this campaign season.

Of course, voters meet candidates in lots of different ways, sometimes at large gatherings, and we know sometimes even at houses of worship. Houses of worship are, of course, allowed to host candidate forums if they would like to do that, but as tax-exempt entities, they have to offer them on a nonpartisan basis. You can’t just invite one candidate and not the other. You can’t do anything that would show you are using the tax-exempt resources of your house of worship in order to intervene in a campaign by endorsing or opposing a candidate.

So we’ll be watching for that and urging people to be mindful of not confusing their religious identity and their identity as part of the American political community.

AMANDA: I really appreciate that framing, Holly, and I think it’ll be important, not just for our conversation today but for future conversations on the podcast. So with that, let’s dive into the news and what we’ve been reading about recently.

HOLLY: Well, the first important thing to note is that we’ve seen a lot of news coverage, talking about Trump’s continued political support among conservative Christians — often sometimes referred to as “evangelicals” broadly. A lot of the news talks about how Trump continues to garner support from so-called, quote, “evangelicals,” close quote, and I say so-called because we also see a lot of news that shows the shifting nature of religious labels and a fair amount of debate within religious communities and, weirdly, nonreligious communities about those labels.

The Washington Post printed some analysis of the Iowa results that found that “Trump’s biggest Iowa gains are in evangelical areas, smallest wins in cities.” The article says that in 2016, Trump fared poorly in the most evangelical areas with his share of the vote declining as the share of evangelicals grew, and the article says that that pattern was reversed this year. He won 58 percent of the vote in the most religious counties, compared with 54 percent in the least religious.

Now, Amanda, I don’t know how that struck you, but that article, you know, really gets in deep in the way that pollsters like to try to figure out where the voters are and what is responsible for how they vote. It explores not only religion but also education and income. And I just point to it as sort of a beginning of what we’re likely to see in the news as we try to figure out what is driving voters.

AMANDA: Admittedly, those who are covering the presidential election, they haven’t had too much to cover yet. Right? We’ve had one — as we record, we’ve had one state vote, and of course, in Iowa, they vote in this very unusual way, in caucuses. And I think I saw somewhere — I mean, just over 50,000 people participated in those caucuses.

They had this awful weather event, and it’s already a relatively small state, and because of the way that they decide who their primary candidates are going to be or where their votes are going to go, it already is a pretty limited pool of people.

So, I mean, take this with a grain of salt. Because of the idiosyncrasies of the way that they do this process, we have a pretty small sample size. And then as you were reading those stats, Holly, I was thinking, really 58 percent versus 54 percent. Like, is that really a huge difference here?

I think the big takeaway is overwhelmingly, Republican voters are voting for Trump. That’s what the polls showed before they voted. That’s what it showed after the caucus ended. And so, you know, I do think that they’re kind of grasping here to have some ways to understand this demographic.

But I do think, you know, frankly, Holly — and we talked about this before we came on today — I get a little bored with all these stories about white evangelicals. And I don’t mean to dismiss it. I think it’s an important story.

And I think it’s really a very upsetting story, that such a huge percentage of this group, white evangelicals, has continued to support Trump, without regard to everything that’s happened over the last eight years with Trump, not only the four years of his presidency but then what happened with him denying the election, with him supporting the insurrection, and then everything that’s happened since then, including 91 felony counts that are pending against him now, that that support has not seemed to decrease at all and may even be increasing.

So, you know, like, yes, that’s the story, and we know that story. And yet we continue to have so many news stories, trying to understand this voting bloc of people. And I think the answer is: They support Trump, no matter what, period. That seems to be the story to me.

And part of — there’s another piece by The New York Times that was titled “Trump is connecting with a different type of evangelical voter” that kind of gets at this idea that how religious, when we really think about what — how religion has typically been measured in society, how religious really is this voting bloc. And if you measure it by going to church, the answer might be, Not as religious as you might think.

But I think the bigger story there is also when you compare 2016 to 2024, fewer Americans, period, are going to church. COVID pandemic had a lot to do with that, but we’ve seen changes in society. So I don’t know how much to make of it for this voting bloc or not, except to say that this label of “white evangelical” has increasingly become more of a political label than, I think, a religious label.

HOLLY: That’s a good note, Amanda. While I certainly appreciate those who are doing the hard work of sampling and polling and trying to figure out what is determinative, we have to be aware that sometimes, that that information is presented in a way that glosses over real differences, and if there’s too much information on that, we might miss opportunities as a country in understanding the religious landscape and who we are, both religiously but also politically, and how there is a lot of opportunity for crossing over and finding common ground and not focusing too much on specific religious labels.

I found another story interesting, because it asks a good question. There was an article in the Deseret News titled, “Most Republicans think Donald Trump is a person of faith. We asked why.” And you know what, Amanda? I always like that question, you know. Why? What’s going on here?

The article actually examines the use of the term, quote, “person of faith,” close quote, over the label “religious,” and notes some common observations like conservative Christians look to issues, not religious affiliation. We know that the label “Christian” or “religious” can sometimes tend to make people think in a certain way that doesn’t match up with how others are using those terms.

AMANDA: I think here the pollsters asked the question — you know, first they asked, Is this political figure a person of faith? And they asked in this about Donald Trump, Joe Biden, and Mitt Romney. And then if the people said, yes, that person is a person of faith, then they asked the question, Why do you say Donald Trump is a person of faith or religious?

And they compared the responses between Republicans, Democrats and Independents. And among Republicans who said that Donald Trump is a person of faith — and that was 64 percent of the respondents — most of those people said the number one reason is because he defends people of faith in the United States, which I think is really telling, that he’s like — they view him as one of us and someone who is going to stand up for us and our values in the culture and in the country.

HOLLY: We should probably note at the outset that those who believe the candidate is a person of faith lines up pretty consistently with their party. Is that correct, Amanda?

AMANDA: Yeah. So among Republicans, when asked about Donald Trump, 64 percent said that Donald Trump was a person of faith, but only 13 percent said that Joe Biden is a person of faith.

HOLLY: And?

AMANDA: And those numbers are almost exactly reversed for Democrats, so only 10 percent of the Democrats polled said that Donald Trump was a person of faith, but 69 percent of the Democrats polled said that Joe Biden was a person of faith.

And interestingly, you know, they asked about Mitt Romney. It was much more even. In fact, more Democrats than Republicans thought that Mitt Romney was a person of faith, which I think is interesting as well.

HOLLY: It is. But that also tells us, you know, that we tend to reflect our biases, our political biases, in these polls. But as you were noting, by going further to this question of why you say Donald Trump is a person of faith or religious, there’s some surprises about what people focus on.

And in addition to defending people — this kind of identity with people that need to be defended — the poll shows that it is support for particular policies focused on family. So we’ve seen that in the past, and that continues to be a big indication of what people are talking about when they say this person is a man of faith or a religious candidate.

AMANDA: And I’ll just note the ambiguity in that answer: supports policies focused on families. There are a lot of different ways to interpret what is a policy that is focused on families. And so I think that respondents are reading into that quite a bit about which policies they see having the most impact on families.

I mean, you could see that health care, immigration, abortion rights, crime and how you deal with crime — all of those have impacts on families, so, you know, there’s something about the way that the question is phrased that I think also plays to people’s particular political and religious views.

HOLLY: Yeah. That article’s worth noting, just as a different way of thinking about how people identify their candidate or their party’s candidate as a person of faith and taking away from maybe some things that other polls have focused on in the past about church attendance and identification with a particular religious tradition.

Speaking of which, that was one thing I did learn from that article was that Donald Trump had changed his religious affiliation from Presbyterian to nondenominational Christian, so somewhere along the way that happened.

But it really shows me that we are learning not only about the role of religion in American politics, but just about religion in America in general and what people associate that label with. And we know that definitions — while very important to polling, very important to interpreting the law — the definition of “religion” is particularly complex.

And finally, Amanda, we have to mention the stories that talked about one of the truly —

AMANDA: Bizarre?

HOLLY: As our colleague who wrote an article about it called it, bizarre — I was going to say remarkable, and that word “remarkable” can mean a lot of things — story which is that there was a video dropped in some social media outlets called “God Made Trump.”

AMANDA: Yeah. And we’ll link to the video in our show notes so that you can also watch it. We’ll also play just a section of the audio so you can get a flavor at least for the voice-over here that mimics Paul Harvey, a famous radio voice, but very much mimics it here in this video. We’ll play, just so you can get a taste for this video here.

VOICE: (audio clip) God said, I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, fix this country, work all day, fight the Marxists, eat supper, then go to the Oval Office and stay past midnight at a meeting of the heads of state. So God made Trump.

 

I need somebody with arms, strong enough to wrestle the deep state and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild, somebody to ruffle the feathers, tame cantankerous world economic forum, come home hungry, have to wait until the First Lady is done with lunch with friends, then tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon and mean it. So God gave us Trump.

 

HOLLY: Well, it’s not normally like us just to play something that is ridiculous, just to share it. I mean, there’s enough ridiculous things out there, floating around and being spread without our help. But this is worth it. It’s kind of worth the laugh and the exploration, since we are on the topic of religion in the campaign, to think that this is a serious video.

And we know that this kind of thinking is serious among some voters. But the idea that this is a serious portrayal of a way to think about our political leaders, you know, is partly laughable, partly disturbing.

Our colleague Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons wrote an article, really getting to that message in “God Made Trump” — the video — to affirm that, of course, God made Trump. At least as far as Christian theology is concerned, God made Trump, and what’s missing from the video is some key theological context, because God made everyone. So we’ll link to that article.

AMANDA: When I first saw the video, it instantly recalled for me an ad actually from the DeSantis campaign from his last gubernatorial race in 2022 that was released just before election day that his wife, Casey, actually put it up on her then Twitter account with a video called “God Made a Fighter.” I will say that this “God Made Trump” is much — is — the production quality of “God Made Trump” is far inferior to “God Made a Fighter,” for one.

But — and also, the content is just so over the top that, as Guthrie noted in his piece, it looks like satire. But I really believe that it is actually meant to be serious, but just so over the top and exalting all of the incredible qualities of Donald Trump, and so it led me to say, you know, subtlety is dead in this video, that it really hits you over the head with why Donald Trump is a “gift from God to the American people,” in the eyes of the filmmakers, in quotes.

Now, I will say I agree with all of the great points that Guthrie made about how this ad contradicts the core of Christian theology, the imago Dei that we are called to see the image of God in every person, not just in Trump.

But I’m also really concerned, seriously, about how all of this ties into the false prophecies that are abounding about Trump being God’s anointed leader. We saw that in the lead-up to the 2020 campaign. We’ve seen that over and over, including at the ReAwaken America tour stop events that we talked about previously on the podcast.

And the danger of that is that if people are told over and over again that God has picked Trump as the leader and then Trump doesn’t win, as he didn’t win in 2020 and as he may not win in 2024 — we don’t know yet — then those people then call into question the legitimacy of the election. They feed on conspiracy theories, and they go into election denialism, which is a serious threat to our democracy.

HOLLY: I agree, Amanda, and I appreciate you pointing out the seriousness of it, both in that theology that we embrace, that we are called to see God in every person. And I will applaud the filmmakers for showing a cute little baby picture of Donald Trump, because it’s easier to see God’s image when we look at children, when we think about all the children of the world.

At the same time of this very serious point that you make, I have to note the silliness of that language in the end about how someone needs to go out and do this work and come home hungry and have to wait until the First Lady is done lunching with friends. As we note, each individual is God’s creation. We are also seeing a harmful stereotype and silliness about the role of women in society, all wrapped up in this being part of God’s plan.

AMANDA: Yeah. Thanks, Holly, for pointing out one of the most ridiculous moments in this completely over-the-top video and also what impact that means on the equality of all, regardless of gender in our society.

I’ll note on this point of God’s ordination of candidates another note that House Speaker Mike Johnson at the leadership’s weekly press conference on January 16 was asked whether he believes Biden’s presidency was, quote, “God’s will.” And Johnson in that admitted that it must have been God’s will.

But then there was this kind of — another little kerfuffle in the conservative media sphere when Steve Bannon on his War Room podcast played audio of Speaker Johnson saying that, and Bannon’s response was, “Have you lost your freaking mind? This election was stolen. Don’t start giving me — don’t go — don’t be a theologian. I don’t need a theologian. I need a Speaker of the House. That’s what the country needs. Joe Biden’s not a legitimate president of the United States, so God did not raise him up.”

So I just say, once we start injecting God’s will into our presidential politics, we get into these debates about theology in ways that are really, I think, inappropriate and can be shaped in different ways by different people to claim some kind of ordination of religious leaders that’s really poisonous to our democracy.

 

 

Segment 2: A war on Christians? Trump’s promises if he returns to office (starting at 23:05)

HOLLY: Well, we should talk about what this all means for a Trump presidency. But first I want to note one other article, and this one was from The Washington Post. It was back on the day of the Iowa caucuses, and it’s an article called “Ordained by God: Trump’s legal problems galvanize Iowa evangelicals.”

It illustrates some of these things that we’ve been talking about, Amanda. And I would summarize them as dealing with persecution, this kind of claim of Donald Trump being persecuted by the legal system because he’s being called to account for his behavior in criminal courts.

Secondly, it demonstrates the intensity of the Trump voters, those that are really tied to him. And I’ll say — I will pull out one quote from that article. It was by Barry Hankins, a history professor at Baylor University who’s an expert in evangelicalism.

And he says, “The support has gone from begrudging to enthusiastic. Many evangelicals now see Trump as their champion and defender, perhaps even savior.” Hankins goes on to say, “Unwittingly, in my view, many evangelicals are welcoming authoritarianism and courting blasphemy.” I think that’s worth noting.

So in addition to this persecution and the intensity is also just this strong emphasis on affiliation, and that we see whether the candidate is Donald Trump or some other candidate, and that there was a quote by a supporter of Nikki Haley that says, “Nikki is a sister in Christ.” And that is said kind of based on, according to this article, particular positions that she takes.

So we know those themes, and we’ll continue to see those themes. But, Amanda, what we’re concerned about is that not only are these reactions speaking about who Trump is to the potential voters, but also about what Trump will do when he’s elected.

AMANDA: That’s right. There are real policy implications that come out of this rhetoric — right? — because this rhetoric, he’s going to back it up with campaign promises that then he, when elected, will try to fulfill. And we know this from history. He made campaign promises in 2016 that then he immediately acted on when he took office in 2017.

I’m thinking about the Muslim travel ban. I’m thinking about his promise to try to do away with the so-called Johnson Amendment and his efforts in the Justice Department to put out new guidance around how to protect religious freedom.

And so what’s he promising this time around? Well, he recently pledged, quote, “As soon as I get back in the Oval Office, I’ll also immediately end the war on Christians. I don’t know if you feel it. You have a war. There’s a war.”

So, okay. Before we get to policy, let’s look at rhetoric here. I mean, one, we have this incredibly violent language of warfare. Two, it’s totally misleading. There is no war on Christians in the United States.

HOLLY: While there are wars raging around the world.

AMANDA: Exactly. There are wars raging around the world that are often rooted in religious bias and discrimination against all kinds of groups, including Christians. And to claim that there is rampant persecution against Christians in the United States that has a Christian majority is ludicrous, harmful, and dismissive of real persecution going on around the world.

And so what does this promise mean? Well, he went on to say that he will “create a new federal task force on fighting anti-Christian bias to be led by a fully reformed Department of Justice that’s fair and equitable. Its mission will be to investigate all forms of illegal discrimination, harassment, and persecution against Christians in America.”

So listeners are probably familiar, as we are, with Trump’s, you know, crusade to reform the Department of Justice in ways that I believe will be targeted at getting revenge on his political enemies should he retake office. But they might have missed that part of that reform of the DOJ will be to have this special task force focused on anti-Christian bias.

And so this, you know, just seems not only like a terrible misuse of government resources but also will probably or could result in using secular government to enforce a particular religious or theological view or to promote Christians over other Americans, which, again, is an un-American idea and strikes at the heart of how religious freedom is protected in this country by keeping the government out of religious affairs.

HOLLY: We’ll certainly have plenty to talk about, Amanda, if this comes to fruition, as we have in the past. It’s particularly difficult to explain and understand what a war on Christianity is in a country that is committed to religious freedom for all. And, of course, we have our struggles. We have our tough cases. We have a lot to work on in that area. But it is particularly difficult to understand how there is some war on Christians in this country.

We’ll continue to see references to that 2020 campaign statement of Eric Trump where he said, “Trump literally saved Christianity from a full-out war on faith,” which is quite a claim, and I imagine we will see more of the same as he continues to try to put himself in a position of saying that he is looking out for those who are besieged, those who also feel persecuted.

AMANDA: Yeah. And, I mean, you know, say what you will about Trump. He does have quite a bit of political skill, and so I think these statements that come from him and from his family members are feeding directly into some of those numbers we cited earlier, that people see Trump as a person of faith because he stands up for people of faith, read particularly he stands up for Christians. Right?

And so these statements are all, I think, very much geared at speaking to and creating that perception that has, you know, led to political success for him.

But his statements and his policy choices are not just about elevating Christians and Christianity in certain ways, but also denigrating other faith groups. And so one of his other campaign promises is that he has vowed to expand the Muslim ban and to bar refugees from Gaza if he wins the presidency.

And both of these examples are ways of continuing to target and single out a particular religion or religious group for disfavor from the government, in ways that really violate our core principles of religious freedom for all and are deeply concerning for real world circumstances for the people who are impacted, both for the families and the people who would not be able to immigrate to the United States or to have refugee status but also for the millions of Americans who are members of these faith groups and who suffer from the discrimination that accompanies policies like these.

HOLLY: Well, we are certainly concerned that these kinds of policies will not only do great harm to people but will further exacerbate our polarization and will take away from the really pressing need that we have in this country to defeat Christian nationalism and to reclaim and maintain our commitment to religious liberty for all.

 

 

Segment 3: President Biden at Mother Emanuel Church (starting at 31:47)

AMANDA: Well, Holly, we said at the beginning that we were going to be talking about religion as it impacted both Republicans and Democrats on the campaign trail, and so there was one particular story that caught our attention from the past few weeks that we wanted to talk about here.

And this one does concern President Biden who was in his role as a candidate for the presidency when he made a campaign speech at Mother Emanuel AME Church, the historic church in Charleston, South Carolina, that is also well known to our modern listeners because it was tragically the site of an awful shooting, a church shooting, back in 2015.

But on January 8, President Biden went to Mother Emanuel and made a pretty high-stakes address. And it got attention for a couple of reasons. One, his speech was interrupted at one point by some protesters who were pro-Palestinian, pro-Gaza in the audience who were criticizing the president’s policies when it comes to the war in Gaza and the president’s support for Israel, and they were shown out of the speech.

And then while they were being led out, the supporters in the room started chanting, “Four more years! Four more years!” to try to drown out the protesters. And so it became very clearly almost like a campaign rally that was happening in the church sanctuary with Biden speaking behind the pulpit, flanked by flags, including the Christian flag and the American flag and the flag from the church in that space.

And so I think this raised a lot of concern about having this partisan political event for a candidate for president with the candidate for president in this religious space.

HOLLY: Yeah. I think just the point that it is a campaign speech in a church would raise flags for us, Amanda, and we call out both sides, Democrats and Republicans, for doing this, white churches and Black churches and Latino churches in all our different ways that we — that we gather religiously in congregations that are nonprofit entities that exist for charitable religious purposes.

And this example just really shows the intensity of our times. And I think it is incumbent on all who are part of religious communities to move forward with care, to look for places where they can have candidate forums and that are more constructive, that don’t threaten these houses of worship where people can come together for religious reasons and share concerns that we so badly need in our society.

You know, I hope that this story would have people kind of rethink their strategies, as well as have us all mourn the terrible things going on in our world that call for all of us to raise our voices and ask for our government to address.

AMANDA: You know, I do think that this event gives us some space to really look at the nuance of what it means for houses of worship, for religious people to be involved in the political process, because I do think that there is an important role in public life and in politics for houses of worship.

Some of that certainly comes out of the Black Church tradition, when you think about the role that the Black Church played in the Civil Rights Movement, and a large part of that role was because of segregation, because of discrimination, and oftentimes the Black Church was the only place to gather in ways that could bring some kind of political power or stature to the community.

And so there’s a long history of advocacy. But what is to watch out for is this ever present temptation from politicians who are looking to come in and co-opt church spaces, to assume the mantle of the good reputation that the church has in the community, to try to co-opt that space and those votes for their own purposes.

And I thought a really well-done piece was written by Ken Macon for MSNBC, and we’ll link to it in show notes. The title of this opinion piece is “It’s protesters, not politicians, who keep the history of Mother Emanuel AME alive.” And he focuses on those protesters — those voice of protests in the church space, speaking truth to power — and how important that is in the role of religious life and how being aligned with any one person or any one political party threatens that prophetic voice.

And I think that’s an important perspective to have as we think about not only, you know, the rules that are in place but the why. Why does it sacrifice or threaten the prophetic voice of the church to be so aligned with a particular candidate, no matter which candidate that is? And so I think that’s a thought-provoking piece that I’d recommend as we — we think about the implications.

This is not going to be the last time this year that a church has its space used as a — with what looks more like a campaign rally than a religious service. But what can we learn from that, and how do we understand it and the impact of what it means to be a religious voice, a faith-based voice for justice in our political system?

HOLLY: That’s true, Amanda. I’m sure that we’ll see more of this, and BJC will continue to raise our voice in clarifying what the rules are and why they’re so important to who we are as a faith freedom nation. I agree that that article is well worth considering for the way that it calls both Biden and Nikki Haley to account about the important role that religion can play in advancing justice and calling our political leaders to lead in ways that are important and aren’t just using religious people for their roles in campaigns.

AMANDA: So as this important election year gets underway, we encourage everyone to get involved in the democratic process wherever you live, and we also encourage you, if you’re a part of a church or other house of worship or other nonprofit, to look into ways that you can responsibly be involved in elections, without veering into partisan politics.

HOLLY: And you can find a one-pager explanation of how to be advocates, not partisans, in our show notes.

That brings us to the close of this episode of Respecting Religion. Thanks for joining us. For more information on what we discussed, visit our website at RespectingReligion.org for show notes and a transcript of this program.

AMANDA: Respecting Religion is produced by Cherilyn Guy with editorial assistance from Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons.

HOLLY: Learn more about our work at BJC, defending faith freedom for all, by visiting our website at BJConline.org.

AMANDA: We’d love to hear from you. You can send both of us an email by writing to [email protected]. We’re also on social media at BJContheHill, and you can follow me on X, which used to be called Twitter, @AmandaTylerBJC.

HOLLY: And if you enjoyed the show, share it. Take a moment to leave us a review or a five-star rating to help others find it.

AMANDA: We also want to thank you for supporting this podcast. You can donate to these conversations by visiting the link in our show notes.

HOLLY: Join us on Thursdays for new conversations Respecting Religion.