WASHINGTON (Christian Examiner) – Republican Donald Trump had only just won the 2016 presidential election when the ACLU and a broad coalition of pro-abortion, atheist, and 'religious liberty' activists fired the opening salvos of what is sure to be a long war with the Trump presidency.
Trump campaigned on the idea of repealing the 1954 Johnson Amendment to the Internal Revenue Code, which prohibits pastors from making political endorsements from the pulpit, and also touted his pro-life stance. He also made promises to protect Christianity from the Left and enhance U.S. border security, even if that meant cutting off the flow of Syrian refugees entering the country.
Trump also called for a complete and total ban of all Muslims entering the U.S., but later modified that stance to refer to Muslims coming from countries where radical Islamists had a foothold.
ABORTION MILLS FEARFUL
Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the country's largest abortion provider, said in a statement the organization would continue to fight for women – especially "immigrants, people of color, the LGBTQ community, [and] people of faith" – to "have access to the care they need."
"Health care should not be political. Every morning, Planned Parenthood health center staff across the country wake up and open their doors, as they have this morning, to care for anyone who needs them, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, income, or country of origin. They will do so today, they will do so tomorrow; they will do so every day as they have for 100 years," Richards said.
The National Abortion Rights League (NARAL Pro-Choice America) cast the political fortunes of Trump in darker, more ominous tones for women. Its president, Ilyse Hogue, called Trump "a clear and present danger to women, our bodies, and our freedoms" and pledged to work against the president-elect every day.
Hogue expressed disappointment that Hillary Clinton – who, she said, shares the organization's values – lost the election. She said, however, that Clinton had won in the minds of pro-abortion advocates for standing up for their principles.
"All Americans can be proud of the campaign she ran and the principles she stands for," Hogue said. "Just like Hillary, we believe that America's diversity is part of our strength and that we as a nation are always stronger together."
Several groups also expressed concern about what they called Trump's troubling positions on religious liberty, LGBT rights, and separation of church and state.
American Atheists, founded in the wake of the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case that ended public school prayer and Bible-reading, said in a statement that Trump's statements on religion – and Christianity in particular – are cause for "a great deal of concern."
"From promising to end the prohibition on churches engaging in political activity to pledging to appoint Supreme Court justices who would allow religious liberty to be used as a weapon, Mr. Trump's rhetoric on these issues is at odds with the majority of Americans," David Silverman, president of the group, said.
Silverman said he hoped Trump would recognize his constitutional obligations to keep religion out of government and set aside his "divisive religious rhetoric" and, if he won't, Silverman called on the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to "reject the use of religion to divide us as a nation or as a way to decide public policy."
"We reject the false version of 'religious liberty' peddled by those who seek to use their religion as an excuse to ignore the law and discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community, women, and religious minorities," Silverman said.
Silverman was addressing proposed legislation that would allow those with strongly held religious beliefs in the service industries, such as bakers, photographers and wedding chapel owners, from using their labor to support same-sex marriage celebrations.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation, which claimed it isn't partisan in spite of its repeated attacks on Christian organizations, said it was concerned about "religion's continuing grip on social policy in the United States." It called Trump's election a "game-changer," but not a positive one for separation of church and state.
The organization's co-presidents, Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, pointed to Trump's promise to overturn the Johnson Amendment as evidence that Trump is "a bona fide threat."
"If 'stained glass money' turns into 'dark money,' political churches could function as unaccountable political money laundering machines and religious denominations would become PACs. Our secular republic would be imperiled," they wrote.
They also lamented the lost chance to swing the U.S. Supreme Court toward the secular (liberal) side.
"It's not just that the next president will choose Scalia's replacement and break the 4-4 tie, but potentially will be given the opportunity to replace sympathetic justices, including the Divine RBG [Ruth Bader Ginsburg], age 83, Stephen Breyer, 78, and the reputed "swinger," Anthony Kennedy, age 80," Barker and Gaylor wrote.
Barry Lynn, executive director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, expressed concern about Trump's pledge to repeal the Johnson Amendment, but he also focused on other issues, including school vouchers, a religious freedom bill that would – in his estimation – allow religious people, including government employees, to discriminate against same-sex couples," and Trump's call to block Muslim immigrants from entering the U.S.
"Donald Trump's rhetoric shows a shocking disregard for core principles of religious liberty," Lynn said. "Religious freedom is far too valuable for us to lose and far too fragile for us to leave unguarded. Americans United stands at the ready to fight back against any and all of Trump's dangerous initiatives."
AU opposes the school voucher idea because it claims federal dollars will go to fund private schools, many of which are "sectarian in nature."
Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which claims to have been "inundated" with requests for support from service members following Trump's election, also claimed military service members are equally fearful about the "unbridled fundamentalist Christian oppression" Trump will impose as commander-in-chief.
"Nearly 70% of [the requests] are from practitioners of the Christian faith itself," Weinstein said. "Their fears are not without significant merit."
"There is not a single fundamentalist Christian individual, nor similarly situated fundamentalist Christian extremist organization, with whom MRFF has battled mightily over the last almost 11 years which is not either (1) ideologically fully aligned with Trump and his allies on church-state separation or, (2) is already inextricably intertwined within Trump's advisory/consulting staffs and close colleagues. MRFF can surely see where all of this is heading," Weinstein said.
He added his organization would defend the U.S. Armed Forces against "religious tyranny and persecution" irrespective of who is occupying the Oval Office and acting as commander-in-chief – "especially Donald Trump."
There is no way of knowing if the volume of complaints coming into MRFF is accurate since the group does not disclose its actual number of clients.
"President-elect Trump, as you assume the nation's highest office, we urge you to reconsider and change course on certain campaign promises you have made," Anthony Romero, the ACLU's executive director, wrote.
"These include your plan to amass a deportation force to remove 11 million undocumented immigrants; ban the entry of Muslims into our country and aggressively surveil them; punish women for accessing abortion; reauthorize waterboarding and other forms of torture; and change our nation's libel laws and restrict freedom of expression."
Romero called the proposals "un-American and wrong-headed," as well as "unlawful and unconstitutional."
"If you do not reverse course and instead endeavor to make these campaign promises a reality, you will have to contend with the full firepower of the ACLU at every step. Our staff of litigators and activists in every state, thousands of volunteers, and millions of card-carrying supporters are ready to fight against any encroachment on our cherished freedoms and rights," Romero said.
He concluded by warning President-elect Trump of the ACLU's "eternally vigilant" defense against what it called threats to liberty.