Donald Trump accidentally calls right wing’s version of “religious liberty” exactly what it is: power

Give Donald Trump credit where it’s due: Once in a while, he really does tell it like it is.

Speaking to Family Research Council president Tony Perkins over the weekend in an attempt to appeal to Evangelical conservatives who are gravitating toward Ted Cruz, Trump took a stab at diagnosing the conservative movement’s ongoing problems in the culture wars:

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Said Trump:

Well, Tony, I can tell you this: that religious liberty is very important to me, and I see more and more, especially in particular Christianity — Christians, their power is being taken away. I just watch it and I get angry at it. You look at what is going on with other religions, you look at, as an example, what’s happening with respect to Muslims and others where perhaps they just band together better or something. But, you know, the Christian, every year, you see it more and more.

One of the things I always say, and I say it lightheartedly but I mean it, it’s actually not supposed to be so lighthearted, and I get standing ovations, especially in Iowa and certain places, is we are going to start saying “Merry Christmas” again. Because you go into these stores and you don’t see anything having to do with Christmas and it’s disgraceful, frankly, as far as I’m concerned. And that’s the way it should be and I feel strongly about it.

Slightly more polished conservative politicians will usually, though not always, do a better job of pretending that when they say “religious liberty,” they mean the freedom for anyone to practice their preferred religion (or lack thereof) privately without the government’s intrusion. In one sentence, Donald Trump bulldozed right through that facade, equating “religious liberty” with Christians’ “power.” He knows as well as anyone that when Christian conservatives make appeals to “religious freedom” they’re advocating for a restoration of lost privilege.

Unlike his opponents’ more subtle version of Christian supremacy, Trump can ignore the traditional nods to the Constitution and cut right to the point: Christians’ “power is being taken away,” and they want it back.

So no, he really wasn’t joking when he proposed imposing an onerous and explicitly theocratic regulation on every business in the country. Constitution be damned, it’s time to Make Christmas Great Again!

And here’s the thing: as far as the conservative base is concerned, nothing about that is at all problematic. In fact, it’s proof that Trump “gets it,” in a way that their elected leaders don’t. Because while Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio can say whatever they want about florists, bakers and photographers being denied their supposedly God-given right to refuse public accommodation to gays and lesbians, the vast majority of religious conservatives aren’t florists, bakers or photographers. They are, however, consumers. When you ask them how the “atheist Taliban” has actually affected their life, they’re far more likely to be offended by a store clerk having said “Happy Holidays” than they are to have been sued for discriminating against a gay or lesbian couple at their place of business.

And they see no problem, in a country founded on “Judeo-Christian principles” — see, religious pluralism! — passing laws that reflect the principles of their Christian faith. Pushing back against the “discrimination” they face by not having their beliefs reflected in the public sphere is just the start: when they say they want to “take our country back,” they mean the private sphere, as well.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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22 Responses to “Donald Trump accidentally calls right wing’s version of “religious liberty” exactly what it is: power”

  1. atalex says:

    What’s the point of being Christian if you can’t bully people of other faiths and get them to kow-tow to your beliefs and biases?

  2. Rusty Shackelford says:

    “Their power is being taken away”? What power are they supposed to have aside from a supernatural being who is able to bend the laws of physics for people who wish hard enough. Cheese and rice, I don’t think that people who believe in such nonsense have any place in positions of power.

  3. Badgerite says:


  4. Badgerite says:


  5. Frank Lee says:

    Angles we have heard on high
    telling us, “Go out and buy!”

  6. BeccaM says:

    Did you know that the Baby Jesus, according to retailers, is the single most shoplifted item at this time of year?

    There’s even a wikipedia page devoted to it:

  7. Alek Kolchak says:

    Green’s trying to make a big deal out of nothing. Yes, in America Christians are losing THEIR power; it’s just like Trump said. Trump did not say that Christians are losing power OVER the government or OVER the country, but rather Trump said Christians are losing THEIR power.

    And why is this happening? As Trump goes on to explain, other religions are banding together–other religions are insisting on THEIR power. But Christians are afraid to even say “Merry Christmas.” Christians ALLOW themselves to be marginalized.

    Trump said that Christians must assert themselves, if they expected to be treated with the SAME respect that other religions get in America, today. And Trump assures his fellow Christians that when he’s POTUS, he will not hesitate to show his pride in his faith.

  8. therling says:

    The Donald does not “go into stores.” That is reserved for his underlings.

  9. gratuitous says:

    Two things: What stores is Trump going into where there isn’t Christmas kitsch literally hanging off of every shelf and display?

    Second, about Muslims “banding together” better than Christians. Has it occurred to you that a lot of Christians aren’t real excited by the prospect of banding together with xenophobes, bigots, misogynists and white power knuckleheads who cover their naked hatred with a veneer of Bible lacquer? I submit that if your main takeaway from the Bible is that you need to hate certain people even more than you already do, you’re probably practicing some bad theology.

  10. Don Chandler says:

    Isn’t that why FRC is a hate group? They want the “power” to discriminate against gays. I’m sure santas favorite elf is going to vote for you Trumpty Dumpty…cuz you evoked the war on Christmas…but I heard some hesitation in perkin’s voice in that interview.

  11. BeccaM says:

    Thank you, Colin. You, too. Blessed Be.

  12. emjayay says:

    I bought this for 75% off at Rite Aid.

  13. Colin says:

    Have a wonderful Yule. Blessed Be your heart . Blessed Be your Path. May the Mother hold you ever close in the folds of Her robes.

  14. 2patricius2 says:

    “we are going to start saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again. Because you go into these stores and you don’t see anything having to do with Christmas and it’s disgraceful…” Because nothing says Merry Christmas any better than stores filled with material things with the message: “Buy, buy, buy for a Merry Christmas”!

    Strange, though. Christmas displays and sales start earlier and earlier each year. One would have to be blind, deaf and dumb to not know it’s Christmas time. And the Christmas myths tell the story of a child being born among animals because his parents couldn’t get into an inn because they were all full. And the person Christians supposedly honor was a man who reportedly told his followers to sell everything and give to the poor.

  15. Buford2k11 says:

    At this point, I feel as though I am being forced to celebrate Christmas…there is only ONE way to celebrate Christmas….and it it THEIR way…And I thought the Borg were bad guys…

  16. FLL says:

    Christians? I don’t think Mr. Trump means mixed-race Mexicans celebrating a traditional Christmas posada. After all, they might well be killers and rapists. Here is the Wikipedia article’s description of the original Virgin of Guadalupe artifact in Mexico City:

    The image features a full-length representation of a mestiza girl or young woman with high cheek-bones, delicate features, and straight, unbraided black hair simply parted in the middle framing her face.

    The Virgin Mary, as revered in the artifact, is a mixed-race (mestiza) woman. I think what Mr. Trump has in mind is more along the lines of the Anglo-Saxon Jesus:

  17. Sally says:

    I think Trump hasn’t been shopping for decades. How would he know what is or is not in stores? Every store I visit has Christmas everywhere…nary a menorah in sight. And I say “Happy Holidays’ to include everyone, because America used to be inclusive, and not some bastion of Christian, and only Christian beliefs. And by the way, Donnie, Baby Jesus was not born on Dec. 25.

  18. BeccaM says:

    My wife and I just got back from grocery shopping. Our local Smith’s is wall-to-wall with Christmas stuff, including wreaths, decorations, Christmas baking and cooking supplies, and of course the unavoidable Christmas-themed packaging on just about everything capable of being colored red and green. The Starbucks kiosk, too.

    Know who would have found this whole mess unseemly? Fundamentalist Christians of 200-300 years ago. The Puritans and Protestants, and even the Catholics. Just like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day, Christmas has become a holiday whose defining characteristics are capitalism and excess, a holiday whose tentacles seem to be absorbing more and more of the calendar year.

    Then again, come to think of it, perhaps Christmas in America has become a perfect reflection of the country itself.

    In any case, what Trump and the Republicans and the conservatives want now isn’t just a restoration of their traditional supremacy and privilege. They also want to stamp out any tolerance or recognition for anybody else’s religion, or lack thereof.

  19. JaneE says:

    You go into stores and you don’t see anything to do with Christmas? I didn’t know you were blind (and deaf). Personally, I am unhappy that the Christmas stuff is now out before Halloween. I would really like to have one holiday over before the next one begins.

  20. Quilla says:

    How crazy has this become when an elected official in my hometown feels the need to begin a tree lighting speech by saying, “I’m proud to not be politically correct so I wish you all a loud and clear MERRY CHRISTMAS!”


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