Gerson: Trump is the Real Threat to Religious Liberty


Here is Gerson–an evangelical, former Bush speechwriter, and Washington Post columnist–on Trump’s response to recent statements by Minnesota representative Ilhan Omar:

By all the evidence, Trump is an anti-Muslim bigot. At one campaign event in 2015, a member of the audience stated, “We have a problem in this country, it’s called Muslims.” And he went on to ask, “When can we get rid of them?” Trump responded: “We’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.” Imagine a normal politician on the left or right being asked about the possibility of getting rid of all the Christians, or getting rid of all the Jews. They would likely use such a moment to clarify that they aren’t, in fact, insanely prejudiced monsters. Trump used such a moment to affirm the instinct of mass deportation and to promise a range of other anti-Muslim actions.

Could this have been a slip of the tongue? No, it wasn’t. Trump has a long history of animus — raw animus — against one of the Abrahamic faiths. He has said, “We’re having problems with the Muslims.” And: “There is a Muslim problem in the world.” And: “The United Kingdom is trying hard to disguise their massive Muslim problem.” And: “Islam hates us.”

Read the entire piece here.

16 thoughts on “Gerson: Trump is the Real Threat to Religious Liberty

  1. Tony,
    That’s right, my argument was that the charitable giving deduction is going to benefit almost no one (it was effectively eliminated). Now people who tithe pay the same taxes as those who don’t tithe.
    But to take it even further, consider the fact that Trump eliminated Exemptions in order to increase the standard deduction. For any family that itemizes (claiming charitable giving/tithing) the only difference they see is that their exemptions were eliminated, raising their taxes! Hypothetically, a family in 2017 who had $24K of itemized deductions (including tithing) and $12K of exemptions now in 2018 got $24K of deductions and $0 of exemptions. That means taxes on an additional $12,000 at their highest tax bracket! They’ll pay MORE under the new tax plan then they did before!


  2. Alex: I don’t understand your argument.
    If someone tithes, and they determine that itemizing gives them more deductions than the standard deduction, that’s how they will file.
    Conversely, if they tithe, but itemizing does not reduce their taxable income as much as taking the standard deduction, they will choose that course.
    They can pick whichever option most reduces the tax burden. You are correct that choosing the standard deduction “eliminates” a stand alone deduction for tithing, but the tax bill is still lower, which is the goal (we’ll assume here people desire to maximize deductions).


  3. Alex,
    First of all tithing is an Old Testament concept, and it is curious that you keep referring to it, but let’s save that discussion for another venue.

    The new tax law has NOT eliminated deductions for religious organizations. This would not be the case if an activist judiciary were to decree that certain groups did not adhere to the official statist line. The difference is stark. Under current law and regulation people can contribute to just about any church and can benefit from the tax code. The opposite situation would accrue from a ruling where churches and other organizations were required to follow the dictates of the agenda-driven secular leaders.


  4. Sure, those 30 million families CAN still claim the deduction for tithing, but then they’d actually pay MORE in taxes. That’s why it’s “effectively eliminated”.


  5. James,
    It’s pretty obvious. It was a signature ‘benefit’ of the tax plan that fewer people would itemize, and tithing is an itemized deduction. The number of filers who itemized dropped from 47 million to an estimated 18 million. That’s about 30 million fewer families who could deduct tithing.


  6. It’s funny you should list removing the tax exemption of churches as an example of something dangerous the liberals would do. Trump just effectively eliminated tax deductions for tithing and nobody blinked.


  7. Paul,

    Neither of us know what effect a sustained DEM hegemony would have on religious liberty. The old adage holds, “Personnel is policy.” In other words, any administration has hundreds of senior governmental positions to fill. These are on boards, commissions, and advisory councils. There is furthermore the matter of senior positions within the bureaucracy. Every agency has multiple slots which require presidential nomination. On a daily basis policy decisions are made by these nameless bureaucrats. Some of these big decisions make headlines, but even the smaller daily actions have a cumulative effect.

    Of course, the even greater danger comes from the courts. It isn’t unreasonable to speculate that activist, liberal judges would find a way to remove the tax exemption from churches which fail to toe the SJW party line. Will home schooling be outlawed for failing to teach government-approved content? Orwell’s 1984 or Huxley’s BRAVE NEW WORLD is a real possibility.


  8. Sorry, Dreher is a ridiculous figure. There is no reasonable justification to vote for Trump. Those who vote for a bigot approve of bigotry.

    And voting for Clinton would have zero effect on religious liberty. It’s outrageous and false to suggest that a Democrat would limit religious liberty. But we had this discussion the other day. Apparently lying for political purposes is acceptable for many Christians.


  9. Jim in STL,

    Your defense of individual Muslims was accurate but hardly necessary in this forum. I can’t recall any Muslim-bashers posting here and I doubt they would be allowed by Dr. Fea to make unwarranted rants.
    Furthermore, I dare say that I have known and worked with more Muslims than most Americans, and you will have to look long and hard to find a statement from me criticizing a man because solely of his religion.
    As far as Mr. Gerson, I will stand by my original statement. He and others of his ilk do not like it because Trump is not a member of the Washington Club. Trump is in Washington to shake things up, and club members do not like that. The unique club brings money, notoriety and power to its members. No doubt Mr. Gerson would have been considered for a senior position in a Jeb Bush White House. To be sure, he probably does not like the current president for many reasons, but it all fundamentally comes down to Trump not playing by the established Washington House Rules.

    I am not certain why you brought up the fact that you don’t think Trump is a martyr. I never implied that nor has Trump.


  10. Again, in 2016 both major parties succeeded in nominating their WORST possible candidate. Kind of a Race to the Bottom.

    Leaving us with “Vote for One: Cersei Lannister or Benito Mussolini.”
    And their drooling fanboy Courtiers.


  11. “Trump upended their cozy Washington insider arrangement.”

    Trump is no martyr and is no different than any president going into DC. But you use a weak and lazy argument to discredit Gerson and poison the substance of his comments.

    A far more likely explanation for Gerson’s argument is that he believes in what he is saying. Some people of all religious and non-religious and all political and temperamental stripes can agree on some things like moral and ethical behavior and honorable conduct.

    And the evidence of Trump’s bigoted and harmful statements, spoken and twittered, is pretty clear.

    In many many ways I am not a “W” fan but I give him great credit for his open and non-ambiguous defense of Islam when it was most needed, regardless of who wrote the prepared statement. If you watch him, a professed Evangelical Christian, deliver the speech there is little doubt that he meant it. And to that end, here’s a brief excerpt:

    “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war.

    “When we think of Islam we think of a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. Billions of people find comfort and solace and peace. And that’s made brothers and sisters out of every race—out of every race.

    “America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country. Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms and dads. And they need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.”

    Now, compare and contrast.


  12. Even many Trump voters like myself think the Muslim rhetoric should be toned down. Conversely, there are the Gersons of the GOP Establishment who are never going to give Trump a pass regardless what he does or says. “He is just not one of us.” Trump upended their cozy Washington insider arrangement.

    I don’t know when Gerson started as a speechwriter for George W. Bush of if he was the man who told “W” to famously say, “Islam is a religion of peace.” Even if he weren’t the author of that phrase, it is the sort of thing he could have written. The fact of the matter is that Islam is neither a religion of war nor of peace but rather a complex belief system with many expressions.



  13. Rod Dreher, in an essay discussing Gerson, almost perfectly summarizes my position on Trump (I, too, voted for neither presidential candidate in 2016), and gets at a very important distinction:

    “Look, I agree with Gerson that conservative Evangelicals who cheerlead for Trump often make utter clowns of themselves, and are profoundly damaging the integrity of their religious witness. But I do not agree with Gerson at all that their votes for Trump were in every case wicked or unreasonable. Most of the Trump-voting Christians I know well enough to discuss politics with are not under any illusions about his character. They aren’t Jerry Falwell Jr. and Robert Jeffress. They voted for him because they are also not under any illusions about the character of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party, and what it would mean for their religious liberties.”


Comments are closed.