As leaders sitting on two of Donald Trump's business councils took stock of Trump's repulsive defense of neo-Nazi and white supremacist violence, many concluded they just couldn't stomach a continued alliance with Trump's administration and decided to cut ties.
But what of religious leaders who also prize their access, like those sitting on Trump's Evangelical Council?
The fact that institutional leaders of conservative religious groups have entirely ceded their moral authority to the business community on issues of basic decency and human rights is a lesson LGBTQ Americans have learned repeatedly over the last decade. It was on full display last year in North Carolina, for instance, where businesses like PayPal led the charge in opposing HB2, a bill targeting transgender individuals for discrimination.
The same was true the year before when companies like Salesforce and Angie's List took on then-Gov. Mike Pence after he signed an Indiana law protecting businesses that discriminate against LGBTQ customers. That story repeated itself again this year during the right-wing push in Texas to prohibit transgender folks from using public restrooms corresponding to their gender. The bill just died this week.
But as all of those measures made national headlines, leaders of the evangelical and Catholic faiths fell silent, just like they have been in directly challenging Trump's disastrous handling of the violence that took one life and injured 19 others last weekend.
While the President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, swiftly issued a statement last Saturday condemning the "abhorrent acts of hatred" in Charlottesville as "an attack on the unity of our nation," he has said nothing following Trump's defense of that very same violence.
By comparison, leaders of the American Catholic Church were never shy in their criticism of President Obama when they were displeased with him. A favorite target? His support for LGBTQ causes, as activist Joe Sudbay pointed out on Twitter.
In 2012, the U.S. Bishops applauded the passage of North Carolina's anti-gay marriage amendment "in the face of President Obama's recent comments." Obama had first announced his support for marriage equality one day before their public rebuke of him. But that wasn't enough for Cardinal Timothy Dolan, then-president of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
"President Obama’s comments today in support of the redefinition of marriage are deeply saddening," Dolan said in a statement, adding, "we cannot be silent in the face of words or actions that would undermine the institution of marriage, the very cornerstone of our society. The people of this country, especially our children, deserve better.
But apparently Trump providing comfort and encouragement to racists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis aren’t actions that threaten any cornerstones of American society. Meanwhile, evangelical leaders with access to Trump have been even more pathetic in justifying their silence on his moral depravity.
“Could you imagine Daniel, Jeremiah, Samuel, Nathan, or Isaiah saying they'd no longer advise or speak to the king or government?,” asked Tony Suarez, vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), who has repeatedly condemned the alt-right movement that gathered in his home state.
Others on the board have spoken up to explicitly back the President’s “both sides” response.
“If we’re going to denounce some racism, we ought to denounce all racism, and I believe that was the point the President was making,” Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, told CBN. South Carolina pastor Mark Burns has also defended Trump’s approach on multiple news networks.
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. dropped all moral pretense and went for broke, gushing that he was "so proud" of Trump’s "bold, truthful" statement about Charlottesville.
But absolutely none of this moral void should surprise anyone who's been paying attention—fully 81 percent of white evangelicals cast their vote for Trump last November and they were pretty proud of themselves when he won.
After years of judging LGBTQ Americans for their "lifestyles," evangelicals happily helped elevate a man who shamed and molested women, stoked violence at his rallies, stiffed small business owners who contracted with him, and scapegoated immigrants and people of color for America's woes.
The notion that their leaders would somehow summon the moral courage to stand up to Trump when it was necessary was always laughable—even in the face of the hate-filled violence that flooded the streets of Charlottesville last weekend and threatens to reign again at future rallies.
Sign if you agree: All Trump presidential committee members must resign.