WINDSOR TERRACE — As a businessman, President Donald Trump considers himself a master dealmaker. This week, at the Republican National Convention, he makes his biggest political sales pitch — asking Americans to re-elect him.
Trump officially became the GOP’s 2020 presidential nominee, with Vice President Mike Pence, on Monday at the party’s convention in Charlotte, N.C. But winning the national Catholic vote in November is not necessarily a slam dunk.
Bishops commend Trump on abortion issues, but they disagree with his approval of the death penalty.
Trump has issued executive orders to protect religious freedom in the U.S. and abroad:
- On May 4, 2017, he signed an Executive Order “to greatly enhance religious freedom and freedom of speech”
- On May 3, 2018, he signed an Executive Order “to ensure that the faith-based and community organizations that form the bedrock of our society have strong advocates in the White House and throughout the Federal Government”
- On June 2, 2020, he signed an Executive Order “on advancing international religious freedom. … The order defines international religious freedom as a moral and national security imperative, further solidifying religious freedom as a foundational principle of American foreign policy.”
He has also issued statements of guidance to shore up students’ constitutional rights to pray in public schools.
While serving as Indiana’s governor, Pence signed the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015.
Two years later, the Trump Administration, just a year in office, promoted itself as a “champion for religious freedom” and enacted a slate of measures. Included was its support of the Little Sisters of the Poor efforts to be exempt from the Affordable Care Act requirements to provide birth control in its health benefits programs.
“Faith breathes life and hope into our world,” Trump said in 2018. “We must diligently guard, preserve, and cherish this unalienable right.”
Still, bishops say this president’s robust policies on immigration don’t help refugees fleeing religious persecution. Some Catholic social justice advocates say such policies are racist.
Members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, however, are more measured in their criticism.
“We appreciate his concerns for protecting unborn life,” said Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami. “An example of that is the Mexico City protocol, which says U.S. dollars should not be used to finance abortions in other countries.
“But there are other things we would argue with him about. Certainly, his immigration policies don’t gel with the positions of the bishops.”
Wenski is acting chairman of the USCCB’s committee on religious freedom. He told The Tablet that the Trump administration should ease its immigration policies and become more open to refugees.
“Some of the people who end up in this country wind up here because of religious persecutions,” Wenski said. “It’s part of our history since the pilgrims came to Plymouth Rock; they sought religious freedom.”
“This country also has a long and admirable history of receiving refugees,” Wenski added. “Right now we have a growing number of refugees pretty much left in limbo, and oft-times in refugee camps with no reasonable hope of resettlement.”
In addition, some Catholic leaders say Trump’s immigration policies, such as travel bans against people fleeing war-torn Syria, are racist.
Here are some of the administration’s positions on some of the key issues important to many Catholics.
Last January, Trump was widely praised by anti-abortion advocates for being the first U.S. president to physically attend and also speak at the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. In 2017, Trump enacted a rule that bans abortion providers from receiving federal Title X funds. Since 1970, this money has been intended to help pay for family-planning services for low-income women. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the New York Archdiocese praised Trump’s Title X rule, saying abortion has no place in a taxpayer-funded family-planning program.”
He added, “For too long, Title X has been used to subsidize the abortion industry. We need to draw a bright line between what happens before a pregnancy begins and what happens after a child has been created.”
A federal appeals court in February upheld the Title X rule, but Democrats have vowed to keep fighting for its repeal. Trump has pledged to appoint Supreme Court justices who might vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.
That issue has not yet come before the court, so it remains unknown how the two justices Trump has selected, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, would respond.
The Trump Administration has pledged to accelerate COVID-19 testing in the U.S. while helping find a coronavirus vaccine and safely guide the nation back to a thriving economy.
Trump delegated Pence to handle messaging for the pandemic response efforts. Pence recently said one or more vaccines could be available by year’s end.
CRIMES, GUNS & POLICING
Following the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police in May, Trump signed an executive order calling for several measures to help police while also reducing incidents of brutality and fatalities.
The order calls for police to ban the use of chokeholds except in extreme cases when an officer’s life is in danger, award federal grants to encourage higher certification standards regarding the use of force and to create a database that would track incidents of misconduct amongst police officers.
Trump is also campaigning on an anti-crime platform that would: provide funding to hire more police; boost criminal penalties for assaults on police; prosecute drive-by shootings as acts of domestic terrorism; prosecute groups such as ANTIFA; aggressively deport members of violent gangs from foreign countries; and prosecute people who desecrate public monuments, memorials, and statues.
While a staunch defender of the 2nd Amendment, Trump has outlined a strategy for curtailing gun violence in the wake of back-to-back mass shootings last year in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
He has called for developing tools that can detect mass shooters before they strike, like scanning social media sites for hate manifestos. Second, he wants to discourage the availability of video games that inspire violence. Third, he wants mental health laws reformed so that disturbed people can more quickly be treated or confined. Trump also favors “red flag” laws, also known as “extreme-risk protection orders” to block access to firearms for people who have demonstrated a desire to kill others.
Bishops say Trump’s approval of capital punishment is contrary to their pro-life platform that declares all life is sacred. Nevertheless, the president has directed the Justice Department to resume executing inmates on the federal death row.
Included was the scheduled execution of Lezmond Charles Mitchell. Barring a last-minute reprieve, Mitchell would be the fourth federal inmate executed this summer, with one more scheduled for August and two more in September.
Recently, Trump reiterated his death penalty support when he tweeted that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the convicted Boston Marathon bomber, deserved death. Boston Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley responded that “Catholic teaching does not support the taking of life as a means of achieving justice.”
Trump has called climate change a hoax that diminishes the power of the U.S. economy as an engine for freedom and prosperity at home and abroad. He opposed the Paris climate agreement and supports energy independence through bolstered domestic fuel production.
Meanwhile, Trump has worked to reverse the Affordable Care Act (ACA). He says Obamacare mandates crush American businesses and they come way short of making quality health care available to all.
NATIONAL DEFENSE AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Trump says he has kept his promises to rebuild U.S. military power while also working to bring American troops home from foreign engagements. He has boasted of standing up to North Korea, China, and Russia, while also unleashing raids against terrorist organizations in the Middle East.
Trump has also been heavily involved in relations with Israel. In 2017, Trump announced the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and ordered the U.S. Embassy be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which was completed one year later. Earlier this month, the administration helped broker a pact calling for normal relations between Israel and the UAE. According to a White House statement, “This historic diplomatic breakthrough will advance peace in the Middle East region” that will “unlock the great potential in the region.”